So, here's the thing. For millions of fans, the DC Extended Universe (Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, with Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman and Justice League set to join them over then next year and a half) has already very much exceeded the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a superhero mega-franchise. For those fans, the darker tone, more overt philosophical themes and greater level of grit in the DCEU likely make the very question of it having to catch up with the MCU entirely redundant. After all, if you already think the DCEU is the superior cinematic universe, then why would it have any catching up to do?
The only problem, for both those fans, and DC itself? There are tens of millions of fans (along with a near universally negative critical consensus) who disagree. And, so, with a vocal majority seeming to agree that Marvel still has the edge on DC, it's time to ask the big question:
Will DC Ever Actually Be Able To Catch Up With The MCU?
Now, I'm not actually going to try to answer that question directly - since any answer is inevitably going to be fundamentally skewed by a whole lot of natural bias (i.e. a lifetime of selective comic-book reading) and my consistent lack of ability to accurately predict the future. Instead, here are two arguments, one from either side of the debate - after which, you can decide.
Yes, DC Can Absolutely Catch Up With The MCU
The logic there? DC has done it before. For most of the past forty years (roughly speaking, from 1978's Superman through to the 2008 arrival of Iron Man), DC was far and away the dominant force in cinematic superhero-dom. Marvel, by contrast, was largely absent from the big screen, or represented only by other studios.
Sure, Marvel may have been dominant since 2008 (with that year's The Dark Knight marking both the high point and - arguably - the last hurrah of Warner Bros. and DC's pre-DCEU superhero adventures), but there's no historical precedent for that box office and critical superiority to last, much as DC's once seemingly unassailable position at the top of the heap didn't. As such, there's an argument that - irrespective of how you feel about it right now - the DCEU will eventually overthrow Marvel, even if it takes a couple of decades.
Alternatively, though, there's also the possibility that...
No, DC Can Absolutely Not Catch Up With The MCU
By this logic, the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn't simply part of a cyclical 'changing of the guard', in which Marvel takes over from DC as the biggest box office draw, only to be overthrown a number of years later. Instead, it's possible that Marvel has been able to take such a firm hold on the cultural zeitgeist - both in terms of its approach to movie-making, and with its raising of a whole new kind of (previously B-List) heroes to iconic status - that DC will never be able to catch up.
After all, the likes of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are (intentionally) less immediately 'relatable' than the likes of Iron Man, Captain America and Black Widow. While Marvel's heroes have always been designed to be as accessible as possible - there's a reason that the angst-ridden Spider-Man and eternally 'teenage' X-Men have historically been the company's biggest hitters - while DC's most beloved heroes have always tended towards god-like allegory. They're gods to look up to, and aspire to emulate, rather than mirror-images of our own trials and tribulations.
If, then, it turns out that Marvel's more inherently identifiable offerings have changed what we as an audience want forever, then it's possible to imagine that Marvel may always have an edge on the DCEU, irrespective of the success of the seemingly more down-to-earth likes of Suicide Squad.
The big question now, though?