I am writing this while coming on the heels of the news that Suicide Squad got poor reviews from multiple critics. I as a comic book fan was initially concerned especially after the BvS DoJ debacle WB had earlier this year. But then I began to think about the superhero movie market and I realized something fascinating. Now I could be wrong on this, but I believe Marvel Studios, Fox Marvel, and even Sony, have over-saturated the superhero movie market with all its Marvel based products.
What do I mean by this? Well, let us take into account how many Marvel based films have been made since Marvel Studios inception in 2008. This also includes Fox Marvel and Sony which I know is not part of Marvel Studios' MCU, but still releases Marvel based movies based on Marvel Characters from Marvel comics. So we have 13 Marvel Studios films, 7 Fox Marvel films, and 2 Sony Marvel Films since 2008. That is 22 Marvel Comics based films, whether they be Marvel Studios, Fox, or Sony.
Now let’s look at DC shall we. I shall start with the Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy. So three for The Trilogy, Superman Returns in 2006, Green Lantern in 2011, Man of Steel in 2013, Batman v Superman in 2016 and Suicide Squad in 2016. That’s a count of 8 films.
So in comparison, Marvel clearly has the advantage, but more than that, because of the fact that all these Marvel Products have been released so close to one another in the past 8 to 10 years, we have been flooded by Marvel. While DC has barely gotten anything out of the gate. Due to this flooding by Marvel products, I believe that the public’s view and understanding of what a superhero film has been skewed and biased. It is the perception that these superhero films need to have the action balanced with the comedy. It is only with Marvel’s latest film Captain America: Civil War did we get a darker and different approach from the company, all the other times have been relatively similar, albeit different stories and characters, but generally quite formulaic. DC on the other hand had decided to go dark and different, which most did not appreciate. Was this discontent influenced by all the other lighthearted superhero that were appearing at the time or was it because in the comics not all these characters are dark.
I’d say it’s a bit of both. As a comic book fan, I am familiar with these characters and not all of them are dark, but there are dark story lines. With all these lighthearted Marvel Superhero films, we barely get any tragedies of major characters, thus everyone lives, but in the comics, the characters die more often or get hurt worse, or the stakes are higher. In DC movies though, the stakes have been shown to be higher, and death and tragedy seems more apparent.
Due to the backlash of BvS, DC has decided to go for more of a lighthearted tone, which in some ways is a smart move financially, but it seems like they aren’t willing to take risks with their characters. Without taking the risks, DC isn’t going to have as big of an impact on the general public and won’t change the public’s perception of a superhero film. The lack of impact will put DC in Marvel’s shadow, whether they know it or not. Moving to a lighter tone is smart, but not as ambitious, and if DC want’s to succeed, or more specifically influence the general public they need to take more risks. This could include some ideas that are quite out there and possibly controversial, but a comic book fan who appreciates a dynamic world would love it.
So what about Superhero Television. In the Television department, DC does fare better than its Movie counterpart. Currently DC has 5 live action television series. Four of which are on The CW and are in the core universe, the fifth being on Fox and not connected. But Marvel has a decent number of projects in the Television department as well. One on ABC, and five on Netflix, but all of them are intrinsically connected in some way.
Which brings me to my next point. With Marvel, all of their projects, whether it be the Movies or the Shows, all of them are connected. A Single Unified Universe. This idea has been advantageous to Marvel, because the respective characters within the shows or movies can make references to other happenings within the other projects and it would all make sense because it is all connected. DC, for whatever reason, and whether it was a good reason or not, has decided to keep their shows separate from their movies. For an avid comic book fan like myself, this is not a problem, a little disappointing, but not a problem. For a member of the general public though, this can be tricky and might be confusing, especially for the character Barry Allen/The Flash. But perhaps it is a good thing that DC decides to keep their shows separate from their movies.
The idea of a multiverse is a common thing to see and read within comics, specifically Marvel and DC. Both of these companies have been around for decades, including a large number of their characters. Due to this fact, we get reboots and retcons for comic book characters all the time, but not everyone likes a reboot, because a story line is just too good to end or reboot. So instead these companies decided a while ago to include multiverse ideas where you can have multiples of the same character in different universes.
Marvel has yet to introduce such an idea (we’ll see with Dr. Strange in November), but if DC had decided to confirm that the shows and the movies did go through a multiverse idea. Well then I’d say that DC would finally be able to one up Marvel, and more importantly, influence the general public of what a superhero movie or franchise can do.
We need a change in attitude of what a comic book/superhero movie is like. Too much Good vs Evil with Good winning in the end. We need a shift to Good vs Evil where evil wins in the end. Or in the case of Suicide Squad Bad vs Evil and Bad winning in the end. A superhero movie doesn't need the hero to win in the end, in fact sometimes its better that they lose. Some of the best stories have ended where the bad guy wins, or at least finishes in a stalemate with the hero.
As a final word, don't expect every superhero movie to be like Marvel, heck don't expect to be like DC either, just learn to accept its difference from the norm.