The State of DC and Marvel Movies
Kevthewriter offers advice to the makers of the DC and Marvel movies.
This summer, it seemed like DC finally got their act together as Wonder Woman was a huge hit with critics and audiences. It seemed like the days of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman were over. Then came Justice League, which got only slightly better reviews than those two movies and has had the lowest opening weekend for any DCEU movie ($93 million dollars). Even if it manages to break even (some estimates have Warner Brothers taking a loss of $50-100 million dollars) that is rather disappointing. But what happened? Why does it seem like, aside from Wonder Woman, the DCEU is struggling?
Well here’s a big problem they have: they focus too much on what other people are doing rather than just making good movies. The first two movies in this universe, Man of Steel and BVS, tried so hard to be like Nolan’s Batman trilogy with its dark tone and constant speechifying about the nature of man. But, when people complained about that movie and showed they were tired of that style, what did DC do? Did they decide to focus on making a good movie? No, instead they looked at what the MCU was doing and edited Suicide Squad to make it funnier and more “Marvel-esque”. Unfortunately, from what I heard (I haven’t seen it yet), they did the same thing with Justice League, even getting the director of The Avengers to do re-shoots when Zack Snyder had to step down and deal with family issues.
What I think they could do is learn from Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman wasn’t too Nolan-esque and, while it did have some similarities to MCU movies like Thor and Captain America, it wasn’t too MCU-esque either. The tone and style felt like the movie was trying to be its own thing rather than the next Dark Knight or the next Avengers. And even when they did crib plots from other MCU movies, they did them in a way that, weirdly, didn’t feel too derivative of those movies. Why? Because Patty Jenkins was more focused on making a good movie than she was copying Marvel or Nolan. As a result, the movie came out well.
And that’s what DC needs to do! They need to stop thinking about what the competition is doing and just focus on making good movies. Then maybe the DCEU will be viewed more favorably…
Of course, Marvel could take heed from this lesson a bit too.
The MCU doesn’t have a truly bad movie in its filmography. Even at their worst, a movie from the MCU is merely okay. But, if DC is too focused on copying the MCU, the MCU is too busy sticking to a specific formula as, yeah, it does feel like a large majority of their movies feel the same. Similar jokes, similar action scenes, similar origin stories, similar villains with take over the world plots, etc. It’s all enjoyable in the moment but tends to sometimes be forgettable afterwards.
Even when an MCU movie has something different going for it, it, in most other ways, just falls into the formula. Look at Doctor Strange and Ant-Man. Both movies had action scenes that were inventive and cool looking by the standards of the MCU. Doctor Strange used magic/mind blowing tricks as part of the action while Ant-Man used some clever techniques to show how an ant sized person could hold their own in a fight. But almost everything else in these two movies felt like standard Marvel. The humor felt like the kind you’d see in any Marvel movie and the plot was the typical origin story of “jerky guy learns to become a better person after saving the world” template that the MCU has been doing with their origin stories since Iron Man.
Also, maybe they could cool it with the comedy. Not make their movies dour and humorless but it does seem like they’ve been putting more and more focus on the comedy since people praised the Hulk beats Loki scene in The Avengers and the entirety of Guardians of the Galaxy. I mean, back during Phase 1, while the movies had jokes, it wasn’t quite as frequent. There weren’t as many jokes in Thor as there were in Thor Ragnarok. Heck, there weren’t as many jokes in Iron Man as there were in Iron Man 3.
But I can understand why they did this, people loved the comedy so their idea was to focus more on it. As a result, while beforehand the MCU were action comedies that had lots of action and comedy but focused more on the action now they are action comedies that have lots of action and comedy but focus more on the comedy.
In my opinion, though, what they should do is, like DC, just don’t think about what people loved but just make a good, more unique, more risky movie. Guardians of the Galaxy 1 was different (tonally not exactly narratively) from the rest of the MCU but the message they seemed to take away from that film was not to make their films different from each other but to put more comedy in. So nowadays it seems like their movies are as well-known (if not more so known) for their comedy than their superhero-ism.
Of course, don’t take this the wrong way, I’ve enjoyed most of the MCU movies and I really liked Spider Man: Homecoming. It’s just that both DC and Marvel could stand to learn to stop capitalizing on things that worked in the past and just focus first on making a great movie.