Another DC film release, another onslaught of bad reviews. First, it was Man of Steel, then Batman v Superman, now Suicide Squad – and lest we forget, the animated films, too. Are DC’s films really as bad as the reviews say?

Personally, no. While DC’s recent efforts aren’t in the same league of The Dark Knight, the overall reaction (or overreaction) has been incredibly harsh. Appealing to reason here, is Batman v Superman, Man of Steel or Suicide Squad in your top 10 worst films of all time or even the worst films of the respective year? The media’s narrative seems to suggest so. No matter what DC does, the DCEU can’t catch a break – but why? Let’s look at three possible reasons.

DC vs marvel movies

The Marvel Effect

Deny it all you want, but Marvel is the darling of the critics at the moment. Marvel films are beloved, safe and perfect for the whole family – it’s like Friday night pizza for your family; everyone’s excited for it and no one complains. In this aspect, credit needs to go to Marvel for focusing on the PG superhero story and not trying to reinvent the wheel with its characters. The company realised the world is in a dark place and creates hopeful superhero tales that allow escapism and inspire in a similar way which the Golden Age of Comics did during World War II.

Due to this overall positive sentiment towards Marvel, many issues are overlooked. Let’s compare apples with apples here for a second: Joker appeared in Suicide Squad for pretty much the same amount of time that Spider-Man did in Captain America: Civil War; however, one of the biggest criticisms of the Suicide Squad is the lack of Joker screen time. We’re not talking performances here, but actual screen time, so shouldn’t Civil War be judged for the same “misstep”? Second, Iron Man 2’s budget was $200 million and it recouped $624 million, while Batman v Superman cost $250 million and made $873 million. Yet, the latter is considered a flop. Why wasn’t the Marvel universe doomed after the “underperformance” of Iron Man 2, too?

dc vs marvel

DC’s Desire to Refresh Characters 

As mentioned above, Marvel prefers to keep it simple and not overhaul its characters. It learned very quickly with the Mandarin in Iron Man 3, in particular, that fans and critics don’t like chocolate, but prefer vanilla when it comes to their superhero films.

DC, however, embarks down risky and controversial routes that have ruffled feathers. Look at the reception towards the tattooed Joker and Superman killing Zod as prime examples. In some instances, the reboots and evolutions work and set new standards (see: The Dark Knight), but fans and critics have differing views about this.

One of the biggest problems could be the intricacy and varying history of DC’s roster. Many people are familiar with the origins of Superman and Batman, for example, but are there enough people who are aware Batman has a son, has had several Robins and Alfred was originally an overweight klutz? Marvel focuses on the easy wins that don’t deviate too far from what the general public knows about the characters. For comic book fans, DCEU’s motivations might be clearer, but the general public could be struggling to understand this new world and direction.

dc vs marvel pr

Marvel’s PR

Want to know how to piss off journalists? Gag them. Nothing annoys the media more than restrictions and censorship. One thing that Marvel/Disney does significantly better than DC/Warner Bros. is PR. The response time and general enthusiasm of Disney, coupled with the lack of embargoes for most of their films, never leaves journalists wanting or frustrated with the company’s offerings. With Disney, it genuinely feels like it loves its movies. You can’t help but get excited about the films; it’s infectious.

Locally, we’ve seen Disney reach out to us quicker and more promptly about initiatives and to answer any questions we have. On the other hand, Times New Media, which is responsible for DC/Warner Bros. in South Africa, could learn a thing or two from Disney – the Ultimate Edition fiasco is a perfect example of something that could’ve been avoided with better communication and more enthusiasm for the product.

Now, to address the rumour that Disney pays off critics for positive reviews: we cannot say we’ve experienced anything like that at Fortress of Solitude, so it would be unfair to comment.

marvel vs dc

Where to From Here?

Ultimately, what the critics say doesn’t matter because you’re the master of your own destiny and you’re allowed to like (or dislike) something – it’s even okay to like both Marvel and DC, because both companies are doing incredible things. Creating a negative narrative because you want to further an agenda won’t do anything for these characters and companies in the long run, and will result in this genre of films ending sooner rather than later. That being said, you’re entitled to your opinion. Let’s just be rational and reasonable about it.

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  1. JQ Cloete

    Very thoughtful and considerate article, and keeping with the author’s wishes- I do disagree with some of the points made, but I also respect his opinion. It seems that people want to avoid cognitive dissonance as far as possible with regards to their attitudes towards their favorite studio, be it DC or Marvel. Because of this, comparisons will always be made to put your pick in the more favorable light. DC is pulling the short straw with this era of superhero movies, but I’m sure they will find their footing soon enough just as Marvel has after the missteps that was The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2.

  2. Tommy Dennis

    Sorry I feel like you’re clutching at straws here. You’ve ignored the basic tenet of film criticism, which is to first judge it as a FILM. PR, box office returns, character awareness are all important aspects yes, but are not the most crucial in judging a films merits. It’s like you’re looking in every possible hole for any reason why professional film critics dislike what you like. We’ve experienced what good DC films could be, Nolans trilogy is the apex of comic book movies, plus they are also excellent films. What we’re being served now is pure trash. Why did Nolans films work? I’m not sure but I think its because he dodged the limits of the genre, DCEU so far hasn’t and is actually weighed down by these limits. Marvel works within these limits, it doesn’t try to subvert them or become slavishly obsessed with gaining the approval of critics like yourself.

  3. Vine

    maybe thet’re too depressing to catch my breath, letting it go, turning my cheek for the sake of the show
    Now that you know, this is my life, I won’t be told what’s supposed to be right…

  4. Seehle

    Just watched Suicide Squad, not sure what the complaints are about, it’s a great movie. I think the critics are the ones clutching at straws with this one. If you liked Deadpool but hate Suicide Squad, you’re a hypocrite and your credentials as a movie critique should be revoked as you would have clearly succumbed to fanboysim.

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