Samuel Brace on DC, Marvel, and the state of the superhero genre…
A bad film doesn’t make a better film great.
This is the sentiment we must remember going forward as we discuss and analyse the state of superhero movies in 2016, especially as it pertains to DC and their latest outing, Suicide Squad. Critics and fans, have been less than kind to the villain team up film from WB, the third film (yeah, I often forget about Man of Steel too) in their DCEU after this year’s incoherent Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. With a Metacritic score of 40 and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 26%, this flick didn’t exactly get off to the best start. While it is raking in the cash for its opening weekend, this will likely drop off dramatically like BvS did just months ago. There are some that like it of course, and more power to them, whether these people genuinely think this film is good or are lying to themselves to keep the fires of their fandom burning is a question for another time. What needs to be discussed immediately however, what is of the utmost pertinence today, is the heinous notion that DC and Suicide Squad‘s failings somehow makes Marvel’s movies better than they actually are.
This nonsense seems to be the consensus: “DC are bad, why can’t they make great movies like Marvel”. Well sorry, gang, but a bad DC movie does not a good Marvel movie make. And Marvel has yet to make a great movie. Sure, their movies, from the MCU, have been mostly better films than what has come out of the DCEU so far, but that isn’t saying much. Marvel has churned out films ranging from bad to excellent — on a scale of awful to great. With films like Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World taking up one side of the spectrum and Guardians of the Galaxy being the only film to fit into the ‘excellent’ category — no, Avengers is not a great movie, nor an excellent movie. It is very good however, and that is nothing to be ashamed of, it’s still in rare company. Marvel have obviously made a lot more movies in their shared universe than DC have in theirs, they’ve had longer to get it right and had an infinitely superior strategy to achieve their goals — you know, compared to DC’s “let’s throw shit at a board and see what sticks.
Marvel undoubtedly know what they are doing, they know what their fans want and they will give it to them, they will shove it down their throats until everyone dies of superhero poising, vomiting snarky jokes and lightweight plots onto their Captain America t-shirts. Batman v Superman, fits into the bad category of the spectrum, it’s not a good film and most seem to agree this is where SS also lies. Okay. Cool. Who cares, there are more bad films then there are good ones. There are also more “meh” Marvel films than there are good ones. Just because you enjoy something more than you enjoy something else, doesn’t make that original thing good. And just because DC is bad right now, that doesn’t make Marvel great. I had a fantastic time watching Captain America: Civil War for example, it’s fun, not completely incoherent, and does its job in distracting an audience for a couple of hours. It’s not a great film. It is one of the better superhero films, but we all should realise where it falls within the larger medium of movies.
A great film is achieved by supreme directing, acting, editing, cinematography, music, production design, lighting etc etc etc, with all of these components coming together to raise a film up. Some of Marvel’s movies do one or two of these things greatly, some Marvel movies do all of them well. None of them achieve a flawless victory. Can Marvel make a great film one day? Of course. It will take a change in how they go about doing things. It will be made infinitely easier by making a film that doesn’t have to build to five sequels, but sure, why not. DC can also do this, though they do have further to go. They also already made a great film; along with two amazing ones, but for some reason they chose to poorly imitate the Marvel model instead of continuing their own unique place in the movie spectrum. Oy vey.
There is nothing wrong with championing Marvel, they are, by every metric, beating DC. And talking subjectively, of course you can say you love Marvel movies way more than DC, that should go without saying. But what we must recognise, what is the salient point to remember, because really, I have to believe we all know this deep down, is that Marvel makes mostly decent films, and not much more, and sometimes much less. DC’s failings can make you appreciate Marvel more, but let’s not perpetuate the myth that Marvel make great movies. It’s just not true, at least not yet. It seems unlikely at this point, but DC may even get there first (tip — abandon this mess you’ve cobbled together and remember why the Nolan films were so successful). Marvel may never get there, perhaps over saturation will kill the genre before they achieve such a feat. Everything is possible, but let’s not lie to ourselves. Films in 2016 are as bad as they have ever been, the medium is struggling and there is no world where Marvel are the ones, out of all those who practice the art, that are making great movies.