Marvel and DC have been at each other’s throats for years. Comic books, characters, and eventually film adaptations have all seen fans (and the respective companies) lash out at each other for borrowing techniques or several of their films finding their own ways to resonate with audiences. It became very apparent during the past decade, where both franchises were releasing films per year to garner attention and box-office revenue. Now, it seems the dust has settled (no pun intended) between both and fans know they have a variety of superhero films to look forward to, regardless of which company produces them.
Prior to the dawn of the big global franchises such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and DC Extended Universe (DCEU), it was mostly about the films just giving the audiences one particular superhero to fall in love and prosper with. DC released Batman and Superman films, while Marvel had Hulk and Spider-Man off and running. These are iconic characters people grew up with as they not only respected their abilities, but also what defines their character.
Superman is an immortal being that fights all the baddies, but his greatest flaw is that he’s not a murderer. He fights his own personal conflicts and wants to protect the innocents while fighting. He is battling two things at once. Spider-Man has fun with his respective abilities, but he is a kid that is still learning the ropes and needs to understand the responsibility that bears on his shoulders.
The atmosphere became freshened up when Christopher Nolan created a classic Batman series with the iconic Dark Knight and when Marvel started with the first Iron Man in 2008. It became an uproar in attention as both performed extremely well and kicked off universes. The X-Men franchise progressed under 20th Century Fox, Paramount worked on the first few films of the MCU (until Disney bought the company in 2009), and Warner Brothers started the DCEU in 2013.
For the next decade, the Marvel and DC franchises sparked interest and performed well at the box office. What was the problem though?
The short answer is one franchise became a global phenomenon, with the other borrowing elements and failing to please their own fans in a proper fashion.
The MCU has produced some of the biggest blockbusters of all times ever since its inception. The first Avengers rattled the box-office, as several heroes bonded together to fight a large alien army on the grounds of New York City. The film was built up because of the solo films preceding it. Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk and Thor got their own origin stories and were tied nicely together in the team-up blockbuster. The result? One of the best performing films at the box office in years with a 200 million+ opening weekend and massive records to ensure it was noticed by the world.
The MCU works very well because it is a long spectrum of stories building upon one another and enhancing the amount of depth the audience feels for the characters and arcs. Iron Man is an arrogant, playboy billionaire while Captain America is a brave-willed character fighting to protect his nation. Audiences continued to follow this gargantuan franchise with juggernauts such as Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, Thor: Ragnarök, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. These films pushed Marvel Studios to become the highest-grossing film franchise of all time, with Endgame being the highest-grossing film of all time. They have become unstoppable with their creativity and stories that continue to pull audiences to theaters for opening weekends.
On the other hand, DC launched their own universe in an attempt to replicate the MCU’s success, only to become a chaotic whirlwind of messy plotlines, rough shed action and thinly-written characters. Man of Steel was a decent opening of a film to introduce Superman. And then somehow, despite both grossing millions of dollars, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad limped along to become unsatisfactory projects with no real passion behind them.
The (2016) films were received poorly because the studio wanted to rush through them to compete with Marvel, only to fail miserably both in critical reception and box-office performance. They had all the intrigue in the world, yet the execution was horrendously damaging to the franchise as a whole (not even four films in). With no clear victory in sight, they continued to pursue their own films in hope to catch Marvel off-guard. Wonder Woman somehow jumped out of the whole with a fantastic origin story and a risk to allow a female hero be the leading character in 2017, something Marvel had failed to do until their release of Captain Marvel two years later.
It was a sign of hope, until Justice League put them right back in the hole. Somehow this film attempted to replicate everything the first Avengers did (funny thing is both had Joss Whedon attached to them) and to a weaker effect. It became a box-office bomb, signifying to Warner Brothers that they could not replicate Marvel’s formula moving forward.
Fortunately, DC has found its solution in the last two years and that is being anti-Marvel (sort of). The releases of Aquaman, Shazam!, Joker and Birds of Prey focused more carefully on their characters rather than bonding them to a broken-down universe. The result? Each film became a financial success, especially with Aquaman and Joker scoring over a billion dollars each. The Joker film (which is not part of the DCEU) won two Academy Awards and was nominated for nine others.
Warner Brothers learned to bring out the stories focusing on one character and not bog them down with irrelevant connections or multiple plotlines that have fractured the franchise. They found success by doing their own thing and Marvel continues to do their own.
Kevin Feige, the head producer at Marvel Studios, also sees the war between both companies has ended as actors and directors have traveled back and forth in working with both companies. Joss Whedon, James Gunn, Ryan Reynolds and more have dipped their feet and learned both environments. It’s an informal peace offering between Disney and Warner Brothers, with both finding success in their own ways of telling stories now and ushering in more creativity.
There will always be some type of competition to occur in this world, but when multiple properties or companies learn they are doing it for the same purpose, there is no need for said competition or hatred to continue. Marvel and DC have their supporters, their own projects and commitments to flourish. The warfare between them has ceased and now both can continue to lead on with innovation and a purpose.