By Patrick McAuliffe
Keep in mind, I have not yet seen all of the Marvel or DC movies. The assumptions I draw are just that – assumptions. My knowledge of most of them comes second-hand. For others who are hardcore Marvel/DC movie fans, feel free to comment and tell me if I’m semi-right.
I’ve been wanting to share my thoughts on these recent comic book movies for a while. Two separate incidents from this summer made me actually think about why I like both of these franchises’ movies. First, a friend from my summer Family Camp shared her opinion of Marvel movies when we staffed together. To her, Marvel movies are just a “marketing campaign.” Of course, there’s nothing wrong with marketing or making money, but her thoughts stopped me. I had to give her some credit. The movies did seem to be two-dimensional, to a certain extent. Let me start with the most popular: the first Avengers movie. Why do people like it? When I first saw it, I enjoyed all of the action sequences, the dynamics between the characters, and the rapid-fire humor. However, while those things are enjoyable, and they do make a movie set the box office record, they aren’t always what makes a movie “good”. To illustrate, I will explain the second incident. Toward the end of summer, I was explaining to my father the plot of Batman vs. Superman. Again. “Yeah, Superman destroyed a Wayne building, and people that Batman loved died, and now he wants vengeance. What’s so special about that?” he says. A thought dawned on me (like justice lol). I recalled the graffiti on the Superman statue in the teaser trailer. “False god.” The underlying premise of this movie is that the destruction of Metropolis awakened Bruce Wayne, who at this point is assumed to be retired. He sees another example of a man who seems to be invincible (“another” meaning similar to the criminal bosses he fought as the Caped Crusader). It might enter into Superman’s head that he can do whatever he wants, merely because of his brute strength, and Batman isn’t about that life.
Bruce Wayne is a businessman, very different from Superman and his Batman persona. He achieves success by trading goods and services for money, value for value. Superman and Batman rely on force; pure brute force. Granted, they use force only in retaliation against criminals (who use force first), which is the only justified use of force. What Batman’s fear is is that Superman is a new kind of force, an over-the-top force that kills innocent people, with or without intent. He does not believe in the death of the innocent, and even doesn’t believe in killing criminals if he can help it. Looking at Superman’s track record, plus having this personal experience of loss, Bruce Wayne considers him a very dangerous man. Consequently, he considers it his duty to take him down.
So I will summarize. Marvel movies are fun; action, comedy, explosions, all good things. However, what separates Marvel and DC in the modern era (say, Iron Man onwards) is that Marvel never really delves deeper into the characters and their situations to ask the hard-hitting philosophical questions, and when they try, the movies are generally poorly rated or unpopular. Raise your hand if you liked Iron Man 2 or 3, where Tony struggles with what his place is in the world. Why wasn’t Age of Ultron more highly rated, where the Avengers must come to terms with the consequences of their actions, where Tony learns that there just might be a difference between theory and practice? What deep, philosophical questions were asked in Guardians of the Galaxy? Most people have come to expect from Marvel the following things: fantastic CGI city battles and just enough surface personality for their heroes for the last thing, which is the comedic banter between them. Meanwhile, let’s look at the other side of the coin (Two-Face? Huh?): when I think DC, I think that it should be like Marvel is now, but with less comedy. Superman’s gonna punch evildoers, shoot lasers and fry some guy; Batman’s taking down generic villains like Killer Moth (really? Why is Killer Moth a thing?). And dearie me, let’s not forget the era of “camp” that is George Clooney. Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder completely turned that notion of DC on its head. They brought a deep, morally challenging (albeit dark) mood to DC characters that works oh so very well. That is why, in my opinion, modern DC movies are superior to Marvel, and that is why I am highly anticipating Batman vs. Superman. I only hope, with all of the cameos happening in that movie (Aquaman, Wonder Woman, etc.), that the series of movies that will follow keeps the spirit of the Dark Knight and Man of Steel. My hope is that the expanding DC universe will continue to stay dark, stay serious, and not turn into “just a marketing campaign.”