DC vs Marvel Cinematic Universe: Quality vs Quantity

If you listen to the Nerdburgh Podcast, and I hope you do, there has been a divisive issue that has plagued us for some time. Pat Lane will always say that DC has continued to fair well in the TV world, but Marvel has dominated the film. If you look as an aggregate of total movies made, and total box office, you can’t argue against him. Phase 1 for Marvel made about $1.8 Billion. Phase 2, minus the Avengers (not out yet) made about $1.2 Billion. Revenues for each franchise increased from Phase 1 to Phase 2. That’s impressive. But the idea that as far as quality Marvel is destroying the competition isn’t quite right.

Looking at Marvel vs. DC in the film world is tough right now, because DC hasn’t pulled the trigger on most of its properties. Box office money won’t be anywhere near for the two. DC only really attempted with Batman, Superman and a poorly done Green Lantern. Marvel has 10 films out currently to DC’s 5. So Marvel is winning as far a quantity. But are Marvel’s films better quality wise?

We can look at the rating from Metacritic, which does a good job at aggregating the films based on critics from all media sources. If you haven’t checked out Metacritic yet, you should. Metacritic uses a weighted system for each review, and weighs ones with more prestige over others with less. So a New York Times review gets more weight than a MoviePoopShoot.com review. Each individual score is then weighed and finally a totally score is made. For films, 81-100 is universally acclaimed, 61-80 is generally favorable, 40-60 is mixed or average. 

 

Phase 1 brought you one of the best comic book movies ever.

Phase 1 brought you one of the best comic book movies ever.

Phase 1 has a big success in Iron Man. That was what made everything possible. Metacritic rated it at a 79, which is favorable. Financially and critically, Iron Man was the film that made Phase 1 a reality. The Incredible Hulk followed just a month later. It disappointed financially (only $134 million domestic, the lowest of all marvel films) and rated a 61 on Metacritic. The Incredible Hulk wasn’t the flop that Green Lantern was ($116 million domestic and a metacritic of 39.) but it still didn’t hold its weight.

Iron Man 2 was the worst for the franchise financially and critically, rating at a 57. Captain America: The First Avenger didn’t do much better at a 66 and did not crack $200 million, and Thor didn’t fare much better at a 57. Finally, The Avengers was rated at a 69. That brings Phase 1 at an average score of a 64.8 or a 65 when rounded. Not really earth shattering is it? If we look at those movies, you can think about which ones were great movies and which ones were enjoyable. Iron Man was a great movie, and the Avengers was pretty good, but the other 3 were average films.

Phase 2 brought you some movies…minus Ant-Man. That’s probably not happening…

Phase 2 brought you some movies…minus Ant-Man. That’s probably not happening…

Looking quickly at Phase 2, Iron Man 3 rated at a 62, Thor: The Dark World rated 54, Captain America: The Winter Soldier rated at a 66 and Guardians of the Galaxy rated at a 76. What is the Aggregate score? 65.5 Let’s round up and say 66. So phase 2 films (minus the Avengers because it’s still not out) have rated higher as an aggregate whole, but not by much.

Has DC done better? Well, let’s compare their five films. Batman Begins rated at a 70, Dark Knight at an 82 (the highest of any of the films listed here), Dark Knight Rises was a 78, Man of Steel a 55, and Green Lantern was a 39 as we said. That’s a score of 64.8, or a 65 if we round as we did with Marvel. So, even with the abysmal Green Lantern film, DC is pretty much on par with what Marvel has done with only half the movies.

 

DC may have made the three best comic book movies ever made.

DC may have made the three best comic book movies ever made.

So, Phase 1 is a 65, Phase 2 is a 66 and DC’s 5 random movies are also a 65 on an aggregate critical score. Now these are just the large properties, and the ones that Marvel actually owns. We aren’t talking about the X-men Franchise or Spider-man, but to be fair we aren’t using RED or Watchman from DC either. And we aren't using films of minor characters like Jonah Hex, or Catwoman, mostly because those were loose interpretations (Catwoman had nothing to do with the comic as the main character isn't even named Selina Kyle), and we also small releases (For example Jonah Hex was only released in 2,825 theaters. Iron Man was released in 4,105.) This is just an aggregate score from one site that aggregates other critic’s scores. So is it exact? No, and I don’t want it to be taken as such. This is simply a small experiment to highlight something larger.

For some reason we continue to think that DC isn’t doing good work out of their film division, mostly because we have seen very little from them. Five movies isn’t really the best indication that DC has been making great films with its properties. But looking at those films, especially Nolan’s Batman franchise, we see that outside of one giant stinker, DC has done fine. The three Batman films are the best comic book movies ever made (only Iron Man can claim itself in that group), and Man of Steel for all its flaws (that I still don’t see with many critics) was still very successful and a good solid movie. The idea that as far as quality Marvel is winning the war is just plain false. Marvel is winning in quantity right now, and all the means is that they got there first. And good for them.

The trick is Marvel just keeps putting more movies out there for you to watch. So you didn’t notice that you went to a bunch of average movies in a row. You simply just got excited for the next one. Meanwhile DC has been noticeably quiet in their pursuit. Sure you are getting a bunch of new TV to keep you happy and engaged, but those have nothing to do with the franchises out in theaters. DC is taking a risk, which we saw perfectly in Man of Steel. Nothing else was around it, so it was hyped in all our minds. When it didn’t live up to that hype we immediately were disappointed at DC again. They are pulling the same thing with Batman vs. Superman right now. It is an incredibly risky idea, and it may not work.

The DC vs. Marvel war will never end, and they are both pushing each other harder than they ever have before. And that’s even better for us in the consumer market. We are getting large and successful properties delivered to us yearly. But don’t let the narrative fool you, DC is still right there with Marvel, and is making quality work. We have seen more in the realm of TV, and we will be seeing a lot more soon. But anyone who thinks DC won’t continue to make a good product is fooling themselves.

Marcus Miller