The DC Extended Universe: Can It Compete With Marvel?

Photo: DC Extended Universe

Tracking The Box Office – DC Extended Universe

Marvel Studios has almost quadrupled the number of theatrical releases over the DC extended universe and leads massively in profits. Out of $ 9 billion invested in budgets, Marvel has made $39 billion in profits. Conversely, DC has only made about $ 6 billion out of $ 2 billion invested in budgets. DC’s highest-grossing film of all time ‘Aquaman’ brought in $1.1billion; not even half of what ‘Avengers: Engame‘ made at the box office. DC has a mountain to climb if they hope to become competitive with its theatrical releases. A conservative fiscal approach has not worked thus far, but DC must be wary of big budgets without a powerhouse production behind them. As of now, the DCEU certainly has not been at its best, and it is costing them big at the box office.

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Fanbase Disadvantage

The overall DC brand may have a larger fanbase, but the Marvel cinematic universe took the world by storm with the release of ‘Iron Man‘ in 2008. For the past decade, the MCU has become ingrained in pop culture and has drawn fans from all over the world. Because the MCU has become mainstream, it has even attracted people that know little or nothing about the source material. Based on the ridiculous numbers that Marvel has hit at the box office, it’s safe to say that MCU fans outnumber DCEU fans at this point. As Marvel takes the lead in film, some of its supporters have developed a toxic and irrational disdain for anything DC releases. The same is true for some DC supporters. Still, this dynamic hurts the DCEU the most because most Marvel fans are unlikely to support DC regardless of how well-made a project is and they are losing out on a massive chunk of superhero-loving consumers. 

Embracing The ‘R’ Rating

The main reason Marvel has had so much success over the years is its appeal to younger audiences and casual viewers. Their movies consist of spectacularly eye-catching action sequences and light-hearted comedy that caters perfectly to a typical family audience. While the DC extended universe has primarily released movies with a PG-13 rating, it is still considered by some of the public to be too “dark.” DC may generally have the edge in producing substantial cinema, but it does itself a disservice by considering its “darkness” as a weakness. Most recently, critics noted that ‘Black Adam‘ contradicted itself by showing a murderous villain with godlike powers and none of the consequences. Trying to give the film some edge without alienating family audiences compromises the story’s plausibility and immersion.

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It is commonly known that DC has not mastered how to create “popular” movies, and it is clear that a large portion of the public prefers Marvel for a movie the whole family can watch. Marvel has cornered this market, and now it is time for DC to embrace a new identity as the ‘R’ rated superhero universe. ‘Watchmen’ released in 2009, gave us a glimpse of the potential between intrepid writing and a superhero setting. The abundance of source material that the DC brand holds could transform the DCEU into much more than a compilation of superhero and action tropes. With a group of writers and directors worth their salt, they could create a substantial cinematic universe unspoiled by rating restrictions. A cinematic universe that can prioritize storytelling and coherence while remaining true to the genre and source material.

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The Ace Up Their Sleeve

Following the release of ‘Justice League’ in 2017, there was a backlash from critics and fans about the final result. After director Zack Snyder stepped down, Joss Whedon was brought in to finish the movie. Following reshoots, the result was what a critic called “A pointless flail of expensive CGI.” It lacked cohesion and prompted an online campaign to release Snyder’s movie version. After ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League‘ was released, fans were over the moon, and critics decisively favored it over the original. It was clear to everyone, except Warner Bros., that Snyder would be the one to transform the DCEU and continue the “Snyderverse.” The set-up at the end of Snyder’s film was extraordinary and promising a fantastic sequel. Additionally, a post-credit scene showed a glimpse of a storyline from the ‘Injustice’ video game series, never before seen on the big screen. Snyder evoked sheer excitement and anticipation over the future ‘Justice League’ movies and would have old and new DC fans crawling out of the woodwork to keep up with the DCEU. As of now, unfortunately, it looks as though ties between DC and Snyder have been cut. James Gunn has become the head of the DC universe since then. Whether Gunn will take the DCEU in a completely different direction or look to finish what Snyder started is yet to be known. The former is probable, but Snyder laid down a blueprint for an ace up their sleeve should they decide to use it.

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The Future

Under the leadership of James Gunn, the DCEU is entering a new era. Gunn is known for directing  ‘Suicide Squad’ (2021) and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (2014). His colorful and comedic style is likely a sign that DC may try to mimic Marvel’s style. This may aid DC’s profits in the short term, but this love of comedy-heavy superhero movies won’t always be trending. Eventually, there will be a want for the type of movies DC makes, but it will be too busy copying Marvel to stand on its own identity. Now is the time for DC to work hard at improving their productions and stand their ground.

By Alvaro Devora

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Cinema, TV and Media. An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, We have the space and time for all your stories, no matter who/what/where you are. Media/Cinema/TV have a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so. Talent, diversity and authenticity matter in Cinema/TV, media and storytelling. In fact, I reckon that we should announce “talent-diversity-authenticity-storytelling-Cinema-Oscars-Academy-Awards” as synonyms of each other. We show respect to talent and stories regardless of their skin color, race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, etc., thus allowing authenticity into this system just by something as simple as accepting and showing respect to the human species’ factual diversity. We become greater just by respecting and appreciating talent in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Award winners, which includes nominees, must be chosen on the greatness of their talent ALONE.

I am sure I am speaking for a multitude of Cinema lovers all over the world when I speak of the following sentiments that this medium of art has blessed me with. Cinema taught me about our world, at times in English and at times through the beautiful one-inch bar of subtitles. I learned from the stories in the global movies that we are all alike across all borders. Remember that one of the best symbols of many great civilizations and their prosperity has been the art they have left behind. This art can be in the form of paintings, sculptures, architecture, writings, inventions, etc. For our modern society, Cinema happens to be one of them. Cinema is more than just a form of entertainment, it is an integral part of society. I love the world uniting, be it for Cinema, TV, media, art, fashion, sport, etc. Please keep this going full speed.

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