When it comes to superhero movies, there is only one franchise that sits alone at the top. Marvel movies have set themselves apart from their DC Comics counterparts. And they do it in so many ways, which is why today we wanted to spend a few minutes looking at the ways that make Marvel movies reign supreme over any other superhero franchise.
Introducing characters is one of the most important aspects of any comic book franchise feature film. Have you ever wondered why big-box retailers carry more Marvel t shirts than anyone else? Because their characters are done far better than any other franchise. Marvel takes the time to give every character their own film from Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, and Thor all had their own movies before they came together for Avengers films. While DC Comics only gave Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman their own films before Justice League.
Writing is far better.
When it comes to 2, comic books are filled with all the backstory any writer could ever want. But Marvel seems to find the better writer to capture their superheroes on screen. They play more in genuine, authentic dialogue and give them far deeper motivations, fears, and shards of glass to explore and play with. Whereas DC seems to want to bring back the 90s action movie cheese any chance they get. Their dialogue and story are all on the nose and predictable. Not that we don’t know what will happen in Marvel movies, but we actually enjoy the ride the entire time without rolling our eyes. That’s why we go out and buy the Marvel shirts after every new movie that comes out!
The Villain Makes The Movie
For instance, in the Justice League movie, the villain is the same one that moviegoers have seen for years over and over again—an alien that wants to take over the earth. There’s nothing there that inspires us. But in Marvel movies like Avengers Infinity War, while Thanos is an alien set out to destroy the universe, he’s also trying to save half of it. And he’s doing it all in the only way he understands how to do.
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When one is discussing most of the DC Extended Universe movies a number of phrases leap to mind. “Disappointing.” “Craptacular.” “So bad you would need a hazmat suit just to handle the film reels.” “For the love of God fire Zach Schneider!” “A one-legged man in an ass kicking contest.” These are a few of the most obvious ones (honestly I could go on for hours).
The phrase that does not leap to mind often is “Good” or even “Adequate” yet these are phrases you need to describe the new DCEU movie Aquaman (my apologies for fans of last years Wonder Woman movie. It was the other not crappy DCEU movie). Of course this is all taken in context. It scored a 64% on Rotten Tomatoes which I think is entirely fair and justified. It is maybe a B- when compared to most of the richness of the Marvel movies (the awesome group shot shirt to the right comes from the Marvel t-shirt category) and a straight C when compared to any good movie from the rest of Hollywood (Fight Club, Reservoir Dogs, the Shawshank Redemption, etc) but on the short bus that is the DCEU (or any film by Michael Bey) it is a resounding A+.
(Continued in part 2 below)
But why is Destiel a thing? Or JohnLock? Or just everything about the character of Captain Jack Harkness, played by John Barrowman and star of both Doctor Who and his own spin-off show, Torchwood: why are gay (or bi or pansexual) men in fiction so appealing to straight (or bi or pan) women?
Sure, there’s something to be said for positive and diverse representation of sexual minorities in fictional worlds, especially Sc-Fi or fantastical ones, but that doesn’t seem to be where the vast appeal stems from. Straight men understand the idea of “lipstick lesbians” or of hot girl-on-girl action, but somehow we’ve evolved into a world where homosexual male subtext is the norm in genre fiction, especially if it wants to do well with both men and women. ( Iron Man T Shirt from our Avengers category, because Steve/Tony/Bruce Banner is my OT3).
But there’s a harsh side to that edgy ideal; fandom has dubbed this most dubious honor the dreaded “Queer-Baiting”; meaning to bait a gay/ bi/ pan/ questioning audience with stories full of sexual tension between supposedly straight (invariably male, with some exceptions such as Once Upon a Time and female detective shows) characters between them, only to never deliver sweet, sweaty cannon satisfaction. This is the story teller’s version of having one’s cake and eating it too: you get a straight audience that won’t be offended or scared off because of an unwillingness to see what’s there, and hook a periphery demographic of hip young queer folks with sexy, flirty, funny guys (and gals) in ambiguous situations.
But to continue with my fair/unfair comparison to Wreck-It Ralph where does this film fail to live up to the comparison? Well to be honest when you look at WIR you can see that it has three key elements that work seemlessly together; story, character development, and action. Each part reinforces the other two and together they form one of those really cool Celtic patterns that looks gorgeous from a distance and when you get up close you can see the intricacy of the pattern. In Big Hero 6 the film tries to do the same thing but instead of having the elements work together they keep on tripping on each other. The character development blocks off the story while the story gets in the way of the action and the action lessons the value of the character development. It was like watching the Three Stooges all try to go through one door at the same time and bounce out or perhaps a new kind of roshambo.
I guess this is from a comic book of some kind and I will give the film mad props for the best Stan Lee cameo yet (image courtesy of the Marvel T-Shirts collection). It did have a comic book feel to it but most comic book movies invite a level of story complexity sadly lacking in this plot. The main bad guy’s plan was dumb and rather than let him develop organically he is forced into the film with all the subtlety of a multiple trepanning delivered with a ball peen hammer. Again, I know. Kids movie so we can’t expect One Hour Photo but WIR managed to give us a great story that still entertained the rugrats.
On the other hand Baymax is super cute and cool and if your kids are the type to fall in love with unique cartoon characters this movie has a ton of them each with a distinct personality and look. Like I said I don’t consider this film Nut Job bad or even bad at all. Just not great. Of course since everyone else is tongue bathing this film on a regular basis (88% on Rotten Tomatoes) looks like I get to be the kid in the Emperors New Clothes once more.
So I was thinking about the fact that Disney just bought Marvel Comics lock, stock, and barrel and how much that bodes ill for the future of comic books and movies. Disney does not hesitate to change things to suite their marketing needs (hell, they forced the NHL to create a hockey team with a lame name based on a bad series of movies starring Emelio Estevez) and has a way of making everything “kid friendly” (i.e. lame). I predict Wolverine being a whole lot less likely to kill someone, or Punisher taking a more conciliatory approach to criminals. Wonder what it will do to all the Marvel t-shirts we carry?
I think what bugs me is I can’t seem to get away from Disney. I grew up in Orange County (or, as I like to think of it, Stucco Hell) and lived near Disneyland. Most of my friends worked at Disneyland at one point or another and it blew. I fell in love with Pixar movies and then Disney bought them out. Every time I turn around they are infiltrating the things I like.