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Chris graduated from Georgia State University in 2009 with degrees in Journalism and Creative Writing. He has spent a lot of time working with the media. From engineering radio broadcast for most of Atlanta’s major sports teams to shooting high school football games behind a camera, Chris has a lot of media experience. Besides that, he loves soccer, detective shows, and a buffet list of 'nerdy' things that would embarrass his wife.

Comparisons of Clout: DC’s Man of Steel Enters the Gauntlet of Marvel’s Iron Man

It has been a little over a month since the Man of Steel broke the box office in June. The anticipation of a “new” Superman and the seeming inevitability of a shared cinematic universe for DC Comic heroes provided a great foundation platform of audience excitement. Even with some of the negative reviews, Man of Steel has racked up a healthy total around $630 million worldwide according to boxofficemojo.com.  That’s a lot of money. It’s more money than Iron Man, and any other of Marvel’s “Phase 1” movies (except for the “first hour” of Iron Man 2 – the second half of that movie didn’t really deserve a dime).

However, money isn’t everything. Sometimes in movies, you not only need to get a profit from your original investment but also create a franchise that will continue to give you profits. That’s the trick. Creating something that the audience will want to continue to see – creating a franchise. This is what Marvel did when they made Iron Man and subsequently the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While the Man of Steel was a really good film, it remains to be seen if it can create the same kind of traction and mass appeal for DC’s pending movie universe the way that Iron Man did for Marvel.

I’m sure most of you reading this article are nodding saying, “Uh, Yeah! Why wouldn’t it?”

Image Credits: Warner Brothers Studios/Legendary Pictures and Marvel Studios (respectively)

Image Credits: Warner Brothers Studios/Legendary Pictures and Marvel Studios (respectively)

After all, the two movies have a ton of similarities. For starters, they both follow the traditional superhero origin set-up. We are given two men, who are powerful in their own right until a tragic event levels the playing field and eventually puts them on their paths to becoming heroes.

For Tony Stark, it was the kidnapping and eventually slaying of his fellow captive during the escape that really pushed the arrogant, billionaire playboy to become the noble (if not still arrogant) Iron Man. Meanwhile, Clark was well on his way to being a “super”-annoying annoying teenager when his adoptive father sacrificed himself to keep Clark’s secret alive. The two movies also give us plenty of action, villains who are more than a match for both heroes, and a little bit of romance.

But the comparisons end there, as the pair couldn’t be any more different from one another. They differ on things ranging from tone to originality and it’s in these differences that we can forecast whether the DC Cinematic Universe will be as successful as Marvel’s.

Round 1: Tone

Answer the following question: How would you like to spend two and a half hours in a theater with your family?

You would want to be entertained right? You want your kids laughing, your wife (or husband) interested in the screen and not asking you questions. You want the time to fly by without realizing it. The tone the movie sets at the beginning is very important and can make a movie seem really short, really long, or just right (said Goldilocks).

The tone of Iron Man, and most of Marvel’s movies to date have been lighthearted and more or less action hero comedies. Thor, the Avengers, and parts of Captain America and Hulk all had pretty “light” tones. The Man of Steel was very “dark” in tone, or at the very least “anti-lighthearted”. Some of the criticisms that Man of Steel got were that the movie was too destructive. Yeah, the Kryptonians and Superman destroyed most of Metropolis. So did the Avengers, though. Why did no one complain about that? Simple, the tone of Avengers was really witty and lighthearted. You laughed and cheered as the destruction carried on. The tone for Man of Steel was more dark and grim. You really didn’t laugh during the movie and laughter is something that helps us cope with the bad things that happen in movies.

Is this the tone that DC wants all of their movies to have? It does seem that way, especially after the Dark Knight Trilogy (which, by the way, is not currently part of the proposed DC shared universe, unfortunately).

Could it work if DC made their movies more light hearted? I’m not sure. It didn’t seem to work for the Green Lantern (which, by the way, is not currently part of the proposed DC shared universe, thank God).

With news of a Flash movie (a notoriously sarcastic character) being slated for 2016, I’m sure we will find out soon. But for now, I’d have to edge Iron Man and Marvel for this Round.

Round 2: Originality/Story

Image Credit: Warner Brothers

Iron Man had something going for it that Man of Steel currently does not: originality. The newness of Tony Stark’s character to the general audience really helped Marvel operate without much shadow. Thor was the same way. Even though Captain America had already had a movie hit theaters once upon a time; the announcement of a shared universe practically negated the memories of the past (though it still is one of the lowest earning Phase 1 movies for Marvel).

Man of Steel came into the theaters with a handicap. There was the old TV shows and a bunch of movies telling generations of fans exactly “how Superman should be”. Its no wonder the ending of Man of Steel left a lot of people in shock. But what I think is important is to make sure that the stories that are being told are more original than the characters themselves. The story of Zod versus Superman is kind of old, and by that I mean to say that I’m glad their battles are over. But the movie did a great job of turning the character of Superman into something more than just a recycled Christopher Reeve. The director learned from past mistakes and made a movie that could stand on it’s own and as long as DC does that, then they can only set themselves up for success. This round is a toss-up…for now.

Final Round: Supporting Cast

Avengers Movie

Image Credit: Marvel Studios

Let’s face it: so far Iron Man has been the cornerstone of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  DC clearly wants to make Superman their cornerstone, but he needs to have strong and relatable supporting characters. The Avengers had a team of them in Bruce Banner, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye, Nick Fury, etc. All of these guys balanced off of each other really well and as a team (of movies and characters) were able to connect with audiences. You knew that the only way the threat of the movie could be stopped was if ALL of them worked together. Here is where I think DC will run into a few problems.

Remember how strong Supes was in Man of Steel? Remember how many Kryptonians he had to fight at once? Yeah, just imagine Superman asking Batman for help to defeat…well, anybody (which he will in 2015). Now imagine being joined by Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, and the Green Lantern, all of which are ridiculously powerful people as well. Doesn’t that seem like overkill? The only threat that would bring these guys together would be a threat from someone like Darksied (which is most likely who Justice League in 2017 will feature).  After that, there really wouldn’t be any reason the general public would have to believe that all these characters would need to team up again. Unless Kryptonite is involved in future sequels, Cavill’s Superman is just too strong to truly “need” help. I’m sorry, but this round goes to Iron Man and Marvel.

But I may be wrong. I think that DC has a lot of entertaining prospects. They will definitely have another billion-dollar movie, if not from the ground swell of comic book movies alone. However, they won’t see the kind of success and allure that Marvel has if they aren’t careful and patient. DC needs to make quality characters that can coexist, or entertainingly not coexist, with the Superman of Man of Steel or else they will always be second fiddle (in the mind of this writer, at least) to Marvel.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Welcome to the Age of Heroes | The Hudsucker - March 30, 2015

    […] Marvel, unlike DC, built their universe on the idea of their heroes teaming-up in the future. In 2012, Marvel’s The Avengers broke box-office records, making $1.5 billion dollars through the story of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, and Black Widow banding together to save the world. Fans flocked to the theaters for the movies showcasing these characters individually, or in tandem with the Big Three (Cap, Thor and Iron Man) so the motivation to watch them all at once was built in over time. DC will release Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016 and attempt to catch lightning in a bottle when Justice League releases in 2017. We’ll see if they can find the formula that’s made the Marvel Cinematic Universe so successful. […]

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