"Suicide Squad," DC’s Extended Universe’s third film, came out this past weekend, and I’ve already seen it twice. That’s not saying much, as I’ve seen every Marvel film since "Avengers: Age of Ultron" four times, but it still is a feat. While fans are clamoring to the theaters to see it (both showings I went to were sold out), critics do not feel the same. I personally didn’t like Enchantress’ Cate Blanchett voice or the fact that Harley Quinn’s hair magically curled every few minutes, but I had fun watching the movie.
I was obsessed with Viola Davis as Amanda Waller and my OTP, the Joker and Harley Quinn, were on fire. However, the movie is getting panned by critics. Cara Delevingne, who plays the villain, Enchantress, in the film, told Reuters, “You know, I just don't think [critics] like superhero movies” (You can read the full article here). However, this doesn’t seem to be true if you look at the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, DCEU’s rival. Why are critics so quick to praise Marvel films and so happy to criticize DCEU?
For the film and television industry, Rotten Tomatoes is usually the standard by which movies are deemed “good” or “bad." Rotten Tomatoes, for those of you who don’t know, is a site which compiles reviews from around the internet into a score out of 100. If a movie gets a score over 60-percent, it’s “Certified Fresh," meaning it’s generally reviewed well and you’ll enjoy it. If a movie gets below 60-percent, it’s “Certified Rotten," and I’m sure you can infer what that means. Of the 13 movies that are currently released in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the lowest score received was a 66-percent by "Thor: The Dark World." The highest rated movie is the original "Iron Man" with 94-percent. The average Marvel film scores an 81-percent, which any person who's attempting to maintain a GPA above a 3.0 will tell you is great.
On the flip side, the DC Extended Universe, as DC has taken to calling their own movie franchise, has only three films out. However, not a single one is “fresh." "Man of Steel," DC’s first movie in the universe they created to combat Marvel’s record-breaking blockbusters, only received a 55-percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and that’s the highest score in that universe. "Suicide Squad," the most recent film in DC’s wheelhouse, received a 26-percent, which is the lowest score out of all of the films in both franchises. While fans of both DC and Marvel will swear up and down that these are the best films they’ve ever seen, the fact remains that DC is consistently underperforming with critics. Why is this?
I think a lot of it has to do with casting. I can’t speak for "Man of Steel" as I’ve never seen it, but I have seen "Iron Man" six times. Robert Downey Jr. was not having the best life before "Iron Man" came out. He’d been to prison, struggled with addiction (you can read more about that here), and was generally considered an outcast in Hollywood. However, when Marvel cast Downey as Iron Man and proceeded in changing Iron Man from the stoic persona he has in the comics to a caricature of Downey himself, the world fell in love. "Iron Man" quickly swept the box office and made up for the fact that "Fantastic Four" was more than a little bit ridiculous (OK, I’m just saying this because everyone else says they hate the original "Fantastic Four." Sure, Reed kind of sucks, but Michael Chiklis and Chris Evans are hilarious and deserve more credit.)
As the franchise grew, Marvel continued to cast people who are arguably perfect in their roles, such as Samuel L. Jackson as Director Fury and Chris Evans as Captain America. New faces are brought in constantly and are usually received well with the public, such as Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther and Brie Larson as Captain Marvel. These actors love their roles, which they make very apparent every time there is a press tour, and are proud of the films they’re in. While the Suicide Squad has made it very apparent they love each other and their film (witness their matching tattoos here), all one has to do is look up “Ben Affleck Hello Darkness” to understand that this isn’t always the case (here’s the video-- I watch it whenever I think my life is bad). From lip-sync battles to twitter feuds for charity to Family Feud, the MCU has a leg up on the DCEU in that their family is established and strong.
In addition to their cast’s big love of the films, Marvel also has the added benefit of Disney branding and Disney continuity. The year after "Iron Man" premiered, Disney procured the rights to Marvel. Since then, they’ve created a universe that spans both television and film. "Jessica Jones," a Netflix series, is in the same universe as "Captain America: Civil War." The characters in the theme parks are a part of the same universe, too. While the comics remain their own entity, having one consistent cast (with the exception of War Machine being played by Terrence Howard in the first "Iron Man" and Don Cheadle since) on all of their platforms has given Marvel continuity, something DC doesn’t have. When "Infinity War Part II," the final film the MCU, comes out, and Jessica Jones comes on screen, she will be played by Krysten Ritter, just as she is in her hit television show. However, DC’s Extended Universe doesn’t have this continuity. Ezra Miller is going to be playing Barry Allen, also known as The Flash, even though Grant Gustin has been playing him for years on the CW show of the same name. While DC argues that their television shows and movies exist in separate universes (read more about their argument here), parts being played by multiple actors leads to confusion. Ezra Miller is one of my favorite actors, but I’m still questioning why you would recast a part when someone else has been playing it so well for so long.
There’s also the added aspect of scheduling. Due to Marvel being owned by Disney, all of Marvel’s shows exist on either Netflix or ABC. "Agents of Shield" and "Agent Carter" never overlapped on ABC’s schedule, which meant fans could watch both shows without having to compromise. On the flip side, DC’s shows, "Gotham" and "Supergirl," had the same time slot on different channels last fall, meaning that DC fans had to choose which superhero they liked more. Also, since the shows are on different channels and have different casts, crossovers are virtually impossible. While "The Flash" and "Arrow" have done plenty of crossovers, seeing as they’re both from the CW, it was perceived as groundbreaking when "Supergirl" from CBS had a crossover with "The Flash," even though Lady Sif from the "Thor" movies has been on "Agents of Shield" and practically all of the Avengers have met Peggy Carter. A Marvel movie comes out every year, with the schedule usually being one film in the spring, one in the fall, followed by a film in the summer the following year. On the other hand, DC has given two of their most anticipated films release dates within a few months of each other. "Justice League," their next movie, doesn’t even come out until next November. With Marvel’s scheduling, you have enough time to detox and get excited for the next one, plus there is no overlap in advertising. Advertising for "Suicide Squad" started before "Batman vs. Superman" was even out, and this gap between movies is almost excessive.
Maybe the entire issue is their continuity to the comics. I’ve heard people say that "Suicide Squad" is too much like the comics. Marvel has certainly taken their own comic universe and flipped it on it’s head. The “Civil War” comic series is almost unrecognizable in comparison to it’s MCU counterpart, "Captain America: Civil War." Steve Rogers, or Captain America, is from Manhattan in the comics even though he tells Spider-Man he’s from Brooklyn in the movies. You don’t have to know anything about the comics to appreciate the Marvel films, but can the same be said about the DCEU? I personally have researched a lot about Harley Quinn and the Joker, so I’m OK with their relationship, but I can see how someone who has no knowledge of the DC comic universe would be put off by "Suicide Squad’s" portrayal of their romance.
That’s not to say DC hasn’t done anything right. "Suicide Squad’s" advertising campaign was absolutely outstanding and a joy to witness. Superhero movies have taken on a dull, gray color lately, with the exception of "Guardians of the Galaxy," so it’s nice to see a film that is full of greens, reds, blues, and purples. DC is slowly working on creating their cinematic universe cast to rival Marvel’s, such as casting Jason Moama from "Game of Thrones" as Aquaman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. The actors and actresses have begun defending their films, like when Margot Robbie argued that Harley Quinn wears hotpants because she wants to, not because she has to (read the article here).
However, Cara’s point that critics don’t like superhero movies simply isn’t true, because they love Marvel movies. I’m a Marvel fan so I’m always going to think that Marvel movies are better, but I still liked "Suicide Squad." But I’m not a critic so I can’t say why the DCEU is so universally panned. Write me in the comments as to why you think the DCEU isn’t succeeding, and tell me what you think of this article! Now it’s time to watch my favorite IRL superhero, Laurie Hernandez, kill it on the floor.