So, Age of Ultron happened. Like most fans, I was ridiculously excited, but also a little nervous that it couldn’t live up to expectations. I know I’m not the only one that’s happy to say, it completely blew me away, and exceeded my expectations in pretty much every way. Let’s face it, this isn’t the first time that’s happened. Both of Marvel studios’ 2014 releases, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy were brilliant, and they’ve now earned my blind trust. Once again, I know I’m not the only one.
So what about the films based on DC properties? Well, We’re currently one film into their cinematic universe, which in my opinion was alright, certainly better than some of the Marvel films (I’m looking at you Iron Man sequels), but not a patch on their better efforts. They also have one of the most anticipated films of all time on the way, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice which, despite the terrible title and very mixed reception to the trailer, has people incredibly excited.
Let’s get something out-of-the-way now, because I know this is going to come up. At the moment, yes, I do prefer what Marvel is doing, but that’s because they’re doing a lot, and doing it well. DC haven’t had a film for almost two years, so it’s very hard to think of them as being on the same level. Basically what I’m trying to say it, I’m not blindly insulting DC here, just pointing out something I’ve noticed about the products they’ve been putting out.
The two studios have very different approaches to their films. There is the obvious point that has been made a hundred times before, and that’s the difference in tone. Marvel make more light-hearted and funny films, while DC are making more serious and dramatic films. This is not where I think the success Marvel is having is coming from however. So if not that, what is it they’re doing so differently? I’m glad you asked.
This might sound like a stupid question, but humour me. What source material are comic book films based on? It’s not a trick question, they’re based on comic books. Here’s where I come back to Age of Ultron. The film is nothing like the comic series of the same name, but it is exactly like a comic book. It’s action heavy, it’s funny and dramatic, there are lots of characters, there are frequent shots that are reminiscent of splash pages, and it felt like part of a larger story, even though it also works as a self-contained story.
This isn’t the first time Marvel has done this. Guardians of the Galaxy might have been the proper start of this, but Age of Ultron was where I really realised it. Essentially, Marvel aren’t shying away from their comic book origins, they’re fully embracing them. You want an eight foot artificially intelligent robot fighting a Norse god? You got it. How about a talking raccoon piloting a spaceship? Here it is. Perhaps a man shrinking down to insect size and being hit by a model of Thomas the Tank Engine? It’ll be here in July.
Right at the other end of the scale we have the DC films. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy are all excellent, but they in no way play out like comic books. Man of Steel also feels nothing like the source material, and the trailer for Dawn of Justice? It has some great images in it, and a quotable voice over, but it doesn’t feel anything like the comics. And how about the ‘re-imagining’ of Aquaman? Anybody who knows anything about comics knows that he’s a great character who doesn’t need to looks like Khal Drogo to be a savage badman.
Comics are weird, wonderful, and sometimes go way too far, but they are the source of all of these films. The comic book films of the early 2000’s tried to play down the connection to their roots, and that seems to be the way the DC films are going. Being only one film and one trailer in, it’s hard to know if it’s going to work out for them, and more importantly, for us, and I suppose all we can do is hope that they know what they’re doing. Until then, I can’t wait to see ants being mind-controlled and an ex-surgeon travelling through dimensions.
Who do you think has the best approach? Do you think staying close to the source material is important, or does it not matter as long as the films are good? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
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