There is a massive difference between the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the upcoming DC film universe, and after the release of the two Comic-Con trailers for Batman vs Superman and Suicide Squad, I can say that the prospects may not be bright (visually) but they are a whole lot more interesting to me than anything Marvel has churned out this past year.
I am embracing DC because they are not shying away from their villains. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern – these heroes all have some of the best enemies in the world of comic books. The Joker is pretty much the king, of course, but looking at the Suicide Squad in action, I am moved in a way that Marvel has been unable to move me for quite some time. These villains, most notably Harley Quinn (who is the one I am most excited to see) are real people who have histories that matter to them. Some of these characters are trying desperately to forget their pasts and move forward, though the world will not accept them – mostly because they are villains. They like to hurt people and steal things and wreak havoc. But, they have substance.
Marvel, on the other hand, has used their villains like a Rolodex of disposable characters that are usually heavily computer generated and disposed of after a mere handful of scenes. What do they want? Usually just a shiny object. Or world domination. This idea has become so boring to me. What good is world domination when Ultron is going to turn the planet into a floating rock with no life at all? The only villain in the Marvel CU that has fared well is Loki, mostly due to the incredible acting of Tom Hiddleston. We’re lucky to have that. Captain America: The Winter Soldier also did a great job with their villains, giving them a purpose beyond simply hunting down infinity stones. But, that was only an exception to the rule. Perhaps things will change as we move into the third phase, and we might actually get a Tony Stark who wrestles with legitimate demons like he does in the comic books. I won’t hold my breath though. He’s yet to deal with his rampant alcoholism in the films as he has in the comics – one of the main sources of his downfall from being the hero that everyone needs him to be. He will become a “villain” in one way or another, and that could be refreshing for Marvel.
DC, on the flip side of the coin, is giving their villains a chance to connect with the audience by showcasing them in their own movie. I’m pretty excited to see where it goes from here, and it looks very dark in a storytelling sense. This is clearly going to be a universe with real, lasting stakes and characters who are all changed because of their choices. There will be no reset button. These are the movies I’ve been waiting for as an adult. I want to be challenged like I was by Man of Steel. Should any of these heroes kill an enemy? I honestly don’t know. It depends on the situation. That’s the advantage of DC. It’s never black and white.