Would the DCEU be more successful if the MCU didn’t exist?

Le DCEU aurait-il plus de succès si le MCU n'existait pas ?

For many fans around the world, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become synonymous with the superhero genre as a whole. From Iron Man to Guardians of the Galaxy, the ever-expanding MCU has left little room in the cinematic landscape for the Superman and Batman of the DC Universe – and nothing proves that better than the DCEU's box office receipts compared to those of the MCU.

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Saying that the DCEU would have been better if the MCU had never existed seems a bit obvious at first glance – but it's not as simple as saying that it would have been better without having Marvel's franchises as a reference. The “failure” of the DCEU (and, more importantly, the Snyderverse) is something that will be studied by film historians for years to come.

There is one unwritten rule that every fan knows dictates the future of all franchises in the entertainment industry: creativity will never trump profitability. The DCEU, as well-received by fans as it may have been, never reached the astronomical box office numbers of the MCU, and for Warner Bros, it was a situation that simply could not continue. Perhaps this explains why the new face of the DC Cinematic Universe is the one who put the Guardians of the Galaxy – one of Marvel's least glamorous superhero teams – into the spotlight for millions of fans.

To better understand the effect of the MCU on the DCEU and the way DC produces its films, we must look back into the franchise's past, before the first Iron Man film forever changed the face of the superhero genre. Before Avengers and superhero teams became the norm, DC was content to release stories that encapsulated their characters' personalities as self-contained experiences, instead of building complex, interlocking cinematic universes.

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In many ways, DC was the forerunner of the superhero genre. Since the 1970s, films like Richard Donner's Superman have become the benchmark for superhero films. With a powerful musical score, stellar performances, and a strong understanding of comic book characters and their motivations, DC has proven that it is possible to make a live-action adaptation that lives up to their paper counterparts and in ink.

But the 1978 Superman is a classic, as is the 1989 Batman adaptation directed by Tim Burton. What about modern masterpieces, films that could directly compete with the MCU's best? What about modern masterpieces, films that could directly compete with the best films in the MCU? Well, just look at Nolan's exceptional Dark Knight trilogy.

Released around the same time that the MCU was taking its first steps into the world of cinema, the Dark Knight trilogy seemed to be the standard that all superhero films should follow in the future. Nolan managed to find the perfect balance between realism and comic book heroism with his trilogy, and this is perhaps the tone that the DCEU could have aimed for, if the MCU had never existed.

Black Adam actor Dwayne Johnson hopes the DCEU and MCU paths will cross one day.

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One of the most common criticisms that fans make of the DCEU is that it sometimes borders on “reactionary.” It's like he's trying to be the opposite of the MCU in every way – except for Joss Whedon directing the Justice League movie, but we don't talk about that.

Movies like Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey felt like desperate attempts by a moribund DCEU to grab the attention of the MCU crowd. However, fans of Nolan's trilogy, or even those who loved the charm and tone of the classic Superman or Batman films, found that these films failed to capture what made the DC so special in the first place.

To answer the question, yes, the DCEU would have been more successful if the MCU had never existed, but the franchise would have been very different from the one we know today. If the MCU hadn't led the way in making superhero films “by the book”, the modern landscape of caped crusaders in cinemas might have been much more influenced by the contribution of visionary filmmakers like Nolan and Snyder, and less attached to inane quips and “witty” jokes.

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Do you think the DCEU would be more successful if the MCU didn't exist?