Why Do DC Comics Movies Suck (and Marvel Movies Do So Well?)

Most movies made from DC Comics characters get low ratings by critics while most movies made from Marvel Comics characters get high ratings by critics. It got so bad that after dismal reviews for “Suicide Squad,” many DC Comics fans tried to boycott the Rotten Tomatoes site that collects critic’s reviews and grades the movie accordingly. DC Comics fans insisted that Rotten Tomatoes and critics in general simply hated DC Comics unfairly, but the truth is that many DC Comics movies simply aren’t that good.

Watch “Suicide Squad” and “Man of Steel” and you’ll see two flaws right away. Both movies rely on lots of flashbacks that halt the forward momentum of the story and constantly restart the story again and again. In comparison, most Marvel Studio movies like “The Avengers” or “Deadpool” take you on a journey with the hero from start to finish with few (if any) flashbacks to slow down the story or halt it completely. That’s the major difference between DC Comics movies and Marvel Comics movies.

In “Man of Steel,” the story jumps around when the hero (Clark Kent) is a kid, then a young man trying to hide his identity among oil rig workers and fishermen. Yet the purpose of each of these scenes is just to show the hero forced to do something good and reveal his true strength. Then another scene with completely different characters pops up again and the same type of scene repeats itself all over again.

What we learn from all these flashbacks is that the hero must save others using his strength that he’s trying to hide from others. These scenes provide no tension or suspense, and have little relevance to the rest of the movie other than to show us how tormented the hero is in hiding his true nature. The first time this might be important, but to keep repeating this over and over again simply bores us and drags the story to a halt.

In “Suicide Squad,” the story constantly stops as flashbacks tell us the origin story of each major character. By the time we get done watching all of these origin stories of all the major characters, the movie’s almost over.

Both “Man of Steel” and “Suicide Squad” also lack a direct threat from the villain from start to finish. Instead, “Man of Steel” goes long stretches where we never see the villains at all. “Suicide Squad” offers villains that look like giant lumps in the shape of people, attacking the Suicide Squad, but the main villain doesn’t seem to pose much of a threat until the end.

Now look at “Iron Man” where the villain was responsible for the attack on Tony Stark (the hero) when he’s traveling in a convoy that gets ambushed and he gets taken prisoner. At all times in “Iron Man,” we’re following the hero as he experiences his dangers and threats from the villain without the disruption of flashbacks to slow the action down.

“Deadpool” relies on flashbacks but it first grabs our attention with the hero (Deadpool) attacking some bad guys. Then he goes back to explain how he got to that situation in the first place, but the opening scene hooks us and then the flashback brings us back to the opening scene. So large parts of the movie consists of a continual story. In comparison, “Man of Steel” and “Suicide Squad” constantly jerk us out of the story and dump us in a flashback to provide one chunk of information before yanking us out of the flashback and throwing us back into the story again.

This constant interruption wrecks “Man of Steel” and “Suicide Squad” but the flashback is the main story in “Deadpool” so once the flashback interrupts the story, the story keeps moving forward from that point on until it catches up to the beginning again.

Constant flashbacks kill the momentum in “Man of Steel” and “Suicide Squad.” The lack of constant flashbacks keeps the story flowing in movies like “Deadpool” and “Iron Man.”

The difference between DC Comics and Marvel Comics has nothing to do with the super heroes or the imagined conspiracy against DC Comics by critics. Instead, the difference rests solely on poor story structure for DC Comics movies and far better story structure for Marvel Comics movies.

Story structure is crucial, and that’s one formula for success that DC Comics movies keep failing to grasp.

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