Generally speaking, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is superior to the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). MCU movies constantly top the box office and pull in rave reviews, while DCEU movies rarely succeed financially and critically. However, it’s unwise to write off the DCEU, as there are some things it did better than the MCU.
The MCU may currently be the most popular form of superhero entertainment, but it isn’t free of shortcomings. For all its faults and failures, the DCEU still managed to outdo the MCU in some interesting ways. Now that the DCEU is under new leadership, it may only be a matter of time before it finally overtakes its longtime rival.
10/10 The DCEU Has More Guilty Pleasures
The MCU has often been described as an assembly line production, and its consistent output reinforces this comparison. The MCU has weak entries like Iron Fist or Thor: The Dark World, but they’re only mediocre at worst. This denies the MCU of the kinds of memorably bad movies that used to dominate the superhero genre.
In contrast, it’s impossible to forget the DCEU’s blunders. Black Adam, Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman 1984 are baffling guilty pleasures, while Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the special kind of bad movie that sparks passionate arguments. Unlike the MCU’s worst, the bottom of the DCEU’s barrel is fun to analyze and deconstruct.
9/10 The DCEU Isn’t As Overwhelming As The MCU
The best and worst thing about the MCU is its sheer number of movies and TV shows. Following the MCU is fun, but it can be tedious for both newcomers and veterans alike. Even the most dedicated fans found Phase 4 too bloated. The MCU itself agreed, with producers saying they’ll prioritize quality over quantity in Phase 5.
By pure luck, it’s easier to get into the DCEU simply because it has fewer movies and TV shows. It also helps that, unlike the MCU, the DCEU movies are so loosely connected that they can stand well enough on their own. The DCEU will grow soon, but its movies will be free of the canonical baggage that dragged down most of Marvel’s Phase 4.
8/10 The DCEU’s Visual Style Is More Diverse And Unique
The MCU is set in one universe, so its entries follow a predetermined visual language. This, in turn, locked the MCU in a visual style that already lost its novelty. Regardless of genre and tone, many MCU movies shared the same earthen color scheme. Visually rich titles like Black Panther and Guardians of the Galaxy were rare exceptions.
In contrast, it’s easier to tell DCEU movies apart thanks to their unique visuals. Man of Steel’s brutalist aesthetic made it one of the most striking reinterpretations of Superman yet, while Aquaman looked like a cartoon come to life. Great visuals aren’t enough to make a good DCEU movie, but they at least offer something that the MCU lacks.
7/10 The DCEU Movies Have A Stronger Sense Of Directorial Identity
A price the MCU paid for airtight consistency was their movies’ lack of authorial identity. Stylistically speaking, the MCU movies blended too well with one another. Even Ryan Coogler, Sam Raimi, and Chloe Zhao still had to work within the MCU’s preset confines. James Gunn and Taika Waititi’s off-color movies were not the norm.
In contrast, the DCEU was more filmmaker-driven as opposed to the MCU’s singular vision. Even though it had its own studio guidelines, the DCEU did a better job at letting its directors be heard. For example, Superman’s DCEU movies are clearly all Zack Snyder’s work, and David F. Sandberg’s horror roots were obvious in Shazam!
6/10 Wonder Woman Was A Better Historical Superhero Movie Than Captain America: The First Avenger
On paper, Wonder Woman was a shameless Captain America: The First Avenger knock-off. Both were origin stories starring a superhero who fought during a World War before they were forgotten by time. Worse, Wonder Woman starred a hero who was awkwardly shoehorned into the crossover Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Against all odds, Wonder Woman exceeded expectations. Wonder Woman did everything that The First Avenger did but better, and it also became a cultural touchstone. Wonder Woman was hailed as a great alternate World War I movie and a testament to female empowerment, whereas The First Avenger was a forgettable origin story.
5/10 The MCU Has Yet To Beat Birds Of Prey
As of this writing, the MCU doesn’t have an all-female superhero team. The closest the MCU has to one was the female heroes’ team-up in Avengers: Endgame. Even though the team-up was brief and Black Widow wasn’t even in the line-up due to her death, the scene made a lot of waves during Endgame’s hype.
Meanwhile, Birds of Prey gave Harley Quinn and some of DC Comics’ most overlooked female anti-heroes an entire movie. Besides having an all-female superhero team, the underrated Birds of Prey had the kind of raw grit and energy that was absent in most MCU movies.
4/10 The Suicide Squad Pushed The Guardians Of The Galaxy’s Formula To The Extreme
The Guardians of the Galaxy series is one of the MCU’s most creative entries, but they didn’t maximize writer/director James Gunn’s talents. Gunn is best known for schlocky R-Rated movies, but he toned himself down to make the Guardians fit the MCU’s family-friendly appeal. This wasn’t bad, but Gunn felt like he was being held back.
Conversely, The Suicide Squad was Gunn at his most unrestrained. Task Force X was always the DCEU’s answer to the Guardians, but this vision was only realized when Gunn came aboard. The Suicide Squad did everything Guardians did but better, thanks to a laxer rating that gave Gunn all the creative control and edge he needed.
3/10 The MCU’s Solo Villain Stories Pale In Comparison To Peacemaker
The MCU’s villains were always one of its weakest parts, and they had the chance to rectify this in Phase 4. Unfortunately, WandaVision and Loki bent over backward to explain that their villainous protagonists were actually misunderstood anti-heroes. Meanwhile, the DCEU embraced its villainous characters and was better for it.
Peacemaker was the villainous miniseries that WandaVision and Loki should’ve been. Not only was Peacemaker a great standalone show, but it also confronted its titular villain’s darkness instead of denying it. The closest the MCU had to Peacemaker was Netflix’s The Punisher, which was held back by a circular story and too many false starts.
2/10 The MCU Doesn’t Have An Answer To Joker Or The Batman
Joker and The Batman may not be a part of DCEU canon, but they owe their existence to the franchise. The two were made in part due to the shared universe’s failure. Joker and the horror-styled The Batman were freed from the DCEU’s canon. This lets them be the kinds of filmmaker-driven superhero movies that would never exist in a bigger franchise.
In contrast, the MCU’s success means it can’t take the same creative risks the DCEU did. The MCU’s entries have to adhere to the franchise’s winning but limiting formula. Meanwhile, the DCEU’s failure opened unexpected but better doors. Given the MCU’s continued success, it’s unlikely that its movies will deviate from the status quo any time soon.
1/10 The MCU Will Never Make Something Like Zack Snyder’s Justice League
For better or worse, there will never be another movie like Zack Snyder’s Justice League. This isn’t only referring to the superhero epic’s 4-hour runtime, or Snyder enjoying full creative control on a franchise project. The Snyder Cut only exists thanks to a specific train of events and a zeitgeist that neither the MCU nor DCEU can replicate.
The DCEU and MCU understandably hope to never repeat the mistakes that led to The Snyder Cut’s creation. However, this chaotic history is what makes Zack Snyder’s Justice League so unique. The Snyder Cut is a historic superhero movie in every sense, and it’s highly unlikely that the MCU will ever have an answer to it.
NEXT: 10 Ways The New DCEU Can Be Better Than The Snyderverse