Zack Snyder recently ignited a flame war by praising DC heroes over Marvel heroes, as part of his promotion for The Man of Steel. He prefers the gritty Nolan approach to comics over the lighter Whedon style. So which is better?
Naturally, as the director of DC’s upcoming Man of Steel, Zack Snyder is bound to prefer DC heroes. In a recent interview, he said about the DC pantheon of heroes, “They truly are purer archetypes…They’re literally Biblical. If you get the DC characters right, they can be important, they can be about us. It’s not just a romp.” In reference to Marvel heroes, he adds, “The question you’re asking about Iron Man and Thor, is ‘How is it that you feel you can be making a superhero movie in a world where Superman and Batman exist?’”
Strong opinions by Snyder! His Watchmen film clearly showed that he prefers the “not a romp” approach which DC favors in their comic adaptations. Certainly, DC has had considerable success with the grim-and-gritty approach of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, particularly The Dark Knight. However, it has to be said that Marvel has done quite well in recent years with their brand of lighter, escapist adventure, particularly with the Avengers. With Iron Man 3 currently tearing up the international box office and opening today in the USA, and many other Marvel projects either in the making or green-lit to go—Thor: the Dark World, The Wolverine; Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men: Days of Future Past; Spider-Man 2; Captain America: the Winter Soldier; Deadpool; Avengers 2—all under the watchful eye of producer Kevin Feige and/or Joss Whedon who perfected his serio-comic approach with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Marvel seems to have found their niche.
At one time, DC had great success with light, fantastical fare, such as Superman: the Movie, which first ignited the super-hero genre in film, or the comical Batman TV show of the 60s. However, in the 21st Century, the Nolan formula has become gospel for DC, and their attempt to emulate the Marvel style with Green Lantern, failed miserably. As for Marvel, they were going for the lighter approach even before Whedon came aboard but now that he’s in charge of Marvel’s Disney film universe, he’s set the tone in stone. Kevin Feige, who executive produces all Marvel films (even non-Disney) likes the Whedon formula.
So which method is better? Nolan’s or Whedon’s? Realism or Escapism? While both these companies have had hits using their respective formulas, it sometimes backfires on them. Marvel’s attempt to use a light-hearted approach to the Fantastic Four was not well received by die-hard fans. On the flip-side, when DC tried to use the Nolan formula (Already proven in Batman Begins) in Superman Returns, it reduced the man of steel to being whimpering, angst-ridden and lovelorn. Therefore, neither of these formulas is flawless. Of course, trying to copy the opposition’s technique can also sometimes go wrong. Green Lantern is one example, as already mentioned, and Marvel’s efforts to ‘go dark’ with Daredevil and Ang Lee’s Hulk weren’t exactly huge successes.
So which is the superior formula? There’s probably no definitive answer. Fans of Christopher Nolan will see The Dark Knight as proof that the gritty DC formula is best. Fans of Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Avengers will support Whedon’s and Feige's more spirited approach. It depends on who you ask. My own personal preference is for escapist adventure, having grown up with the fun Christopher Reeves films, so I like the direction Marvel is going in now under Whedon and Feige. Still, the Nolan Bat-trilogy is currently the most successful super-hero franchise.
Which style is better? What do you think?