Very few people would deny that - overall - the MCU is a better-constructed 'extended universe' than the DCEU in most ways: they started by giving most of the individual heroes their own solo films to introduce those characters and their points-of-view, they established a fun-but-still-grounded tone that allowed for equal levels of comedy and pathos, and they've taken their time in building up character arcs and villains, leading to an overall richer, fuller experience. The DCEU has done the opposite of all of these things.
Plus, the MCU's movies get - on the whole - wayyy better reviewed.
But in many ways, the MCU is lagging FAR behind the DCEU - in ways that should frankly embarrass the hell out of Marvel, especially given they had an 8 year headstart on DC and Warner Bros.
It's astonishing that in the 9 years the MCU has been in existence (covering almost 20 films), not a single one has had a female director. And even in the near future, things don't look any better - through Ant-Man and the Wasp (which will be the 20th film in the MCU), every single one of Marvel's feature film directors will have been a dude.
Supposedly Marvel is searching for a female director to helm Captain Marvel (starring Brie Larson), but this is a case of too little, too late. And yes, they ALMOST had a female director (Patty Jenkins - director of Monster, the film that won Charlize Theron an Oscar) for Thor: The Dark World, before replacing her with Alan Taylor, but "almosts" don't count.
Thank god they split with Patty Jenkins over creative differences so they could follow the bold, memorable vision of Alan Taylor
Meanwhile, the 4th film in the DCEU - Wonder Woman - is being directed by a woman. And not just any woman - a woman who wrote and directed one of the most powerful films of the early 2000s, whose chops range from Oscar-winning films to Emmy-winning TV comedies (like Arrested Development), and who has visual flair to spare: Patty Jenkins...AKA the person Marvel split ways with and wound up with possibly their most forgettable film.
But of course, behind the camera isn't the only place where DC is knocking Marvel out of the water...
Marvel has mostly two modes for female characters: heroic side-characters who get pushed aside to make way for the dudes (Scarlet Witch, Peggy Carter, Sif, and even to a large extent, Black Widow) and mostly-useless girlfriends who occasionally get a token "cool" moment so the overqualified actresses playing them get SOMETHING interesting to do (Pepper Potts, Jane Foster, Sharon Carter, Hope van Dyne, etc). Of course, there are exceptions - Tilda Swinton's Ancient One was something different, at least, and Cate Blanchett is playing Hela in Thor: Ragnarok (how crazy is it that no Marvel has had a female villain until now? No, Nebula doesn't count).
The point is - every story in Marvel centers on the dudes. Every single one - even when Black Widow is given more meaty storylines to chew on (as with Ultron), she's still mostly relegated to the side. Hell, even the ensemble film Guardians of the Galaxy, the ONLY member of the central five that is stuck being mostly humorless is the one lady in the crew, Gamora.
It sucks. It sucks because Marvel Comics is awash with great female heroes taking center stage all the time - from Ms. Marvel to Squirrel Girl to Spider-Woman to She-Hulk and more. But it won't be until 2019's Captain Marvel that the MCU has a woman front-and-center - 11 years after the universe began with 2008's Iron Man. Somehow, they couldn't make a modestly-budgeted Black Widow spy film - even though they had an actress in the role (Scarlett Johansson) who regularly opens films with herself as the lead.
Meanwhile, DCEU is (again) making their 4th film centered around a female hero - Wonder Woman. And hell, it stands a very good chance of being the best film in the DCEU so far - and maybe the most popular with audiences, given Wonder Woman stole the show in her very brief appearance in last year's Batman v. Superman.
Not only that, but DCEU has announced Gotham City Sirens (which will put Harley Quinn, Catwoman, and Poison Ivy as leads) and Batgirl (helmed by Joss Whedon, whose sudden but inevitable betrayal of Marvel is being cursed by Kevin Feige right now) in the near future. Of course, DCEU still has plenty of women as boring side characters and/or girlfriends (poor Amy Adams), but they're also making an effort to tell the stories of women as individuals, not just as people whose stories revolve around men.
The argument shouldn't have to be clarified at this point, but why not: there's nothing intrinsically great about films being led by a woman instead of a man, but there's a big problem when literally all of your films only center on men. It limits the points of view you can display, it gets repetitive, and it dismisses a huge chunk of your audience. More than half of the world's population are women - and, especially for little kids, it's important for them to see women as the main heroes in stories, being the core of films. When they only see women as side characters and girlfriends, that sucks.
Say what you will about the DCEU, but they're at least trying a little harder than the MCU.
Note: obviously, Marvel TV is much better at this - with Jessica Jones and Agent Carter being two of the best things in the MCU period, and both helmed by and starring women!
This moves us into the field of the subjective, but a common complaint amongst MCU fans and detractors alike is the look of the films is - by and large - bland, flat, and very same-y on a film-to-film basis. Why would Thor: The Dark World (a film about Nordic Gods and Shakespearean family drama) look so similar to Iron Man 3 (a film about a rich dude with a goatee he spends wayyy too much time on for a supposedly laid-back, chill guy)?
The answer? Marvel's smart approach to keeping a consistent universe backfires when it comes to visuals.
Here's an incredibly bad metaphor, but stick with me: Marvel is McDonald's, and DC is a local burger joint run by a family of drunken siblings who don't get along. With Marvel/McDonald's, the upper-management keeps a tight leash on things and has a ton of checks-and-balances to make sure the end product is always pleasing and reliable. The customer knows what they're going to get will be up to a certain standard, but it's also never going to be anything surprising or bombastic or amazing.
But DC is that shifty, dirty burger joint run by a family of drunks. A lot of the time, they're going to serve you crap. Like, you won't even be sure they understand how burgers work, and the burgers will be awkwardly put together, and you'll be like "They need to reboot this restaurant" (okay maybe not that, but you get where I'm going). However, the burgers will always be unique and reflect the personality of the individual chef who made it. There's panache and flair that you'd never find at a McDonald's. Does that make sense?
In case it doesn't, here's a great video that explains Marvel's biggest visual issue (and goes back to my argument about the mandated consistency across properties): color grading. All of Marvel's films are color-graded in the same way - that makes the colors look washed out and the visuals lack any sort of punch.
The DCEU films universally have issues with scripts, editing, coherence, characters, and theme - but, on the whole, they look incredible. Zack Snyder might be the best working visual director around, even if he can't tell a comprehensible story to save his life - and his bold visuals, focus on cinematography, and dark, rich colors have the DCEU films looking really good at least.
So while your mind knows you can have a safe, reliable meal eating at McDonald's, your heart knows that at that dirty local burger joint, you'll be rolling the dice, but you could be served as a (visual) masterpiece.
I'm not entirely sure whether the pounding drums and sick guitar riffs that formally introduce Wonder Woman into the DCEU makes a whole lot of sense for her character, but it sure as hell is a memorable and evocative track:
I wish I could say the same for...any musical track in the MCU - but outside of the very nice mixtape that comprised Guardians of the Galaxy's soundtrack, the music in most Marvel films is utterly generic and nondistinct. It's pure background noise - it SOUNDS right for the individual moments, but it acts mostly as filler: it's not heightening the emotions on-screen, it's not leaving a memorable impression on you, and it's doing nothing to really support the story in a meaningful way.
Why is this? Marvel's storytelling is consistently in the hands of a few individuals - the director(s) of a particular film, the writer(s), and Kevin Feige. To properly tell a story with a powerful and memorable score, that means letting the composer in on the creative direction of the film - and more and more, directors and producers are doing what they can to de-emphasize the importance of film scores in the storytelling process (at least, according to Danny Elfman, who you probably know from many, many memorable film scores...and also Age of Ultron).
But beyond that is an issue that plagues a huge number of modern blockbuster films - the prevalence of 'temp tracks.' Prior to a composer being brought in (which is usually fairly late in the filmmaking process), directors and editors will use 'temp tracks' from other films to fill in the score until an original one can be produced. And more and more, directors will become attached to the tone of temp music, and direct their composers to mimic someone else's score instead of creating something unique and original that builds upon the visuals.
And to truly have this audio point properly illustrated, you need to HEAR it - so let's let YouTuber Every Frame a Painting explain:
It's a bummer, because Marvel has worked with some exceptional composers - Alan Silvestri (Back to the Future), Michael Giacchino (The Incredibles), and Danny Elfman (don't make me list his accomplishments) - and while all turned in serviceable work, it wasn't anything near what they've proven themselves capable of.
Meanwhile, Man of Steel's trailer alone had some of the best, most memorable music in the past decade of superhero films:
The DCEU has 1 Oscar.
The MCU has 0 Oscars.
I don't like it either, but that's the way it is.
This post has been brought to you by the Oscar-winning film, Suicide Squad.