I saw Captain America: Civil War recently and I currently rank it as my second favourite MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) film, with The Winter Soldier still being #1 for me. Despite the love I have for some of the MCU, I can’t help but notice the criticism people always levy at DC films. I am no DC “fanboy”, I recognize that they don’t have as solid a film universe, since they got a later start on it. However, I have previously discusses my disdain for people who say that DC movies have a problem with their tone. Many negative reviews will at least mention the darker tone of the DC universe films as being a problem, as if darker=worse.I realize that Marvel has dark properties on Netflix, like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, but I made this post specifically to discuss the MCU on the big screen. Reading comprehension is a dying art, so let me break this down a little further. I am not saying that BvS or Man of Steel are amazing. MOS was a 7.5 for me and BvS a 6.5. I am not saying these films have no flaws. I am saying that I don’t think their tone is one of their flaws.
Obviously BvS had issues aside from its tone (I’m looking at you Eisenberg) but I can’t stand this relatively
new idea that darkness is a bad thing in itself, and that “dark” and “good” are mutually exclusive. Of course, there have been dark comic book films that have been relatively well received, like The Dark Knight and the more recent example of X-Men: Days of Future Past. However, times are changing. Go to Rotten Tomatoes and see how many negative reviews of Apocalypse mention the “dark”, “grim”, “joyless” tone as being an issue. I’ll wait.
There is a pervasive mentality that a comic book movie must be “fun”. It shouldn’t take itself too seriously and should have plenty of comic relief, otherwise it has failed as a film. The MCU is now held up as the standard of comic relief and as the benchmark for the tone that a comic book film should have. It is easy to see why people latched onto them since they have had the most prolific comic book film output of any studio.
What I find ironic, is that the “fun” mentality is what held comic book films back for so long. Many critics and members of the general public who flock to see MCU films now would have once scoffed at the idea of a critically revered comic book film. Of course there are classics like Superman (1978) but Superman did not usher in an era of consistent comic book films and box-office domination by comic book films. This era started slowly with films like Blade, then X-Men and then Spider-Man. Then came Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and then the birth of the MCU with Iron Man.
Many critics once thought comic book films would never have the success they do now. They might be silly fun, but no one would take such films seriously. The idea of Oscar winners or nominees regularly starring in comic book films would have been deemed preposterous. Marlon Brando’s appearance in Superman was such a big deal due to the pedigree that he brought to the film. The first big successes of the modern era (Blade and X-Men) used a tone that many would now view as overly dramatic, “dark”, “pretentious” etc. but that is what allowed comic book films to gain more popularity and critic recognition. If it weren’t for these films we might not have the MCU. Yet everyone now forgets the stigma comic book films had to overcome and wants everything to be “fun” and “colourful”. There was a time when people thought that was all comic book films would have to offer, and it seems like fans now want history to repeat itself.