DC vs. Marvel: The Verdict on Each Cinematic Universe’s First 3 Films

DC vs. Marvel: The Verdict on Each Cinematic Universe’s First 3 Films

Paramount Pictures/Photofest; Warner Bros./Photofest
Robert Downey Jr. in ‘Iron Man’ and Henry Cavill in ‘Man of Steel’

Was ‘The Incredible Hulk’ really better than ‘Batman v. Superman’?
It’s three movies in, and the DC Extended Universe is 0 for 3 when it comes to the critics.
Reviews for Suicide Squad have been rough — proving it’s even harder than it looks to launch a cinematic universe. Everyone wants one (seriously, everyone!), but as of now, only Marvel Studios has managed to get one off the ground that is both embraced by fans and critics alike. But people, even Marvel struggled in its early days — with some of its first films decidedly less acclaimed than the movies they are pumping out now on a yearly basis.

In that light, it’s time for a round of Marvel vs. DC and let Marvel’s first three films do battle with DC and Warner Bros.’ first three.
Iron Man (2008) vs. Man of Steel (2013)
Marvel Studios had the surprise hit of the summer, with the film about a second-tier comic book character (Iron Man) starring an actor many thought was washed-up (Robert Downey Jr.) and helmed by a comedy director (Jon Favreau) going on to be among the most influential comic book movies ever made. Downey’s charm went on to help him command $50 million a picture and become the anchor of the incredibly profitable MCU. The film earned raves from critics (it holds a 94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and fans alike — who left theaters electrified by the Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) mid-credits scene, which promised an “Avenger initiative” in the future. In a summer also featuring The Dark Knight, Iron Man more than held its own. The $140 million-budgeted film grossed $585 million worldwide (chump change by Marvel standards today, but a huge win at the time).
Man of Steel had a lot riding on its shoulders. It not only had to follow up the The Dark Knight trilogy and erase the bad taste left in the mouths of fans by Superman Returns (2006), it also had to serve as a way for Warner Bros. to play catch-up with Marvel and launch its own cinematic universe. Fans enjoyed the Bruce Wayne Easter Eggs, but the film also proved to be incredibly divisive — with complaints about the destruction during the battle of Metropolis being so loud that director Zack Snyder made them the centerpiece of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Man of Steel holds a 55 percent on Rotten Tomatoes (the highest of any DCEU film so far) and earned $668 million worldwide on a $225 million budget.


The verdict: Clear advantage to Iron Man, which has proven to be the cornerstone on which the MCU was built.

The Incredible Hulk (2008) vs. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
The Incredible Hulk is the MCU movie time has forgotten, partially because Edward Norton left the universe and was replaced by Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk, with the new actor playing the character to even greater acclaim. The film earned a 67 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but it has not stood the test of time, with it rarely factoring into fan conversations about the MCU. It’s one of the worst reviewed MCU films, with only Thor: Dark World ranking lower on Rotten Tomatoes. It took eight years for the events of the film to circle back and impact the MCU in a big way, when Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt) reappeared in Captain America: Civil War. It’s also currently the lowest grossing MCU movie, earning $263.4 worldwide during its entire run. For comparison’s sake, the first Avengers grossed more than $200 million in its opening weekend alone.

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