Jun 28 2010

Is there a quality difference between Marvel and DC movies?

Published by at 2:01 am under Comic Book Movies,DC Comics,Marvel Comics

Judging by ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, DC movies do almost as well on average (although its bombs tend to be uniquely awful).

For the sake of convenience and clean numbers, I took the top 20 grossing movies from each publisher and then gathered their Rotten Tomato rankings, which are averages of hundreds or thousands of reviews.  (A RT ranking isn’t a perfect measure of quality, but it’s probably pretty accurate).

DC Movies

A-Grade (80+ on Rotten Tomatoes)
The Dark Knight-94%
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm-87%
Batman Begins-85%
Superman II-83%

B-Grade (60-79 on Rotten Tomatoes)
Batman Returns-77%
Superman Returns-76%
V for Vendetta-73%

C-Grade (40-59 on Rotten Tomatoes)
The Losers-47%
Batman Forever-44%

D-Grade (20-39 on Rotten Tomatoes)
Superman III-23%

F-Grade (19 or less on Rotten Tomatoes)
Jonah Hex-12%
Batman and Robin-12%
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace-11%

Marvel Movies

A-Grade (80+ on Rotten Tomatoes)
Spiderman 2-94%
Iron Man-93%
X2: X-Men United-88% (How!?)

B-Grade (60-79 on Rotten Tomatoes)
Iron Man 2-73%
Incredible Hulk-66%
Spiderman 3-63%
Hulk-62% (WTF? I would put this at 20, tops)

C-Grade (40-59 on Rotten Tomatoes)
Blade II-58%
X-Men: Last Stand-57%

D-Grade (20-39 on Rotten Tomatoes)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine-36%
Fantastic Four-36%
The Punisher-30%
FF: Rise of the Silver Surfer-26%
Ghost Rider-26%
Blade Trinity-26%

F-Grade (19 or less on Rotten Tomatoes)

Here are some other ways to look at the data.

DC Marvel
A-grade 25% 25%
B-grade 25% 20%
C-grade 15% 20%
D-grade 5% 30%
F-grade 30% 5%

The average Rotten Tomato ranking was 51.5% for DC and 55.7% for Marvel. So the movies on the whole tend to be pretty comparable, although most of the truly horrendous movies were DC.

Some other trends that stuck out.

  • Except for possibly Ironman, all of the excellent movies came from the largest franchises (Batman, Spiderman, X-Men and 1980s Superman).  My theory here is that studios are far more likely to spend on quality actors, screenwriters and directors if they think the franchise has a large-enough fanbase to support the investment.
  • Movies based around teams or multiple characters tended to do slightly worse than ones with a more singular focus. Team movies comprised just 16% of the movies that were A-grade or B-grade (3 out of 19).  But they comprised 20% of the total sample.
  • The three movies centered on a solo female protagonist were unmitigated disasters. Supergirl, Catwoman and Elektra weren’t just in the F-grade, but the three worst of all forty surveyed.  Some possible explanations: the studios made a half-assed effort because the franchises were minor and/or because they didn’t think superheroines would sell well.  Audience discrimination might have played a role, but women reviewers on RT seemed to hate these movies as much as the men did.
  • The five movies with black leads (the Blade trilogy, Steel and Catwoman) scored an average of 32%, worse than average (53%) but much better than the movies with female leads (9%).  I’m a bit surprised black protagonists fared worse than average because Wesley Snipes is actually pretty decent, Halle Berry has won an Oscar, and the Blade movies made enough money (half a billion dollars) to justify substantial studio support.  PS: Whoever cast Shaq as Steel is going to the same circle of hell as the guy that put nipples on the Batsuit.

7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Is there a quality difference between Marvel and DC movies?”

  1. B. Macon 28 Jun 2010 at 2:16 am

    Some minor methodogical points:

    –Each publisher actually had something like 22 or 23 movies, but I only counted the 20 top-grossers for each publisher because it helped keep the numbers round. 😉 If we included all the movies, Marvel’s proportion of flops would increase somewhat because we’d also have Punisher 2 and *shudder* Howard the Duck to work with.

    –I think Ironman 2 is more of a team movie than an individual one because War Machine and (particularly) Black Widow see a surprising amount of action. In every other case, I counted a movie as an individual or a team movie based on whether it was named after an individual (Spiderman, Batman) or a group (Batman & Robin, X-Men).

    –I suspect that major franchises tend to perform a bit better than minor ones in the Rotten Tomato rankings because a major franchise can count on more fanboy reviewers. In contrast, most of the people reviewing The Losers and all of the people reviewing The Incredibles are new to the series.

    –Obviously, I left out movies from Dark Horse and Pixar. I also left out Disney superhero movies like Underdog, which was so insanely bad that it made Blade III look like the second coming of Alfred Hitchcock. I would hate to rank a company based on only a few entries, but my guess is that it would go something like Pixar, Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Disney.

  2. Ragged Boyon 28 Jun 2010 at 9:18 am

    I love DC Comics and I’ll gobble up anything Vertigo puts out, but I will admit that their movies tend to be hit-and-miss. I think Marvel has a broader fanbase because they have a few more renowned superheroes: Hulk, X-Men, Iron-Man, Spiderman, Captain America vs. Superman, Batman, and a few other upper-tier heroes. Also, Marvel probably has a generally cleaner rep. DC has been known over the years to be edgier and darker i.e. not child appropriate which is going to decrease some of their movie turn-out.

    And I loved Catwoman.

  3. B. Macon 28 Jun 2010 at 9:45 am

    I agree with you that Catwoman is better than generally believed. Probably better than any of the Superman movies but the original. The concept was not terrible and Halle Berry was not a trainwreck. But the script… Oof. Anybody associated with that monstrosity needs to be retired.

    “DC has been known over the years to be edgier and darker i.e. not child appropriate which is going to decrease some of their movie turn-out.” Hmm, that’s interesting. One of the things that struck me about Marvel’s Ironman 2 was that the movie was tame bordering on PG, except for a frame where you can briefly see two dead guards hanging from the ceiling and some suggestive language. I’m wondering if their new bosses/owners at Disney pressured them to tone down the adult material.

    DC’s Batman and Robin and to some extent Batman Forever took a lot of criticism for pandering to kids. For example, “But B&R goes beyond the goofiness of Forever and even the 60s show. There’s rarely a scene that isn’t cringe worthy. Batman and Robin ice skate as they fight a hockey-thug team. Then they travel into the upper atmosphere in a rocket, blow up the rocket, and then fly back down to earth on rocket-doors mimicking surfboards. That’s just the opening action scene.”

    B&R’s lines were so notoriously brain-damaged that whoever wrote them obviously hated his audience. For example, Mr. Freeze alone had such classics as
    –“Allow me to break the ice. My name is Freeze. Learn it well. For it’s the chilling sound of your doom.”
    –“Ice to see you!”
    –“Let’s kick some ice!”
    –“You’re not sending ME to the cooler!”
    –“Mercy? I’m afraid my condition has left me cold to your pleas of mercy.”
    –“Tonight, hell freezes over!”
    –“If revenge is a dish best served cold, then put on your Sunday finest. It’s time to feast!”
    –“Freeze in hell, Batman!” (Yeah, they used this one twice).
    –“Watch the numbers, Batman, for they are the harbingers of your doom. Can you feel it coming? The icy cold of space! Ahh! At 30,000 feet, your heart will *freeze* and be no more!”


  4. ShardReaperon 28 Jun 2010 at 11:16 am

    I’m sorry, but I’ve got to disagree with you guys about Catwoman. It was so bad…

    On topic, I think one of the things that helps Marvel “beat” DC is that some of their stories are a little more grounded. Most of DC’s stuff is about gods and alien races (Wonder Woman, Green Lantern), whereas Marvel tends to have more grounded characters (Luke Cage, Kick-Ass), at least in my opinion.

  5. B. Macon 28 Jun 2010 at 11:51 am

    It was pretty bad, but was it really worse than Superman II, III, IV, or Superman Returns? 😉

  6. ShardReaperon 28 Jun 2010 at 12:11 pm

    I’ve never seen any of those. The only thing I know about that last one is that Brandon Routh supposedly redeemed himself with Zack & Miri and Chuck.

  7. B. Macon 18 Jun 2011 at 3:40 pm

    “The only thing I know about that last one is that Brandon Routh supposedly redeemed himself with Zack & Miri and Chuck.” I haven’t seen those. He was remarkably funny as the superpowered vegan villain in Scott Pilgrim, but I didn’t see anything that would make me think that he’s any better at handling a remotely serious character than he was (not) in Superman Returns.

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