Ask nearly any fan and they'll likely tell you that although Marvel Studios and Warner Bros./DC continue to pump out superhero blockbusters left and right, the two cinematic universes are not created equal. Why is that, though? Well, according to a new study, it isn’t so much about the quality, or even the quantity of the films, but rather moviegoers’ emotional engagement with the characters on-screen.
The study, which was conducted by the market research tech company ZappiStore, used an advanced facial and emotional recognition platform called Affectiva to gauge viewers’ response to a number of Marvel and DC movie trailers. Data such as overall enjoyment of the trailers, as well as how likely fans were to share it with others all played a role in the study, but it was ultimately the response to the characters and the level of humor that gave Marvel the edge over the competition.
However, the study also shows that subjects responded more favorably to Marvel in terms of brand association, which is an area that’s particularly relevant to fans of the comic book source material more so than general audiences. Nevertheless, the data was indicative of DC’s depiction of its heroes not quite falling in line with what readers are used to seeing in the comics, which was a common complaint about Henry Cavill’s Superman and Ben Affleck’s Batman in the DCEU’s freshman and sophomore films.
“We were surprised to see, across all trailers tested, that the emotional response was lower than expected for set pieces and special effects, particularly in the genre we were looking at,” ZappiStore research architect Ernie Collings told Adweek. “The results indicate the way DC can reboot and change characters across trilogies or between TV to film might be having a detrimental effect on how well the public connects with those characters.”
Based on these findings, what it all seems to boil down to is that fans of superhero movies prefer substance over style. Zack Snyder, who was once dubbed the “Father of the DCEU,” is a very stylistic director whose films are known for their unique visual approach to action sequences. Having had a hand in every DCEU film to date, his influence can be felt across the board. On the other hand, while a vocal minority has begun to express frustration with the seemingly increased reliance on humor in the MCU, it clearly resonates with general audiences, not only helping them better engage with the characters but ultimately driving them to the theaters in greater numbers than DC.
Of course, none of this is to say that one studio’s movies are definitively better than the others, but it’s certainly reflective of the driving force behind Marvel’s dominance over DC in movie ticket sales.