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New study posits why Marvel's movies are more successful than DC's

Contributed by
Jan 25, 2018

It's seemingly an unsung fact of the universe that Marvel movies are destined to be more successful than those made by DC, both critically and financially. But why?

Perhaps you can chalk it up to Marvel having a stable studio head in the form of Kevin Feige, or just the fact that they took proper time to build up the brand and cinematic universe with nearly 20 movies since 2008. Warner Bros. has neither of these things, after an unfortunate series of misfires (at least critically) and studio shakeups. Their movies have been criticized for a lack of light-heartedness, focus, and basic storytelling [*cough* Suicide Squad *cough*]. Aquaman and Shazam! are next up to bat, but despite the success of Wonder Woman, after the box office performance of Justice League, the folks at WB are likely rethinking the universe they are trying to package and sell.

So, why are Marvel movies more beloved and more prone to make a killing in ticket sales? Can it be that they're perfect movies? Not quite, because, for one thing, the MCU is notorious for its lackluster villains (another complaint of the DCEU, as well). But the answer may lie in a new study from online research provider ZappieStore.

Using facial and emotional recognition software called Affectiva, the company sought to find out how much a person loved a comic book movie trailer, how it grabbed their attention, and how likely they'd be to share the trailer on social media. It was found that audiences emotionally connected more with characters when watching a Marvel trailer, with humor playing a major part in driving up engagement.

For instance, 78% of people were considered "lovers" of the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 trailer because of its engaging characters, humor, action, and music (Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain"). The trailer for Captain America: Civil War got a 75 percent "love" rating. The ability of these trailers to affect behavior was indicative in both instances, as viewers said they'd be willing to share the preview with others.

Conversely, viewers connected more with a DC trailer's special effects and action, as opposed to an emotional bond with the characters. The study found that people associated Marvel movies with the overarching MCU, while not realizing or caring that DC's projects are also set in a shared cinematic universe.

“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.”

In the study's official press release, the final takeaway is a suggestion for improvement to the people behind DC's film department, and a message that Marvel should keep on doing what it's doing: "This study indicates that DC will need to work on character and universe building if it wants to reach the same brand affinity that Marvel has."

Do you think DC should take their advice? Let us know in the comments!