There is no doubt that Marvel films have been home run successes. Captain America is a character beloved by all, Thor is handsome and courageous, The Hulk (Bruce Banner) is complex and conflicted and Black Widow is a torn former assassin who struggles to deal with her past.
Not to mention our new heroes: Scarlet Witch, The Vision and even Starlord and Rocket Raccoon. Yet what makes these characters so compelling to critics and audiences, when iconic DC heroes like Superman and even Batman fall flat? Here are three possible reasons:
1. The Marvel/DC divide of heroes
From the beginning, Marvel has always been seen as the "complicated hero" publisher. Many of their protagonists switch sides at times, or go at odds with each other (like in "Captain America: Civil War.") They tend to have internal struggles we can relate to, from having responsibility you are not prepared to deal with (like Spider-Man) or trying to decide just how much power is it just for super-beings to have. These emotions being evoked humanize the inhuman beings to us, and endear them in many ways.
However, this divide is not always so clear, as the massive success of Batman from DC shows us. Again, we have a conflicted, grieving, imperfect superhero who can be related to. Often this is the complaint regarding Superman; he has no conflict, is pretty much fine with his powers and responsibilities and even has a loving human wife.
Some might argue that a hero like that might just be the hero we need. In fact, it seemed to work well in the Christopher Reeves versions of Superman. So why isn't our current Superman really working now?
2. DC needs to let Superman be Superman
The heroes in Marvel are complicated, and the perception is that DC heroes are simplistic and outdated. DC is much older, and the characters we are dealing with are much more antiquated often (think Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman.) However, there is a powerful argument that the new Marvel hero full of angst might not be the only hero we need in our society today.
In the modern world, we have terrifying fears that loom up against us. The idea of a hero who is pure and good just simply for the sake of it is appealing. We had that with Christopher Reeve's Superman, and it was a bombshell success. However, our current Superman is conflicted and moody. It is not working, DC. Try something else, and give us our Superman back.
3. Let the people laugh
Marvel can get very serious, but almost every movie they have made has space for levity. Even "Captain America: Winter Soldier" had a few comedic moments. Then you have laugh riots like "Guardians of the Galaxy" or "Antman," risks that they took on and succeed at.
Besides "Suicide Squad," DC has forgotten about funny. Their movies tend to be so serious they are almost stoic. "Suicide Squad" was a nice break, but unfortunately the pacing and the script significantly deflected from the fun and the humor.
So all in all, DC needs to honor their superheroes with better movies, or at least take some cue from the TV shows and have some fun with them.