There are definite differences in the styles of the DC and Marvel movies and their respective TV shows.
In general they have decided to go for different styles in their TV and Film approaches. Marvel seem to have decided that their movies need to bring a bit of lightness and real comedic moments mixed with the superhero action. That doesn’t mean that Marvel cannot do serious but if you think about their movies you don’t think about realism but the fantastic. Iron Man Trilogy, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant Man, Deadpool. All good superhero movies, all with a core of action but also humour. There will always be outliers, the Captain America Trilogy being one but maybe that is because Steve Rogers doesn’t have a sense of humour?
Contrast that with the DC movies, Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, Man of Steel, Watchmen, Constantine, Batman vs Superman. All good superhero fare, well Batman vs Superman left something to be desired but that’s a different story, but all a lot more serious, a lot more realistic, less comic book like. Even though the topics and characters are in the fantastic they are portrayed as real, in a realistic reality. Now maybe it is because the DC source material itself is darker than Marvel or has it been a conscious decision to differentiate themselves from the Marvel comic book movie world?
And which one has worked out better? I know each will have their fans but there are ways to compare them.
It would appear that Marvels approach has worked better with bigger takings and overall better reviews and ratings, Nolan Batman trilogy aside. But why would this Marvel approach work better than DC’s? Maybe people want entertainment rather than realism when they watch movies, maybe people just enjoy Marvel more than DC. What I can say is that all the movies listed above are great comic book movies in their own ways. I would watch any of them again, apart from B vs S, but Marvel movies are more pure entertainment, I always say that I can watch these films without engaging my brain, whereas DC movies are immersive and require more investment by the viewer.
However, when we flick over to the comic book TV show world there is a different picture. The recent Marvel TV shows; Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are all significantly grittier and more realistic than their DC counterparts; Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Constantine. Now this is a strange shift seeing as the movies coming from these worlds are the opposite way around. On comparing the ratings of these shows Marvel just comes out ahead of DC. So again by this measure Marvel is outperforming DC but by doing it in a different way. Why would movies be rewarded for being more entertaining and TV shows rewarded for being more realistic and grittier?
Even the upcoming shows are continuing in the varying styles. Marvel has Luke Cage, Cloak and Dagger, Legion, Iron Fist, The Defenders and The Punisher. DC has decided to go with Powerless (a sitcom based in DC Universe), #4Hero and Y: The Last Man. Anyone familiar with the comics will know the general tone of the aforementioned characters. OK, so DMZ, Scalped and Ronin are more likely to be darker than the others.
I don’t think that it is so much about light and dark styles but more about supplying a realism that isn’t there in the DC efforts. Daredevil and Jessica Jones, and by extension Luke Cage and The Punisher should be of a similar vein having already appeared in the Daredevil and Jessica Jones worlds. The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow are both entertaining but they are both leaning more towards the fantastic than the real world.