First off, I’m coming into this argument with some bias – I grew up a Marvel girl through and through. That said, there are DC properties I have a soft spot for, and I can understand the appeal.
So: why the hell do Warner Bros keep fucking it up?
A friend of mine has the theory the DC films are just plain embarrassed to be superhero films in the first place. That’s definitely part of it – Marvel’s sense of shame, if it exists, is borderline vestigial, while the DC keeps blushing at even having to have it’s protagonists utter the word.
But I think part of it, too, is that Marvel just GETS it’s characters better than DC do.
It’s not so much DC vs. Marvel. It’s more mythology vs. allegory.
See, DC has a stock of heroes who are all modern gods and made to be that way. They are our Heracles, our Odysseus, our Achilles. And like the great heroes of ancient times, they suffer from a crippling hamartia – a fatal flaw that will bring them tragedy. For Batman, it is that his morality will always override everything else, even the people he loves. For Superman, it’s that he is a god among men, and his threats are similarly epic (and, frequently, know where he lives). For Wonder Woman, it’s that she is eternally torn between two loyalties. And so on.
By contrast, although there is something of the modern myth to Marvel’s heroes, they are more readily categorized by allegories. A subset of people born differently and forced into secrecy, hiding and reservations due to this; a family dealing with external and internal pressures; a teenager who finds his body changing and has to learn new responsibilities and morals; and, most poignantly (given that the writers were Jewish) the stress of living a double life and hiding it from the ones you most love.
Marvel seems to get the themes of their works and how they apply to the common viewer. DC seems to still be struggling with this – the Nolan trilogy gave Batman a sorrowful edge with his love interest (though by the third film it was pretty clear the audience proxy was no longer Bruce but Alfred) and the stress of truth versus fiction, but translating that into a Superman story doesn’t work, because the two have inherently different hamartia.
…that, and the direction for Man of Steel was shire, but, perhaps I should end this entry here before I dig myself in too deep.