YOU CAN'T SAVE THE DCEU ALONE1 of 9
This week DC's film oeuvre grows again with the release of Joker - and though that movie doesn't take place in DC's movie continuity, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) certainly does - and the just-released trailer makes it clear that Harley has no need of the Clown Prince of Crime.
With Birds of Prey now on the horizon and Joker imminent, we're looking back and ranking the DCEU films from worst to best.
SUICIDE SQUAD2 of 9
Colorful but flawed, the third film of the DC Extended Universe, Suicide Squad, suffered from strange editing choices, a disjointed structure, and a lack of overall vision seemingly stemming from too many cooks in the kitchen.
But couched in Suicide Squad’s narrative missteps are winning performances from Viola Davis, Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jai Courtney, and Jay Hernandez. Despite Suicide Sqaud’s commitment to style over substance, this core cast manages to find strong moments in a film that never quite leans enough into its own bad taste to weaponize it.
Now, Guardians of the Galaxy writer/director James Gunn is set to revitalize, revamp, and retool the franchise with a mostly-new cast.
Read our full review of the film here.
JUSTICE LEAGUE3 of 9
2017's Justice League feature film sadly felt less like fulfilling a promise and more like fulfilling an obligation.
It's hard to place blame for exactly where the embattled film - which still polarizes fans - went wrong, but with production split between original director Zack Snyder's long-term vision and back-up hitter Joss Whedon's task to bring a credible close to too many DCEU threads to count, Justice League is hard to count among DC's best.
Still, there's the bright side of seeing some of DC's biggest heroes on the big screen together, in the moments where that finally manages to happen. But with odd green screen sets, a lackluster and forgettable villain, and a mish-mashed story that never makes full use of its cast's charisma, Justice League has more in common with any Fantastic Four movie than it does with its DCEU predecessors. Read our review right here
MAN OF STEEL4 of 9
Man of Steel launched the DCEU with tepid reception, but director Zack Snyder's uncompromising vision of a Superman not beholden to the Earth in the same way as his comic book counterpart still sent minor shockwaves through superhero culture.
A lot of the reaction to Man of Steel stems from its controversial ending, in which Superman kills his enemy, General Zod. That, coupled with an untold level of destruction in Metropolis, and a harsher philosophical take on the idea of superheroes made for a dour proposition for many fans anxious for a Kryptonian adventure.
From all of this, Man of Steel set a tone and a pace for the DCEU that seemingly reached its apex in its follow up, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice before creative changes in the direction of Justice League, the third act in the saga, led to a much lighter, brighter canvas for DC's films.
Read our review of the film here.
BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE5 of 9
The biggest promise of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was bringing Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman onscreen together for the first time (the latter making her big screen debut - and becoming the film's breakout star). It certainly delivered on the spectacle of that premise, but in doing so, became perhaps the most polarizing superhero movie of its generation.
Batman v Superman never suffers from a lack of scope - it circles nearly the entire DC Universe in its epic running time, bringing in Lex Luthor, Aquaman, Flash, Cyborg, Doomsday, and even the Fourth World. But in its rush to establish an entire world, the film suffers from losing sight of its two leads, bolstering their conflict with paper thin motivation and inscrutable characterization.
As we said above, however, one thing Batman v Superman definitely got right is the power and majesty of seeing DC's "Trinity" united on the big screen, leaving even many of the film's biggest critics champing at the bit for the film's direct follow-up, Wonder Woman, and eager for Justice League to provide a fully-formed team-up for DC's top heroes.
Our review of the film is here.
AQUAMAN6 of 9
After years of being playfully derided as a superhero who talks to fish, Arthur Curry got the last laugh when 2018's Aquaman film broke box office records and became DC's biggest movie to date with $1.147 billion dollars at the box office (and counting! It's still playing in theaters now, four months after its release).
While money earned doesn't necessarily correlate to how good the film is, director James Wan's Aquaman excelled at showcasing Jason Momoa's charisma and passion as Aquaman. The film itself revels in spectacle and CGI, to the point that it almost becomes detrimental to the overall story.
That being said, Aquaman was ambitious - and in many ways it succeeded, especially in elevating its titular hero from classic joke to household name.
And our review of the film is here.
SHAZAM!7 of 9
The freshest of the bunch, Shazam! sits among the best of DC's output, especially among the DCEU.
Thanks to director David F. Sandberg's horror movie sensibilities, there's just enough of en edge to the still-mostly-family-friendly superhero romp to really sell its kind subversion of its eponymous hero's classic "Holy Moley!" Golden Age attitude.
Shazam! works hard to sell itself as DC's answer to Spider-Man, right down to its teen protagonist's chummy sidekick, the Ramones music in the credits, and even its invocation of Peter Parker's classic "I only look out for number one!" folly.
But Shazam! is really what Warner Bros. has seemed to be looking for all along - its own Guardians of the Galaxy, with an approach that is just hammy and over the top enough, but grounded in a narrative about finding family and strength in unlikely places.
WONDER WOMAN8 of 9
The first unqualified success of the DCEU, 2017's Wonder Woman left many fans hoping that the joyous superhero adventure would pave the way for the next round of DC movies.
While Justice League didn't exactly prove a worthy follow-up, the effect Wonder Woman has had on subsequent DC movies (and culture in general) is undeniable. Anchored by a nearly impeccable cast, excellent visuals, and a simple but resonant story, Wonder Woman remains a great example of the heights the genre can reach.
Yes, Wonder Woman suffered from an underwhelming third act villain (how many superhero movies these days don't fall into this trap?), but even that is not nearly enough to diminish the power of seeing the first major headlining female superhero of the modern age represented in a way that stayed true not only to her storied history, but the promise of putting her onscreen.
And our review of the film is here.
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