Anghus Houvouras ranks the DC Extended Universe from worst to best…
Wonder Woman 1984 has finally been released giving fans of the character and the DC Cinematic Universe a reason to celebrate.
Celebration isn’t something fans of the world’s most iconic heroes have been able to do since Warner Bros. decided to take a note from Marvel and create their own shared cinematic universe. They stumbled out of the gate, struggled to find a cohesive vision and ran head first into a critical and financial wood chipper with 2017’s Justice League.
And yet, in spite of their failures, they managed to release some unique and popular cinematic successes like Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Shazam. The future holds similar promise for the superheroes of DC Comics with highly anticipated entries like The Suicide Squad, The Flash and Black Adam.
So how do the films of the DC Extended Universe rank? Here’s my take…
9. Joss Whedon’s Justice League
Joss Whedon’s Justice League feels like a debt being paid to whatever sinister force granted him the Avengers directing gig. An absolute disaster that deserves zero praise. That’s not to say Zack Snyder’s Justice League will be any better, but it’s difficult to believe it could be any worse than this studio mandated testament to mediocrity.
8. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
While the Ultimate Edition is a very interesting examination of toxic masculinity and the impact of the superhuman on the lives of mere mortals, the theatrical cut is an incoherent disaster. I truly believe that there are no true fans of Batman v Superman, only apologists who can look beyond the terribly assembled, hacked up version of Snyder’s vision that was released into theaters with the finesse of a bowel movement. While the Ultimate Edition isn’t a radical departure from what we saw in the cinema, it is at least a coherent and intellectually interesting endeavor.
7. Suicide Squad
I was so excited for a Suicide Squad movie, having been a fan of the comic since it first launched back in the late 1980s. The concept of assembling incarcerated super villains to do the bidding of the US Government opens up so many interesting creative paths. Unfortunately Suicide Squad takes the laziest storytelling path to the most expected of places. World dominating forces with faceless cronies poised to take over the world. Another movie hacked to bits in post-production and molested by Warner Bros. to the point of incredulity. Like Snyder’s Justice League, there might be a more coherent version of the film waiting for assembly. Perhaps we’ll one day see the cut and the film will be marginally redeemed. Or maybe we’ll see James Gunn’s take on the concept and just forget about this absolute mess of a movie.
6. Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Fans we’re shafted so hard by the first cinematic appearance of Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, I understand why her appearance in a mediocre movie feels like an upgrade. And let’s face it, Birds of Prey is really, really average. From it’s uninspired visuals that make it feel like a mid-grade television show to some uninspired action sequences, Birds of Prey never takes flight. The potential was there, but the interesting ensemble of characters never get properly developed. Good actresses given precious little to do and Margot Robbie trying way too hard to inject some Deadpool-like mania into the character.
5. Wonder Woman 1984
Patty Jenkins’ second foray into the world of Wonder Woman is a ridiculous romp that manages to capture the bright, bold feel of a comic book story while feeling cheesier than a Wisconsin Dairy. The plot is senseless and the gaps in logic vast. But the action is wonderfully staged and the cast is so damn game. Pedro Pascal in particular channels Raul Julia’s performance in Street Fighter and scenery like an army of nuclear-powered termites. There’s an earnestness and sense of ambition throughout the movie that works in its favor. It feels like an movie from the 1990’s that could be perfectly paired with over the top adventure movies like The Shadow or The Phantom.
4. Man of Steel
Zack Snyder’s first foray into the world of the DC Extended Universe is a dark and brooding examination of the world’s most famous superhero. While the movie is overflowing with iconic moments of sight and sound, it’s also a thematic mess with some questionable choices that turn a superhero often known as a beacon of hope into a city destroying punching machine in desperate need of learning the phrase ‘collateral damage’. Man of Steel is a movie of moments; some of them amazing, some of them baffling that ultimately add up to an interesting film of debatable quality.
3. Wonder Woman
The first two thirds of Wonder Woman are a lot of fun. Big, bombastic action with some great chemistry between stars Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. The movie comes dangerously close to making some very relevant observations about man’s inhumanity towards man before reverting into a cliché-ridden finale. While not a great film, Wonder Woman does enough right to warrant high marks. Every success and failure Warner Bros. has experienced with the DCEU has involved finding filmmakers with strong and specific visions for the material. In this case, director Patty Jenkins finds a nice balance between action, adventure and romance.
While Marvel continues to use a similar formula for every film, DC adaptations have found success when they allow filmmakers to try something different. Yes, Shazam! is still your basic superhero origin story, but shifting the focus to a kid who attains superpowers introduces a degree of freshness that the genre desperately needed. The movie is fun, well-cast and has heart. Another fine example of pairing the right filmmaker (David F. Sandberg) with the right material to create something that feels inspired. In this incredibly over saturated genre, that is not always easy.
The weirdest and most entertaining movie in the DC Extended Universe, Aquaman is a baffling success due in no small part to the inspired casting of Jason Mamoa. Zack Snyder gets hammered for everything that went wrong with the DC movies, but he made some inspired choices for the roles. Director James Wan manages to transform the undersea punchline of Arthur Curry and turn him into Conan of the Seven Seas. Aquaman is not high art, but it’s highly entertaining and calls back to over-the-top adventures like Flash Gordon. The visual FX are amazing and action is bonkers. Unlike so many other movies in DC Extended Universe, Aquaman proudly wears it’s cheesiness on it’s orange-scaled sleeve and benefits greatly from leaning into the bombast.
How would you rank the DC Extended Universe to date? Let us know on our social channels @FlickeringMyth…