3 December 2017

Ranking the films of the DC Extended Universe

Oh, Christ.

Warner Bros might not be separating their DC Extended Universe films into distinct "phases" in the same way that Marvel Studios have their Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it's pretty obvious that Justice League is the culmination of the DCEU to date in the same way that Avengers Assemble once was for the MCU. As such, with 5 films under its belt it seems only appropriate that we attempt to put these films in some kind of ordered list from worst to best. That the majority of these films are outright terrible makes this something of an unrewarding and difficult task - nevertheless;

5. Suicide Squad

Even referring to David Ayer's Suicide Squad as "a movie" seems like a compliment it hasn't earned - never before had I seen such a poorly edited, incompetently directed and terribly written collection of scenes on the big screen, which when combined with Jared Leto's grimy STD Joker and a confused, ugly aesthetic makes Suicide Squad one of the most deeply unpleasant, cringe-worthy cinema-going experiences I've ever had. That it has its defenders is frankly beyond me - it's anti-entertainment, and I refuse to spend any more time thinking or writing about it than I already have.

You can read my original review of this irredeemable trash here.

4. Justice League

To be honest, it took me a long time to decide exactly where on this list Justice League should end up. On the one hand, it's every bit as fatally flawed as Suicide Squad, a problem only made all the more unbearable by the knowledge that Warner Bros had exactly one chance to make the first-ever Justice League movie and squandered it this badly - on the other, it's obviously trying its hardest to be the more optimistic movie that people have been asking for, even if it doesn't in anyway work. Ultimately, Justice League does contain a couple of enjoyable moments, which just gives it the edge over Suicide Squad - if that sounds like the faintest praise possible, that's because it is. This is still a bad, bad movie, so deeply compromised from the ground up that the only person who can be blamed ends up being Warner Bros themselves.

You can read my full review of Justice League here.

3. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

I mean, where to begin? It's been nearly two years since it was first released, but it's still difficult to give a concise summary of what went wrong with the second entry into the DCEU thanks to the sheer amount of truly awful decisions made at seemingly every single step of its production, from the basic idea behind the story to the details of how the story develops to the way characters are handled throughout to the doubling down on the tone and aesthetic that audience had already long since grown tired of - which is to say nothing about how the film was eventually butchered in the editing room in order to cram as much set up for future films as possible, pacing be damned. That said, at least the so-called "Ultimate Edition" of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is recognisably a movie with an actual vision behind it, one that contains a few enjoyable moments and (if you're willing to look hard enough) an interesting albeit deeply under-developed thematic through-line - that this is enough to place it halfway up the list of "best DCEU films" is a sad indictment of this franchise indeed.

You can read my original review of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice's theatrical cut here.

2. Man of Steel

The first entry in the DC Extended Universe might be distinctly average overall, but that still makes it one of the better efforts this franchise has produced to date, a coherent, competently put together and mostly watchable film whose problems arise more from the creative decisions made along the way than the actual film-making itself. Despite being well-shot and containing a number of scenes that really work, it turns out that director Zack Snyder's impression of Christopher Nolan is neither a patch on the real thing nor a suitable tone for a Superman movie to take, and the result is a fairly mediocre movie that takes itself far too seriously, especially by the time we hit its badly misguided finale.

You can read my Revisiting Man of Steel article here.

1. Wonder Woman

Obviously. Gal Gadot's Diana Prince was one of the few genuinely good aspects of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, so it's only appropriate (albeit deeply depressing) that her solo film is also the only genuinely good film in the DC Extended Universe to date. Sure, it rips most of its story beats wholesale from Captain America: The First Avenger, and its finale is a bloated mess of ugly CGI that feels totally out of place in comparison to the film preceding it, but neither of those things do much to stop Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman from being a really solid and entertaining origin story, endearing Diana Prince to general audiences worldwide and turning Gal Gadot into a legit movie star in the process. It might be imperfect, but it's got genuine heart and talent behind it - and that alone is enough to make Wonder Woman easily the best film in the DCEU to date.

You can read my original review of Wonder Woman here.

So what's next for the DC Extended Universe? Well, other than James Wan's Aquaman late next year (and ignoring the announcements of what must now be upwards of twenty projects that are obviously never going to see the light of day - who the fuck is asking for a Cyborg solo movie, or three different spin-offs from Suicide Squad?), it seems to me that Warner Bros actually have very little else written in stone - and that's definitely for the best. Between Justice League landing with little more than a whimper at the box office (it stands a real chance of making less money than Man of Steel did), Ben Affleck wanting out so badly that the might not even appear in Matt Reeves' theoretical The Batman,  Henry Cavill's contract nearing its expiration and Zack Snyder's (likely permanent) departure from the franchise, there's never been a better time for Warner Bros to take a step back and figure out exactly what, if anything, of this franchise is worth salvaging before the inevitable and much needed reboot. There's no real reason that a DC Extended Universe couldn't be a success - it's just that this iteration is simply too far gone to be saved.

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