It’s been known for some time now that while the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU,) has had an overarching plan for their films and the way they connect to each other for some time now (everything leading up to Infinity War, and the way it all connected, was definitely clear,) the DC Universe (DCEU – DC Extended Universe,) has been the exact opposite. Here’s a series that started off with Man of Steel, and it’s incredibly dark take on Superman, only to change courses and do course correction multiple times. This is the series that can’t keep a consistent tone from one movie to the next (just look at Wonder Woman Vs Wonder Woman 1984.) This is the series that literally had a movie put out, (Justice League,) only to have a redo of the same movie put out, as more than just a directors cut… as what might very well be considered the definitive and cannon version of the film. And that was supposed to be their golden child. Their Avengers.
So, it’s safe to say that the DCEU has been the ugly child to the MCU, riddled with mistakes and disasters. And yet, finally now the The Suicide Squad, a movie that is either a sequel or a reboot of an earlier DCEU movie, we actually have a good film. Finally we have something that can measure up. And how did DC do it? They tapped one of the Marvel directors, James Gunn, the guy who made both Guardians of the Galaxy movies, and they left him alone to do whatever he wanted with the movie. Turns out that was a very smart decision.
And here’s the funniest part of all…this series has been going on for so long now that DC movies are finally turning out films that exist outside of the DCEU. A few years ago we got the Joker and next year we are getting The Batman. And neither of them features the DCEU version of those characters (played by Jared Leto and Ben Affleck.) And yet the DCEU continues on, with The Suicide Squad out now, and the Flash movie starring the DCEU’s Ezra Miller, currently in production.
So without further say adieu, it’s about time we rank the movies of the DCEU and look back at them, to see how this all happened. Here’s my ranking…
1) The Suicide Squad
2) Zack Snyder’s Justice League
4) Man of Steel
6) Wonder Woman 1984
7) Wonder Woman
8) Birds of Prey
9) Suicide Squad
10) Batman Vs Superman
And now a look back.
Man of Steel
The first movie to be a part of this cinematic universe, Zack Snyder delivered a pretty solid opener. The movie was too long and too drawn out, but other than that, it worked. The action and tone were pretty solid. This was a darker, more serious Superman, and it definitely got our interest. The only problem was, it wasn’t connected to anything. This movie came out in 2013. Marvel had already put out the Avengers a year earlier, and that was a movie they had built up to. So DC was playing catchup, and they wanted to get their Justice League out soon. Which means instead of a Man of Steel 2 sequel, which is what they should have made, and also a solo Batman movie, DC pushed for the “Man of Steel sequel,” to actually be Batman V Superman featuring Wonder Woman. Really what they should have done is brought Christian Bale back as Batman (therefore connecting this series to the Dark Knight series, which started the same year as Iron Man, in 2008.) Bale says he wanted to do it, and that would have been an amazing post credits scene, brining him into it. If they had done that, then they really could have done a Batman Vs Superman afterwards, and it would have felt like it was earned. Here, jumping to that movie and introducing both Batman and Wonder Woman in the same film felt like a pretty clear mistake. Still, Man of Steel does stand on its own as a pretty good film and a nice way to start off the series.
Batman Vs Superman
And then we got this one. And it was a mess. Not Batman and Robin level messiness or even Batman Forever level (Zack Snyder will never be as bad at this as Joel Shumacher was,) but even still, it was dumb. Jessie Eisenberg was a terrible Lex Luther. He was just smug and snarky in all the wrong ways. There was nothing actually threatening about him. Instead, it was as if Mark Zuckerberg from the Social Network stepped into the Superhero world. Eisenberg looked like a kid compared to Affleck and Henry Cavil. He wasn’t the least bit intimidating. On top of that, the movie did not have enough Batman Vs Superman fighting, gave away the Doomsday ending in the trailer, and was just an all around mess of a film.
As if Batman Vs Superman wasn’t bad enough, we now got the movie that was possibly worse. It’s tough to say what the worst movie of the DCEU is. Perhaps it’s Joss Whedon’s Justice League, the only movie awful enough to warrant a complete other version of the same very same movie. But Suicide Squad and Batman Vs Superman were both pretty close. The problem with Suicide Squad was that nothing actually worked. The humor didn’t work. The action didn’t work. The villains didn’t work. The only thing decent about it was that it was somewhat colorful from time to time, and seemed to have energy. Only it wasn’t fun energy. Let’s put it this way… the villains were some kind of army of zombie rock creatures that I still have no clue about. Maybe that’s because they were always hidden in dark shadows or because we never got a good look at them, but they were ridiculous. And so was the Enchantress and her brother as the two main villains. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Jared Leto’s Joker were the best things about their movie simply because they were the only characters that were memorable. And Leto was giving us the worst version of the Joker we had ever seen before (both Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger were far superior, and not long after this Joaquin Phoenix won and Oscar for taking on the role.)
This was the movie that lots of people saw as the redemption for the DCEU. I was not one of them. It was an okay movie. Better than the ones that came before it, to be sure (other than Man of Steel.) But even still, it was far too dark and depressing. If Man of Steel was meant to be Iron Man, in terms of kicking off the series, and Suicide Squad was supposed to be Guardians of the Galaxy (an unknown team of misfits, getting their own ensemble group movie,) than Wonder Woman was supposed to be Captain America… the movie set in World War 1 (or in Caps case WW II,) with all of the bleak, ugly atmosphere that came with it. The Themescera scenes (the all women island where Wonder Woman was born,) were superb, but back in the real world, the movie was way too dark.
Since there are two different versions of this movie, let’s try and be clear here. The Joss Whedon Justice League was awful. So bad, in fact, that I don’t even want to include it on this list. Instead, let’s look at the Zack Snyder version. Sure, it was four hours. But they were four glorious hours (so long as you broke them up.) This is not a movie to be sat through all at once. But if taken in parts, it was actually pretty spectacular complete with interesting villains (finally DC!) and cool chapters, separating the different parts for the viewer. This was the first time the studio left a filmmaker alone to do his thing, and it worked. The movie didn’t come out at this point in the timeline, so it’s weird to say that this started the DCEU movies getting decent, (the studio did not leave Snyder alone at this time, and instead took the movie from him and gave it to Joss Whedon,) but if we consider this version of the film to be cannon, than it is the first good movie in the series.
The second good movie in the series was fun. It was over the top and crazy, and exactly what we needed. A wild ride to the bottom of the ocean. Jason Mamoa was solid in the role, being larger than life. And yes, the villains were forgettable (Black Mantra and King Horm,) but at least we got two of them, giving us two separate stories and more to work with. James Waan was a super talented director and he was able to bring his skillset into this one pretty nicely. On top of that, this actually was the first time the studio left a filmmaker alone (they notoriously sliced up David Ayer’s Suicide Squad beyond recognition.) Waan went on record saying the film was all film, for better or for worse, and that he got to do with it exactly what he wanted. The result was a pretty good film.
And then we got the lightest, funniest of the DCEU movies. It was another success story. Shazam was a blast from start to finish, as it told a superhero story from the perspective of a kid. This movie had great action, memorable villains, and a fun story. The colors and tone were perfect, and even the story fo the family unit worked. At this point, DC was two for two (remember, the Zack Snyder Justice League had not come out yet, so it was just Aquaman and this movie.) Finally, it seemed like they had found the right tone and were on a roll.
Birds of Prey
And then, this movie happened. The Joker had come out already, and used a hard R rating to draw in the crowds and acclaim. And so this movie also went for an R. Only it felt forced. It didn’t fit. The action, and story were pretty dull. Harley Quinn, the character, (as played by Margot Robbie,) was pretty annoying. The movie was nowhere near as bad as the worst movies in the series, because at least it kept a light, playful tone, but it wasn’t exactly much fun either.
Wonder Woman 1984
This is the movie that is the most debatable. Most people hate it. I am not one of them. Maybe it’s because I am one of the few who did not care for the first Wonder Woman, and because this sequel took the exact opposite approach. Instead of being dark and depressing, this movie was light, colorful, and filled with campiness. People didn’t like the villain and his way of basically being like an all powerful genie. They didn’t like the way that Chris Pine stepped into and occupied another man’s body. But all these things were different and creative. Of course the movie could have just had Pine appear, as if Wonder Woman had wished him (and maybe that’s what they should have done,) but instead they chose to take a more creative approach. Boy did it backfire. The Cheetah, as played by Kristin Wiig, wasn’t anything great, but even she was way more fun than the villain of the first Wonder Woman movie, Ares (David Thewlis.) It wasn’t a great movie, but it was still kind of fun.
The Suicide Squad
The best of the bunch. The first movie to use an R rating in the right way (not counting the Joker, which is not a part of the DCEU,) this movie had humor, character development, tone, and action all working flawlessly. The only thing it didn’t have was a great story. Not that the story here was terrible, it was just a little too simple, with the giant creature at the end that the movie kept hidden for most of the way through. Still, with standout performances from most of the cast that really brought these characters to life, and a willingness to kill off characters left and right, from the opening few minutes on, this one definitely delivered.