Ranking The DC Extended Universe
The DC Extended Universe has been really struggling of late. It started off well enough with Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel in 2013. Then it hit its high point with Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman in 2017. However, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice has a lot of detractors, Suicide Squad was a haphazard mess, and Justice League was an unmitigated disaster. By most accounts though, James Wan may be injecting new life into the DC Extended Universe with his Aquaman. The success of Aquaman is incredibly important. Recent stories suggest that the DC Extended Universe may need to restructure, reboot, or go the way of the Universal Dark Universe and die off. Before that happens though, and in preparation of Jason Mamoa’s standalone blockbuster, here is a ranking of the DC Extended Universe. Bashing on the weaker films has become en vogue, so this feature will focus on the films’ positives.
#5: Justice League (2017)
This is exactly the issue with the DC Extended Universe. What should have been the ultimate, classic tentpole a la Marvel’s The Avengers, has almost destroyed the entire franchise. How could Justice League only have been the 10th biggest film of 2017? Still, there are some decent things in the film. Ezra Miller as The Flash is entertaining. He must have taken a page from Tom Holland’s Spider-Man book. The Flash is a wide-eyed kid who is just incredibly excited to be included among heroes like Superman and Batman. Horrible CGI mustache-removal aside, the encounter with Superman by the rest of the heroes is a great action sequence. Aquaman isn’t given a whole lot to do, but his scene where he is inadvertently sitting on the lasso of truth is fantastic. However, in general, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is effectively the only reason to watch the film. Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill are acting like they know the ship is sinking, and almost seem bored with their roles. Gadot is pulling out all the stops and lights up the screen. Batman and Superman are two of the most famous comic book and cinematic characters of all time. Though, Wonder Woman is the star of this show.
#4: Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
The second film in the DC Extended Universe is a perfect example as to why DC’s decision to go dark and brooding instead of fun and exhilarating like Marvel was a poor decision. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is just long, dark, and depressing. Watching the expansive, 150-minute epic is a bit of a chore. However, it hadn’t totally fallen apart at this point. Ben Affleck is actually a pretty decent Batman. Affleck is a bit older, and he is playing Bruce Wayne as a veteran superhero. He is a little slower, doesn’t heal as quickly, but is so seasoned that he can actually pose a significant threat to Superman. The climactic encounter between the titular heroes is fantastic. However, it is a shame it ended the way it did. Finally, again, Gal Gadot’s debut as Wonder Woman steals the show (you may notice a theme here).
#3: Suicide Squad (2016)
Many people may disagree with this film ranking higher than Justice League and Batman V. Superman, but it belongs here for two very specific reasons. Those reasons? Will Smith and Margot Robbie. Say what you will about David Ayer as a director, but he had the good sense to focus on his biggest stars and their portrayals of Deadshot and Harley Quinn. Will Smith is in classic form. He is full of quips, charm, and threats, but can live up to those threats when he has to. Two of the best scenes in the film are when Deadshot is given a live gun when he is being recruited and when he works his ballistic magic atop a police cruiser. Then there is Margot Robbie. Harley Quinn is such a great presence in the film that she almost seems to come from a different universe. Additionally, Robbie plays her with such tangible insanity that you know lusting after her just might get you killed.
#2: Man of Steel (2013)
Zack Snyder kicked off the DC Extended Universe back in 2013 with Man of Steel. This is actually a competent, exciting Superman origin story. Snyder cleverly gave us plenty of Krypton backstory with Russell Crowe playing Jor-el. Then the focus on Superman’s relationship with the Kents was properly put into the story’s forefront. The star of this show has to be Kevin Costner. The way he portrays Jonathan Kent is heartfelt and poignant. He effectively molds Clark from a scared alien to, well not a human, but an alien with humanity. However, one of the things that make Man of Steel stand out is the villain. The DC Extended Universe has always had a SEVERE villain problem. The Enchantress, Doomsday, and especially Steppenwolf were horrifically bad villains. Michael Shannon’s General Zod is frightening, complex, and with a gravitas that rivals that of Superman. He feels like a real threat, and it helps that he is not just a CGI creation as well.
#1: Wonder Woman (2017)
Where oh where has Patty Jenkins been? She hadn’t directed a feature film before being given the reigns of Wonder Woman since 2003’s spectacular Monster. After making one of the best comic book/superheroes ever in 2017, we now realize what a travesty that has been. Wonder Woman is head and shoulders, not even in the same ballpark, better than anything the DC Extended Universe has done to date. Who would have ever bet that this film would nearly DOUBLE what Justice League took in for 2017’s domestic box office?
The story of Diana, the Amazons on Themyscira, and Diana’s involvement in The Great War needed a woman to direct it. Before Wonder Woman, female superheroes were few and far between. Scarlett Johansson has always excelled as Black Widow in the MCU, but she always feels relegated to the background. That may change now because of Patty Jenkins’s film. Gal Gadot brings so many layers of emotion and complexity to her role of Diana. Of course, there is a cliche love story with Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor, but it works fine. David Thewlis’ character is a bit unfocused and vague, but he still works. The special effects, costumes, music, and production design are far superior to any other DC Extended Universe film, and most movies of 2017. If Aquaman can live up to Wonder Woman’s quality, the DCEU will be right back on track. If it can stay on that track, it may actually become a cinematic competitor to the MCU.
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