Ranking the DCEU Films

 With Wonder Woman 1984 (WW84) now in theatres and available to rent on streaming platforms I thought it would be a good time to rank the DCEU films.  I have not watched WW84 yet and I am not sure when I will, I know people who have watched it and I have read reviews.  Based on what I heard and read I am not sure paying $30 to watch WW84 at home is worth it.  I do not always agree with others when it comes to films as you will see with rankings.  I am a big comic book fan and I have always found myself enjoying DC Comics more than Marvel, but when it comes to the films, I think Marvel has done a much better job building a film universe with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  I recently did a ranking of Star Wars Films and I did a series on the ranking of the MCU Films, even though the DCEU has fewer films than either the MCU or Star Wars they have a cinematic universe.  Ranking the films of the DCEU is very easy for me as I have seen all the movies more than once (except for Birds of Prey).  There will be people that disagree with some or all of my rankings and I am fine with that.  I recently listened to a podcast where the host did his ranking of DCEU films and it was very different from mine.  The DCEU has yet to make what I think is a truly great film, but they have made at the worst mostly entertaining films.  The lowest-ranked film on this list is, in my opinion, absolute garbage, I also sadly own that film which was a very bad decision on my part.  DC made films have fared better like the two Tim Burton Batman films, Constantine, Watchmen, Richard Donner's Superman, Superman Returns (a future article) and Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy.  Those are some of my favourite DC films and the DC animated films also have some great entries like The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Under the Red Hood, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Flashpoint to name just a few.  DC has such great characters, both heroes and villains that I am excited for the future because I don't think things can get worse.  

8. Justice League (2017)

What a piece of garbage (that I unfortunately own), I rarely hate movies (see my thoughts on Stars Wars Episode IX) but Justice League was so underwhelming.  I am excited about Zack Snyder's cut of Justice League, there is no way it can be worse than this.  When Snyder was fired I mean quit off of Justice League due to the negative reactions to Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.  Warner Brothers (WB) I think wanted a lighter tone to Justice League and Snyder was not interested in making a children's film.  There are a lot of people that feel Snyder's DC films are too edgy and dark, I myself find them refreshing from the lighter tone Marvel has done.  I have a feeling that after years of chaos WB has finally figured out that their films can be both edgy and light.  Justice League is a film that feels disjointed, there is some of Snyder's film there with a healthy dose of Joss Whedon.  Joss Whedon who made Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron was brought in to replace Snyder.  Whedon proceeded to re-write parts of the script and reshoot some scenes, those scenes stand out and almost all of them feel off.  The opening of the film features a weird handheld recording of Superman (Henry Cavill) and his digitally removed mustache (from him filming Mission Impossible: Fallout).  The Superman scene makes no sense and adds nothing to the film, if that was not enough the digitally removed mustache looks horrible and gives Henry Cavill a creepy look.  The removal of the mustache had to be rushed as WB did not want to move the film back a year because the executives wanted to get their bonuses. The next scene features Batman (Ben Affleck) hanging a criminal off an obvious soundstage set I mean roof.  The dialogue in that scene brings some of Whedon's typical fun banter, but the dialogue and tone do not fit.  There is also a family that gets way too much screen time later in the film that also serves no purpose.  The action is okay, but I am not sure what action scenes Whedon had his hand in.  I do not mean to dump on Whedon, but he was a bad fit for the film, and he made it worse than I am sure Snyder's version is.  Whedon has since taken a public relations hit due to Cyborg actor Ray Fisher accusing Whedon as being unprofessional on the set.  Fisher's accusations were not solely against Whedon but also featured WB and DC executives.  The accusations were investigated by WB and it seems they have proven accurate.  The film is not only bad, but it also has this cloud of negativity over it.  WB said Snyder stepped down from Justice League after his daughter committed suicide earlier in the year.  What I find sad about that apart from Snyder and his family's loss is that WB used it as an excuse to cover up his being fired.  I have written so much about this film and I could write a whole lot more, do not see this film unless you wanted to watch a train wreck of a film.  I think any executive for DC and WB that worked on the post-Snyder Justice League should have been fired, they ruined this film and I hope they are ashamed of what they released in theatres.  The film fans had been excited for was replaced by a spit in the face by WB and DC executives.  Watch the Snyder Cut of Justice League, forget Justice League 2017.

7. Suicide Squad (2016)

The trailer that was released for Suicide Squad was such a hit that WB hired the firm that made the trailer to edit the film.  I think we can assume that hiring a trailer making production company to edit a blockbuster film was probably not a great idea.  The film is watchable and entertaining, but the villains are terrible, and the film makes little use of the Joker.  There was a lot of attention paid to the fact that Jared Leto was cast as Joker, and if you watched the trailers you expected Joker was a major part of the film.  David Ayer (director of Fury and End of Watch) was hired to direct and apparently his final cut of the film was considered too gritty.  Much like what DC/WB executives did to Justice League they did to Suicide Squad, David Ayers cut has never seen the light of day.  The version of the film we got was watered down and pop-y.  I actually enjoyed Jared Leto's Joker, he took it a completely different path from Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson.  Jared Leto apparently will be in Zack Snyder's Justice League and I wonder if that scene might be a flashback where we see how the Robin costume seen in the Batcave in Dawn of Justice got desecrated.  The villains in Suicide Squad were kind of ridiculous and the minions even more so.  The characters in the Suicide Squad are actually quite and I like what they did with them, but without a strong or even okay villain, the character building is just not enough.  I liked the casting of Will Smith as Deadshot, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Jared Leto as Joker, and Jay Hernandez as Diablo.  There is a sequel directed by James Gunn coming out in 2021 that I think will be a big improvement.  Suicide Squad is a lot more watchable than Justice League, but it is not a good movie.  I would say watch it for the characters, but keep in mind the villain story is stupid and boring.  

6. Aquaman (2018)

The box office success of Aquaman boggles my mind a little, I think the movie is just okay and it makes me sad that other DCEU films that are much better made so much less.  Jason Mamoa is just okay as Aquaman, my issue with him is I find his performance lacking emotion.  One of the villains of the film Manta played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II was a lot more interesting than our hero.  I think Amber Heard as Mera was also just okay, but I think that was more due to the way the character was written.  Patrick Wilson plays Aquaman's brother Orm (Ocean Master) another villain and I think he was miscast.  I think they should have cast an actor that is a little more animated, I found Patrick Wilson too bland and boring.  The film does have some great visuals, but the underwater stuff did not work for me and there were some choices that felt too childish and corny.  The storyline involving Aquaman's father and mother was the only thing that moved me in the entire film.  I counter that positivity with the reveal that Aquaman's mom was still alive felt almost identical to the reveal of Hank Pym finding his wife in Ant-Man and the Wasp.  Aquaman is a fun film and it feels like the first film in the DCEU to be light and fun.  The film is very watchable and if you can turn your brain off, I think you will enjoy the film.  

5. Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

I have only watched this film once so far and I will watch it again in the near future, but even though I have seen it only once I am positive it has no shot to make my top four.  Birds of Prey is very funny and has a lot of fun action.  The story is great too, adding some great characters alongside Harley Quinn makes the film feel fresh.  Harley Quinn again played by Margot Robbie is now joined by Jurnee Smollet, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ewan McGregor.  The film has very small stakes which was refreshing, not all comic book movies need to be about saving the world.  Ewan McGregor plays Roman Sionis (aka Black Mask) who is the villain in the film and Ewan does a great job of chewing the scenery whenever he is on screen which fits the movie's tone.  Margot Robbie is the perfect actress for Harley Quinn, she plays the character as she was depicted in Batman: The Animated Series and comic books.  The only thing that could have made the film better for me was if they were able to get Jared Leto to reprise his role as Joker for some flashback scenes showing how much of an abusive partner he was.  I highly recommend giving Birds of Prey a watch if you have not already done so, the film is light and a lot of fun.  

4. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

This movie has its fair share of problems, but I still enjoy this movie a lot and I think this film has the best action sequences in the entire DCEU so far.  Ben Affleck's casting as Bruce Wayne/Batman was something I did not expect to be so good and it is a big shame that WB/DC executives screwed up again by not letting him make his Batman movie.  I am sure Matt Reeves Batman film will be fantastic (that trailer is amazing), but they could have had two separate films in development set on two different earths.  Dawn of Justice is bloated and has one of the worst ways to stop a fight (Martha), but I just love the look, style and story.  I am referring to the extended cut of the film that is longer, but it also clears up some of the plot holes in the theatrical release.  Dawn of Justice started out as a sequel to Man of Steel, but executives got impatient and shoehorned Batman and Wonder Woman into the story to set up Justice League.  Jesse Eisenberg gives us a different take on Lex Luthor that I enjoyed, though I think they needed some more scenes to setup why he was doing what he was doing.  We got to see Henry Cavill as Superman but also as Clark Kent investigative reporter which was good too.  The end villain was stupid looking and poorly developed, I think if it was handled differently then my feelings might be different, but I did not like those choices.  I also thought the reveal of the Justice League characters through random footage was dumb.  Why would Lex have their hero logos, it makes no sense.  There was a better way to do that.  Even though I said a lot of negatives the action sequences are all so amazing and Batman was awesome in the film.  This is the closest we will get to seeing a live-action Dark Knight Returns, watch the extended cut and just appreciate the awesome action and the darkest portrayal of Batman we have seen yet.

3. Shazam (2019)

Shazam is the most underrated DCEU film yet, to me it is the most fun had in a DCEU film yet while also being surprisingly dark.  The film stars Zachary Levi as Shazam and Asher Angel as Shazam's human teenage form.  The character is a lot of fun because it is a teenager granted the powers of a god, so obviously, there is humor to be had from that premise.  Zachary Levi is the perfect choice for Shazam, Levi was the star of a TV show called Chuck (watch it) and on that show, he proved he is both funny and charming.  Mark Strong is fantastic as always as the villainous Dr. Sivana who we see as a child at the beginning of the film fails to prove himself worthy of being given the power of Shazam.  Asher Angel plays Billy Batson an orphan who is taken in by a family and over the course of the film, he starts to bond with his fellow foster siblings chiefly Freddie Freeman (played by Jack Dylan Grazer).  The sibling story is very heartwarming and leads to a big reveal towards the end of the film.  The only weak part of the film is the end, which is good, but also feels small, I am sure that is because the budget would not have allowed something bigger.  I think this film has one of the best stories in the DCEU so far and it should be given a lot more respect.  

2. Wonder Woman (2017)

If this film had a better ending fight scene than the one we actually saw then I think this film would have been number one for me.  Gal Gadot stars as Wonder Woman and she gives a good performance which is essential since a lot of people worried she was not a strong enough actor to play the role.  Chris Pine co-stars as Steve Trevor and he gives what I think might have been the best performance so far in the DCEU.  My favourite scene in the DCEU involves Gadot and Pine near the end of the film, it is very emotional, and it gets me every time.  There is a lot of good action and humor in Wonder Woman and the only weak part of the film is the final boss fight at the end of the film.  It has come to light that the director Patty Jenkins fought with WB/DC over the ending and she lost.  Wonder Woman is a lot deeper of a film than I expected with Diana's becoming more knowledgeable as the film goes on, but also becoming more cynical with humanity from what she sees.  It is Steve Trevor and his men that show Diana that humanity can be better than what she has seen.  The movie also works because it is a stand-alone story, it is like Captain America: The First Avenger in that it doesn't require you to have seen a previous film and it tells a self-contained story.  From the reviews of WW84 I have read/heard I think Wonder Woman is the superior film out of the two.  Wonder Woman could be number 1 on my list very easily, and I think Wonder Woman would rank first on most people's list.  People will always have opinions and I can understand if someone would say they don't like a film, but I would not understand how someone could dislike Wonder Woman.  I admit the ending is not great, but it does not ruin the film either, so I am skeptical when people have strong negative reactions to Wonder Woman if their issue is about the film or that it is a woman being a strong hero issue.  

1. Man of Steel (2013)

Let the angry comments begin, Man of Steel is my favourite film in the DCEU; the film that started the DCEU has probably been tinkered with the least by WB/DC executives.  The opening of the film brings viewers to Krypton, but it is not the Krypton from Richard Donner's Superman film.  Zack Snyder's Krypton is bright, crazy and has alien creatures.  The scenes on Krypton are amazing and set the tone of the film we are about to watch.  I think a big part of why I think this film is great is because it exceeded my expectation and the choices made in the film were not what I expected.  Henry Cavill is great as Superman and I really enjoyed the scenes from his upbringing with his earth parents played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane.  There was a great amount of issue made out of a scene involving Kevin Costner possibly saying he (Clark) should have let people die rather than expose his powers.  Fans don't believe his father would say that, I have no issue because this film made different choices and he was not saying he shouldn't help but he was trying to impress upon Clark is using his powers has consequences.  I enjoyed this version of his father, it is similar to the father in Smallville, which I think is more reflective of the times now versus 1978.  I also thought Michael Shannon being cast as Zod was great, Michael Shannon is a great actor and has an intense screen presence and he was the best version of Zod we have seen so far.  The fight at the end of the film was another thing critics of the film hated, I do think the destruction was a bit crazy and it went on too long.  This version of Superman was just becoming a hero and he was being challenged by a villain as powerful as him.  Superman would have learned from this fight about the dangers of his powers and he would have moved it somewhere less populated.  The film has great visuals and has some truly epic Superman action.  The musical score by Hans Zimmer is one of my favourite things about this movie and it is one of my favourite film scores.  When Superman Returns came out there was a lot of criticism directed at the film from fans claiming it was too boring and that Superman did not fight anyone.  Man of Steel gave fans what they felt they wanted and now they were unhappy, that is one of the more dangerous reasons for studios to place too much emphasis on fan reactions.  Studios tend to overcorrect issues and make it worse in another way and often fans that hate something will voice their displeasure much louder than fans who liked it.  There might be more fans who like a movie than fans who hate one, but I am sure the fans who hate will make more of an issue than the fans who want to praise a film.  Man of Steel is great and critics of the film are entitled to their opinions, but they are wrong.  Man of Steel is an epic, big story that delivers on all fronts.  I think it is a shame that Henry Cavill never got a chance to do a sequel, I hope that WB eventually gives in and gives fans a sequel.  

The main thing I realized while writing this article is that WB/DC interferes in their projects a lot, which might not have been a bad thing if the films turned out good.  The interference seems to be overreactions to fan complaints, and the films always turn out bad.  Marvel rarely has had issues with this because Marvel has a plan and before a film is shot, they make sure the director is on board for their vision.  Marvel has lost two high profile directors in the past because of their need to control the project.  Patty Jenkins was hired to direct Thor 2 but dropped out of the project due to creative difference, Thor 2 was not great but at least Marvel made the move before they started filming.  The other high-profile director was Edgar Wright who was supposed to direct Ant-Man, he also dropped out due to creative difference.  Marvel made these decisions because they knew what they wanted the film to be and the director disagreed so they found someone who would do what they wanted.  WB and DC wait to make their decisions until the films were finished and caused chaos with their interference.  I am hoping that WB and DC will trust their filmmakers more and let audiences see the version of the film that the director wanted rather than the crap version WB/DC made it into.  

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