The Suicide Squad has been out for about two weeks now, and since this is the kind of thing the internet loves, here is how the various DC Extended Universe movies stack up for me. There are 11 films in the franchise so far, which in case it’s not clear, means I am only looking at films in the current, interconnected universe that started with Man of Steel. If I’m honest, this list didn’t turn out exactly how I thought it might when I decided to do it, which is interesting to me at least!
If you agree or disagree, feel free to reach out to me on social media, I’d love to hear from you. And now, on to the list:
#11: Suicide Squad (2016) ★★☆☆☆
If you’re gonna start, you gotta start at the bottom. This movie is hacked to pieces, and you can tell. Reportedly there are 40 minutes of film on the cutting room floor, and much of it was re-shot to better match the fun, funny tone of the trailer that DC released, and the result is a slog to get through. Interestingly, I do think that Margot Robbie and Will Smith are excellent casting choices and that they were pretty good, but if there’s one thing that condemns this movie to the bottom of the list, it’s that I haven’t felt the urge to re-watch it in years.
#10: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) ★★☆☆☆
For a long time, this is the film I held at the bottom of my DCEU list, but unlike Suicide Squad, I have actually felt the urge to re-watch it, and it has an extended edition that makes it just a little better. The extended version isn’t good, mind you, but it is a more coherent narrative. Still, that coherence comes with a price, and that price is Zack Snyder’s self-indulgence. Plus, they kill Jimmy Olsen in that version, which is straight-up bullshit.
#9: Justice League (2017) ★★★☆☆
This movie is a mess. Weirdly, I still kind of like it, based on the fact that it actually gets Superman right, but it’s still a mess. It’s clearly two films mashed together, and the bad guy is terrible.
#8: Wonder Woman ’84 (2020) ★★★☆☆
This might be the most disappointing film in the franchise so far. It’s fine, to be clear, but it’s only fine. It feels like there is a lot of footage on the cutting room floor that would make it make more sense. While the chemistry and banter between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine are superb, there’s also a huge unanswered ethical question about how exactly Pine’s Steve Trevor is back at all. Given how great the first Wonder Woman is, it sucks that this one isn’t.
#7: Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) ★★★☆☆
When I first heard of The Snyder Cut, the fabled finished version of Justice League that was Zack Snyder’s vision and was –purportedly– finished and ready to go at a moments notice, my first thought was that I wanted to see it. But, of course, it wasn’t finished, and WB spent $70 million to get it up to scratch, and it only came as the result of a years-long campaign from the worst minority of fans on the internet.
Now that it’s here, though, it’s pretty good. It’s not amazing, but it is more consistent, at least. It’s also four hours long and completely self-indulgent (I still don’t get why they went with the 4:3 aspect ratio), but it’s pretty good. Better than the theatrical, but that’s a pretty low bar to clear.
#6: Man of Steel (2013) ★★★☆☆
Here’s a film I am of two minds about. On the one hand, I think it’s a well-constructed film about an alien trying to figure out his place in society. On the other hand, this film completely misunderstands Superman. Despite the conflicting ideologies of his two fathers (which could have been really interesting), he sort of just coasts through the movie. When he finally is forced to kill General Zod in the climax of the film, there is no narratively established reason for him to get as upset as he does.
#5: The Suicide Squad (2021) ★★★☆☆
So as it turns out, I liked James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad a lot, but I didn’t love it. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a remix of his greatest hits. I don’t know why I didn’t connect with it as much as I expected to, but I wrote a whole review of the film right here you can check out.
#4: Aquaman (2018) ★★★☆☆
Aquaman is not a perfect film, but do you know what it is? Fun. There are plenty of things that don’t quite work, but the things that do work, work like gangbusters. The big second act action scene? Amazing. How vibrant and colourful it is, particularly after the grim and gritty feel of the Snyder directed films? Amazing. Jason Momoa? Perfect casting. Julie Andrews? Incredible casting.
I seriously can’t wait to see what James Wan and David Johnson-McGoldrick come up with next.
#3: Wonder Woman (2017) ★★★★☆
The third act of Wonder Woman is a giant mess of CGI, but the film’s theme pays off so spectacularly that it doesn’t matter. Gadot and Pine are perfect together, and the supporting cast is so good that I am still bummed we didn’t get a period-set sequel with them. Plus, the No Man’s Land / Liberation of Veldt sequence is a perfect action sequence.
#2: BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN) (2020) ★★★★☆
There’s a lit of chatter these days about how James Gunn has fundamentally shifted the tone of the DCEU with The Suicide Squad but here’s a take for you: Cathy Yan already did it with Bird of Prey. This movie is so much fun, with pitch-perfect casting and action sequences on par with anything from any other superhero film. The sequence in which Harley takes on a warehouse full of thugs with a baseball bat, for example, is as good or better than anything Steve Rogers did with his shield.
Plus, this film has the best villain performance in any DC film to date. Ewan McGregor has a blast as Black Mask –a loser who thinks he’s a hotshot– and his chemistry with Chris Messina is something to behold.
But, of course, Margot Robbie was born to play Harley Quinn, and her central performance is what holds the film together. Plus, it really looked like an amazing breakfast sandwich.
#1: Shazam! (2019) ★★★★☆
Yup, that leaves Shazam! I’m not gonna lie, this film leads the list by a very slim margin, but it’s the family stuff that gets me. The stuff that James Gunn gets so right in the Guardians of the Galaxy films (and continues with The Suicide Squad), Shazam gets exactly right, and that theme pays off spectacularly and perfectly.
The casting is also excellent, with Zachary Levi having the time of his life playing a 14-year-old stuck in a superhero body, and he’s so intensely likeable doing it, while Jack Dylan Fraser does a great job playing the more mature of the pair. Sure, the villain isn’t amazing, but the CGI monsters are legitimately scary, and the weird mythology of Shazam is convoluted but in a delightful way.
But yeah, it’s family. It’s a big, weird family of misfit kids that all come together to save each other and the day. I love that, and that’s why this is my favourite film in the DCEU film to date.
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