Ranking the Post–‘Justice League’ DCEU

5) Suicide Squad – Although there have been many compelling arguments in favor of Batman v Superman as the worst DCEU movie, I simply can’t get past how bafflingly terrible Suicide Squad ended up being.  Unlike Snyder for Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice, David Ayer was an inspired choice to head up this hard-hitting franchise about an expendable team of villains under the direction of a clandestine government para-military organization.  Margot Robbie was an incredibly actress to tap for fan favorite henchwoman Harley Quinn and Jared Leto’s Joker was, at least conceptually, a compelling take on the storied character.

But when the movie’s rating dropped from an R to a PG-13, Ayer didn’t seem like quite the ideal director anymore.  When Jared Leto’s role as antagonist was cut down to a side character, it became increasingly difficult to justify his quite frankly distracting presence.  And when the titular team of gun and boomerang and mallot-wielding baddies were forced to do battle with a pair of Pre-Colombian gods, any semblance of suspending disbelief was thrown out the window.

4) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Let’s be clear from the start: nothing about this movie worked.  The color pallet was a muddying mix of tar and crude oil, making the prospect of following anything on screen incredibly daunting.  It lacked anything even resembling a narrative structure, instead opting for a shotgun blast of disparately connected events to somehow make sense in the moment.  And connected to this was a plot that failed to hold up against any level of logical scrutiny, where a literal jar of piss and the fact that two guys’ moms are both named Martha were paradoxically elevated to being vital plot points.

And that’s a real shame, too, because this movie had so much potential.  The cast was spot-on perfect from top to bottom: from Ben Affleck, Jeremy Irons, Henry Cavil and especially Gal Gadot.  The image of the decrepit ruins of old Wayne Manor was striking and the scene between Bruce and Alfred in them was perfect.  And the two men’s ideologies coming to blows was, conceptually, every bit as powerful as what we saw later that year in Captain America: Civil War.  All of these moments were wasted in a movie that, unfortunately, had no idea what to do with them.

3) Man of Steel – Even though everybody was on-board with the MCU from the words “I am Iron Man,” the DCEU was met with far more skepticism.  When Zack Snyder reimagined the Kryptonian beacon of hope as an existential sadsack who keeps himself at arms distance from the Human experience, even those who enjoyed its high-concept, apocalyptic action sequences were hesitant to embrace it.  Not only that, but Superman snapping Zod’s neck in the film’s abrasive climax is probably one of the most contentious movie moments in recent memory (right up there with Marvel’s reimagined Mandarin and whether or not Crash deserved to win Best Picture).

When all the dust has settled, however, the real problem with Man of Steel is just how empty it all feels.  This was supposed to be DC’s answer to Iron Man: their triumphant announcement of a cinematic universe to rival that of the MCU.  Instead all we got was a Superman nobody liked fighting villains nobody cared about over a world that Snyder never bothered to develop (at least any further than he could almost immediately blow up).  Pair that with an needlessly a-chronological narrative and the worst version of Jonathon Kent in any version of the franchise and there was little here to enjoy the first time around, let alone revisit down the line.

2) Justice League – Those claiming that Justice League is a marked improvement on the DCEU thus far are, generally speaking, right.  Except for the (at this point extremely obvious) best DCEU film, this is pretty much the crème de la crème.  Its characters are more consistent and its plot is more logical than any of the preceding entries, and its entire, expansive cast is as perfectly suited as ever to their individual roles.  The problem is that it’s still an abysmal movie.

Every terrible, unkind word you’ve heard about this movie is absolutely true.  There’s a reason why audiences stayed away from it during its opening weekend.  There’s a reason why critics have savaged it despite still acknowledging it as an overall improvement to (almost all of) its predecessors.  It is a sloppily produced, awkwardly written, clumsily stitched-together and, quite frankly, ugly to look at movie: perfectly poised in the epicenter of a perfect storm of awfulness.

1) Wonder Woman – By all accounts, Wonder Woman is the only good movie in this godawful mess of a franchise precisely because it’s so peripheral to it.  As a prequel to the rest of the DCEU, it’s freed from the continuity clusterfuck created by the prior entries in the series.  Freed from the aesthetic quagmire of Zack Snyder’s “unique take” on the source material, its allowed to exist as its own entity: a colorful, fun and empowering story following the birth of a new age of heroes.  In as much as Warner Bros itself saw it as more of a theatrical  placeholder for, rather than a full-fledged entry to, the DCEU, it was freed from the suffocating executive control that the studio exerted over all its other films.

Wonder Woman is a fantastic entry into both its genre and 2017’s lackluster summer release slate.  And while it’s third act is a mess and the rest of it doesn’t quite hold up as well as the first Captain America, it has proven a welcome breath of fresh air in a genre that too often feels like a bloated sausage-fest.  Long after Warner Bros cuts its losses with the DCEU, Wonder Woman will remain a classic superhero origin story.



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