Now that we have new films on the way again, it’s time to rank the early DCEU in terms of
best least awful to worst. I’m leaving out Wonder Woman because we all know it’s good. This is about the earlier bad films from Pre-Aquaman.
[Hi! Aine from 2021 here! I wrote most of this back in February last year, just fyi]
Let’s make this clear for those in the cheap seats: Wonder Woman and Aquaman were both good and Shazam! was freaking amazing! Birds of Prey was great. [Wonder Woman 1984 was alright.] The Robert Pattison Batman film seems interesting and will hopefully lead to us getting some Robins in there (Dick and Tim at minimum, please please please. You have Selina. There’s no reason to add in Talia and Damian.) [Apparently this is set in another universe like Joker, but we’ll see what happens after Flashpoint], James Gunn is probably gonna make a good Suicide Squad soft reboot, Black Adam will have The Rock and he’s always entertaining, Aquaman 2 and Shazam 2 will probably be good, and with any luck we can eventually get that damn Flash film and retcon out the bad films and their stupid leftover crap from Wonder Woman and Aquaman. One can only hope.
Obviously, there’s gonna be some personal bias because I don’t really like these films. If we were using JelloApocalypse’s scoring system, these films would be a 4, a 3, a 2, and a -2 respectively. In my mind, a boring movie is better than one you want to physically launch into the sun while going full on Super Saiyan regardless of how good of a hate watch it is. At least a boring film can be used as a sleep aid.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE BAD DCEU FILMS….IF ANYONE CARES!!
On to the list:
1 – Justice League:
This film has characters that interact …the interactions are interesting. That’s really what elevates it over the others. The actual freaking Superman is there, mustache erasing aside. I can actually see what’s happening. I kinda wish I couldn’t, but I can. Um, Diana’s back and she’s good. The Amazons are back, even if they handle them so badly. Irons and Simmons are good as Alfred and Gordon. …That’s all the good I can find.
Arthur got a much better introduction in his own movie where he’s less of a frat bro and more of a caring hero. Amber Heard’s Mera also has a better, less bitchy introduction in that film. The underwater effects are much better there too…just, everything about Aquaman is better in his own movie. …Go watch Aquaman again!
Barry appears to be their attempt to give Bruce a Peter Parker type character like Tony Stark (Though, apparently, they came up with this first). I probably wouldn’t have a problem with this if they had made one simple change: make the Flash character Wally West. This film is doing the same thing every Barry Allen adaptation has done since Barry came back in 2009, they made Wally with Barry’s name and backstory. They know Wally is more popular because he was the Flash when the internet became a thing and he was the one on the Justice League cartoon, but Barry is supposedly more “iconic” which is why he’s in everything like Hal Jordan. Don’t get me wrong, I love Grant Gustin’s Flash on the CW, but it’s still Wally with Barry’s backstory. Sure, the cartoon kinda did that too, but it was still Wally. They just gave him Barry’s job and that was also a thing in the comics briefly. Wally’s the fun Flash (not just because he’s been a speedster since he was prepubescent) while Barry’s the more serious one, even if he was a fanboy just like Wally and lets out corny one liners. The comics tend to get this right, but the adaptations? Not so much. Hell, Barry’s supposed to be Bruce’s age. Wally’s the younger one. I mean, I don’t like the whole New 52 trend of giving Dick’s friends to other members of the Bat Family, like Cyborg (we’ll get to that), but if they wanted to have a younger Justice League member for Bruce to mentor…I’d have gone with Hawkgirl, Jessica Cruz, or Kyle Rayner, but Wally would have worked too.
Cyborg….has no business being in the movie and is one of the worst parts of it. Look, I know he’s here because we need a POC comics character in 2017 and if we did have a Green Lantern in the film it would have been Hal Jordan, because Geoff Johns still doesn’t get that mainstream audiences see Green Lantern as John Stewart. Also, apparently no one thought to use the guy they had already apparently cast as Martian Manhunter, who is Black. Yeah, that General guy from Man of Steel who became the Secretary of Defense? (it’s fine if you don’t remember, no one does) He’s apparently J’onn J’ones. That would have been awesome, but he was apparently cut. [and he’s apparently gonna be in the Snyder Cut so let’s see if I eat my words] Cyborg’s CGI is awful and that’s all he is, just a big characterless CGI thing with a phoned in catch phrase from a better version of him. He’s been noticeably left out of the Shazam ending with all the rest of the Justice League characters, so I think we can safely say at this point that he’s been written out. [O…kay, apparently he was mentioned in a crossover with the Arrowverse. Never fucking mind.] Let’s make this clear for those in the cheap seats: I don’t mind Cyborg being in the Justice League, I just don’t want him as a founding member. Let him be a Titan first. He’s supposed to be younger than Dick, from the Gods’ sakes
Steppenwolf has no goddamn reason to be the villain. He’s nobody. He’s just Darkseid’s uncle, a guy in a silly hat that Superman or Wonder Woman could beat while powerless with a broken leg. Superman did that once! The fact that he defeated/killed most of the Amazons is appalling. This is the kind of thing they train everyday for and they lost to freaking Steppenwolf?! He doesn’t even look like that in the comics. If they wanted a herald for Darkseid, as was the original intention, why couldn’t you make it DeSaad, Darkseid’s chief torturer and council? Or his master assassin Kanto? Or his sons Kalibak or Grayven? Or Doctor Bedlam, his chief scientist? Or Amazing Grace? Or Devilance the Pursuer? Or Mantis? Or any other citizen of Apokolips besides Steppenwolf? Personally, I’d have gone with Granny Goodness as the villain, but there’s no way you can make her sexy so that’s probably why they didn’t go with her….also, they probably never read a comic. [….Um, apparently she and DeSaad are in the Snyder Cut….] Granny Goodness could lead into films about the Female Furies, about Big Barda and Mister Miracle: hell, forget Joker and Harley, where’s my romance film about those two?
As much as I wish Affleck had gotten a chance to work with a better director, I am glad he’s left because he always just looked so sad. [Never mind, he’s back for the Flash movie] Weadon’s forced jokes also just never landed. If this was Dick’s Batman, then maybe, but not Bruce. I’ll go more into Bats and Supes when I talk about BvS and Man of Steel.
Everyone else is…fine. Lois Lane is…fine. Silas Stone is…fine. Martha Kent is…fine. Nothing spectacular, but nothing bad. They don’t really do much.
Snyder’s version probably would have been just as bad if not worse, but it would have been interesting to see his version of events. [And what do you know, we’re actually getting it…crap. Guys! Break out the booze!!]
2 – Suicide Squad:
Will Smith and Margot Robbie are great in this movie and Viola Davis is a great actress. ….Three actors do not save this movie. The villain is awful, the plot is nonsensical, the dialogue is redicculous, the portal in the sky thing is cliche as all hell, the film would probably have been tangentially better if it was rated R, and you can barely see anything. Also, Jared Leto.
As for individual characters, I like Viola Davis, but that is not Amanda Waller and I don’t just mean because she’s much skinnier than Waller (ba doom tish, these are the jokes). The whole reason Waller is so gung ho on crime is because crime had previously killed both her two eldest children and her husband (who took taking their daughter’s killer’s life into his own hands, hence why she doesn’t like vigilantes). She fought her way up in life, both putting her remaining children through college and then herself, until she became a powerful and influential political figure. She’s created and been a part of multiple powerful secret agencies like Checkmate, A.R.G.U.S, and the D.E.O. in addition to reviving the long dead Task Force X. Her loyalty is only to America (though not necessarily its leadership) and its interests, and the lives of others, her reputation among the superhero population, and even her own family’s feelings be damned. Hence, the Suicide Squad is supposed to be a covert unit for the American government with plausible denyablity. If someone catches them, who cares? They’re supervillains. If they try to expose the squad, and thus the US government, they are killed to protect both entities thanks to the bombs on their person. She’s smart. She’s a chessmaster. There’s a reason it was difficult for the other Checkmate members in Greg Rucka’s Checkmate run to get rid of her. She can threaten Batman, having figured out his secret identity. She plans ahead. She’s not petty. The squad doesn’t clean up her own messes. They don’t exist to keep the Justice League from going evil. That’s what Batman is for. She’s Black. She’s big. She’s someone you don’t want to mess with, that’s why Luthor put her in charge of Metahuman Affairs when he became President (yes, that happened). She. Is. The Wall.
This Waller? Not so much. Not only is the entire plot of the film her fault, again the squad was used to clean up her mess (Which tends to be a Suicide Squad staple in movies? Though Assault on Arkham was still better than this). Waller is smarter than this!! I have no idea how this version knows Bruce Wayne is Batman, but she’s not smart enough to have figured it out on her own. I’m sorry, Viola Davis.
Other than the awful outfit, I don’t actually have much to say against Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn (Except for ‘why is she here?’, but that’s because the New 52 decided the Squad needed fanservice for some reason and the Enchantress was already put on Justice League Dark so they put her in in 2011). She’s probably the best adapted character in the series outside Diana and Alfred. Hell, the hair’s better than the New 52 look. Still prefer the Jester outfit though.
I can criticize the romance between her and Joker. Apparently, it was changed because their abusive relationship made test audiences uncomfortable…which is the point! We’re supposed to want Harley to get away from Joker, because we know she’s better than him. She’s funnier. She’s smarter. She’s a better villain. The other villains like her better. She’s just too blinded by her love for him. That’s part of the reason the Birds of Prey film exists, to get Harley out of her relationship with Joker. It’s part of the reason why she and Ivy are now a couple. While Ivy is still a bad influence (ie still a villain (usually)), she’s much more stable and better to Harley than Joker. The lesser of two evils, if you will. Their relationship is much healthier for Harley, which is probably why we’re most likely getting a Gotham Sirens film eventually. That and Margot Robbin prefers Harley hanging out with other ladies in general. Go Robbie!
Will Smith’s Deadshot is also a very good character, shame he won’t be in the next film, but they have said they’ll bring him back. Smith’s just busy. I will say he’s probably a better father than comic Deadshot even if they do crap all over his ex wife, whom he actually cared about in the comics and who wasn’t Zoe’s mother. That was another woman, whom he also cared for. Mrs. Lawton was the mother Floyd’s son, who was killed and thus she commited suicide. This change was fine, btw. It just streamlined his story, like making T’Challa’s stepmother his biological mother. Hell, the New 52 erased the son and gave Zoe a younger sister. Would love to see Smith and Deadshot in a Secret Six movie. Still wonder who Idris Elba is playing if not replacing him. I say Bronze Tiger. He was supposed to be the leader before the government forced Flagg on Waller, possibly and most likely due to racism. [He’s not. He’s playing Bloodsport….excuse me while I google who the hell that is. ….Ah, Superman bad guy. Mercenary type. Gotcha.]
Rick Flagg is very boring. So boring, I can’t even remember what he looks like other than, generic action hero. He’s here because they needed a white guy in charge instead of using, say Bronze Tiger or just using Katana, but I guess that would require actually giving her a character. Flagg in the comics is moral and a great soldier who cares about his charges. Not so much this guy, but considering this was supposed to be Tom Hardy, I guess they made it smaller after the casting change.
Katana was…..there. She technically has the same backstory as the comics but she really didn’t do anything. I’d like to see her come back cause for what little she did, the acting was good. Maybe make an Outsiders movie once you have an established Batman?
El Diablo (actually based on the third El Diablo, Chato Santana, as the other two were whole good guys instead of former criminals (And an Earth 2 version was a Nazi).) was, like Harley, not a member of the Squad until the New 52. Biggest difference: he never killed his family, he killed a gang on purpose and a bunch of innocents by accidents which is why he wanted to repent. He was never a pacifist. That was all made for the film. He never went all fire god like he did at the end. He just turned into a demon with wings which was made up by the New 52. Big shock. I kinda wish he hadn’t died because every team could use a fire bender.
Captain Boomerang was alright, my one real complaint is that they tried to make him a bit Deadpool-like with the unicorn, but at least he is traditionally a member of the Suicide Squad, unlike Killer Croc or Harley. Which is probably why he’s coming back for the next film.
Sidebar: Can we please establish that Captain Boomerang is a Flash villain first and a member of the Suicide Squad second? He was a core member of the Rogues, the group of Flash’s main villains, but as time’s gone on, most people know him as a Suicide Squad member and less as a Flash villain. Sure, he gets caught by Flash at the beginning, but that was more to establish that this otherwise completely useless entry in the DCEU is actually connected to the rest of it since not everyone is gonna stay through the credits to see Ben Affleck. Because of this movie, they had to kill off the Suicide Squad in the Arrowverse without ever establishing Boomer is a Flash villain so he’s the only major Rogue to never show up. The freaking Young Justice Abridged series got this right with their last abridged movie!
Speaking of Killer Croc…really? An Oscar? Really!? Over Star Trek!? REALLY?! He didn’t even really do anything. He was supposed to play King Shark (who will be in the James Gunn film and actually has a history on the Squad), but was changed because of budget reasons. If that’s the case, just go with someone else who had been on the squad, like Blockbuster, Shade, Thinker, Punch and Jewlee, Nemesis, Doctor Light, Count Vertigo, Killer Frost, Multi-Man, or Nightshade. Hell, half of those would take less special effects than King Shark or Croc, who wasn’t even a member until the movie came out and they added him into the comics team, to actually great effect.
Slipknot was there to die …and most of you didn’t even know who that was. Basically, he’s a Firestorm villain and he didn’t die during his time with the Squad (that was the first Blockbuster), he just lost an arm. He also wasn’t Native American, but (like with Deadshot) I’m all for turning boring white guys into either people of colour and/or women (see the Captain Marvel film). …This doesn’t apply when they only exist to die. At least Deadshot is usually cool if nothing else.
The Enchantress was AWFUL!! But let’s start with the good changes: June Moone’s not an archeologist. She’s an artist. Her boyfriend was an artefacts dealer, but whatever. That change is okay, eliminates the need for an extra character. She was actually a hero when she started out and was an on and off hero until the New 52. That, I guess, I can also forgive cause she’s more well known as a villain.
Now the bad: That doesn’t even look anything like her. Change Raven’s outfit to green and you’ve basically got Entrantress’s outfit…or a genderbent Spectre’s. Sure, there’s other cosmetic differences and these days she’s a redhead, but that’s the bare basics. That and that dance thing wasn’t a thing. Next, she doesn’t have this much power. She tried to gain ultimate power once and Supergirl pushed the moon out of the way (it makes sense in context) to stop her (and she was a good guy at the time, though this story did turn her evil). True, that’s changed in recent times, but she’s not immortal. The heart thing? Non existent. She could be killed by just shooting her. The Enchantress might be magic, but June Moone is human and she has her host’s weaknesses. Yeah, the threat of her completely taking over June forever was always very present, but there were ways around that. Granted, there were usually other magic user around, but they could have figured something out. She never took control when June was asleep, only when she called her or when under great stress. Also, she never dated Rick Flag.
What’s funny is that both Enchantress and June are actually dating Killer Croc now and it’s adorable.
True, Incubus is real, the entity that was fused with June was called The Succubus who was his sister, but he hasn’t been a thing since he first showed up in the late 80s for two issues. Hell, the New 52 never even brought him back. So, I guess props for bringing back a long forgotten character with ties to a more well known character (in terms of comics fans anyway)? Though I’d have kept the actual story from the comics, gave Enchantress her own movie with the Squad as supporting characters (maybe use it as a sequel to a better first movie), and added fellow Squad member Nightshade whose aunt and brother Incubus took as hosts and whose mother he has connections to. Gods, I came up with a better idea just from doing some basic research! Also, they’re not gods. They’re magical beings from an alternate magical dimension, the same one Nightshade comes from.
And then we have Jared Leto’s Joker. ….*Beleaguered Sigh* So, first off: easily the worst Joker. Bar none. Does absolutely nothing in this film. Is only here because we have to have a reason for Harley to exist. Was not worth the crap Jared Leto put the cast and crew through. I know he was supposed to be in it more as a sort of secondary villain, but that didn’t pan out. They could have easily left him out and just explain through dialogue that she’s Joker’s girlfriend. Or you could have left that out because it’s the one thing everyone knows about Harley Quinn. Joker’s a narcissist. You honestly think he’s gonna think he’s gonna look like that? I’m not talking about the tattoos (At least the ones not on his forehead). I have nothing against tattoos. I’m talking about the ‘Gansta’ stuff, the grill, the shaved off eyebrows, etc. It just screams ‘trying too hard’. Joker is a classy mob boss, but also an insane murderer. The best Jokers balance this, even Romero. This one? Not so much. He wasn’t scary, he wasn’t even funny. He was just…there.
Given that this film was ripped out of the director’s hands to redo it in response to how people liked the first trailer, is it any wonder this film is a mess? I’d much rather see an R rated director’s cut of this film than Justice League, if only because Ayer appears to be a lower profile director than Snyder is and, given his work with crime films, I genuinely think this could have been something….not great, but passable at the very minimum. It’d certainly couldn’t be worse than what we got.
3 – Man of Steel:
I feel like I blinked and missed about half of this movie and yet missed nothing. This film was that boring to watch and I don’t just mean because of the colour scheme. But, I do have thoughts on it.
There’s a reason I’ve always preferred TV versions of Superman more than the movies (at least in theory because I love the first two Superman films). The reason being, the movies always focus on Clark’s by birth connection to the long dead Krypton like it’s the most important thing in his life, something that the comics sometimes do (though are usually good at balancing) and the movies always do (aside from, ironically, The Death of Superman animated film). The tv shows on the other hand, usually focus on Clark’s human connections, mainly Ma and Pa Kent. In the TV shows, both Jonathan and Martha Kent are usually still alive (for a while anyway) and are a recurring driving influence on Clark’s (and I specifically say Clark, not Kal-El. The movie versions are specifically Kal-El first, but the tv and modern comic versions are usually Clark first.) life. In the movies, that’s the Els (and technically not even that, just Jor-El) and occasionally a very old, near death, Aunt May-like Martha Kent.
There’s a reason Aunt May keeps sticking around in Spider-Man despite all reason saying she should be dead by now. She’s a moral influence on Peter’s life and a living reminder of the words of the late Uncle Ben. (I say this as someone who doesn’t read current Peter Parker books. Undo the deal with Mephisto already! It’s been like 13 years!) The Kents are the same way. They raised Clark, just like Ben and May raised Peter, not the Els. They are his influence. Saying that Krypton is the only thing important in Clark’s life does a disservice to two very kind people who raised someone as good and wholesome as Superman.
I’ve always rolled my eyes at the whole “You don’t owe humanity anything” stuff the Snyder films keep pushing down our throats. “No,” is my answer, “He doesn’t owe Krypton anything.” They are (mostly) dead. Trying to save/ connect with what’s left of the planet (ie Super/Powergirl, the bottled city of Kandor, the city of Argos, Krypto the Superdog, etc) is good and noble. I’m cool with it. I’m cool with him exploring his Kryptonian heritage. To say otherwise would be like saying adopted kids in interracial families (like black kids adopted by white parents) shouldn’t explore their birth heritage. I’m even cool with a decent chunk of his villains being left over from Krypton. Sins of the father and all that. (Hate the making of one half of the martyr parents Jor and Lara-El evil for the same reason, but apparently that’s been fixed…somewhat.) My reply to the quote continues: “He owes Earth and subsequently humanity everything.” Humans showed him kindness and raised him as one of their own. Humans helped him understand his powers growing up, even though they had no idea what they were doing. Incidentally, the whole ‘guiding humanity’/ Space Jesus thing was never a thing in the comics. It was something wholly made up for the Christopher Reeves movies. Jor-El is gone as soon as Krypton explodes. If he shows up, it’s for villain explanation of motivation or to explore Krypton’s past in order to give context to a situation Supes is in. He has no influence on Clark’s life outside of sending him to Earth. He didn’t even know he’d get powers. Earth was just the best candidate out of all the planets. He was just trying to save his son. Just like the story of Moses that the original origin was based on. (Remember, his creators were Jewish and the only reason Christian readers know that story is because the Torah and Old Testament [Which the story of Exodus (AKA the Moses story) comes from] are the same freaking book!) I’m not trying to knock Marlon Brando’s fantastic performance, but that’s just the way it is. Everything Clark is, from his morals to his outlook on life, was all the product of good Kent parenting and Ma Kent did not raise her son to be Alien Batman.
Remember, Clark usually doesn’t find out he’s an alien until the end of high school. He goes through childhood, puberty, and all that thinking he’s either human or (in the versions where he’s also Superboy) a metahuman. He grew up as Clark. Kal-El is something the Kryptonians and people from space know him as and also serves as a convenient name to give the media to attach to Superman. Kal-El is who he was born and what he presents to the world, but Clark Kent is who he is. It’s what he knows. It’s why in a recent(ish) comic, when he first meets Diana while holding the lasso, he introduces himself as Clark Kent first and then Kal-El (Bruce introduces himself as Batman because that’s how he sees himself as first, that Bruce Wayne died with his parents (Which I could argue isn’t technically true, but that’s another post)). Hell, in the original Reeves film, it ends with him going against Jor-El’s Prime Directive stance on humanity in order to save Lois Lane, whose death, unlike Jon Kent’s heart attack, he could actually change. With this, he ultimately chooses humanity over Krypton’s ideals…which he later chose again in the sequel, but that’s another thing.
This here is why I always have such a problem with the Kents dying in any way that Clark could have saved them from. Of course he could and would always save them from something. They’re his parents and he loves them. This is why the best Superman stories that involve the Kents dying always have them (though mostly Pa) die from either old age or heart attacks, AKA things Clark can’t save them from. Hence why I find Pa Kent dying in this film (and Ma and Pa dying from a car crash in the recent comics (A CAR CRASH!? REALLY!?!). Thank the Gods they apparently fixed that.) to be ridiculous and awful. There’s no reason why Clark shouldn’t have saved his father here despite the man’s insane protest. What was even the point of it besides trying to make Clark more like Batman?!
Speaking of Superman himself, honestly, I always just found Cavill’s Superman to be…boring. Let me clarify, I’m not calling Superman boring. I like Tim Daley/George Newbern’s Superman. I like Christopher Reeve’s Superman. I like Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman. I like Dean Cain’s Superman. I even kinda like Brandon Routh’s Superman. There’s plenty of Supermans that I like, but this is not one of them. It’s not hard to make a good Superman when you make him Clark first and Superman second. The ones I just listed, and others, as well as the comics (most of the time) do that. The ones that don’t (ie Reeves and Routh, who are basically playing the same character, and earlier comics) are the only ones who have really made the reverse work. This one? Does not work. It honestly seems like Nolan and Goyer are just doing the same beats they did with Batman. He’s just…there. There’s really not much to him. If I’m being honest, a lot of my problems with this film and the DCEU overall have to do with their specific portrayal of Superman. Yes, elements found here were originally used by the Christopher Reeves films. The difference is that in those films (at least the first two) Superman actually acted like Superman. Superman is not depressing and made of angst. Again, that’s what Batman’s for. Superman is hope and light and all things good about humanity. I just don’t get that with this version, at least not until Justice League and even then it was more about course correcting than anything else.
Also, I still don’t like the lack of red trucks, but at least he doesn’t have the stupid collar. That was always my bigger problem with the New 52 design. This? It’s not great, but I can live with this. Could use more red though.
Superman has three big bad guys but we always see only Zod and Luthor in the films. Luthor, I understand seeing more: he is the big bad of Metropolis, where both live (sometimes they grow up in Smallville together), and is basically Superman’s opposite and most worthy adversary. Why is Zod such a big bad guy threat? Answer: because he was the bad guy in Superman 2.
After Crisis on Infinite Earths, Zod wasn’t in the comics for years and was very minor prior to Superman 2 so he can’t even really be called one of Superman’s traditional big bads. Heck, Faora from this film (the girl one) was a bigger Superman villain than him and she certainly didn’t work for him (Leaving me scratching my head as to why they didn’t just go with Ursa and Non again other than a potential lawsuit which doesn’t seem to be affecting television appearances. Either that or just going “Look! We read the comics! See!”….or they just glanced at Wikipedia for just long enough to collect names. That being said, Zod’s men are one of the better parts of this movie, now if only we could tell them apart better).
Along with Luthor and Brainiac, the honour of Superman Big Bad usually goes to Mongel who was a big Superman villain during the Bronze Age (most prominently in the famous Alan Moore story, For The Man Who Has Everything) even if these days he wavers between being a Superman and Green Lantern villain. But I guess Mongul or Brainiac would require too much CGI so we always get Zod and Luthor.
Now that we have that out of the way, Zod here is …probably the best villain in the DCEU until Orm, Black Manta, and Dr. Sivana. Though considering the only other villains at the time were Dirty Hulu Witch (and also kinda sorta Gangsta Clown and The Wannabe Wall), Professor Ares Lupin, and the Evil Dr. Facebook (Doomsday doesn’t count), that’s not exactly a high bar. But, hey, Top 5 is still Top 5…Black Mask would probably be the 5th spot. His motives are sympathetic, he genuinely seems to care about his men, and he’s technically responsible for all the destruction caused by his fight with Superman that everyone keeps blaming on Clark. Though, I think this is more about the apparent lack of remorse and the out of nowhere kiss with Lois considering the destruction is on par with a typical DBZ fight. The best villains are the ones you can either sympathise with or the ones you can love to hate sink the most. Looking at you, Dolores Jane “Worse Than Voldemort” Umbridge!
Okay, let’s talk about the killing scene. *Beleaguered Sigh* Look, I don’t like it when Superheroes kill (with some exceptions regarding heritage and nurture like Wonder Woman) and I don’t like it when other characters are killed when there could be more stories told with them, like supervillains (ie Loki is the most interesting villain in the MCU which is why he was allowed to stay around and have a redemption arc and tv spin off when pretty much every other villain tends to die). Why? Because there are always more stories to tell. To think otherwise is just being lazy. I would have preferred the original idea of just sending him to the Phantom Zone so he could potentially come back again, but “realistic” storytelling means that people must die. The death probably wasn’t helped by the fact that it was immediately followed by Clark seemingly getting over it pretty quickly both in this film and the next one. For me, I just heard about it so much that I kinda just glazed over it the first time. It was a slightly less boring scene in an otherwise boring movie, where Clark isn’t even Clark Kent as we know him.
Lois is…fine. Again. I don’t have a problem with Amy Adams’s performance. She’s…fine, even if the romance is rushed. The additional Smallville characters like Lana Lang and Peter Ross, for what little is there, are…fine. Other than the philosophy bull, the Kents are…fine. Ma Kent’s better though. That scene with Clark where she helps him control his super hearing? That’s fantastic! I’d have watched a whole film of just Martha Kent helping a young Clark control his developing powers. Would have been more interesting.
However, the best character in this film is easily Lawrence Fishburn as Perry White. A good update on a classic character and also one of the better characters in BvS. If they just wanted to scrap everything from the earlier movies, I would happily suggest keeping this version of Perry if nothing else. Possibly not possible since he’s Marvel’s Goliath now, but still. It’d be nice.
I will honestly never understand why a lot of fans hold this film in such high regard, even compared to the other DCEU films. If you do, fine. I, for one, just find it boring.
4 – Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice:
Here’s how much I hate this movie: I watched this for the first time in a marathon with the other bad films with my friends right before Aquaman came out. Obviously, we did some MST3K. During this, I kept making jokes about my personal headcanon for where the Robins and Catwoman are during these films (ie, Jason didn’t die, but was very injured and because of this, and because Bruce was becoming an alcoholic, Selina divorced his ass and took the four Robins and Cass to Bludhaven and they become the characters they are in the comics (ie Nightwing, Black Bat, Red Hood, Red Robin, and Robin, but with Cat instead of Bat), but with Catwoman in Bludhaven instead of Batman in Gotham.) in order to keep myself from just yelling “FUCK!” at the tv screen for two and a half hours. The exceptions to this were when Diana was on screen because she is the best new part of this movie. Her and Alfred. Hence a lot of “Fuck you, I’m Wonder Woman/ Alfred!”
The whole ‘Superman wouldn’t be trusted in the real world America’ thing wouldn’t be something I minded if this was actually Superman it was happening to and not “Clark Wayne”. (who is actually a real character, look it up.) Clark wearing down the cynical public with his positive normal Superman attitude would have been an interesting arc. And let’s be honest, it’d be white Baby Boomers who hated him, AKA the people in charge. Immigrants and younger generations would probably be all for him. Sorry, but it’s true. The Deo De Los Muertos scene was pretty accurate then.
So, let’s talk about Affleck’s Batman. This is their take on Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns Batman AKA “Grim Dark: The Comic by pre-Crazy Frank”. It, The Killing Joke, and Watchmen are seen as responsible for the idea that comic books have to be dark, edgy, and “realistic” in order to be taken seriously that’s been prevalent since the late 80s. As someone who has seen the movie version of the comic, I will say that it is good for what it is: an elseworld tale. An alternate future that stands on its own and certainly didn’t need any of the god awful sequels. (Seriously, what the hell did you do to Dick Grayson, Frank?!) I’m more a fan of the Batman Beyond old Bruce Wayne myself, but Carrie Kelly’s Robin is an amazing character…again, when not hampered by the awful sequels.
That take on Batman, has no place in this movie. Not when also combined with The Death of Superman, another big selling book for DC which is about exactly what you think it is: Superman dies while fighting a giant unstoppable monster named Doomsday, who is also in the movie but with the same origin as Nuclear Man from Superman IV. We’ll get to that. It’s especially out of place in what’s supposed to be a sequel to Man Of Steel. We barely know this Superman and you’re just gonna kill him off in the second film? Why?! What’s the point other than making people angry and getting website hits on the internet from people complaining about it?
They don’t even take advantage of the fact that there’s an obvious age difference between Batman and Superman now. I’ve always seen Bruce as slightly older than Clark, mainly just due to the amount of kids he has (and Bruce has a lot of kids, both legally and emotionally, it’s not just Dick Grayson, Damian Wayne, and maybe Tim Drake), but here? There’s like a generation between the two. Boardline Boomer vs Millennial philosophies at war could have been interesting, but it’s never addressed. There’s not even any “Young Whipper Snapper” or “Old Man” type banter. It’s “I hate you because you’re needlessly brutal” and “I hate you more because you’re an alien”. There was no reason to use Dark Knight Returns Batman other than “REFERENCE!!” and the power armour which you could have used with a younger Batman. Or you could have not used it. There are ways for Batman to beat him without it, even without Kryptonite. Get creative!
Honestly, I’ve always hated the idea that Batman has to be dark and brooding because he hasn’t just been dark and brooding for years, outside of Elseworld stuff like The Dark Knight Returns of course. For years (even if DC would like to pretend otherwise) he’s been a beleaguered and emotionally stunted single father with like 10-14 kids and a pet cow. Outside of my personal preference for stories that emphasize the ‘Family’ part of ‘Bat Family’, because I think there’s more interesting story possibilities, the “Darkness! No Parents!” Batman can only happen so many times before people get sick of it and start telling him he’d look prettier if he smiled. The positive I will give it is that, while I may not like the interpretation, I really would have liked to see Affleck work with another director to make another version of Batman, maybe one with a few living Robins under his belt, because his acting is very good. I can buy this is an older Bruce Wayne.
I’ll give Moviebob this: Evil Dr. Facebook is pretty accurate. This is not Lex Luthor. This is Joker or Riddler pretending to be Luthor. This makes sense when you know both Batman villains were supposed to be in this film before being cut and apparently their personalities were absorbed into Luthor. I’m not sure if this was intentional, but it’s what ended up happening. Hell, Jesse Esienberg was originally cast as Jimmy Olsen, hence the red hair. I’m not against the whole evil Steve Jobs thing because every evil corporate bad guy is that these days (for now), but for someone who’s supposed to be a genius, his plan makes no sense. His motivation is contradictory to itself. Again, this would make a bit more sense if he was supposed to be Joker, but he’s not. He’s supposed to be Lex Luthor. Even when Lex isn’t a corporate bad guy and is an evil mad genius, he’s still a charismatic genius with a cool suit of armour made for punching Kryptonians. This guy is not that. This is not Lex Luthor. This is…This is Evil Dr. Facebook!
Also, whoever signed off on the jar of piss thing should be fired.
Mercy Graves should not have died. For those not aware, Mercy Graves is a canon immigrant to comics ala the DCAU, same as Harley Quinn and Renee Montoya. She’s Lex Luthor’s personal assistant and bodyguard. While she appears to be that first part in this film, she didn’t even get a chance to kick someone’s ass. Sure, she probably doesn’t have the possible Amazon origin from the comics so she probably couldn’t take on Superman or Wonder Woman, but she could beat up Batman, which would have been awesome. Considering this version of Lex Luthor looks like he’d need a bodyguard more than others, that would have been a great idea…which probably didn’t jive with what they were going for because the Gods forbid we have any cool things without killing them which is the only way some people know how to do drama. Here’s a hint: no one actually needs to die in a Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman story other than the El and Wayne parents (and even then only in backstory) or maybe some sort of mythical creature. Mercy and Diana teaming up to take down a Gorgon who’s maybe holding Luthor hostage would be great!
Doomsday had no place in this film. He’s not even a villain. He’s a plot device. He shows up at the end of the film solely to kill Superman in an easily avoidable manner just so they can crowbar The Death of Superman plot into the movie. Luthor is the main villain, he should have been the boss fight. Just give him the war suit from the comics! Like I said, Doomsday’s origin here is basically the same as Nuclear Man from Superman 4, a character made for that movie who was only put into the comics (for one issue, mind you, and then he died) two years ago. Not only is this not his origin in the comics (ie a monster formed by a mad scientist killing and reviving hundreds of the same Kryptonian baby over and over again to create the ultimate killing machine hundreds of years in Krypton’s past and shot into space by the Green Lantern Corps because they couldn’t kill him only to end up on Earth many many years before Superman came to the planet by complete coincidence (which wasn’t even revealed during The Death of Superman.)), the fact that it’s Zod mixed with Luthor’s blood is never remarked upon even though killing Zod was a big thing in the last film. Why? Because Zod and/or Luthor wasn’t the one who killed Superman. Doomsday was.
That’s the only reason he’s here. Hell, if you hadn’t killed Mercy, she could have put on the war suit and fought Superman for Luthor. But she didn’t, because you killed her. Yes, I’m bitter.
On a minor note, most of you didn’t know the Russian henchman in this film is KGBeast, a Russian Communist villain (if you couldn’t tell from the name) of Batman’s, currently best known for basically kinda murdering Nightwing in the comics a couple years ago (thank you for that Tom King). …Yes, I know he got better.
Lois and the other Superman supports are…fine, again, even if they have less to do in this film than last time. The senator is probably the best non Alfred/Diana new character and she’s killed.
And yeah, I only saw the theatrical version because any version of anything that thinks the best idea in the world is to shoot Jimmy Olsen is the fucking head already has a gigantic negative grade from me. So. Sue me.
Look, there’s a simple reason that, even though I’m more a DC fan, I was more inclined to prefer the Marvel movies over DC for a long time. That reason being: The World Sucks! The world sucks and comic books, and subsequently comic book movies, are supposed to be fun. After all, they’re called COMIC books. That doesn’t mean they can’t have a message or they can’t be dark, just look at Thor: Ragnarok or Infinity War or The Dark Knight. Sure, The Dark Knight was dark and serious, but it was also fun and exciting. Yes, Infinity War ended on a downer note, but we had fun getting there and we knew there was going to be a sequel next year (that they had already filmed) to give us hope for the future. Thor: Ragnarok is easily the best Thor film exactly because it makes the world of then very serious, overly epic, no one’s favourite Avenger Thor fun. Prior to Ragnarok, the Thor franchise was notable/memorable for only one thing: Loki…and Heimdall because Idris Elba…and maybe Lady Sif if you watched Agents of SHIELD (There’s a reason she’s the only one of Thor’s friends not in the film and thus not killed off). Now? You know Valkyrie. You know the Grandmaster. You know Korg and Miek. You know Surtr (if only because he’s voiced by actual Lex Luthor) and you goddamn well know Hela. Thor and Bruce Banner/Hulk make a great duo. Thor is actually funny for once. And yet, it’s also about how colonialism is inherently toxic and how the civilizations founded on it aren’t worth saving no matter how hard they try to redeem themselves from their awful legacy, completely upending the idea from the other Thor films that the Nine Realms need Asgard to defend them. That’s deep stuff…in the funny Thor movie.
Until Wonder Woman and later reinforced with Aquaman, we never had that with the DCEU. There were some cool scenes now and then (Yes, I went nuts over that Batman warehouse scene too because I also played Arkham Asylum and because, when I first saw the clip, I saw it overlayed with Shirley Walker music from the 90s cartoon), some good acting (Ben Affleck was a good Batman, agreed), but nothing that could carry a whole movie or they had the characters make choices that made no sense for their characters or that the story doesn’t make the journey to the depressing end or the theme fun and exciting. This is entertainment, even if it ends as depressing, I expect the film to be fun. Take a look at the True Grit remake. It has a depressing ending that matched the original book, sure, but the journey there was still an exciting Western film. You want to cheer for your heroes. I cheered for Hailee Steinfeld’s Mattie and Jeff Bridges’s Rooster. I cheered for Christian Bale’s Batman. I cheered for Thor, Bruce, Loki and Valkyrie. I cheered for Tony Stark and friends. I cheered for Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man. I cheered for Diana. All those films I can watch over and over again. Hell, I saw Endgame in theatres twice! I saw my favourite film, The Martian, in theatres THREE TIMES!!! When I watched the early DCEU films with my friends in that marathon prior to Aquaman? We were all checking our watches/phones the whole time. We made jokes to kill time. While hate watching something is fun (my insane friend who watched Cats no less than THREE TIMES can attest to that), it’s not when you’re doing it over and over again ‘cause there’s only so many times you can make the same jokes before they stop being funny and you start getting angry.
The fact is that the best superhero films have always come out at a time when we needed them most, without even trying. The Adam West Batman film, and before that the tv show, came out during the midst of the Vietnam War. Richard Donner’s Superman the Movie and Superman II both came out in the direct aftermath of the Vietnam War (So did the original Star Wars). Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns came out at the start of the first Bush Era. The first Blade film came out as we neared the end of the Clinton era and the scandal madness that came with it. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 as well as del Toro’s Blade 2 came out both when the world was still reeling from the aftermath of 9/11 and when we were in the midst of the War on Terror (along with Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series). Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, as well as the first Iron Man all came out during the end of the Bush administration and only Marvel kept making good movies into the Obama era with its big celebratory party The Avengers coming out just as Obama was going to win his second term. Trump’s win in 2016 was cushioned somewhat emotionally by the one two punch of both Captain America: Civil War and the out of nowhere Deadpool that no one could have seen being as good as it was (both having come out on DVD by then) and by the best theatrical DC films in about a decade coming out one right after the other (ie Lego Batman and, especially, Wonder Woman) in the aftermath. Not to mention Black Panther coming out two years later to massive cultural embracement (Seriously, just YouTube some videos of African reactions to seeing the movie in theatres. It’s eye opening.) and both Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel helping drive us through the MeToo Era, continuing today with FOUR superhero films in two years directed, written by, and starring women. That’s not even getting into everything on the TV, Cartoon, and Direct to Video Movie sides. Throughout the Trump era, with the exception of Justice League, superhero films have been there to help take our minds off the madness of the real world and just let us cheer and hope and have fun again. [We had zero superheroes during the Plague until Wonder Woman 1984, a month after President Biden’s victory and, to go into TV for a second, WandaVision (a tv show with the budget and feel of a movie) came out only a week and a half after the attack on the Capital and the weekend before Biden’s inauguration to consistently feed us a weekly IV drip of Marvel content after such a long drought as America itself starts to heal, with Falcon and The Winter Soldier set to do the same with only a two week gap after the former’s finale.]
The X-Men films…have been hit or miss depending on who you ask (with the exception of the Deadpool films) and the Fantastic Four films have always been bad. Sorry, but it’s true.
Maybe my conservative readers will disagree with me…if I have any conservative readers? I don’t think I do? But for me, superheroes and pop culture in general have been an important part of getting through the past four years and that’s largely because the stuff I take time out of my day to see in theatres is fun: Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, Kaiju Films, Anime, Heist and Spy Thrillers, Monster Movies, Musicals, Mysteries, Inspiring Films About Beloved Cultural Icons, Fantasy, Sci Fi, Horror, Action/Adventure/Comedy Films, Other Animated Features (Especially DC properties), Things by my favourite directors, Things based on things I love, Marvel, and now (finally) Live Action DC Movies. These are things that bring a smile to my face, even if through tears. Things where the good guys win. Things that can make me forget my troubles for a few hours. Things that make me go “Today Is A Good Day.” and sometimes, that’s just all you need, especially these days.
That’s my thoughts. Agree or Disagree? I don’t care. I just wrote an entire essay about how much I hate four movies, that ended with a brief dissection of superhero media and cultural impact, and I need a nap. Goodnight!
[Also, sorry I’ve been gone so long. I haven’t gotten the plague or anything. I lost and then recently got back my job and spent half a year living with my parents. I’m back in Chicago, I got a cute cat, and I’m ready to try and get this blog back up and running. Here’s hoping. Anyway, next week: The good movies. And then….who knows.]