8. Suicide Squad
It was a close call for the movie to rank as the very worst on this list. In the end, it came down to which one made me the most furious: in those terms, Suicide Squad beats Justice League every time. Suicide Squad is one of the worst movies ever made: a terrible team-up of supposedly wacky bad guys that has all the style and sincerity of what it actually is – a failed rip-off of Guardians of the Galaxy. Good thing that Warner Bros want to forget that it ever happened just as much as the rest of us do.
7. Justice League (Theatrical Cut)
Yes, as of now, this version of Justice League will be referred to as the theatrical cut. How do I describe the overall heinous experience this movie is to watch? I could remind you that, while the good guys are having a fight, the villain steals the last maguffin he needs because the hero left it lying around in parking lot. I could remind you of The Flash’s awkward racial tension joke.I could remind you of the perma-Sadfleck performance. Yeah, that should do it. I didn’t even need to mention the iconic CGI ‘tache.
6. Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice
Dawn of Justice is that special kind of bad movie, the kind where you can actually see how it could have been done right. It’s nonsense dressed up in pretentious mythology and shallow psychology, but if these aspects where used right by Zack Snyder and his screenwriters, then Dawn of Justice could have been a masterpiece, a highbrow approach to differentiate it from the movies of the MCU.
The problem is that the audience has to accept too much on faith to make the movie work. We are supposed to just accept these versions of Superman and Batman, murderers in tights who go against the grain of their decades-long characterization. What this approach needed to work was time; this type of story could never have worked with only Man of Steel as its foundation. This is a story for five or six movies down the line, not the second. Snyder often cites Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight returns as a major influence (indeed, some of the shots from Dawn of Justice are exact copies of some of that book’s artwork), but he doesn’t seem to get that Miller’s masterpiece is only made possible because he had decades of Batman and Superman’s characters to deconstruct.
5 Man of Steel
Unlike what came before, Man of Steel does have one thing that I can wholeheartedly recommend: Michael Shannon’s General Zod. Man of Steel is a crazy movie, with crazy action, crazy logic (looking at you, Papa-advocate-for-child-death-Kent), and a deeply boring Superman at the centre of it. Blame Christopher Nolan for the dark tone all you want, but The Dark Kight trilogy did have some humor to it. Man of Steel is a mess, with a black hole named Superman in the middle of it.
(Also, Superman didn’t need to kill Zod. He could have just flown him out of there. Just saying)
Aquaman is a terrible movie that is so utterly endearing that it beggars belief. We here at No But Listen love the work of director James Wan, there isn’t another filmmaker out there who can bring a winning approach to so many different genres. Aquaman is Wan’s attempt at a big balls-to-the-wall superhero movie (given the choice between making this movie or The Flash, Wan chose this, because it would be a bigger challenge), and he pulls it off.
He graduates Jason Mamoa’s Aqua-bro into something of a character, he creates an Atlantis teeming with life, he miscasts Patrick Wilson as the villain who attacks every line with gusto, he even puts in a shallow environmental argument. None of this should work, a lot of it doesn’t, but it has a charm that has only been glimpsed in the DCEU at this point.
3. Wonder Woman
If this were a perfect world, Wonder Woman would be first on this list. It has everything going for it: Gal Gadot continues her status of being the best thing about Dawn of Justice to be the best thing in her own movie. She has brilliant, almost screwball, chemistry with Chris Pine, and this is the first DCEU movie to have a consistent sense of humor that, unlike Suicide Squad, doesn’t feel like it was lifted wholesale from Marvel. Even if Wonder Woman isn’t the best DCEU movie, it does have its most iconic image. Seeing Wonder Woman become the hero she was mean’t to be in the instantly iconic No Man’s Land scene is the reason why we still love these stories.
It’s the ending that screws the movie. The CGI clusterfuck with Wonder Woman taking on Aries almost kills the movie. It feels like a studio-mandated choice since all the other action scenes in the movie are brilliant and unique.
When you step back to take a look at what works for the DCEU and what doesn’t, it’s clear that simplicity is the friend of its best superhero stories. Take Shazam, a movie so consistently simple that it’s better than the culturally more important Wonder Woman. It’s a simple approach: what if the Tom Hanks movie Big was a superhero movie? It really is that simple: throw in a Mark Strong villain, some adorable orphans, and Eddie from It Chapter One, and you have a winner.
- Birds of Prey
Harley Quinn is a remarkable character. From the ashes of the DCEU’s worst movie, she rises to lead her own movie, and it’s brilliant. Bird of Prey, much like Shazam, is simple. The plot, character motivations, and stylistic flair from director Cathy Yan can be whittled down to “get that fucking diamond.” This is a Harley Quinn movie, one that treats the character, and Margot Robbie who brings her to life, with respect rather than the softcore droolathon she had to go through in Suicide Squad. I cannot recommend this movie enough. And yeah – it’s better than Joker.
By Kevin Boyle
If you enjoyed this article, please check out our Batman retrospective right here. You can also take a look at our other cinematic universe retrospectives, for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Jurassic Park movies! And, as ever, if you enjoyed this and want to see more stuff like it, please consider supporting us on Ko-Fi.
By Kevin Boyle
Featured Image: ScreenRant