DC content hasn’t been the same since Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films. Some would argue that Nolan’s Dark Knight Saga is more so a crime thriller than a superhero movie itself. Was there anyone with actual supernatural powers in those films… not really. Just a bunch of bad people that each had their own villainous qualities. Perhaps that’s the direction DC needs to go towards. The newest DC blockbuster, Suicide Squad, with director James Gunn received a lot of positive feedback from critics and viewers alike. Some calling it, “the best thing they have seen since the Dark Knight Trilogy.” So what did Gunn do so well in this movie that other DC films seemed to lack? What is the direction and future of the DC universe? We will dive into some important things to look out for as we address the DC Dilemma.
Let’s take a trip back in time to 2008. The Dark Knight, DC’s flagship movie, grabs the attention of everyone in the film industry. Nolan’s creativity matched with Bale’s depiction of the Cape Crusader was fun from the start. But the standout performance of the film went to Heath Ledger and his incredible performance for the role of Joker. Ledger was incredible, diving into the twisted mind of the Joker head first. From this point of DC film, is where we begin to see the decline of the franchise as a whole. There were definitely some winners out of the bunch, but as a catalog overall it was weak to say the least. Let’s take a journey down the DC timeline to see the films that were winners and losers. All of the films that will be addressed after the 2008 release of Dark Knight, will be a majority of box office hits. Cartoons or animated films, will not be taken into consideration here.
Green Lantern (2011)
For being one of the worst movies that we have seen over the past 10 years, Green Lantern had the source material to be a somewhat decent film. Ryan Reynolds who would go on to play a Marvel fan-favorite Deadpool really didn’t provide much to the role of Hal Jordan. The movie, to be blunt, was a snooze fest. At least Ryan was able to work with future wife Blake Lively on the film. Director Martin Campbell, famously known for the hits GoldenEye and Casino Royale in the Bond franchise, added an L to his list of directed movies. Grade: 28% (That’s generous).
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The sequel to the Dark Knight did not disappoint. Bale’s swan song for Bruce Wayne gave everyone the redemption story they were looking for after losing Rachel in the previous film. Tom Hardy’s role as Bane was gripping and a character that transcends the DC universe. A very worthy sequel with a star-studded cast made for one of DC’s last great films in the past decade. Grade: 95%
Man of Steel (2013)
A well-done introduction to a new wave of Superman content. Henry Cavil as Clark Kent makes sense. Likable, charismatic, and absolutely jacked. The love story between his character and Lois is authentic, which is something that I consider to be seriously lacking amongst DC films. Although I am not a big Snyder Fan, this is definitely one of his better projects to date. Grade: 83%
Batman V Superman (2016)
A film that felt like a DC rendition of the Avengers really fell flat on a very cool idea. The film is awfully dark in nature, and Ben Affleck is much, much better in other roles. So far my least favorite depiction of Batman that we have seen in film. Side note, I genuinely think a dark depiction of Batman can work (Rob Pattinson) but the Batman we had in these films felt way too modern. The shining light was Jesse Eisenberg who played a pretty nice Lex Luthor. Grade: 61%
Wonder Woman (2017)
Disclaimer, I have not seen any Wonder Woman movies besides the two starring Gal Gadot. With that being said this first exposure to her character was positive for sure. I thought she was great and opposite a personal favorite in cinema Chris Pine, made the film flow nicely. Her introduction into the franchise was a breath of fresh air, and I was intrigued to see how her movie compared to her first appearance in BvS. Definitely a positive in a stretch of some super poor films. Grade 80%
Justice League/Snyder Cut (2017/2021)
I will address the two films together for simplicity since one is just a bad extension of the other. DC falls into this realm of making their films very dark. Not just in nature, but also the screen is just very poorly lit relative to the rest of the people on screen. This is DC’s close try at an Avenger film? Really? Confusing plot, poor introduction of two characters not seen in the DCU for a while, and honestly… just boring. The Snyder cut version will take you two days to watch at least. If you can do it in one, hats off to you. Also, the Snyder cut was shot in 4:3 which he tells people to get over. Myself being a person who has worn glasses since I was a child, prefer my entire screen to be filled up compared to only a portion. This has nothing to do with Snyder the person, I just think the film was a poor repeat of the 2017 Film. Grade: 2017 67%, 2021 45%.
This may be the worst of the DC movies by far, ever. I am a huge Game of Thrones fan. Even through the woes of season 8, I still loved the show. Jason Momoa was a bad, bad dude in season 1 of GOT. In Aquaman, he felt like a guppy in the pacific ocean. He was way out of his league unfortunately playing Aquaman, and once again paired with a poor script. Did anyone else feel like the CGI was awful? I watched it on 2 different screens to see if it was me, but I felt like they could have done much better with computer imaging. Don’t waste your time with Aquaman. Grade 25%
Fresh new character, and great character development. Loved both Billys in Shazam as well. The best part, it was actually funny! The writing was a much-needed break from the horrible stuff we have seen over the past few years. I left the theatre thinking, “I can’t wait for the next Shazam movie.” Shazam is Superman with a disguise. One thing I was missing in this was a little backstory on the character. But it showed up later in the film. Grade 84%
Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
Colorful and vibrant seems like the new wave for DC. We saw this in the new wonder woman and the suicide squad film. Making the screen pop brings a new element to DC that will hopefully attract a new kind of audience. Although this was a sequel, which typically are notoriously worse usually, this one was around the same quality as the first. Pedro Pascal is an unconventional villain superpower-wise, but perhaps the one who steals the show is Kristen Wiig as Cheetah. I hope they can bring her character back to the DCU. Grade 79%
Suicide Squad (2021)
So I am fully aware that there are multiple suicide squad films out there. With it being a different movie but the same foundation for the characters, I figured I would discuss the newest addition to the franchise. This movie is moving DC in the right direction. Colorful, humorous, bloody, and James Gunn as the director. I could definitely see where he pulled elements of Guardians of the Galaxy into this film. Elba needs to stick around for more DC productions because he is outstanding. Also, the movie kick-started a Peacemaker line that will become a TV series starring John Cena. Although I am not a fan of John Cena as an actor, I am intrigued to see what he can do as a comical Peacemaker for the DCU. Grade 84%
As lengthy as that was, I felt it was necessary to dive into the DC franchise and analyze the good from the bad. The problem with DC is there are too many bad movies to compete with the likes of Marvel. I’m not saying they have to be Marvel, because no one can. But this doesn’t take away their ability to make good films. Clearly, the darker-natured films didn’t work, especially when paired with a bad or confusing script. DC needs to take the success of Suicide Squad and leverage that to make their future films. I think Shazam started a new wave of success for DC. Rob Patt’s Batman will kick off next year with the next movie by DC followed by the Shazam Anti-Hero film Black Adam. Two movies that I think have the potential to be very good films. It seems the new Batman film will be a darker tone much like previous films in the Batman franchise. I will revisit this discussion following that movie.