Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Rank the Films: DC Extended Universe


As any regular reader of this blog will know, lists are pretty darn nifty. I have a profound appreciation for straight-up lists. This is the thinking behind Rank the Films, a regular feature that pulls apart the pros and cons of a series of films, ranking them in order of bad to good.

Grab your lasso of truth, don your bat cowl and pull on that Kryptonian lycra - on the slate this month is the complete DC Extended Universe to date, from 2013's Man of Steel to 2017's Wonder Woman

So, without further ado, let's journey into the crime-riddled streets of DC's burgeoning cinematic universe and unpack which of its four films is best and which is worst so far. Did your favourite reach the top? Read on to find out...

4th - Suicide Squad (2016)

Rotten Tomatoes: 25%

Suicide Squad isn't just one of the biggest cinematic letdowns I've experienced, it's one of the worst major studio tentpole films I've ever had the misfortune to sit through.

The hype and the anticipation for this one was palpable. After a long and arduous marketing campaign, the dawning realisation this one was going to be a slog to sit through came after a mere 10 minutes, somewhere around the sixth or seventh obnoxious needle drop.

It only got worse from there. Director David Ayer spends a good hour introducing the raft of characters, and in the case of Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), providing follow-up introductions. The movie just lumbers from one montage to the next, adding more pointless characters like Incubus, Killer Croc and Slipknot until we're halfway through the movie and it's still not done with the introductions, let alone the actual plot. The worst of all comes with Katana - I still can't get over how bad this exposition dump is. Then we reach the third act, complete with slow motion gun throwing, cliched sky beam and gyrating witchcraft. It's so bad that it rivals Josh Trank's Fantastic Four. Yes, really.

And Jared Leto's Joker is just atrocious. The aesthetic DC went for across the film is truly horrid, and Leto's Joker gets the worst of it. The hair, the tattoos, the teeth grill - everything about his look, as well as Leto's performance, just rubs me the wrong way. If we never have to see juggalo Joker in another film I'll die a happy man.

However, Suicide Squad's biggest crime is that its existence robbed Arrow of continuing its excellent plot involving the same characters. I guess this is why we can't have nice things.

3rd - Man of Steel (2013)

Rotten Tomatoes: 55%

Man of Steel is a really odd film; it's an attempt to reimagine Superman, a beacon of hope and a vision of a better future, as a sulky, brooding macho man who couldn't give to a crap about how many innocents get caught in the crossfire.

Don't get me wrong, there are some aspects of this film I really like. The opening sequence set on Krypton is filled some interesting designs and a funky high sci-fi serial vibe akin to Flash Gordon or John Carter. I also really like the idea of Clark Kent isolating himself and wandering the wilds bouncing from job to job. Cavill is a great casting choice, as are Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner Amy Adams (four hugely respected actors might I add!) as Zod, Jor-El, Pa Kent and Lois Lane respectively. On paper, partnering Zack Snyder with that cast, an all-time great Hans Zimmer score and this character should have gone down like gangbusters.

But - and this is a big but - Man of Steel soon falls off the tracks around the midpoint. Maybe it's somewhere around the part where Pa Kent needlessly sacrifices himself to a hurricane. Maybe it's the bit where the ghost of Jor-El is acting as Lois Lane's pocket sat-nav aboard an alien mothership. Or maybe it's when the third act enters its sixth hour of untold mayhem.

Seriously, the fight between Zod and Superman just rolls on and on and on. It's a tiresome and arduous assault to the senses that involves untold destruction of Smallville and Metropolis. Granted, Snyder knows why audiences want and gives it to them - the choreography is swift and acrobatic, with a real sense of speed and punchiness. He just doesn't know when to rein it in and show restraint, and as a result Man of Steel is a film that leaves audiences feeling battered and dazed rather than enthralled and eager for more.

2nd - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Rotten Tomates: 28%

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had a lot riding on it. The marketing campaign for this film dragged on for literally an eternity. For three years we endured an endless slew of casting announcements, trailers and TV spots - and for what? Certainly not a good film by any stretch of the imagination - but is it the car crash that everyone is making it out to be?

No, I don't think so. Like every DC film, this film has its fans; those who can stomach Snyder's crippling moodiness and batshit insane subplots that pull on everything from The Dark Knight Returns, Injustice, Flashpoint and The Death of Superman. I can't count myself among said fans, but I can appreciate Dawn of Justice in fits and bursts - there are a collection of things here that counteract the crap, like Ben Affleck's fantastic portrayal of both Batman and Bruce Wayne, the roaring introduction of Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman and Jesse Eisenberg's decidedly different take on Lex Luthor. The warehouse brawl is simply superb; the operatic opening sequence is a great retelling of the Wayne murders.

And yet, for all this good stuff, there is a lot of missteps that put Dawn of Justice off the rhythm. Henry Cavill's Superman is overly mean and brooding; the Justice League setup is awkward and ham-fisted; the third act reveal of Doomsday a wasted opportunity; Lex's convoluted plan to manhandle Batman and Superman into conflict is bonkers when laid out on paper. Simply put, Dawn of Justice is five or six films colliding into one ungodly tangle of ideas and directions that pull it in all sorts of different directions and it never quite gels for long enough to succeed. Time, and my hatred for Suicide Squad, have meant Dawn of Justice is slowly creeping back into my good books - but its failings are too egregious for a lot of people to overlook.

1st - Wonder Woman (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes: 93% (at the time of writing)

Wonder Woman is easily the best film in the DCEU canon. Admittedly, it's not a high bar to clear given the muddled dreck we've sat through until this point - but nonetheless, it's the truth. The hype surrounding Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman is for real – it's not just a good movie for DC or its genre, it's a good movie full stop.

Devoid of cynicism, Jenkins infuses her film with the same blend of hope and sincerity that audiences know and love from Richard Donner's original Superman duology. Diana is a warm, earnest, caring, loveable, endearing and all-round heroic character, a wonderful convergence of director, screenwriter and actor. Gadot knocks it out of the park, embodying both the spirit and physical presence of Wonder Woman right out of the gates. The scene where she takes her first steps out in the No Man's Land and leads the charge against the Germans is destined to become one of the best superhero scenes put to film.

The rapport that Gadot shares with Chris Pine's Steve Trevor is another highlight, as Jenkins frames their friendship and romance through genuine and heartfelt character moments, like their slow dance in the French town square or the banter aboard the boat about biology.

The design and visual effects in Wonder Woman are astounding also, from the opening sequence in the idyllic and isolated isle of Themiscyra to capturing the true horrors of war in Flanders Field. When coupled with some striking cinematography, a wonderful score from Rupert Gregson-Williams, Wonder Woman comes together as a film for everyone that is stirring and compelling in equal measure.

Which DC Extended Universe film is your favourite? What did you think of Wonder Woman? Let me know in the comments section below! Thanks for reading.

3 comments:

  1. My favourite is by far Wonder Woman, that movie is almost perfect. I also would rank BvS second (I can't believe there still are people not getting over the Martha thing), but I liked Suicide Squad a little bit more than Man of Steel. But they were both quite bad.

    ReplyDelete
  2. We can definitely agree We is the top film in the DCEU. Otherwise, I have it a bit different.

    1. Wonder Woman
    2. Man of Steel
    3. Suicide Squad
    4. BvS: Dawn of Justice

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'd actually rank Squad as 2nd - it's unquestionably worst made out of those but it's not boring. I saw UC of BvS lately and it was just an excruciating experience

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