6. Aquaman (2018)
The idea of the ultra-colourful and somewhat silly Aquaman character of DC Comics being translated into the infinitely less colourful and more serious DC Extended Universe seemed to be something of an impossibility. But in casting ‘Game of Thrones’ alum (and vision of masculinity) Jason Momoa, and hiring Saw co-creator James Wan to produce and direct, Warner Bros struck gold with a wholly enjoyable superhero movie.
Restricted somewhat by the confines of its origin story premise, and at times looking as goofy as the Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern film, Aquaman wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but its biggest strength was managing to make each of us care about its central character as it threw us onto a rollercoaster of continent-hopping, pun-dropping, fantasy-action-adventure that expressed hints of Indiana Jones.
Wan, who had been a billion dollar director with the Furious 7, proved once again that he had the chops to make a pulsating actioner with enough levity to emotionally resonate, Aquaman being the 2nd certified hit of the new DCEU, its success indicating a positive trend as Warner Bros and DC looked to move beyond the failure of Justice League.
Even in the shadow of its failed predecessor, Aquaman made $1.2billion at the global box office, the total speaking to just how enjoyable and rewatchable this DC movie is. While it may not challenge convention and operate at the very top of the sub-genre like the films to come on this list, Aquaman is still head and shoulders above every other film listed thus far.
5. The Suicide Squad (2021)
Perhaps the most out-and-out comedy of the DCEU released thus far, James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad was able to capture some of the magic of the filmmaker’s Guardians of the Galaxy films and present them at a higher age rating, replicating the fun of the MCU whilst importantly differentiating this Warner/DC offering through hyper-violence and darker themes.
Filled with borderline inappropriate jokes, don’t-blink visuals and an identifiable narrative core that gifted each of the characters a sense of purpose and deeper meaning than simply being a part of another throwaway story, The Suicide Squad was not only an effective antihero comedy of losers and assholes, it was a powerful parody of the genre itself and the ways in which we as audiences have become accustomed to our heroes performing acts of supreme physical violence.
An inconsequential universe offering by design, The Suicide Squad doesn’t quite hit as hard as some of the films to come, but its relatable misfit heroes and message of finding comfort in finding yourself – as well as some truly rib-shaking comedy – place this James Gunn film only just above James Wan’s Aquaman.
There may be a lack of continent-hopping fun and never-before-seen film techniques, but The Suicide Squad earns points for being the appropriate opposition to the comic book movie status quo, a tag that each DCEU film should be looking to earn.
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4. Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
Zack Snyder is the filmmaker credited with giving birth to the DCEU, and in Zack Snyder’s Justice League the director offered a film that is in many ways the ultimate DCEU movie.
Re-assembling his vision of the first live-action big screen collaboration between Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg, after having it unceremoniously taken from him and pulled apart years earlier, Zack Snyder put together a well-paced and rhythmic superhero offering that looked and felt like nothing superhero cinema had seen before.
Free from the confines of a theatrical release runtime, Snyder’s four hour epic brought gravitas to the central Justice League narrative and is by far the best of Snyder’s DCEU trilogy. In this 2021 version of Justice League, each hero was properly catered for, their powers essential to the narrative and their group dynamics entertaining. In many ways, Zack Snyder’s Justice League was pure wish fulfilment for fans of DC’s reputably darker comic book output, but it misses out on the top three here for having little by the way of threat to its central heroes and for operating with an at times heavy assumption that those watching the film are entrenched in DC superhero lore and the many characters that adorn the pages of DC comic books.
At four hours, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is also less rewatchable than some of the more punchy and light films to come, but so far as epic superhero team-ups go, this 2021 HBO Max offering is very strong; a monumental improvement on the 2017 version and a noteworthy alternative to Marvel’s superhero team-up canon.
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