This year marks a big time for the DCEU, for better or worse. On the one hand, it released its most critically acclaimed movie yet with Wonder Woman, a solid origin story anchored by a charismatic performance from Gal Gadot. On the other hand, it released the semi-disastrous Justice League, which met with less than favorable reviews and a strikingly bad box office return.
The DCEU is one of the most divisive franchises in modern cinema. It has split fans and casual moviegoers down the middle with their generally bleak tone and misguided casting decisions. At the same time, it has been celebrated for their ability to take risks and make certain characters come to life before our eyes.
It’s that divisiveness that’s led to characters that have made fans stand up and cheer, and others which sent us cringing in the corner. It seems that, for every fantastic DCEU hero or villain, there’s one that is completely botched.
For this list, we’re taking a look at some of the best heroes and villains in the DCEU, as well as some of the worst. In particular, we’re looking at how faithful they are to their comic book counterparts, as well as if they work on a whole with the rest of the universe.
Here are the 8 Characters The DCEU Got Right (And 8 It Completely Ruined).
16. Right: Batman
There are few heroes as iconic as Batman. Bob Kane and Bill Finger made history in 1939 when they created Gotham’s Dark Knight, a dark, brooding hero with a distinctive look, personality, and weaponry.
Like his history in the comics, Batman’s film career has gone through many ups and downs, from Adam West’s campy shenanigans to Christian Bale’s grounded theatrics. And for all the squabbling on social media regarding his casting, Ben Affleck as the Dark Knight turned out to be one of the best decisions the DCEU ever made.
Affleck gives a somber performance as the grey-haired Wayne with some serious emotional baggage, and it’s clear that his beefed up size made for a very intimidating Batman.
Unfortunately, Affleck’s turn as the Dark Knight seems to be coming to an end before we even get him in his own solo film. It’s disappointing that one of the DCEU’s best casting decisions won’t even get the chance to star in his own movie.
15. Ruined: Superman
There are certain things you should never mix, like vinegar and peroxide, ammonia and bleach, and Superman and gloominess. When Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created the Big Blue Boys Scout in 1933, they revolutionized the history of comic books with a character that was the very definition of heroism.
Superman stands for truth, justice, and the American way, which is why it was so very jarring when Zack Snyder decided to make him into a dower sourpuss in 2013’s Man of Steel. The once bright beacon of hope and nobility had been turned into a depressing mope who was more concerned with his place in the world rather than saving it.
Sure, Justice League desperately tried to remedy this problem, but the happy-go-lucky resurrection of Superman is so juxtaposing to the universe’s dark tone that the damage has already been done.
14. Right: Harley Quinn
With a 26% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, there wasn’t a whole lot to love about last year’s Suicide Squad. However, even with a messy script and a rushed production, the film still has a few redeemable moments, most of which are provided by Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn.
With a mallet in her hand and a macabre smile on her face, Robbie perfectly captured Quinn’s frenetic, unstable energy. Although Harley’s look is given a modern update from the comics and animated series, her old school Harlequin costume makes a brief appearance in a flashback.
Easily the best inclusion in Suicide Squad, Robbie’s Quinn was the breakout star of the movie, and we hope she returns if Suicide Squad 2 ever manages to get off the ground.
13. Ruined: The Joker
If Harley Quinn is the strongest thing that Suicide Squad has going for it, then the Joker is easily the weakest. When you have one of the best comic book villains as the weakest link of your movie, you know you have a problem. Even an Academy-Award-winning actor like Jared Leto couldn’t save the film’s embarrassing mishandling of the Clown Prince of Crime.
Of course, having to follow Heath Ledger’s knockout performance in The Dark Knight is a hard thing to follow, and no matter what Leto and director David Ayer had cooked up, it would still have paled in comparison. However, no one could have ever imagined how cringe-worthy Leto’s pasty, tattooed thug would turn out.
Also, while Leto’s questionable performance and annoying laugh didn’t help the situation, it’s not all his fault. Most of Mr. J’s scenes in Suicide Squad were removed from the final cut, and Ayer has recently admitted that not making him the big bad of the movie was a crucial mistake.
12. Right: The Flash
Created by writer Robert Kanigher and comics artist Carmine Infantino, the Flash made his DC debut with Showcase #4 back in 1951 after being reinvented from a 1940s comics character. Since that time, the Scarlett Speedster has dashed across comic pages, movie screens, and television sets with his ability to run at superhuman velocities.
While the DCEU version of the character borrows more from Wally West than Barry Allen, the Flash is definitely a bright spot on the mostly gloomy franchise. Actor Ezra Miller does a commendable job bringing the character’s quirkiness and charm to life, with enough quips and moments of comic relief to win over (mostly) any naysayer.
Though his confusing cameo in Batman v Superman left most fans slackjawed and scratching their heads, Miller’s performance in Justice League is easily the best thing the film has going for it. Let’s hope that DC continues to expand upon the Scarlet Speedster in their upcoming Flashpoint movie.
11. Ruined: Aquaman
Though he comes from a long line of comics with substance, Aquaman is frequently the butt of superhero jokes given his uncanny ability to communicate with fish. The DCEU set out to squash those pesky misconceptions with the casting of Jason Mamoa, an actor who would bring a sharpened edge to Arthur Curry.
Unfortunately, we never get a sense of who Aquaman is as character from his recent appearance in Justice League. His aquatic backstory is only hinted at in a brief, tacked-on scene in Atlantis, and aside from one hilarious moment involving Wonder Woman’s lasso, Arthur Curry hardly leaves a lasting impression.
Instead, he’s reduced to a sort of meathead, a dude-man-bro who’s defining characteristics are yelling “whoo-ho” and littering the ocean depths, which he’s supposed to love, with empty bottles of whisky. Hopefully the character will be a little more fleshed out when it comes to his standalone adventure next year.
10. Right: Zod
Zod was technically the first big villain of the DCEU, and he didn’t disappoint. Played with a menacing ferocity by Michael Shannon, the Kryptonian General provides the perfect yin to the Man of Steel’s yang. Reeling from the loss of his people, Zod is hell-bent on resurrecting his home planet, even if it means the complete extinction of the human race.
Zod’s misguided authority makes him not only an intimidating villain, but a relatable one. He’s not just a madman seeking world domination; he’s a leader with a sense of duty to his people.
General Zod made his first appearance in DC Comics way back in 1961. Since that time there have been countless iterations of the character, and, thankfully, Shannon’s performance in Man of Steel is faithful in representing all of his best attributes.
9. Ruined: Steppenwolf
While the DCEU’s first villain, Zod, is a wonderfully realized antagonist, their latest, Steppenwolf, is a hodgepodge of tired clichés and tropes. He’s not just one of the worst villains in the DCEU, but in all comic book movie history. With horrible CGI, a cockamamie plan, and zero motivation, Steppenwolf’s character can barely be called a “character” at all.
Created by one of the most innovative comic book artists and writers of all time, Jack Kirby, Steppenwolf is one of the insanely powerful New Gods from the planet Apokolips, though you would never get that from his rushed backstory in Justice League.
Steppenwolf’s onscreen interpretation is reduced to a half-brained nitwit who’s goal is unclear and whose poorly animated face is hard to look at.
8. Right: Alfred Pennyworth
If there’s one thing that Bruce Wayne can count on during his trials and tribulations as Gotham’s dark protector, it’s Alfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth. As a loyal butler to Bruce since he was a small boy, Alfred serves more as a surrogate father to the Dark Knight than simply a dotting servant.
In the comics as well as most of the onscreen interpretations, Alfred is depicted as a wise, intelligent confidant and, thankfully, Jeremy Irons carries on this tradition. His Alfred Pennyworth is constantly weighing in on Bruce’s moral dilemmas, and even gets his hands dirty by helping Bruce train and taking control of the Batplane.
7. Ruined: Jimmy Olsen
James Bartholomew Olsen, the young photographer for the Daily Planet, first appeared in Action Comics #6, making him a thriving character in the Superman continuity almost as long as the Man of Steel himself with various appearances in comics, TV shows, and movies.
So how does the DCEU choose to honor this character’s legacy? By killing him off after just a few minutes of screen time. Before viewers knew what happened, poor Jimmy gets his head blown off by a Russian thug in the opening act of Batman v Superman.
Most viewers didn’t even know it was Jimmy until the Ultimate Edition came out and Zack Snyder confirmed that it was actually Olsen who bit the big one.
We admit, Jimmy was never a huge deal in the Donner Superman movies, but at least he was given some lines. It seems that this quirky reporter never steood a chance in the DCEU, who would rather write him off rather than bothering to incorporate him organically into the script.
6. Right: Antiope
Antiope probably has the oldest origin in the history of DC characters, being that the Amazonian warrior is based on a character from Greek mythology. In the comics, Antiope made her introduction in a 1984 Wonder Woman comic as the sister of Queen Hippolyta and a leader of the Amazons of Bana-Mighdall.
Antiope made her DCEU debut earlier this year in Wonder Woman, secretly training Diana Prince against the wishes of her mother. Portrayed by Robin Wright, Antiope is just as fierce as she is beautiful, teaching Diana the lessons that the Amazonian Princess will carry with her throughout the rest of the film.
Unfortunately, Antiope is cut down after Germans invade Themyscira. She sacrifices herself for Diana, throwing herself in front of a bullet. To honor her memory, Diana proudly wears Antiope’s tiara, completing her iconic look from the comics.
5. Ruined: Cyborg
Along with Robin, Starfire, and a number of other prepubescent superheroes, Victor Stone, aka Cyborg, was originally a member of the Teen Titans before being written in as a founding member of the Justice League in 2011.
His backstory, a teenager whose parents use him as a test subject for intelligence enhancement experiments, is deeply tragic and interesting. It’s a shame then that the DCEU completely glosses over it.
Aside from a brief clip in BvS, we’re introduced to Victor Stone post-accident, and all the rich history that could have been mined from his backstory is completely wasted.
Victor Stone is less a character in the DCEU than he is a mere plot device. We don’t really know who Cyborg is aside from the fact that he can shoot laser beams and likes to wear hoodies because of his insecurity. Here’s hoping that he’s finally given the time and attention he deserves if his solo movie ever comes to fruition.
4. Right: Commissioner Gordon
When you’re a guy who dresses up like a bat and spends nights fighting criminals, you don’t exactly become a person with the biggest list of friends. However, as many enemies as Batman’s made, Commissioner Gordon is one of the few who he can call pal.
James “Jim” Gordon is the first real ally of Batman. Both characters share a passion for fighting the criminal underbelly of Gotham, with Gordon frequently calling on the Dark Knight for help by shining the iconic Bat-signal in the sky.
We didn’t get much of J.K. Simmons’ Commissioner in Justice League (a real shame considering his intense workout regimen for the part), but from what we did see, we liked.
Simmons’ look and demeanor perfectly matched the best incarnations of Jim Gordon, and while Gary Oldman is a tough act to follow, we can’t wait to see what Simmons does when he shines the Bat-signal in Matt Reeves’ solo Batman film.
3. Ruined: Lois Lane
As an award-winning report for the Daily Planet and the love of Clark Kent’s life, Lois Lane is one of the most recognizable female comic book characters. The tough-as-nails journalist should instantly pop on screen whenever she appears in a live-action adaptation, but that’s not exactly the case with the DCEU.
Lois failing to resonate with audiences isn’t so much Amy Adams’ fault, who is a phenomenal actress, as it is the complete lack of depth for her character. In most instances, Lane just seems to be going through the motions, and her defining characteristic of being a plucky, fearless reporter seems to get lost in the shuffle.
Son’t get us started on her lack of chemistry with Henry Cavill. The romance between Clark Kent and Lois Lane should be one of the driving forces of any Superman story, but the DCEU version lacks any sort of passion, heat, or credibility to make it worth the audience’s time.
2. Right: Wonder Woman
It should go without saying that Wonder Woman is without a doubt the brightest star in the DCEU’s stable of characters. Played with an endearing charisma by Gal Gadot, she’s a bright beacon of hope that leaps off off the comic book pages and onto the screen.
However, her lukewarm reception in Justice League proves that it’s not just Gadot’s performance alone that captured audience’s interest. Director Patty Jenkins was able to bring Diana Prince to life by crafting a compelling and dynamically rich story for this year’s Wonder Woman.
It’s obvious that the Amazonian Princess struck a chord with audiences who kept coming back to Wonder Woman and made it the biggest movie of the summer. With Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot now confirmed to return for Wonder Woman 2, we’re confident that the heroine can bounce back from her minor slump in Justice League.
1. Ruined: Lex Luthor
Nothing against Jesse Eisenberg, who’s obviously a talented actor, but something just didn’t seem right when it was announced that he would be playing famous DC villain Lex Luthor. Luthor is Superman’s archrival, a genius, power-mad business tycoon, and the decision to cast the Social Network star led some fans to worry how he would play the character.
Their fears were confirmed when Batman v Superman turned Lex Luthor into a whiny brat who exudes annoying ticks rather than intimidating brilliance. The villain is excruciatingly annoying in the movie, with motivation that’s either too vague or too dense for the audience to totally grasp.
However, the blame shouldn’t be laid solely at Eisenberg’s feet. Zack Snyder’s incompetent direction, which had Luthor shove Jolly Ranchers into mouths and place jars of pee on desks, made the character beyond savable, making Luthor our pick for the worst interpreted DCEU character yet.
Do you agree or disagree? What other characters do you think the DCEU did right (or completely ruined)? Sound off in the comments!
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