3. Man Of Steel
Zack Snyder's Man of Steel reimagines Superman as a 21st Century superhero who is equally feared and distrusted by the world at large. Taking the baton from Christopher Nolan's work in The Dark Knight Trilogy, the auteur director creates a beautiful and dramatic retelling of Kal-El's origin story, spending more time exploring the planet of Krypton than any previous Superman adaptation. Cavill's grim portrayal contrasts markedly with Christopher Reeves', but fits the aesthetic and tone of the nascent DCEU.
In contrast to what would come, it was less the ideas and more the action that proved controversial, specifically the final battle; it's CGI-heavy, and the amount of destruction caused by the fight between Superman and Zod is startling. As a standalone film, Man of Steel was exciting; indeed, it could even have served as the perfect beginning for a loose series of Superman movies in the style of Nolan's Batman films. Somewhat unfortunately, it became so much more; it's the foundation on which every subsequent DCEU movie was built, meaning Snyder's take on Superman (which is frankly "Elseworlds"-esque) was twisted to be the mainstream interpretation of the character.
Starring Jason Momoa as the titular hero, this year's Aquaman is one of DC's strongest films to date. It's not a perfect movie - there are problems with the CGI, and the glorified "treasure hunt" plot doesn't quite work - but Aquaman is buoyed by director James Wan's lavish world-building as he explores DC's version of Atlantis. Momoa is perfectly cast, and there's tremendous chemistry between him and his co-star, Amber Heard. Wan is a horror director by trade, and that shows in his use of the Cthulhu mythos and an attack by the monstrous race known as the Trench. In a beautiful thematic twist, though, these monsters prove to be the Sea King's first army - and his most reliable allies. The plot acknowledges that Aquaman is commonly mocked for being a superhero who can talk to fish, and turns that much-derided ability into his greatest power.
Aquaman contrasts markedly with the earlier DCEU films. Where Man of Steel was dark and somber, Aquaman has a zany energy that just about sustains it. The film could probably have done with a little bit of editing in the middle, but on the whole it's a very effective movie indeed.
1. Wonder Woman
Undeniably the most influential film in the DCEU to date, Wonder Woman broke the glass ceiling for female superheroes. Patty Jenkins' movie was lovingly-crafted, and proved that a female-led superhero flick could be a success - it grossed over $800 million worldwide. Jenkins and star Gal Gadot undoubtedly made a perfect team, with Wonder Woman presented as a complex, layered individual who was battling to bring an end to all war. The standout scene is one in which Wonder Woman steps into No Man's Land, drawing enemy fire and giving the Allies a chance to push forwards. It was an action sequence like no other in the superhero genre before or after; more of a character moment than an out-and-out brawl, it symbolized everything the movie was going for.
As with all of the DCEU films, Wonder Woman has its weak points, most pointedly an overlong CGI battle in the third act that undercuts certain themes and doesn't deliver otherwise. But none of that stops it being one of the best, and most important, superhero movies in recent years.
How would you rank the DCEU movies? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments.
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
- Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020