The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a couple of mediocre movies, but they’re few and far between, and the Infinity Saga as a whole has a strong central storyline that was engrossing for 11 years. None of its movies are expendable – they’re all cogs in a giant machine. The DC Extended Universe, on the other hand, has struggled a lot more. It’s had some great movies that built toward something that could be as fantastic and engaging as the MCU is, but it’s also made some major missteps. And these aren’t just boring movies – they’ve mischaracterized DC’s biggest characters and given us Easter eggs and sequel setups that went nowhere. So, Warner Bros. needs to separate the wheat from the chaff.
8 Should remove: Justice League
There’s an opportunity to make a Justice League movie that’s just as great as The Avengers, because the characters and their relationships are that strong. Unfortunately, the one that was directed by Zack Snyder, messed up by Warner Bros., and then reshot by Joss Whedon for a rushed release in 2017 was a complete hash. Superman, Batman, and the Flash were characterized all wrong. Batman shouldn’t be the leader of the team; Superman should. And Green Lantern needs to be involved! And the villain needs to actually be intimidating, like Thanos. Darkseid would be a prime candidate. Justice League needs a total redo – but leave most of the cast alone.
7 Should keep: Wonder Woman
Just when DC Comics fans had lost all faith in the cinematic universe built around their favorite characters, Patty Jenkins came along with Wonder Woman. The story, set during World War I, was the perfect way to introduce the moviegoing public to DC’s beloved Amazonian badass. The best villains are the ones that are both similar to the hero and their polar opposite, and few superhero movies understand this today. But Wonder Woman got it with Ares. As the God of War, Ares stood against Diana Prince’s anti-war stance, but as a pair of deified warriors, they were practically one and the same.
6 Should remove: Man of Steel
Man of Steel is technically the Iron Man of the DCEU. But let’s face it, it’s just not as strong a grounding for a cinematic universe. And it got Superman all wrong. The last son of Krypton is not the mopey, angsty loser we see in Man of Steel – he’s an unwavering hero who laments the fact that he can’t save everyone at all times.
Henry Cavill clearly cares about the Superman character – that much is evident from interviews, and he even has Clark Kent’s dorky charm – but the character he’s been forced to play as written doesn’t really feel like Superman. Man of Steel needs to be updated with a movie that still stars Cavill, but isn’t as dark or gloomy.
5 Should keep: Aquaman
After Jason Momoa’s rippling, tattoo-covered Arthur Curry successfully saved the character from years as a laughing stock in the comic book community, his first DCEU solo movie – directed by horror icon James Wan – was eagerly awaited by fans. While the film wasn’t perfect, it did bring the kingdom of Atlantis to life in spectacular fashion, deepen the supporting characters like Mera (and not to mention the title character), and feature some of the most breathtaking battle sequences in recent blockbuster memory. Aquaman set up exciting prospects for the DCEU: a sequel and a horror-tinged Trench-based spin-off are both in the works.
4 Should remove: Suicide Squad
James Gunn won’t clarify whether or not his upcoming DCEU entry, The Suicide Squad, is a reboot of David Ayer’s 2016 movie Suicide Squad or not. It’s looking like it might be a cross between a sequel and a reboot, perhaps not repeating the origin story of how the team got together, but ignoring everyone else – even recasting most of the roles. The best way to move forward with the Suicide Squad franchise is to take the very few things that worked about the first one (Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and the nihilistic humor and that’s about it) and move on with The Suicide Squad onwards.
3 Should keep: Shazam!
The MCU has done smaller movies featuring street-level characters living in a world where all the crazy, world-threatening events from the previous movie have taken place, but arguably, Shazam! did an even better job of it than any of those other movies, from the Superman cameo to the Batarang merchandise.
The lead character is Billy Batson, a regular kid in a world containing real-life superheroes who gets the chance to become a superhuman himself with the use of one magic word. Shazam! was hilarious, lighthearted, and a lot of fun. It’s the DCEU’s most Marvel-ish movie – in a good way.
2 Should remove: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
There’s the movie that DC Comics fans have been wanting to see for their whole lives buried somewhere in Batman v Superman, but the final product is far from it. After turning Superman into a murderer in Man of Steel, Zack Snyder did the same to Batman in BvS. There are also a number of sequel setups, from the Flash appearing to Bruce Wayne from the future to the “Knightmare” sequence, that were ignored by subsequent films. To top it all off, Jesse Eisenberg’s giggly portrayal of Lex Luthor totally butchered the character. With Batfleck being replaced, maybe this one should just be consigned to forgotten history.
1 Should keep: Birds of Prey
Birds of Prey hasn’t even been released yet, but things are looking good for the movie. Everything we’ve heard about it makes it sound great. DC icons like Black Canary and Victor Zsasz are finally making it to the screen. John Wick co-director Chad Stahelski has been brought in to punch up the action scenes. And above all, Margot Robbie is producing this time around, so she has more control over how the female characters are portrayed and she’s promised it’ll be less male gaze-y. This isn’t just a good direction for the DCEU; it’s a good direction for Hollywood blockbusters as a whole.