I Don’t Want to Be the Bad Guy Anymore

Megamind asks the question, what if the bad guy won? Despite making a dramatic narrative shift with How to Train Your Dragon, DreamWorks Animation wasn’t done making satirical comedies. Megamind is a sincere superhero parody that was right up my ally. Since I’m a huge superhero fan, it didn’t matter that I was 15 at the time. I was excited as soon as I heard the concept. Although I did accidentally mistake a Despicable Me trailer for Megamind. Understandable considering both are 2010 computer animated movies about a theatrically comedic supervillain learning the value of being a hero. The difference is Despicable Me got a long running franchise, while Megamind was one and done. Apart from the short film The Button of Doom, Megamind is a seriously underrated superhero flick that deserves more attention. I really wish DreamWorks didn’t lose faith in straightforward comedies. The 3D computer animation is an improvement over Monsters vs. Aliens in some areas.

Megamind has tons of style and personality thanks to comedian Will Ferrell. He’s an “evil” blue supervillain with the giant head of the Leader, baldness of Lex Luthor, genius intellect of Brainiac, and showmanship of rocker Alice Cooper. On the opposing side is Brad Pitt’s second DreamWorks role after Sinbad as prototypical white caped Elvis inspired superhero Metro Man. He seems like a jerk at first, but their long-standing rivalry is purely circumstantial. Much like Superman, Megamind & Metro Man were both sent from exploding planets to two vastly different lifestyles. Megamind was raised as a villain in prison and Metro Man was raised as a hero in luxury. Although Megamind tries to be good, he realizes it’s a lot more fun to be bad. They engage in a typical battle of good vs. evil until Megamind unexpectedly wins. What does a villain do when he no longer has a hero to fight? Apparently he makes his own hero.

Megamind is fast-paced with an awesome 80’s rock soundtrack and a cast full of equally hilarious comedians. Fellow SNL alumni Tina Fey is just as good as the Lois Lane inspired reporter Roxanne Richie. She grows indifferent to being kidnapped over and over, but finds a new purpose when she unknowingly falls in love with a disguised Megamind. She helps him to be good and they become a cute DreamWorks couple. Apart from an invisible car, brainbots, and a dehydration gun, David Cross voices Megamind’s faithfully evil fish headed mechanical gorilla suit wearing Minion. Along with constantly mispronouncing words, their bumbling villainy is another highlight. Jonah Hill’s second DreamWorks role is as Roxanne’s dorky cameraman Hal Stewart. Named after two Green Lanterns. Megamind manages to synthesize Metro Man’s powers and they wind up in Hal. So he disguises himself as Marlon Brando’s Jor-El to make him Metro City’s newest superhero Tighten. In a clever twist, Tighten is the one who breaks bad, while Megamind is forced to become the good bad guy in an epic climax. Megamind is a cliché filled thrill ride that I can’t help but love.

19. Megamind

Megamind makes his arrival with Minion

Tower of Death

Game of Death II has nothing to do with Bruce Lee. Despite using footage from Enter the Dragon, childhood home videos, and part of his funeral, this 1981 “sequel” is very much part of Bruceploitation. The death of the martial arts legend led to a series of imitators trying to be the next Bruce Lee. There was Bruce Li, Bruce Le, Bruce Lie, Bruce Ly, and so many more who never came close. Bruceploitation inspired several sequels to his older films, but only Game of Death II uses archive footage.

Although the English dub uses the name Billy Lo, there’s no connection between movies. Billy seeks answers for the death of his friend Chin Ku or something to that effect. I honestly stopped caring as soon as Bruce Lee’s character was killed and quickly replaced by a brother played by previous stand-in martial artist Tong Lung. Bobby Lo avengers his brother’s death at The Palace of Death. There are several larger than life villains and an overly long climax underground in the Tower of Death.

It’s not that I don’t have respect for other martial artists in the movie, but why should I care if Bruce Lee isn’t involved? The only time I gave my undivided attention was in a scene where a very naked blonde assailant seduces Bobby, then tries to kill him. Just as memorable is the ridiculous scene that follows it. Where Bobby is attacked by a guy in a clearly fake lion costume. Game of Death II is a less than inspired last ditch effort to profit from a long deceased legend.

6. Game of Death II

Bobby Lo faces an opponent

His Legacy Lives On

Game of Death is the martial arts epic we sadly never got to see. Everyone (my mother included) was shocked to learn Bruce Lee passed away at the young age of 32. It seemed like he was just getting started. Game of Death was meant to be Lee’s second directorial effort, but Enter the Dragon kept him from finishing it. Despite over 39 minutes worth of footage existing, only 11 minutes were repurposed into an awkward American production. Needless to say, my mom was less than eager to recommend it. The much cooler original Game of Death plot would’ve seen Bruce Lee as retired martial arts champion Hai Tien.

The idea of him ascending a pagoda to fight increasingly tough opponents can still be seen in action movies and video games today. Same with his iconic yellow & black jumpsuit. The 1978 film butchers the footage with a less than original revenge story against racketeers. Every trick in the book is used to convince you several stunt doubles are Bruce Lee. The most infamous example being a cardboard cutout of Lee’s face taped to a mirror. Footage from Way of the Dragon and Fist of Fury are used since Billy Lo is an actor filming scenes from both movies. The stand-in always wears thick sunglasses and stands at a distance, but you can clearly tell he isn’t Lee in close-ups.

A presumed death, that distastefully uses real funeral footage, gives Billy the excuse to have plastic surgery and wear a disguise. When his American girlfriend played by Colleen Camp is threatened, Lo takes a yellow motorcycle tracksuit and faces the mob at their pagoda restaurant. As expected, the only highlight is seeing Bruce Lee himself. Although it feels harsher without the dialogue, it’s good enough seeing Lee fight the nunchucking Dan Inosanto, flashy Ji Han-jae, and 7 ft. basketball player kareem Abdul-Jabbar himself. Their fight is particularly memorable since Abdul-Jabbar is so huge. Game of Death has so much lost potential that can’t always be found in the finished cut.

5. Game of Death

Billy Lo (Hai Tien) faces an opponent

P.S. I’ve supplied the real Game of Death underneath.

The Art of Fighting Without Fighting

Enter the Dragon is the greatest martial arts movie I’ve ever seen. A fitting end to Bruce Lee’s tragically short career. Enter the Dragon was released only a month after Lee’s death in 1973. It became one of the most successful movies of all time and a major influence on pop culture. Elements of the plot inspired TV shows, comic books, video games, and anime. Unlike his previous movies, I did see pieces of Enter the Dragon when I was younger thanks to my parents watching it a lot. Enter the Dragon is the ultimate combination of everything awesome about the 70’s. More than just the Kung Fu craze, Enter the Dragon has elements of a Bond style spy flick and Blaxploitation.

Bruce Lee became such an icon in America that Enter the Dragon was co-produced in Hong Kong as well as the U.S. It was finally my chance to hear his un-dubbed English speaking voice. Bruce Lee plays a Shaolin Temple instructor simply known as Lee. Like Lee himself, he brought his own martial arts philosophy to the role. Lee uses emotional content in the art of “fighting without fighting.” A British Intelligence agent brings him in for a mission on a private island. Like Mortal Kombat, the best fighters in the world are brought together for a martial arts competition. Lee goes to avenge his sister who was inadvertently killed by the American O’Harra. Most of the cast is ethnically diverse with horror legend John Saxon as wealthy gambler Roper and afro sporting African American martial artist Jim Kelly as Williams. They’re a precursor to Power Man and Iron Fist who join Lee in his fight.

The competition is an exciting display of everyone’s individual skill. Even bodybuilding martial artist Bolo plays a part. The drug trafficking villain Han is literally right out of a comic book with a deadly series of iron clawed hands. There’s a distinct amount of blood and steel in the movie. Along with nudity in the form of ladies keeping the competitors company. Lee is only interested in fellow undercover spy Mei Ling. Bruce Lee delivers his most passionate performance yet. His high flying fight with O’Harra is a personal one. An underground fight against henchmen makes perfect use of his bo staff, baton, and nunchuck skills. You may even spot a young Jackie Chan. When an epic martial arts battle breaks out, Lee has an iconic brutal encounter with Han in an impressively shot hall of mirrors. You know it’s serious when Lee tastes his own blood. Enter the Dragon is the culmination of everything groundbreaking about Bruce Lee.

4. Enter the Dragon

Lee readies for battle

Return of the Dragon

The Way of the Dragon is the martial arts extravaganza that brought us the epic fight between Bruce Lee & Chuck Norris. Apart from that, Way of the Dragon is probably my fourth favorite Bruce Lee film by default. There’s definitely a stronger lean towards comedy different from Fist of Fury or The Big Boss. Not that Bruce Lee’s accomplished martial arts action doesn’t shine through. He also wrote, produced, and directed the film himself. Tang is much more of a fish out of water getting himself into awkward situations since he doesn’t speak much English. The movie’s only nude scene involves him accidentally picking up a prostitute.

Tang travels to Rome where he meets the lovely restaurant owner Chen and her Uncle Wang. Tang is used for his martial arts skills when their restaurant is threatened by gangsters led by their big boss Ho. Bruce Lee’s knowledge of different fighting techniques is displayed when he uses karate and Chinese boxing all while continuing to dance around. He teaches this to the restaurant staff so that they can defend themselves. Another highlight is Tang’s use of a bo staff and two nunchucks at once. Way of the Dragon was retitled Return of the Dragon after Bruce Lee’s tragic death.

It’s far more international since martial arts were still so popular in America. That’s where Chuck Norris comes in. Before he became a living legend, Norris was just a humble martial artist playing Colt opposite his Chinese counterpart. Their 10 minute Coliseum fight more than lives up to the legend. Norris’ hairy chest couldn’t be more different than Lee’s bare chest, but they are very evenly matched. They adopt each other’s style all while a cat watches. In the end, Tang shows respect for his opponent when forced to take him out. Way of the Dragon is more lightweight, but it knows when to leave an impact.

3. The Way of the Dragon

Tang vs. Colt

The Chinese Connection

Fist of Fury is truly the martial arts flick that unleashed Bruce Lee. Although The Big Boss got his foot in the door, Fist of Fury made him an international phenomenon. Despite mixing up its American title The Chinese Connection, the film was an even more successful Hong Kong production. There wasn’t a person alive in the 70’s who didn’t want to learn martial arts or hurt themselves swinging nunchucks. Fist of Fury is easily my second favorite Bruce Lee movie. This is the film that finally shows his fist fighting furoristy in full force. While still having an unexpectedly complex story backing it up. Fist of Fury takes place in the 30’s and explores tension between the Chinese and Japanese. Specifically the honorable Jingwu School and the dishonorable Hongkou dojo.

Bruce Lee is the man in the middle playing instant Kung Fu icon Chen Zhen. Although he comes to Shanghai for his fianceé, he’s devastated to learn of his master’s mysterious death. Chen suspects Hongkou dojo when they taunt his death with the disrespectful sign “Sick Man of East Asia.” I knew I was watching something special when Chen arrives at their doorstep and makes the entire dojo eat their words. You feel the strength of Bruce Lee’s every punch, kick, and jab. Followed by his awesome use of nunchucks. Lee’s trademark scream only enhances the experience.

When tensions rise after a discriminatory park incident, Chen becomes a fugitive seeking revenge when he learns the truth. Although not as bloody as The Big Boss, there is still a nude scene involving a dancer. Chen infiltrates the Japanese dojo just to get to their big boss Suzuki. Despite the all-Asian cast, there is a non-dubbed white Russian played by real life Bruce Lee student Robert Baker. He displays his martial arts skills in an intense fight with Chen that leaves him hypnotized. Since the fighting will never be over, Fist of Fury ends on an appropriately ambiguous note. Fist of Fury strikes a balance between social commentary and high flying action.

2. Fist of Fury

Chen Zhen hypnotizes his enemy

The Big Brother from Tangshan

The Big Boss is my introduction to the greatest martial artist who ever lived. Thanks to my parents, I’ve known the legend of Bruce Lee my entire life. I just haven’t seen any of his movies until very recently. Although it’s part of the experience, I saw them all with subtitles instead of awkward dubbing. After the cancellation of The Green Hornet, Bruce Lee struggled to find work for years. Despite having to leave his family and work in terrible conditions, filming a low budget movie in Hong Kong was the best decision he could’ve made.

Although confusingly titled Fists of Fury in America, The Big Boss became the most successful Hong Kong production at the time. Bruce Lee is cool because he broke free from Asian stereotypes and delivered intensely complex martial arts heroes. The Big Boss is definitely his most raw and bloody film. The 70’s were rife with R rated exploitation style violence. One scene involving a saw-to-the-head was so gory that it had to be cut. There’s also an expected nude scene involving a prostitute. The Big Boss is probably my third favorite of Bruce Lee’s four completed films.

Lee plays Cheng Chao-an, a big brother visiting his cousins in Thailand. Although I expected more, Cheng doesn’t fight thanks to a promise he made to his mother. When his jade necklace comes off, Bruce Lee lets loose with his signature fast-paced furosity. The Big Boss refers to the owner of his local ice factory who uses the business as a front to smuggle cocaine. When friends & relatives turn up missing, Cheng seeks bloody revenge. Despite the intense nature of his fights, there’s still room for humor like the big boss throwing a birdcage onto a hanger. The Big Boss isn’t flashy, but it is a powerful introduction to a martial arts legend.

1. The Big Boss

Cheng strikes

The Brave and the Bold

Justice League untied the League, but divided the fanbase. Although Wonder Woman finally gave the DC Extended Universe a win, it was still way too soon for a large scale team up. Unlike Phase One of the MCU, Man of Steel and Wonder Woman are the only solo movies set before Justice League. The first 5 movies of the DCEU are the equivalent of Iron Man, Civil War, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers. I was nevertheless very excited to finally see the Justice League of America on the big screen. First uniting in The Brave and the Bold #28, Gardner Fox created the team in 1960 as a Silver Age version of the Justice Society of America. With superheroes as big as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter on the team, how could I not be a huge fan of the Justice League?

If not for DC’s bestselling superteam, Marvel may not even exist. Making it all the more pathetic that Warner Bros. couldn’t even get a movie made before The Avengers was released. The Justice League had far more success in animation. From kid friendly Saturday-morning cartoons like Super Friends to well thought out universe building like Justice League & Justice League Unlimited. Not to mention a handful of excellent animated films based on famous DC storylines. The only movie to enter serious production was the cancelled 2008 George Miller directed Justice League: Mortal. The DCEU wasn’t well thought out at all, but Zack Snyder seemed like he was listening to fan concerns. A First Look at the movie made it seem a lot less serious. The first trailer set to “Come Together” was just as encouraging, but since troubled productions go hand in hand with the DCEU, I should’ve known I’d end up disappointed…

9. Justice League

Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, the Flash, and Aquaman unite

Justice League isn’t as messy as Batman v Superman, but it is a mess in many other ways. Personally I was turned off the moment I saw the complete roster of heroes. The New 52 is a universe of rebooted storylines that have affected DC properties ever since its launch in 2011. The Justice League’s roster included all of the original 7 members except for Martian Manhunter. He was permanently replaced by Cyborg. Despite reading and enjoying the New 52 Justice League #1 comic, I never understood putting Cyborg on the team. I get that he represents modern technology, but his place will always be on the Teen Titans. Although Cyborg isn’t the first black DC superhero, he is usually the only African American on either team. That didn’t bother me nearly as much as the glaring lack of green on the team. Green Lantern has always been a crucial part of the Justice League, but Warner Bros. made the idiotic decision to leave him out. Despite continuing to feature him in their new DC movie logo. I don’t care how bad the 2011 movie was, Hal Jordan should’ve gotten a second chance.

Now the team consists of: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. Even that didn’t pan out, because Superman died in Dawn of Justice. Although it was obvious Superman would return, he was still left out of all marketing. My next concern was Zack Snyder’s continually bizzare casting choices. Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, and Gal Gadot proved themselves, but I had serious doubts about Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, and Ray Fisher. The Flash is one of my favorite superheroes outside of the DC Trinity. Police scientist Barry Allen became the Scarlet Speedster when he was struck by lightning and dosed in chemicals. He made his debut in Showcase #4 where he established himself as the Silver Age Flash. Between the original Jay Garrick and his successor Wally West, Barry Allen is the definitive Fastest Man Alive. Ezra Miller seemed a little too offbeat and flamboyant for the part. Especially after Grant Gustin was already doing so well in The Flash CW series. Miller’s Dawn of Justice cameo highlighted the Flash’s superspeed, but his out of nowhere message from the future wasn’t the best first impression.

A Suicide Squad cameo showed off his costume, but not much else. Miller ended up being a notable highlight as Barry Allen. Since he’s an inherently light hearted superhero, the Flash is the primary comic relief. It’s just his costume that looked overly complex. The Flash wears a scarlet suit with gold wings, but it looks more like armor with wires strung around it. Aquaman has always been the biggest punchline in DC comics, but he’s also the definitive underwater superhero. Despite his aquatic powers and ability to talk to fish, Arthur Curry has been taken a lot more seriously in later comics. He is the King of Atlantis after all. Jason Momoa felt like a bizarre choice since he’s mostly known for burly bruisers like Conan or Drogo. He’s no blonde adonis, but Momoa’s long hair and beard does match a later version of Aquaman. Not sure I understood his pale blue eyes though. His Dawn of Justice cameo revealed Curry underwater with a five pronged quident instead of the usual trident.

I wasn’t crazy about Aquaman’s maori tattoos, but his costume left less of an impression. Rather than go for the traditional orange & green, Aquaman wears generic gold & green Atlantean armor. Momoa’s performance has a lot of brooding in it, but he makes up for that by acting like a laid back bro. Cyborg became a fan favorite thanks to his fun loving portrayal on Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans, but his tragic origin has changed to incorporate the Mother Boxes from Apocalypse. Turning Victor Stone into a highly advanced part-man part-machine with alien tech built inside him. Ray Fisher was previously a stage actor with no film experience, so I only took him at face value. His Dawn of Justice cameo was the only one to depict his origin. I do appreciate the irony of Miles Dyson himself Joe Morton playing Victor’s S.T.A.R. Labs scientist father Silas Stone turning his son into a cyborg with a Mother Box. Fisher ended up being very robotic with barely any personality, save for the stray use of his catchphrase “Booyah.” Cyborg’s metallic body wasn’t much better. His body is way too skinny and generic compared to the bulky white parts he normally has in the comics.

The continued involvement of director Zack Snyder made me just as nervous. The Justice League have always been a colorful band of costumed crime-fighters, so I really didn’t understand why Warner Bros. kept him on board after Dawn of Justice. Zack Snyder did step down, but for far more tragic circumstances. So he was replaced by someone who already directed 2 successful superhero ensembles. Joss Whedon proved himself with The Avengers, but that doesn’t mean you can easily drop him into the already established DCEU. The marketing of the film noticeably started to change with Alex Ross style posters, light hearted trailers, and a November release. The most puzzling thing was a shockingly short runtime of exactly 2 hours. I was far less uncomfortable seeing the movie with my family, but it’s a serious problem when Justice League doesn’t leave an impression. So I wasn’t exactly shocked when it failed to break-even. The director credit may say Zack Snyder, but you can tell this is a Joss Whedon film from the start.

Justice League begins with an unbearably cringy scene of Superman rescuing people before his death. I appreciate having an optimistic Man of Steel at the very beginning, but why did it have to be on a phone with kids asking him the most childish questions imaginable. Whedon’s signature dialogue is made very clear with gems like Superman comparing hope to car keys. Even that isn’t the most cringy thing about the scene. Henry Cavill wasn’t allowed to shave his Mission: Impossible – Fallout mustache during re-shoots. Rather than delay the film, Warner Bros. ended up digitally erasing Cavill’s mustache. The results are way too distracting to take seriously. CGI is a major problem in Justice League. It’s practically a video game with a CGI villain, CGI henchmen, a CGI Cyborg, CGI landscapes, and CGI being used to make the climax less dark. The Justice League logo is shown on a flag before an opening of the world mourning the death of Superman. Lois Lane and Ma Kent mourn Clark’s death, but there’s also chaos in the streets of Metropolis. Setting it to “Everybody Knows” was another weird choice.

Danny Elfman ended up scoring the movie instead of Han Zimmer. You can definitely hear his original 1989 Batman theme if you listen close enough. Since the runtime is only 2 hours, it feels like every character is introduced with no time to establish anyone. Even the incoming conflict doesn’t have much set up. Batman is immediately seen in Gotham City tying up a criminal. He uses his fear to attract a Parademon. In the comics, Parademons are the foot soldiers of Darkseid. They look exactly like they did in Bruce’s Knightmare, but now they have neon green blood to make them more kid friendly. Speaking of being obnoxiously kid friendly, Steppenwolf looks nothing like he did in the Ultimate Edition of Batman v Superman. His face is overly human with a goofy horned helmet and uninspired armor. It doesn’t help that Ciarán Hinds is given the most generic villainous dialogue and forced attempts at comedy. Not that I was expecting much from a villain I never cared about.

Of all the Justice League villains to fight, why go with Steppenwolf? Especially when he’s so closely associated with Darkseid. The criminal that Batman ties up, practically tells the audience that Parademons are invading because Superman is gone. Alfred gives further exposition by revealing Lex Luthor’s journal to be their guide. An indeterminate amount of time passes when a bearded Bruce Wayne searches for the rest of the metahumans. Despite Dawn of Justice featuring a murder crazy Batman, Ben Affleck softens up the Caped Crusader considerably. Since Batman is always less brooding while on the Justice league, he’s not such a sad loner with a sense of humor. Most of the time it works, but sometimes it feels like Whedon trying too hard again. Probably his best joke is saying he’s rich when asked about his superpowers. The batsuit is the same except for a more armored tactical batsuit with goggles that he wears in the climax.

Bruce finds Arthur Curry in a small fishing community that counts on him as the legendary Aquaman. He saves fisherman on a sinking boat and brings fish in a mural that Bruce notices. Arthur not so politely declines the offer to join Batman’s team before Momoa’s obligatory shirtless scene. As Aquaman dives into the water, Bruce shaves and discusses a strategy with Alfred. Jeremy Irons wasn’t that rough in Dawn of Justice, but he’s also softened up with references to the Penguin and offhanded jokes. Wonder Woman is currently in London where she makes her grand entrance atop the Lady Justice statue. Since Diana Prince actually had a solo movie to make her a beloved character, Gal Gadot ends up being pretty consistent. Except that she’s still cut off from the world and talking about Steve Trevor decades later. The Wonder Woman costume thankfully hasn’t changed, but the way she’s shot is different. You can tell by all of the tight pants Diana wears.

Wonder Woman is first seen disposing of a bomb detonated by gentlemen terrorists. It’s great hearing Wonder Woman’s epic theme again, but the sequence doesn’t have any bearing on the plot. Although Diana is on good terms with Bruce, she doesn’t join the fight until the Amazons get involved. Justice League utilizes almost every hero’s individual supporting character regardless of relevance. Connie Nielsen returns as Queen Hippolyta alongside her scantily clad Amazonian sisters. They’re the first to encounter Steppenwolf when he comes for their Mother Box. The Amazons put up a valiant fight, but Steppenwolf manages to obtain the McGuffin anyway. So Hippolyta lights a beacon Lord of the Rings style, to warn her daughter of the incoming conflict. Diana is still working as a museum curator when she sees a burning Greek monument. Diana stops by the Batcave where Bruce is working on a new Flying Fox plane. She tells him the story of Steppenwolf attempting to conquer the Earth centuries ago.

It’s one of the movie’s main highlights since it brings together the armies of Earth, Atlanteans, Amazons, the Old Greek Gods, and even Green Lantern Yalan Gur. I’d say it’s enough just to see one Green Lantern, but Gur is immediately killed as his Power Ring flies away. The Old Gods include a jacked Zeus, Artemis, and David Thewlis’ head plastered on a stuntman playing Ares. Steppenwolf was exiled after his defeat, but tries to find all of the Mother Boxes in order to establish “The Unity” for Darkseid. Darkseid is literally mentioned once in the entire movie. The Mother Boxes are under protection from the Amazons, Atlanteans, and humans. Since Steppenwolf already has the Amazon box, he sets his sights on Atlantis. I was very excited to finally see the underwater society on the big screen, but all we see is a tiny portion of it. Amber Heard plays Mera, the redheaded true love of Aquaman who possesses hydrokinesis. She fights a water breathing Steppenwolf who briefly encounters Arthur when he swims down to the depths. Their aquatic fight ends with Steppenwolf obtaining the second McGuffin.

That’s followed by the dumbest creative choice in the entire movie. Rather than simply speak underwater, Mera has to create a stupid air bubble just to talk to Arthur. She mentions his queen mother and origin, but all of that will have to wait for his solo film. Since neither Diana, nor Bruce got anywhere with Arthur, they separately contact Victor Stone and Barry Allen. Barry is first seen jokingly using his superspeed in prison where he visits his incarcerated father. Dr. Manhattan himself Billy Crudup plays Henry Allen. Like the New 52 comic and CW series, Barry’s father was falsely accused of killing his mother. Most of their bonding doesn’t affect anything apart from Henry telling his son not to run around in circles. Bruce travels to Central City where he meets Barry in his second favorite chair. Although Miller has his moments, hyperactively talking about brunch is once again Joss Whedon trying to be funny. It is a cool moment when Bruce throws a batarang and Barry enters the Speed Force while figuring out he’s Batman. The Flash’s superspeed isn’t just running really fast. Time seems to stop and blue lighting surrounds his body. Barry immediately agrees to the Justice League since he needs friends.

Cyborg has almost no time dedicated to his life before the accident. All we see are old photographs and a sullen Victor hiding away when his father comes to check on him. Although he’s angry at his father, he seems to get over it really fast. We also bypass seeing Cyborg developing his rocket flight or any other weapon built into him. All we really learn is that Silas has the final Mother Box called a Change Engine. He works at S.T.A.R. Labs, which is still in possession of the Kryptonian scout ship. Diana contacts Victor when he hacks the batcomputer, but she doesn’t seem to get very far when they meet face to face. Not until a series of Parademon kidnappings that result in Silas Stone’s capture. The cringiest scene by far is a meeting between Lois & Martha at the Daily Planet. Whedon seriously thinks an old woman swearing about aliens probing her husband is funny. What’s worse is the nonchalant way Martha talks to Lois after Clark’s death. Diane Lane doesn’t have much to do apart from having the Kent farm foreclosed on. Amy Adams is similarly shortchanged, apart from Lois taking a break from writing.

When the Parademon kidnappings enter Gotham City, Commissioner Gordon contacts an old friend using the Bat Signal. Many assumed James Gordon was dead during the events of Dawn of Justice, but he’s alive and well after 20 years with the Dark Knight. J. K. Simmons sounded like inspired casting, until he ended up with literally nothing to do. Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash are joined by Cyborg when they talk to Gordon on a rooftop. They conclude that Steppenwolf must be taking kidnapped S.T.A.R. Labs employees beneath Gotham Harbor before suddenly vanishing. The Flash lampshades the superhero trope by vanishing himself. The Justice League unite less than an hour into the movie. Cyborg saves his father when Steppenwolf interrogates him. Wonder Woman steals the show by fighting Steppenwolf with her sword & shield. Batman fights Parademons hand to hand, but eventually ends up using a new vehicle called the Knightcrawler. The Flash is frustratingly shortchanged by making him afraid to do battle with anyone. Batman telling Barry to save one person is supposed to be inspiring, but it just doesn’t make sense for his character.

The Flash eventually shows his power by helping Diana retrieve her sword. Unfortunately it’s followed by Barry landing on her boobs for no reason. Cyborg gets everyone to safety in a reprogrammed Knightcrawler when Steppenwolf ends up flooding Gotham Harbor. That’s Aquaman’s cue to swim in and stop the flood with his powerful quident. Arthur officially joins the team as Cyborg flies away for unexplained reasons. He returns with the final Mother Box that Victor explains to be the source of his power. Bruce takes the team to his Batcave where he gets the morbid idea to revive Superman using the Mother Box. Despite the events of Batman v Superman, Bruce refers to Clark as if they were best friends. Unlike The Avengers, the Justice League arguing never feels warranted. Diana & Arthur agree that bringing back Superman could go terribly wrong. Bruce & Diana fight when he questions why she’s hidden herself away, but they quickly patch things up later on. Barry & Victor sort of bound while digging up Superman’s corpse. The former is somehow the funnier one trying to fist bump and connect over being accidents.

The team infiltrates the Kryptonian ship where they place Kal-El’s body in the genesis chamber. Cyborg taps into the mainframe and the Flash uses his speed to activate the box. When Superman returns, it’s a Pet Semetary situation where a shirtless Clark has no memory of who he is. He uses his x-ray vision on the team, but only becomes hostile when Cyborg activates his defense system. The Justice League vs. Superman is an expected fight that overwhelms most of the team. Cyborg & Aquaman are both taken out, but Wonder Woman is strong enough to have a headbudding match. Probably the best scene in the entire fight is Clark being fast enough to see the Flash when he tries to sneak up on him. Things get cringy again when Clark spots Batman and uses the infamous “Do you bleed” line against him. I guess the Knightmare scene is called back to when Lois arrives to calm Clark down. He flies off with her, but the tender moment is undermined by Bruce once again making a joke. The last Mother Box is taken in the chaos and Steppenwolf enacts his evil plan at a power plant in Russia.

Another annoying Whedon trademark is him thinking the audience cares about random civilians in a superhero movie. For some reason, a pointless Russian family is cut back to periodically throughout the movie. Without Superman, the team plans to fly to Russia in the Flying Fox, but not before another joke where Aquaman tells the truth while sitting on the Lasso of Truth. Clark takes Lois to Smallville where their tender moment is also undermined by cringy dialogue. Lois tells Clark he smells good and he describes coming back to life as itchy. At some point I had to question whether or not Joss Whedon was intentionally trying to sabotage DC. Clark reunites with his mother and decides to rejoin the fight at Lois’ insistence. The climax now has an ugly orange skyline. As Batman draws out the Parademons in the Batmobile, the rest of the team come to his rescue. Despite the lack of water, Aquaman is still very durable while joyfully flinging his quident into Parademons. Cyborg attempts to destroy the Mother Boxes while Wonder Woman faces Steppenwolf directly.

The Flash actually does some fighting, but Superman swoops in with a colorful costume when the Justice League is overwhelmed. He beats down Steppenwolf and uses his heat vision on him. Superman is practically left out of the entire movie since the fight would be over immediately otherwise. I’m glad Henry Cavill got to play a hopeful Superman, but his CGI mouth is still distracting. Superman & the Flash compete over saving civilians including the random Russian family. When they’re done, Superman turns into a big brother fighting Steppenwolf and assisting Cyborg. Batman & Superman also share a moment that undermines the tension of the situation. Which is followed by another ridiculous scene of Superman joking around with Cyborg when they destroy the Mother Boxes. Superman finally uses his arctic breath to destroy Steppenwolf’s axe and Wonder Woman finishes it off with a sword swing.

The Parademons sense Steppenwolf’s fear and engulf his body as he’s taken away in a Boom Tube. For some reason, plant life starts to spring up in the wake of Steppenwolf’s defeat. The entire Justice League has at least one group shot that isn’t quite as satisfying as it should be. They go their separate ways, but look to the future. Arthur returns to the sea, Barry makes his dad happy by joining the police force, and Victor reconfigures his metallic body with his father. Bruce saves the Kent farm by buying the bank and establishing the Hall of Justice with Diana. Diana reconnects with the world by continuing to fight crime. Clark finally gets the signature moment of ripping open his shirt to reveal the Superman costume before taking flight. All of this is shown as Lois writes an article about looking up to the sky for heroes.

The mid-credits scene is a lighthearted one that tries to answer the question of whether or not Superman can outrun the Flash. That’s followed by an after-credits scene where Jesse Eisenberg is sadly still around as Lex Luthor escaping Arkham Asylum. At least he’s bald and actually looks like the diseased maniac while wearing a well tailored suit. He meets with Deathstroke on a yacht discussing the possibility of forming an Injustice League. A silver haired Joe Manganiello was cast as Slade Wilson years ago, but I was still shocked when he appeared on screen. Sadly Justice League never supported its ambition. A possible two parter was cancelled and the DCEU practically imploded when The Batman was completely reworked, The Flash was continually delayed, Cyborg was cancelled, and Green Lantern Corps never materialized. Warner Bros. clearly had no idea what they were doing. Justice League has a strong superhero team in place, but middle of the road wasn’t gonna cut it for such iconic characters…

10. Justice League

The Justice League unite

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is what you get when fans scream loud enough. Although I was disappointed by Joss Whedon’s Justice League, I frankly thought it was a failure from the beginning. A problem that steamed from how poorly Warner Bros. handled the DCEU. As big of a DC fan as I am, I never really understood people begging the studio to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut. The same people who were disappointed by Zack Snyder’s grim take on Batman v Superman. Although Zack Snyder and writer Chris Terrio had an even darker Justice League in mind, the response to Dawn of Justice did inspire a more hopeful tone. But Warner Bros. continued to push for more jokes and a shorter runtime. When Joss Whedon eventually came on board for rewrites, they practically seized the opportunity to have him direct after Snyder left.

The less than glowing response to the movie led to a complete reworking of the DCEU. One so drastic that it’s hard to say the DC Extended Universe even exists anymore. Similar to Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, fans felt the “Snyder Cut” would be way better than the movie we ended up with. Both movies had a last minute director switch that drastically altered the tone of each film. I tried to ignore the “Snyder Cut” movement, but I was constantly bombarded by crazed fans yelling as loud as they could. All that yelling finally led to a completed movie in 2021, restoring the original footage seen in trailers. Released on HBO Max, the first teaser looked good, but the aspect ratio change was a bizarre creative choice. The R rating felt unnessercery and the 4 hour runtime seemed extremely excessive. It all turned out well in the end, but that tends to happen when a movie is roughly the length of a miniseries.

SPOILER ALERT! The difference between the “Snyder Cut” and the theatrical cut is made explicitly clear right off the bat. The darker tone is reestablished by showing the death of Superman in slow motion. When Doomsday impaled the Man of Steel, he screamed so loud that it could be heard across the world. Batman, Wonder Woman, and Lois Lane witness this first hand. A sullen Cyborg, fearful Atlanteans, and battle ready Amazons all witness their respective Mother Boxes activating. Lex Luthor is still in the genesis chamber learning about Steppenwolf when he hears the Kryptonian cry. The scene of a bearded Bruce Wayne traveling to a fishing community makes a lot more sense after an opening like that. What follows is a series of parts meant to make the 4 hour experience more bearable.

Part 1: “Don’t Count on it, Batman” – Bruce Wayne meeting Arthur Curry is a lot less joke heavy with more focus on his mission to build an alliance of warriors. Aquaman is a lot more no-nonsense when speaking the Icelandic language and turning down Wayne’s money. The main difference is a group of creepily aroused Icelandic women singing a folk song when Arthur rips his sweater off and dives into the sea. It’s nothing compared to Whedon’s version, but that doesn’t mean Snyder isn’t prone to WTF moments. Bruce & Alfred have a far more straightforward conversation afterwards when Aquaman says no. Scenes of Metropolis mourning Superman are cut out with more focus on Ma Kent foreclosing the farm and Lois visiting his monument. Former Jimmy Olsen actor Marc McClure plays the friendly police officer that she brings coffee to. Wonder Woman’s introduction is still at the London bank, but everytime Diana or the Amazons appear, Junkie XL plays an operitic siren call. Every… single… time!

We still hear her epic Dawn of Justice theme during a more action-packed slow motion fight, but the other theme is just excessive. The Black Clad gentlemen terrorists are a bit more sinister with one of them dropping the first of only 3 F bombs in the entire movie. There’s no question that Wonder Woman kills the lead terrorist when she strikes her bracelets. Immediately after killing someone, Diana has time to inspire a girl who wants to be just like her. When Steppenwolf arrives to face the Amazons, he has a far better alien design with spikes, bulging muscles, and a more threatening voice still provided by Ciarán Hinds. The Amazons declare their lack of fear to Steppenwolf when his Parademons attack. Violence is really the main reason for the R rating as CGI blood splatters during every action scene. Steppenwolf is ruthless in his pursuit of the Mother Box. He tosses horses and flexes arrows out of his body. Queen Hippolyta puts up an even more desperate fight that ends exactly the same way.

Part 2: The Age of Heroes – The next section bridges the gap between the old and new age of heroes. Bruce & Alfred only discuss searching for Barry Allen while on their plane. Ben Affleck was determined to soften up Batman regardless of director, so he’s still on a path of redemption. Gal Gadot hasn’t changed much between versions either. The main difference is having Diana slowly discover the history of the New Gods in an underground cavern after her mother lights the beacon. Jason Momoa is a lot more serious with Arthur’s link to the ocean. He has another obligatory shirtless scene as water consumes him to the tune of “Icky Thump.” Willem Dafoe is fully restored with Nuidis Vulko scolding Arthur over taking up Queen Atlanna’s trident. Since Aquaman’s mentor was first seen in Aquaman, you can tell even more that Atlantis wasn’t fully developed beforehand. Especially since Vulko also does the stupid air bubble thing. Joe Morton is immediately shown to have a bigger role as Silas Stone working at S.T.A.R. Labs when a janitor is kidnapped by a Parademon.

Ryan Zheng is also restored as Ryan Choi aka the second incarnation of Atom. He speaks with a Chinese accent and works with nanotechnology by the end. Silas returns to an even more angry Victor who watches over their Mother Box. The other better change made to Steppenwolf is having his motivation be redemption for his betrayal of Darkseid. He’s forced to conquer 150,000 worlds in order to return to Apocalypse. He speaks with master torturer DeSaad voiced by Peter Guinness, but the true big bad of the DC Universe will always be Darkseid. Turns out the “Snyder Cut” was finally enough to bring the ultimate world conqueror to live-action voiced by Ray Porter. His CGI design mostly resembles the comics with his imposing grey appearance and blue helmet. The centuries old battle between man, Amazons, Atlanteans, Old Gods, and a Green Lantern is even better and bloodier with Darkseid leading the charge. Robin Wright even makes an appearance as Antiope. The battle is far more epic as the Greek gods tear into Darkseid and ununite the Mother Boxes. Diana tells Bruce about Darkseid’s defeat as he continues to work on that Flying Fox plane.

Part 3: Beloved Mother, Beloved Son – Turns out Barry Allen was supposed to make his first appearance applying to a pet shop. Although Ezra Miller had his moments before, I have no doubt now that he is the strongest comic relief in the move. Even without Whedon’s B material, Snyder manages to keep the Flash light hearted. Iris West is fully restored with Kiersey Clemons becoming the second black actress to play Barry’s love interest. Their romantic relationship is only hinted at with loving glances. Barry’s superspeed is really taken advantage of in a beautiful sequence of him saving Iris to the tune of “Song to the Siren.” As long as you ignore the cringy moment of Barry grabbing a wiener mid Speed Force. Barry visiting his father in prison isn’t changed much.

The scene of Bruce & Diana discussing recruits is shown in full as the latter mentions a war between Amazons & Atlanteans. Bruce recruits Barry roughly the same way, but thankfully there’s no mention of brunch. Declaring himself to be rich is kept in however. Alfred has his less cringy lighter moments as well, but I’m not sure we needed tea time with Diana. Creating a blast resistance bat-gauntlet is a better use of his time. Steppenwolf only finds Atlantis when he brutally interrogates an Atlantean. His fight with Mera is about the same except for her violently sucking out his blood. Aquaman shows up to the fight, but the outcome with the Mother Box is the same. One thing I definitely didn’t notice before is a British accent that Amber Heard inexplicably gives Mera.

Arthur & Mera’s bubble conversation is a bit more connected to his solo film than it was before, but the biggest change is everything involving Cyborg. Ray Fisher was the most vocal critic of Joss Whedon’s behavior while filming Justice League. It got to a point where he was practically whining over and over again. I wasn’t surprised when Fisher was fired, but his characterization is more memorable than it was before. Victor’s entire origin as a noble football star, the death of his mother Elinore played by Karen Bryson, and the resentment he feels for his father is all fully restored. Cyborg is practically turned into a tech god that can literally control the entire world. He learns to fly and gives a struggling family money. Although he is still grim while dropping a second F bomb in his encounter with Diana. Everything changes when Silas is captured and Victor buries the final Mother Box.

Part 4: “Change Machine” – Commissioner Gordon’s role is almost exactly the same as it was before. Even the rooftop scene wasn’t changed. The team arrives at Gotham Harbor where they engage in a better first fight that isn’t undermined by jokes. Steppenwolf now interrogates people using a Starro type device that sees into their mind. Victor shows that he still cares for his father when he’s threatened. Cyborg displays further abilities that include an arm cannon, talking to Bruce’s plane, and growing a third arm. He mostly helps S.T.A.R. Labs employees to safety. The Flash isn’t a wimp who uses his superspeed to fight a Parademon and quickly help civilians. Batman puts up a good fight using Alfred’s power absorbing wrist blades and commanding the Knightcrawler before Cyborg steps in. Wonder Woman is still the best fighter in both versions when she engages in an even more intense duel with Steppenwolf.

Aquaman swims in the same way, but the team coming together in the Batcave is entirely different. I have no doubt that Cyborg was meant to be the main character after he explains the origin of the last Mother Box when it was taken by Nazis, then used by Silas to fix his son. The team much more calmly decides to use the Box to revive Superman. That’s followed by a much more heartfelt scene of Martha & Lois grieving at the latter’s house. Although the nice moment is kind of undercut by the revelation that Lois was talking to Martian Manhunter the entire time. His CGI could use some work, but apparently Harry Lennix was always meant to be the shapeshifting martian. Not exactly the cinematic debut I pictured for him. Meanwhile, Darkseid finally speaks when Steppenwolf discovers the all important Anti-Life Equation that can control all life in the Multiverse. Only after “The Unity” will Steppenwolf earn his freedom.

Part 5: All the King’s Horses – The grave robbing scene is completely different with Barry & Victor discussing Superman & Wonder Woman. Diana & Arthur are also nearby discussing the significance of an Atlantean teaming up with an Amazon. Alfred has another nice moment with Bruce continuing to make breakthroughs with his trust of Superman. Silas is more directly involved when the Justice League enter the S.T.A.R. Labs Kryptonian scout ship. He allows Victor to pass without interference. The Flash charging the Mother Box to revive Superman isn’t that different apart from Aquaman objecting the idea more. Cyborg also sees a post-apocalyptic future when connected to the ship. It shows Darkseid successfully invading Earth and controlling an evil Superman.

Diana is buried by the Amazons, Arthur is killed underwater by Darkseid’s Omega Beams, and Superman holds the cowl of Batman over the body of Kilowog. Clark coming back to life and fighting the Justice League obviously hasn’t changed depending on the scenes without his CGI lip. Save for Cyborg helping a cop and the Flash running into Aquaman. Everything Wonder Woman does is the same including the infamous “Kal-El no!” line. The main difference is Clark’s encounter with Batman where he silently uses his heat vision on the Dark Knight. Lois was already in the area. We see her with a pregnancy test and walking away from the monument beforehand. Steppenwolf actually arrives to take the final Mother Box this time. It’s more tragic when Silas heroically sacrifices himself trying to destroy the Box in front of his son. DC borrows a line from Marvel when Cyborg tells the team to go get the son of b*tch.

Part 6: “Something Darker” – Although I planned to go all the way, it was at this point that I needed a bathroom break. Clark taking Lois to the Kent farm is far less childish without Whedon’s dialogue. Talking to Lois about his engagement ring and embracing his mother is better when Henry Cavill looks more optimistic. Unfortunately, I’m not crazy about his choice of wardrobe. I know black suit Superman is synonymous with his resurrection, but that’s just another problem with setting Dawn of Justice before Justice League. Superman really should have his classic red & blue suit when with the team. Otherwise both him and Batman are wearing black. Despite being more hopeful, Clark chooses the black suit as the conflicting words of his human and Kryptonian father fill his head. Superman flies into the heavens to join the fight. Meanwhile, the Justice League have a calmer discussion about how to find Steppenwolf after meeting Alfred.

Cyborg intends to disconnect the Mother Boxes while the Flash builds up a powerful electric charge. Arthur opens up a bit to Barry, but he doesn’t need a Lasso to do it. Bruce also brings up the Knightmare to Diana before they head out to Moscow. Thankfully there’s no pointless Russia family to save. The power of “The Unity” can be felt from Themyscira to Atlantis. Alfred meets Master Kent for the first time when he comes searching for the others. The final battle is rightfully restored to its original nighttime color palette. Batman still destroys the barrier, but using the Batmobile is given more weight. Most of the time Batman stays away from Steppenwolf in order to take out Parademon sharpshooters. After the team have another group shot, Cyborg, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman face Steppenwolf directly. He tries to get under Diana’s skin by reminding her of the Amazons and attempts to keep Victor from the Boxes.

Steppenwolf swings his axe on Cyborg, but Superman arrives just in time to use his arctic breath on it. Superman’s powerful display is rougher, but not much different from the theatrical edition. The suit was actually colored black in post-production. When a Parademon somehow manages to hit the Flash, it becomes too late to stop “The Unity.” Darkseid appears in a portal alongside DeSaad and a presumably digital version of Granny Goodness on Apocalypse. As the world crumbles, the Flash really shows his immense power by turning back time in a breathtaking Speed Force run. No doubt that the Justice League are in fact gods among us. Cyborg views his family when revived, but sees past the deception in order to break the Boxes. Steppenwolf won’t go down without a fight this time. Until he’s impaled by Aquaman, punched by Superman, and actually beheaded by Wonder Woman. Darkseid knows enough to retreat, but plan an old fashion invasion later on. The Justice League standing together is about the same apart from the distracting black suit.

Epilogue: “A Father Twice Over” – Rather than have Lois close out the movie with a Daily Planet article, Victor listens to the recording left by his father that he destroyed earlier. Silas Stone gives similar words of encouragement as the heroes go their separate ways. Victor embraces his role as Cyborg, Arthur talks to Vulko & Mera before leaving to see his father, Barry similarly tells his father about his forensics job, and Diana returns to her Amazonian monastery. The Hall of Justice scene is the same and so is Bruce buying the bank for Clark. The only difference with Clark is him opening up his shirt to reveal a silver ‘S’ underneath. The after-credits scene is now part of the movie with Lex escaping Arkham, but having a different conversation with Deathstroke. Now the scene has more to do with The Batman when Lex reveals Batman’s secret identity.

Although that’s a natural place to stop, there’s still an entire Knightmare to get through. The post-apocalypse is shown in more detail with trench coat Batman, weaponized Cyborg, British Mera carrying Aquaman’s trident, the Flash wearing an armored costume, Deathstroke as an ally, and even the Joker. Since all of this was brand new, Ben Affleck, Ray Fisher, Amber Heard, Ezra Miller, Joe Manganiello, and Jared Leto never look like they filmed together. After his terrible portrayal in Suicide Squad, Leto makes up for it with a more subtle tattooless Clown Prince of Crime. Not that his dialogue isn’t a little cringy and drawn out. Batman & the Joker discuss Robin, Harley Quinn, and the Caped Crusader actually drops the final F bomb. Which is followed by the evil Superman attacking. By this point I was done, but even that’s not the end when Martian Manhunter finally shows up to tell Bruce he’ll fight with them in a future we may never see.

In conclusion, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is better than the theatrical cut, but it’s not the masterpiece some fans call it. If you need 4 hours just to tell a story properly, than I wouldn’t exactly call that genius. Snyder got even more self indulgent by making a black & white version of the movie. The Leonard Cohen version of “Hallelujah” is only heard during the credits. Fans continue to press Warner Bros. for an “Ayer Cut” of the similarly botched Suicide Squad. Along with the full restoration of the Snyderverse featuring a Justice League trilogy. Although this was a good effort, I’m still not a fan of his radical vision for famous DC characters. The solo approach to the DCEU isn’t a perfect one, but I’m fine with it as long as the movies are good. In the end, Zack Snyder completed Justice League for his daughter, so I guess I can’t fault him for that.

Justice League

The Justice League unite

Preceded by: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice & Wonder Woman

The Amazing Amazon

Wonder Woman is the greatest female led superhero movie ever made. Making it the first truly successful DC Extended Universe movie. Every other film was either too divisive or controversial to call any one of them a complete success. Wonder Woman is no different than Superman or Batman. She is the greatest female superhero of all time. Wonder Woman was created in 1941 by psychiatrist William Moulton Marston. She debuted in All Star Comics #8, but later headlined Sensation Comics #1. Marston is one of the most interesting comic book writers who ever lived. He’s actually an early inventor of the lie detector, and was way ahead of his time for his depiction of powerful women. The unconventional relationship he had with his wife and their polygamous lover inspired a lot of Wonder Woman’s traits.

More information can be found in the biopic Professor Marston and the Wonder Women also released in 2017. Wonder Woman is especially unique for her connection to Greek Mythology, unconventional weapons, and for being the first female member of the Justice League. Wonder Woman remained consistently relevant thanks to countless animated appearances, an especially good 2009 animated solo movie, and her extremely popular 1970’s live-action series. When a Wonder Woman solo movie was announced after already making her debut in Batman v Superman, I was practically begging DC to make it good. Especially considering the track record of previous female led superhero movies like Supergirl, Catwoman, and Elektra. The key was using love and compassion to bring such an iconic heroine to life…

7. Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman unsheathes her sword

Wonder Woman was a long time coming for the Amazing Amazon. Like the rest of DC’s underused superheroes, a Wonder Woman movie has been in development ever since 1996. Several high profile actresses were considered over the years. Including Sandra Bullock, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lucy Lawless, Kate Beckinsale, and Angelina Jolie. Joss Whedon nearly wrote and directed a movie in 2005, but that failed to materialize as well. The closest Wonder Woman came to a cinematic debut was in the cancelled Justice League: Mortal played by Megan Gale. It wasn’t until Dawn of Justice that Wonder Woman was practically shoehorned into the already overstuffed movie. That’s not to say her role wasn’t a major highlight with a badass introduction. I just wanted an origin story before a major ensemble. Unlike Superman or Batman, Wonder Woman’s complex origin wasn’t exactly common knowledge beforehand. Although I’ve loved Wonder Woman for many years, even I didn’t know everything about her.

Diana, Princess of Themyscira is an Amazon sculpted from clay by her mother Queen Hippolyta, and given life by the Greek gods. Marston used Greek Mythology as a reference to create an entire island of strong warrior women. Paradise Island is hidden from “Man’s World,” but all that changed when World War II pilot Steve Trevor crash lands on Themyscira. Diana became the Amazon champion tasked with returning Steve and fighting in the war as Wonder Woman. The Silver Age emphasized her Greek influence, but made the unnecessary decision to depower Diana Prince as a martial arts fighting secret agent. The Bronze Age got her back on track thanks to the success of her TV series. Post-Crisis Wonder Woman was given a contemporary origin and New 52 comics made her a demigoddess given life by Zeus. Every element of her origin was perfect for a solo adventure.

Wonder Woman became the first DCEU movie with a fresh Rotten Tomatoes score, the most well received female driven superhero flick, and the highest grossing film director by a woman at the time. I couldn’t be happier that Wonder Woman was the first to do it. Its success is partially thanks to Warner Bros. finally figuring out how to make movies like Marvel. Zack Snyder’s dark influence is inescapable, but thankfully Wonder Woman is a lot more colorful with a much more optimistic tone. It’s honestly one of the most beautiful superhero movies I’ve ever seen (in more ways than one). Despite only ever directing the Oscar winning Monster in 2003, Patty Jenkins became the first woman to direct a big budget superhero film. Luckily things didn’t work out with her directing Thor: The Dark World. Jenkins has a much better understanding of who Wonder Woman is and what she stands for. It wasn’t even a problem that Zack Snyder got to choose who played the titular heroine.

Animated Wonder Women have always been regal with the commanding voice of many fine voice actresses. Live-action Wonder Women are a different story. Cathy Lee Crosby is a woefully inaccurate blonde Wonder Woman who appeared in a 1974 TV movie. The ideal Wonder Woman has always been Lynda Carter as the strong, beautiful, and compassionate hero from the 1975 series. Further TV appearances didn’t pan out thanks to the terrible 2011 pilot starring Adrianne Palicki. As I said in my Batman v Superman review, Gal Gadot wasn’t exactly my first choice to play Wonder Woman. I was yet to see Fast & Furious, so I didn’t think she was big enough to become an Amazon. Dawn of Justice was encouraging, but I didn’t truly see Gadot as Wonder Woman until her 2017 film. The latter put her (and every other actor) in an unflattering light, but Wonder Woman very much highlights how gorgeous she is. Gadot is the former Miss Israel after all. She also served as a soldier for the Israel Defense Forces. So she was much more capable of action than I realized.

Gadot put on an athletic Wonder Woman physique and truly transformed into the iconic image. Godot more than captures Diana’s love, compasion, and fighting spirit that sets her apart from most superheroes. The only thing Wonder Woman never had was an accent. Since Gal Gadot is Israel-born, she keeps her natural speaking voice. Although it isn’t common, I do think Diana’s accent gives her a more exotic presence. Wonder Woman begins in modern day with Diana Prince’s chosen profession as a museum curator in Paris. The DCEU is only briefly acknowledged with Bruce Wayne sending Diana the original WWI photograph of her from Dawn of Justice. Much like Captain America: The First Avenger, Wonder Woman is a period peace centered around a major war that uses a modern day framing device. Unlike the original comics, World War II isn’t the war that brings Wonder Woman to “Man’s World.” World War I makes a lot more sense since it was the first major global conflict in history and is seldom covered in film.

Wonder Woman affectively highlights how terrible the war was, but first we’re treated to about 40 minutes of Paradise Island. Themyscira is as breathtaking as I imagined it would be on film. It’s a lush green island surrounded by crystal clear oceans and dominated by equally lovely Amazons. Every actress more than displays a fierce understanding of how to fight like a true warrior. Amazons use swords, spears, bows, ride horseback, and dress in appropriate gladiatorial attire. It’s a little distracting that they all have accents, but it had to be done for Gal Gadot. Two different child actresses play Diana as she longs to become a warrior like everyone else. Buttercup herself Robin Wright plays her supportive Aunt General Antiope who trains Diana in private. Her mother, Queen Hippolyta, just wants her daughter to be a normal child. Like later comics, Hippolyta is blonde and retains her backstory of sculpting Diana from clay and having Zeus bring her to life. Casting Connie Nielsen in the part was a stroke of genius considering her regal role in Gladiator.

Greek Mythology is told like a bedtime story to Diana when she asks about the God Killer. The only sword powerful enough to kill a Greek god. An impressive moving painting recounts the creation of man, how the Amazons came to be, and Ares, God of War turning on his father Zeus. Hippolyta eventually allows Diana to train under Antiope until she grows into Gal Gadot. Wonder Woman’s first signature weapons are her trademark indestructible bracelets. They’re a cool accessory that allow her to deflect bullets and create powerful electrical blasts in the movie. Although Marston originally used her bracelets as a provocative tool for submission, they’ve evolved into wrist gauntlets that every Amazon wears. When Diana accidentally strikes her bracelets, she runs off, only to find the strange sight of an airplane falling from the sky. Just like any version of her origin, Diana rescues Steve Trevor from the crash, but the main difference is him being followed by enemy soldiers.

Although not as well known as the Nazis, Germans are still on the opposing side in World War I. They enter the invisible portal and attack Themyscira in a devastating opening action sequence. Diana witnesses the evils of man firsthand when her fellow sisters are killed in the fight. Although the Amazons manage to take them all out, Antiope sadly dies while attempting to tell her niece the truth about who she is. Steve Trevor has always been the true love of Diana throughout her history. He’s always trusted Wonder Woman as a fighter since he himself is a soldier for WWI, WWII, or any modern conflict in the comics. Since Chris Pine was the only Hollywood Chris without a superhero role, casting him as the male lead made perfect sense. The irony is that Chris Evans plays blonde WWII soldier Steve Rogers, while Chris Pine plays blonde WWI soldier Steve Trevor. Apart from their fate during the climax, Trevor isn’t exactly the same as Rogers. Steve is a handsome rogue, but he’s also very down to Earth with a duty bound responsibility to fight.

Also like the comics are the Amazons using the Lasso of Hestia to compel Steve to tell the truth. Wonder Woman’s most iconic weapon will always be her Lasso of Truth. She does use it to fight, but it was mostly meant as an extension of Marston’s lie detector. Diana uses it to will the truth out of enemies, but it’s just as effective as a comedic tool. Although the humor in Wonder Woman is similar to the MCU, they never go too far with it. There are several awkward moments, but they thankfully never get in the way of a sincere story. Steve reveals that he’s an American spy working for British Intelligence. His undercover mission was to gather intelligence for a deadlier threat that could end the war. General Erich Ludendorff was basically the Hitler of WWI. He’s played by an exaggerated Danny Huston who deals with pain and becomes more powerful thanks to comic book villain Doctor Poison. Spanish actress Elena Anaya plays Dr. Isabel Maru while wearing a porcelain mask that covers her scarred mouth. She’s not a physical threat, but a chemist trying to make a deadlier form of mustard gas.

Poison & Ludendorff have a working relationship that eventually succeeds in creating the deadly toxin. Steve managed to steal her notebook and bomb the enemy while escaping in a plane. The movie truly gets going when Diana becomes convinced that Ares is responsible for the war. When her mother forbiddens any interference, Diana literally leaps into action by retrieving the God Killer and suiting up in a colorful costume that she hides under a robe. A curious Diana encounters Steve in a hot spring. He of course has an obligatory shirtless scene that Diana can’t help but stare at. Diana & Steve have one of the better superhero movie romances thanks to the chemistry between Gadot and Pine. Their relationship has time to grow over the course of the movie with Steve answering any question Diana has about “Man’s World.” Some conversations about marriage and love making may go on a little too long, but it’s all worth it when they eventually fall in love. Hippolyta manages to say goodbye to her daughter as she leaves Themyscira possibly forever.

They go sailing to the war, but first make a stop to a very drab London. Despite being an American icon, Wonder Woman doesn’t take place in America at all. All of Diana’s wide-eyed wonder at seeing the outside world is shown in London. Although Diana has tons of emotional intelligence, can speak hundreds of languages, and is very well read, she’s still a fish out of water thanks to her obliviousness to 1918 social norms. She’s the exact opposite of Steve’s secretary Etta Candy. In the comics, Etta is a proud plus-size woman who loves sweets and befriends Diana. Although some adaptations try to slim her down, British actress Lucy Davis is the perfect plus-size Candy. She’s subtle comic relief and a nice lady friend for Diana. Her best scene is helping Diana find a dress to wear as a disguise. It’s a humorous scene since Diana continually mocks the restrictive clothing. Steve gives her the comic alias Diana Prince and she dons a modest outfit along with the glasses she sometimes wears. The funniest part is Diana trying to keep her sword & shield.

Superman: The Movie was a major influence for the movie, and that’s most apparent in a gender swapped scene where enemy spies corner Steve & Diana in an ally. Diana deflects their bullets with her bracelets exactly like the comics. Their first stop is the Imperial War Cabinet where Diana’s presence becomes most unorthodox. Even though she’s the smartest person in the room able to decipher Poison’s journal. The Supreme War Council forbid Trevor from countering an upcoming attack. Steve sets out for the Western Front anyway after assuring Diana with her Lasso. Etta continues to help back in London, but Steve & Diana also receive help from armistice negotiator Sir Patrick played by quintessential Brit David Thewlis. On their way to the front, a wonderful moment from the comics is recreated when Diana tries ice cream for the first time. Steve gathers a motley team of liars, drunks, and smugglers to help him cross the battlefield. None of whom are from the comics, but all of them are kind of stereotypical.

Saïd Taghmaoui plays Sameer, a secret agent who loves acting, and an Arab stereotype who wears a fez. Ewen Bremner plays Charlie, a sharpshooter with PTSD, and a Scottish stereotype who wears a kilt. Eugene Brave Rock plays Chief Napi, a neutral smuggler, and Native American stereotype with Earthly wisdom. They travel to Belgium where Diana witnesses the horrors of war firsthand. Although Steve tells her there’s nothing they can do, Diana can no longer do nothing. What follows is one of the greatest “Girl power” scenes in movie history. No man can enter No Man’s Land, but Wonder Woman is no man. Although it takes over an hour, the wait is more than worth it when Diana reveals her Wonder Woman costume as she enters No Man’s Land. I’m so glad DC doesn’t believe in changing outfits, because her suit is literal perfection. It’s so refreshing to see comic book accuracy for a female superhero with a revealing costume. Wonder Woman doesn’t wear pants, she’s a warrior with a fitting gladiatorial design that Gadot looks absolutely stunning in. The costume is just a brighter shade of blue and a richer shade of red with more prominent gold.

Diana wears the upside down Tiara of her Aunt, but she never uses it as a boomerang. Although Wonder Woman doesn’t always carry a sword & shield, it comes in handy in all her fights. Zack Snyder style slow motion is used to emphasize Wonder Woman’s brave run through No Man’s Land. She deflects bullets, bombs, and shields Steve and his men from attack. They manage to take out the enemy, but Diana promises to rescue civilians who were captured. Wonder Woman crashes through a building, and it’s finally enough to bring back her kickass theme from Dawn of Justice. Her sword fighting is wonderful, but the battle really highlights Wonder Woman’s super strength. She uses it to lift a tank and take out a remaining enemy by crashing through a tower. The village celebrates Wonder Woman as a hero when Diana, Steve, and their team are finally photographed. A brief but magical moment of calm comes when Diana shares a romantic dance with Steve in the snow and they spend the night together.

All their happiness is ripped away when they hear about a gala attended by General Ludendorff. Despite Steve infiltrating the party in disguise as a German, Diana figures Ludendorff must be Ares, so she sets out to kill him. Diana takes a lovely blue dress from Fausta (the Nazi Wonder Woman) in order to sneak up on her enemy. Steve tries to get information out of Dr. Maru, but he becomes distracted when Diana shows up. Ludendorff shares a dance with Diana as they discuss war and Greek Mythology. Steve stops her from killing him, but it’s too late when he launches the deadly gas on a nearby village. In her anguish, Diana blames Steve and mankind for the war. Wonder Woman sets out to kill Ares while riding horseback. Diana enters his base where she makes it her sacred duty to end Ares’ influence over the war. Their fight is intense when Ludendorff inhales Maru’s toxin, but it’s not enough to keep Wonder Woman from stabbing him. Although she thinks it will end the war, Diana is faced with the sad truth that man is responsible for their own atrocities. At least that seems like the truth until the somewhat confusing twist comes along.

SPOILER ALERT! Turns out Sir Patrick was Ares all along. A literal mustache twirling Brit is the Greek God of War. Although in the comics his face is usually obscured by his blue helmet, Thewlis is not the person I imagined underneath it. A more convincing twist is Ares destroying Diana’s sword and revealing her to be the true God Killer. Since she’s a demi-goddess who possessed the power all along. The only confusing part is Ares using his Sir Patrick identity to leave suggestions about war without telling humanity to act on it. Which feels like it’s trying too hard to have a compromise for its message. Ares wants Diana to join him in wiping out humanity in order to build a paradise similar to General Zod in Man of Steel. Diana refuses, so they engage in a big CGI fight where Ares uses his godlike power to manipulate his environment. He starts to look more like his comic counterpart when he fashions armor out of metal.

Meanwhile, Steve tries to stop a shipment of deadly gas by commandeering a plane. But not before telling Diana he loves her and giving her his watch. It’s a truly heartbreaking sacrifice that Diana is unable to stop when Ares bounds her. Wonder Woman breaks free and takes her anger out on enemy soldiers. She very nearly kills Doctor Poison, but stops when she remembers what Steve told her. Wonder Woman has always believed that love conquers all, so she accepts humanity before disposing of her brother. Ares may be a cliché villain shouting generically evil dialogue, but Wonder Woman striking her bracelets midair is a very satisfying defeat. As the war ends, Diana celebrates with her remaining allies and fondly remembers her true love. Back in modern day, Diana reenters the world again as Wonder Woman soars through the air.

It’s followed by a beautiful credits sequence that ends with the title. Wonder Woman is exactly how you make a good female led superhero movie. Although it became a cultural phenomenon, it was still divise in terms of its message. Some thought it was too feminist, while others complained that it wasn’t feminist enough. I knew exactly what I wanted from a Wonder Woman movie. There’s no reason she shouldn’t be both beautiful and powerful. I’m happy her iconic costume remained intact and hope she continues wearing it proudly. I have greater appreciation for Gadot after knowing she was pregnant during filming. Although the movie doesn’t use Wonder Woman’s archenemy or Invisible Jet, I was more than happy with what I ended up with. Wonder Woman was very much a leap in the right direction for the DCEU.

8. Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman enters no man’s land

Followed by: Wonder Woman 1984 & Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Task Force X

Suicide Squad is the movie equivalent of a hot mess. It made sense to start a DC Extended Universe with a Superman movie. He is the most prominent DC superhero after all. Although rushed, it made just as much sense to follow it up with a Batman crossover including Wonder Woman. What never made sense to me, was following that up with a Suicide Squad movie. That’s like going from Iron Man to Civil War to Guardians of the Galaxy. The similarity being all of the DC supervillains that needed to be introduced in one movie. That technically makes Suicide Squad the first supervillain movie. The idea of a Suicide Squad has existed ever since the 1959 The Brave and the Bold #25.

They were once a simple military unit before the 1987 Legends #2 turned them into a team of existing supervillains. The overall concept of Task Force X is actually very interesting. Villains perform suicide missions in exchange for reduced sentences, and have their heads blown off if they don’t cooperate. I was never too familiar with the team, but they continually appeared in animation. As well as live-action TV shows like Smallville and Arrow. The 2016 movie felt like it came out of nowhere. Before I knew it, actors were cast, images were released, trailers dropped, and Suicide Squad was coming out the same year as Batman v Superman. I wasn’t immediately nervous, but the drastic tonal shift between the Comic-Con trailer and official trailer should’ve been a warning sign…

5. Suicide Squad

The Suicide Squad fight together

Suicide Squad has been in the works since 2009. Only going into serious production after the DCEU was established. Most comic book movies announce their cast one at a time, but Suicide Squad announced 6 cast members all at once. I didn’t really believe the movie was coming until an image with the entire Suicide Squad was released. Task Force X has obviously had a revolving door of team members ever since its creation. They are the “Suicide” Squad after all. Even still, their choice of team members made the movie seem more than a little overstuffed. Rick Flag is the oldest member who acts as the heroic Military leader keeping Task Force X in line. Tom Hardy was originally cast, but he had to back out due to scheduling conflicts. Joel Kinnaman felt like a serious downgrade since he was so dull and lifeless in RoboCop (2014).

Amanda Waller has always been a morally grey business woman with a finger on the button. Respected African American actresses as big as Pam Grier and Angela Bassett previously portrayed her in Smallville and Green Lantern respectively. So it was a good sign that soon to be Oscar winner Viola Davis was chosen for the part. Floyd Lawton/Deadshot is another longtime member and recurring Batman villain that I expected to see on the team. Will Smith’s 2010 career resurgence made his casting seem promising since he was due for a comic book role. The Australian George “Digger” Harkness/Captain Boomerang is yet another longtime member and recurring Flash villain that I knew would pop up as well. Jai Courtney probably made me the most nervous considering how lame he is in most major franchises.

I never expected to see metahuman Batman villain Waylon Jones/Killer Croc on the big screen, but he was another interesting addition. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is a pretty recurring presence who was previously part of the MCU. DC’s Enchantress is Dr. June Moone, a witch who’s always been associated with the Suicide Squad. Model Cara Delevingne was already getting her start in acting, so I didn’t think much of her casting. Tatsu Yamashiro/Katana is a Japanese superheroine who previously made a faithful live-action appearance on Arrow. I didn’t know anything about Karen Fukuhara since this was her first movie. Apart from the Native American Adam Beach being cast as the obscure Christopher Weiss/Slipknot, I knew next to nothing about the firestarter El Diablo. The villain has gone by many aliases, but the movie cast the hispanic Jay Hernandez as Chato Santana.

But none of the team was ever going to get as much attention as the first theatrical appearance of Dr. Harleen Quinzel aka Harley Quinn. Harley Quinn has the most interesting history out of Batman’s entire rogues gallery. She was actually an original character made for the 1992 Batman: The Animated Series episode “Joker’s Favor” until her official 1999 comic debut in Batman: Harley Quinn #1. Harley was introduced as a sidekick/love interest for the Joker before becoming an instant fan favorite. She didn’t become a prominent member of the Suicide Squad until the modern New 52 relaunch. Margot Robbie was another very encouraging casting announcement, but even she was overshadowed by Mr. J himself. Batman’s archenemy has always had a strong media presence. So it was only a matter of time before the Joker made his cinematic return. Despite the critical acclaim that the late Heath Ledger received, fellow Oscar winner Jared Leto seemed like a good idea at the time.

The Comic-Con trailer was released before Dawn of Justice and featured a darker version of the Bee Gees song “I Started a Joke.” Unlike Batman v Superman, the tone seemed to fit the supervillain ensemble a lot better. Even though it once again looked like an R rated movie posing as a PG-13 movie. LEGO sets were never made since the title Suicide Squad is still too edgy for children. I was no less uncomfortable knowing kids were going to see something just as mature without going a step further. Most of the unnecessary profanity and innuendo can be blamed on overly edgy director David Ayer. Proving Zack Snyder wasn’t the only DC director who could make ill-advised decisions. It all started with the first look at everyone’s costume. Unlike Snyder’s gritty comic accuracy, Ayer has a bizarre tattoo & gangster fetish. Rick Flag looks alright with standard Military garb, but a yellow t-shirt would’ve been more interesting.

Apart from the race change, Deadshot is really the only one who feels like he leapt off the page. Smith wears Deadshot’s red-orange spandex with added padding, wrist gauntlets, and his signature high powered lens occasionally paired with a white mask. Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc, and El Diablo are all wearing very inaccurate gold chains, hoodies, and/or tank tops for some reason. No one knows what Slipknot looks like in the comics, so it didn’t matter that he had a rope covered mercenary look. Captain Boomerang is the only thug with some accuracy since he’s always worn a knit cap, trench coat, and carried deadly boomerangs as weapons. El Diablo is covered head to toe in skull tattoos, but really it’s the reptilian Killer Croc who has the most impressive makeup in the movie. As shocking as it was, the DCEU won an Academy Award before the MCU when Suicide Squad won for Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

Katana’s Japanese ensemble and signature katana were also ripped straight from the comics, but they do go for her more sexualized look. The Enchantress was also sexualized with a dirty green chainmail bikini, but the most sexualized character in the entire DCEU is Harley Quinn. Although she started her criminal career in a red & black jester costume, Harley was always a sexy wild card who wore progressively more revealing outfits. So Harley has red & blue pigtails and wears extra small shorts, sneaker stilettos, a tight shirt with “Daddy’s Lil Monster” written on it, a jacket with “Property of Joker” printed on it, a “Puddin” choker, bracelets, and carries a bejeweled gun with a “Good Night” bat as her primary weapon. Not to mention the light amount of tattoos and makeup she has. I have absolutely no problem with Harley’s seductive costume since Margot Robbie is one of the hottest actresses in Hollywood. Although I only felt uncomfortable seeing it with my family, all of her suggestive scenes didn’t bother me either. Not as much as the sexist dialogue that most people seem to ignore.

I can totally buy Harley Quinn becoming a modern icon, but the Joker was a different story. I was more than a little shocked when I first saw Leto’s short neon green hair, silver grill, dark red lipstick, and pale body covered in unnecessary tattoos. Joker has a ‘J’ teardrop tattoo, the word “damaged” written on his forehead, “Ha ha ha!” all over his body, and smiley faces on his arm, abdomen, and hand. Suicide Squad is practically word porn, but the Joker’s purple gangsta coat and gold chains made me even more nervous. There’s a fine line between edginess and trying way too hard. The Comic-Con trailer seemed to make it work, but everything changed when Batman v Superman became such a failure. Suddenly the overly dark tone of the DCEU forced Warner Bros. to quickly rethink their strategy. Leading to several rewrites, the Joker being severely reduced, a climax change, a more comedic tone, and a kickass trailer set to Bohemian Rhapsody. I know there’s an audience for Suicide Squad that sees it as simple dumb fun, but for me it’s a non-stop cringefest that’s 2 hours too long and somehow ended up worse than Dawn of Justice.

It literally takes 18 minutes just to introduce almost every member of Task Force X. Rather than work it into the story organically, several stylized stats are shown only for the most important teammates. Unlike the previous DCEU films, there’s much more neon color mixed with pop art visuals. Most of it ends up feeling awkwardly edited into the film. Just like several flashback sequences that feel like they were meant for the beginning of the movie. The death of Superman is acknowledged, but it never feels like Suicide Squad was meant to be the follow up to that. More often it feels like an excuse to justify bringing in a team of low-level criminals to fight a standard world ending event. Intelligence Officer Amanda Waller is just like her comic book counterpart in how she proposes the idea for Task Force X to the government. Viola Davis is great at portraying Waller’s ruthlessness, but she isn’t given much to work with. Her dialogue while talking about every individual Suicide Squad member can be just as cringy as her edgier co-stars.

Suicide Squad burns through about 6 good songs in the span of 8 minutes. Unlike Guardians of the Galaxy, the movie’s soundtrack is way too desperate to emulate the formers success. Almost like they pulled popular songs from a karaoke machine. I’m not a fan of “Purple Lamborghini,” but the soundtrack is at least good for including original songs like “Sucker for Pain” and “Heathens.” Most criminals are imprisoned in the comic accurate Belle Reve prison. Will Smith feels like he’s trying the hardest to sell the movie. He was practically the only actor to speak at Comic-Con when the entire cast showed up and he turned down Independence Day: Resurgence to star in Suicide Squad. It’s a no win situation either way. Although his edgy humor can feel forced, Deadshot does have more layers as a hired gun with a daughter to look after in Gotham City. Even if the actress playing Lawton’s daughter can feel very stilted, it does lead to the coolest part of the movie.

The bad guys may be the stars, but Batman can still pop in to fight crime. Since Batman has been around for 20 years, his entire rogues gallery is pretty much already out there. Ben Affleck doesn’t have a huge role, but it is neat to see him in the batsuit once again, and driving around in the Batmobile. Deadshot surrenders for his daughter and mostly does the mission for her. I’ll admit that Deadshot being given a chance at target practise was the only comedic scene that genuinely made me laugh. Margot Robbie was perfectly cast as Harley Quinn the moment she hangs from a prison cell to the tune of “You Don’t Own Me.” Her trademark Brooklyn accent isn’t too cartoony, but she does keep all of her catchphrases. Harley also has a lengthy backstory that feels like it was shot by someone just as crazy. Dr. Quinzel becoming the Joker’s psychiatrist and subsequently falling in love is so rushed that it’s hard to get any emotion out of it.

Apart from the electric shock scene and a few moments from the extended edition, Harley & Mr. J’s abusive relationship is never done justice. Harleen willingly jumps into a vat of chemicals and the Joker jumps in after her. She dances at a nightclub and rides with the Joker in a purple lamborghini pursued by Batman. Harley manages to kiss the Dark Knight as he saves her from drowning, but that’s how she ends up in prison. This is easily the worst Joker ever put to film. Jared Leto tries way too hard in an attempt to distinguish himself from other Clown Princes of Crime. His behind the scenes method acting sounds more like an excuse to be a jerk. The gangster angle was stupid, his subtle voice and laugh are more goofy than intimidating, and his other eccentricities feel more random than psychotic. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is worse, but Leto is a close second for most botched archenemy. I can’t imagine his role would’ve been better had his scenes remained intact.

The Joker is mostly around to try and release Harley from the Suicide Squad. He encounters a really annoying security guard played by the very punchable Ike Barinholtz, infiltrates A.R.G.U.S, and tries to defuse the bomb in her head. Jai Courtney ended up being surprisingly good as Captain Boomerang. Even if he is a drunken Australian stereotype with an out of nowhere pink unicorn fetish. Why is that funny? Boomerang spends most of the movie fighting whenever he wants, flirting with Katana, and stealing jewels in a flashback sequence. Ezra Miller has a quick cameo as the Flash, but he feels too soon. Despite Akinnuoye-Agbaje being covered in scales, Killer Croc also feels like a black stereotype who’s just there to look cool and say one-liners occasionally. His cannibalistic side is mentioned, but exploring the sewers are the extent of his metahuman abilities. El Diablo is a partial Mexican stereotype, but Jay Hernandez is easily given the most passionate performance in the movie.

Despite possessing immense fire power, Diablo chooses not to fight as penance for accidentally killing his wife & kids. Although it’s more complex than a movie this dumb deserves, calling the Suicide Squad his family after sharing drinks for 2 minutes is extremely forced. Adam Beach is totally wasted when Slipknot shows up at the last possible second as “the man who can climb anything.” I immediately knew he had to be the one team member that was made an example of. Boomerang convinces him to escape and Slipknot’s head is suddenly blown off. David Harbor, Scott Eastwood, and Common are also wasted with nothing memorable to do. Katana shows up at the last possible second with a cringy explanation from Flag. Karen Fukuhara tries, but she’s also given little to work with. All we know is that Katana is there to bodyguard, carries a sword that traps her victims, and lost her husband to it.

Rick Flag’s sole purpose in the movie is to shout exposition. Made worse with Joel Kinnaman’s annoying Southern accent. Flag has a bickering relationship with Deadshot that never quite comes together. Deadshot has better chemistry with Harley since Smith & Robbie both appeared in Focus together. Flag is also given a mostly off-screen romance with June Moone. As soon as I saw the trailers, I knew the Enchantress had to be the most villainous villain in a movie full of villains. I don’t buy Cara Delevingne as an archeologist, but the way she transforms into the Enchantress is pretty cool. Waller keeps the Enchantress in line by controlling her heart and stabbing it if she betrays her. As the demonic Enchantress, Delevingne also feels random with an extremely cringy magical hula dance. Her vague evil plan is to destroy the world using a machine that shoots a sky beam into the atmosphere. She creates disposal CGI minions by kissing Midway City citizens and turning them into ugly thousand-eyed blobs. She also summons her brother Incubus as a civilian with the worst CGI I’ve seen in a long time.

It’s all very cliché, but it’s still enough to force the Suicide Squad into action. The 2 hour runtime never feels justified since the team spends most of the movie wandering around, making comments, and plotting against Flag. The slow motion Zack Snyder style action is a minor highlight when they fight in the streets and end up in a high rise building. Everything else is mostly a lot of helicopters being destroyed. I guess it’s supposed to be a surprise when Waller ends up being the mission objective, but Suicide Squad is too sloppy to make it work. Harley attempts to flee with the Joker, but his helicopter is taken down as well. Waller is captured and the movie comes to a screeching halt when the team stops for drinks. Any attempt at an emotional core is lost when Harley tells Diablo to own killing his family. They all casually stroll into the climax after Flag sets them free for reasons. The Enchantress shows Flag, Deadshot, Quinn, and Diablo the life they want. Flag imagines being with June, Deadshot imagines killing Batman, Harley imagines a normal life with the Joker, and Diablo sees his wife & kids again.

Only Diablo manages to snap them out of it and fight Incubus as some sort of fire monster. In the end, he’s the only other team member who dies. Killer Croc swims through the sewers and for some reason throws a bomb in place of Captain Boomerang. Deadshot shoots the Enchantress’ machine after a bizarre scene where he sees his daughter. Harley’s bat is practically useless, but she manages to strike the Enchantress’ heart with Katana’s blade. Flag crushes her heart and manages to get June back. Waller somehow didn’t die after everything that happened, so the movie returns to square one with everyone sent back to prison (with the exception of special requests). The Joker returns to break Harley out of prison, but don’t expect that relationship to be followed up on. The DCEU really tries to copy Marvel by having a mid-credits scene where Bruce Wayne receives files about the metahumans he’s looking for from Amanda Waller. I can’t exactly call Suicide Squad a disappointment, but it’s far too chaotic to win me over.

SUICIDE SQUAD

The Suicide Squad walk together

Preceded by: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice & Followed by: Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn