(Photo by WB)
After a long-running Superman series with Christopher Reeve in the iconic tights and cape (and one more with Brandon Routh), and compelling takes on Batman on both sides of the millennium, Warner Bros. put the reset on their DC Comics movies and created the DC Extended Universe. The first in this new constellation of comic book cinema was 2013’s Man of Steel, which took audiences back through the beefy boy from Krypton’s origins and his blossoming into the protector of mankind. The super-serious tone and dismissal of some of Superman’s key characteristics put off some, but this new take was bold enough to keep modern cynical audiences intrigued.
Inevitably, comparisons were incessant to the rival Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially as director Zack Snyder doubled down on the dourness with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. In this day and age, fans on the internet expect an all-access pass on the production of their favorite properties, including leaks, rumors, and sneaky on-set photos. The publicly aired dirty laundry of the troubled Suicide Squad shoot colored audience perception of the film before it even released. It also wasn’t very good.
Wonder Woman, with its fleet touch and storytelling pizzazz, would become the first beacon of light for the DCEU, and its first Certified Fresh hit. Justice League followed that year, cramming huge characters into a truncated runtime (not to mention tonally inconsistent reshoots by Joss Whedon, and Henry Cavill’s phantom mustache), leading to rallying cries online of a fabled “Snyder Cut” of the movie.
It’d be more than a year later for the next DCEU entry: 2018’s Aquaman. Directed by James Wan, if the film wasn’t exactly drowning in critical praise, it at last was enough to keep the audiences worldwide satisfied and optimistic for the future. That paid off with Shazam!, a superhero comedy in the more classic vein, one that doesn’t bend over backwards to connect with the larger DC Universe. It worked there and with Birds of Prey, featuring. Wonder Woman 1984 didn’t quite continue the streak, The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker have become among the franchise’s best-reviewed.
In 2023, amidst a changing of the guard that included James Gunn now running the show with a rebooted Superman: Legacy, the company began wrapping up the DCEU with Shazam! Fury of the Gods, The Flash, Blue Beetle, and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.
See where how they all play out as we rank all DC Extended Universe movies! —Alex Vo