Well, the title of my post is at least mostly true. No film studio is ever perfect, but for the most part DC comics are well represented with solid movies. The DC Film universe is somewhat less cluttered with films, and has a little bit more longevity to it than those of Marvel. Read into this however you like, it could be that DC is simply less greedy than Marvel, or that the DC universe isn’t as relatable on the big screen as the Marvel characters. For all intents and purposes, I’m going to leave out the original four Superman and Batman movies. What makes super hero movies real is the quality of the effects to supplement the story. And, as beloved as those movies may be to some people, if you go back and watch them today without a sentimental connection, the effects and production value seem quite silly. To enlarge the DC film universe a little more, however, I am including those DC graphic novel imprints that were made into movies. Now, to begin, we’ll pick up with DC’s movies post-1997, after two of their arguably worst movies ever, Shaquille O’Neal’s Steel and George Clooney’s nipple-suited Batman and Robin.
Such a horrid movie.
Road To Perdition (2002) – If you haven’t seen this movie, do yourself a favor and find a stream or copy of it somewhere when you have some free time. With an all-star cast that includes Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Daniel Craig and Stanley Tucci, this film is a fantastic 1930s gangster period piece that follows a former mob enforcer in his revenge path against a mobster who killed his family. Hanks and Newman give especially great acting performances, and cinematographer Conrad Hall won a posthumous Academy Award for the movie’s cinematography. 7/10
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) – I almost equate this movie to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I want so badly to like it a lot. And it starts out really well, and stars Sean Connery, so about a third of the way through I’m really excited about where it’s all going. And then, things just start getting weird when they start taking the whole fantasy part of the League a little too far. Then characters start acting without motivation, and general lunacy and chaos descends upon the plot. What could have been a really cool action movie with some interesting characters forming the League, turns out into a disappointing strange mess. 4/10
Catwoman (2004) – This is actually a really really really really really bad movie. I won’t waste my time explaining why, because the one time I watched it I shut it off about twenty minutes in. At least Halle Berry is attractive, which saves this from a goose egg. 0.5/10
Constantine (2005) – Honestly, I don’t mind this movie a whole lot. It’s one of Keanu Reeves (John Constantine) better roles, as he seems pretty fit to play Messianic roles rather well. The movie is filled with religious symbolism and has a rather complicated plot filled with inconsistencies and holes, but at the very least this movie makes you think, especially if you have religious beliefs. It’s fun to watch and talk about once, but that’s about it. 5.5/10
A History of Violence (2005) – Just like Road to Perdition, this is an oft forgotten DC graphic novel movie adaptation that is one to not miss. Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn in Lord of the Rings) stars as a small town local restaurant owner who in defense of his employees kills to robbers who hold up the place. As his fame grows, a big city mobster (Ed Harris) comes to town stalking him and his family, claiming that Mortensen’s character is actually a gangster with big city ties from years ago. He then has to face the accusations while dealing with the growing tension and newfound popularity at home, and his questionable past. Maria Bello and William Hurt also co-star in an Academy Award nominated screenplay in which everything is so well done that it all seems real, where you can relate to the characters and their trials. Because so few people have seen it, I can’t really say a whole lot more without ruining the plot, so take my advice and find a venue to watch it if possible. 8.5/10
Batman Begins (2005) – This is where DC starts getting their ball rolling. With bringing in Christopher Nolan to direct, Batman has been changed forever thanks to this realistic, gritty reboot of the popular caped crusader. Nolan’s cast is spot on, with Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Katie Holmes (love interest Rachel Dawes), Gary Oldman (Lt. James Gordon), and Liam Neeson (villain Ra’s al Ghul) starring. This movie spawned the idea of series rebooting, as Nolan did this film so well after the 1997 disaster of Batman and Robin. Right up there with 2008’s Iron Man, this is one of the, if not the best superhero origin stories ever put onto the big screen. Chances are that you have seen this movie and most of its sequels, so you know how good it is. The only criticism I can think of is that I would have liked to see more of a romantic subplot and attachment built up between Bale and Holmes’ characters, which is the only place this movie really falls short at. 8.5/10
The Dark Knight (2008) – The best superhero movie franchise just keeps getting better with this installment. With Katie Holmes being replaced with Maggie Gyllenhaal, the only possible acting weakness has been removed. Bringing in Heath Ledger as the Joker and Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent/Two Face, Ledger steals the show with his character, leaving what are great performances by the rest of the cast, in the dust with the audience begging for more of the Joker at each go-around. A seamless plot chronicling Batman’s psychological battle with the Joker, this movie is astoundingly good. If you haven’t seen it, please come up from whatever rock you live underneath and steal a DVD player and a copy of this movie if you have to. Words really do not do this film justice, but I’ll attempt to use numbers to demonstrate how good it is. 10/10
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – The conclusion to the Dark Knight Legend, Tom Hardy is brought on to play the enormous villain Bane, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is introduced as the police officer John Blake, and Anne Hathaway is cast as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. Set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne (Bale) has hung up his cape and cowl, and retired from his role as Batman. He lives with his butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) in his manor, holed up to live a secluded life. It isn’t until the international terrorist Bane (Hardy) comes to Gotham City that Wayne is forced to take up his mantle once more and face a foe who at least equals his physical prowess. Hathaway, Gordon-Levitt, Caine, Morgan Freeman (Wayne Enterprises tech expert Lucius Fox), and Marion Cotillard form an ensemble cast to bring about the conclusion of the series. Unfortunately, this movie is the most marred with plot holes and inconsistencies, and leaves a few questions at the end. However, the entire political atmosphere created by director Christopher Nolan paints a fascinating scene in which most of the plot holes end up being forgivable. Overall, a fantastic movie, yet one that could not live up to its predecessor and is about on par with the first series installment. 8.5/10
V for Vendetta (2005)- Remember, remember, the fifth of November. Next to The Dark Knight series and Watchmen, this is DC’s best movie. An action/political drama, this film has the best entire cast of any movie save The Dark Knight or Man of Steel. Hugo Weaving stars as the titular masked character, the outcast vigilante known simply as V. In near futuristic Great Britain, following the collapse of most ordered governments due to disease and war, England has been strengthened but also taken over by the government who now runs things in a Nazi-esque dictatorial style. Weaving plays the outlaw who attempts to restore freedom to the people and reveal the true nature of the forming of the dictatorship by exposing its horrific origins and past. Natalie Portman co-stars, feeding off Weaving’s fantastic performance and putting on a good show of her own as Evey Hammond, a British Television Network employee with her own torrid past that is used in conjunction with Weaving to bring about change in the fascist state. Stephen Rea almost steals the show with an amazing acting job as the Inspector tasked with hunting down V, as he wavers on the line of doing his job and doing what he knows to be morally right. John Hurt, Stephen Fry, Roger Allam, Rupert Graves, and Tim Pigott-Smith are also featured, finishing out what is a great working cast. A great detective and political story, this is a must-see for anyone with any sort of natural intelligence. 9/10
Superman Returns (2006) – Personally, I really disliked this movie. I love Kevin Spacey, but not a bald Kevin Spacey. I like Superman as a hero, but not when this movie picks up from after the second Superman movie which was released 30 years prior and nobody from my generation is going to remember. I also just don’t like anyone else in the cast, apart from Kevin Spacey. It’s a boring, vanilla cast with a boring, vanilla story, that when it put me to sleep, it was the best thing to happen to me all movie long. I did stay awake enough to see that the plot was pretty dumb with Spacey’s Lex Luthor attempting to create a continent out of kryptonite and become a real estate mogul. That’s such a cool movie premise (sarcasm). 4/10
Stardust (2007) – I confess, I didn’t see this movie, nor did I have any plans to at all when it was released. Reading its synopsis now, ehhhh………. I like Matthew Vaughn (X-Men First Class, Kick-Ass) who directs, but a romance-fantasy film just wasn’t appealing when I was 16. If it’s on Netflix, I’ll give it a chance. The late great Roger Ebert gave it a 2.5/4 and called it “fun”, so I’ll say……6.5/10
Watchmen (2008) – This epic I have to watch every year to remind myself of how good most of it is. Taking place in an alternate-reality 1985, the movie starts with the masked vigilante The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) being killed by an unknown foe. The so-called Watchmen superhero group made up of various masked vigilantes has recently been outlawed by third term President Nixon as the United States and USSR are on the brink of nuclear holocaust. The film follows the main character Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley in an amazing acting job), a psychopathic vigilante who tries to find out what is happening to masked heroes and why The Comedian was killed. The movie follows typical Zack Snyder non-linear storytelling style which works out perfectly in this film. Not for those with weak stomachs, this movie has very well done stylized action and can be rather gory. Although not a Hollywood A-List cast, every single cast member from Matthew Goode to Malin Akerman delivers big in their roles and creates a fascinating and very well done adaptation of the famous graphic novel on realistic heroes. It’s an entertaining and thought provoking tale that although a few rather awkward sex scenes and some blue penis on display, makes for a fantastic film. 8.5/10
The Spirit (2008) – Another movie I must admit that I haven’t seen, it’s apparently a good thing that I’ve skipped over it. It’s said that the cinematography is akin to Sin City and pretty gorgeous, but everything else in the movie aside from Scarlett Johansson and Eva Mendes being in it is awful. I’ll buy that. One point each for hot actresses, and one for cinematography like Sin City. 3/10
The Losers (2010) – The last DC film that I have not seen, but I rather want to. It barely made more than its $25 million budget, but still starts Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen), Zoe Saldana (Star Trek), and Chris Evans (Captain America). Described as an A-Team of sorts, it is said to be full of action movie clichés and is big, loud, noisy, dumb fun. Which, I can live with on occasion. 5/10
Jonah Hex (2010) – Jonah Hex was billed to be an awesome western shoot em’ up with Megan Fox being a babe on the side, and the ultimate dude flick. In reality, it turned out to be the ultimate idiot movie that actually was painful to watch. Thankfully, including the credits, it was only 81 minutes long. I was ready to be put out of my misery far before then however. 0.5/10
RED (2010) – I didn’t enjoy this movie. That being said, I didn’t hate it. I also don’t care to synopsize it because I was primarily bored by everything that happened in it. Normally, I like Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, and Morgan Freeman movies. Something just doesn’t gel in this one for me though. It’s like throwing firecrackers down groundhog holes. It’s exploding, loud, and occasionally funny. But after nothing really happens for about ten minutes, I move on with my life. 5.5/10
Green Lantern (2011) – Green Lantern is not as bad as some people bill it. That being said, it’s also simply just not a good movie. There’s wayyyyyyyyy too much CGI, the villain is idiotic, and the cast is pretty bad. I think that Ryan Reynolds could conceivably be Hal Jordan, and he could do a fine job as the protagonist, but he’s just weighted down by poor writing and too much unrealistic razzle-dazzle. The hope for this movie coming in would be that it could potentially be a Justice League origin movie, which instead turned super-messy with special effects and lost all semblances of reality. My advice for the series is to create a sequel more grounded in reality that’s grittier and more realistic, and keep both Reynolds and Blake Lively on the cast, while forgetting pretty much everything else that happened in the first film. 4/10
Man of Steel (2013) – This is the Superman reboot and story that everyone has been waiting for. With Zack Snyder at the helm directing, this fantastic cast of Henry Cavill (Immortals, now playing Superman), Russell Crowe (Jor-El, Superman’s Kryptonian father), Kevin Costner (Jonathan Kent), Michael Shannon (General Zod), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), and Laurence Fishburne (Perry White) puts together the darkest, yet most realistic take on Superman yet. With Snyder’s nonlinear directing style, this movie shows Clark Kent/Kal-El coming to Earth and having trouble dealing with his non-human powers on a very human level. With General Zod arriving on Earth in search of Kal, it’s up to Clark to become who he was sent and born to be to stop the aliens from punishing humanity for hiding Kal from Zod. Very well done acting, directing, and action wise, the script could be a little better with some actual attempts at humor (it’s a movie that might take itself too seriously), and the large-scale destruction we see in Metropolis is a little bit too much to believe. Not a perfect movie by all means, but a very good one and a great reboot for the series. 8/10
Red 2 (2013) – What reason would I have to pay money or even time to go see this? ????/10
Part of the reason for DC’s success can be attributed to the fact that they have created several movies based on graphic novels instead of a series of comics. There’s less to draw on for a graphic novel, and more of a linear story to be told than the masses of comics and alternate universes and characters that are in play when we venture into comic book territory. Although the film branch of DC is without a doubt without its faults, it seems that the movies they create are designed to do more than just make money. They retain good actors and directors for successful franchises (see Snyder and Nolan), and focus on the cast, the story, and the realistic nature of how it gets conveyed to the audience. The future of DC film is unknown though, as the only established movie they have concretely on tap is a Man of Steel sequel that will introduce Batman into the Superman universe, which will likely be the prelude to a future Justice League movie. Rumor has it that Christian Bale and the rest of The Dark Knight series cast will not stay on for their roles, which would be a true shame not just for the audience but for the bean counters at DC. Honestly, I do not care how they explain it, but Christian Bale needs to play Batman and the rest of the universe needs to translate over with Man of Steel. There simply is no replacement for Christopher Nolan’s series. If DC were Marvel, there would already be a Batman reboot in place so they could make even more cash out of all the movies to follow. Let us hope that DC continues to stay the course and invoke (mostly) well done movies instead of following the Marvel path to greed.