The Batman (dir. Matt Reeves, 2022) – When a sadistic killer begins to murder key political figures in Gotham, the Batman steps in, only to uncover a larger ploy against the city.
It is a constant stagger back to square one for the DC Cinematic Universe as the studio introduces its 3rd major iteration of the caped crusader in just under two decades. There seems a reluctance to move past its tried and tested characters, even as Marvel races past and starts dipping into its backlog – to resounding success for the most part.
So we get The Batman. Again. Albeit this time, there is a promising director at helm. Matt Reeves’ take falls somewhere between his recent predecessors, grounded in its world-building and villainy, balanced with a tonality suited to its comic book origins. It fits Gotham well enough. His film noir influences hold merit, picking up where Darren Aronofsky’s Year One project fell through years ago.
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Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (dir. Cathy Yan, 2020) – Harley Quinn narrates the story of her post-Joker life as she stands against the enemies on her back, with a little help from new friends.
After spending an entire movie fawning over the Clown Prince, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) has finally decided that she’s had enough. In the Suicide Squad spin-off Birds of Prey, she cuts ties with Mr J for good, leaving behind a life of servitude to toxic romance.
So who exactly is Harley Quinn, if not the other half of Gotham’s nemesis? Is she then nothing but a vulnerable walking target in the eyes of the underworld? As it turns out, none of her assorted enemies ever stood a chance with luck on her side. Her wit is her weapon too, once stolen from her when she had been unfairly relegated to a love interest.
Crime lord Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) learns this for himself when he holds her captive over his own grievances. His smarmy henchman Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina) never gets to wield his knife. The ex-psychiatrist soon manipulates her way out of certain death and into his other mission – to recover child pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) for the diamond she stole.
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Joker (dir. Todd Phillips, 2019) – Aspiring comic Arthur Fleck descends into a life of violent crime as he comes to terms with his inner darkness.
Conceptually, a new take on the Joker screams bad idea. Once driven mad by chemicals in the vat, the villain has since evolved into a more complex character and a powerful emblem of the chaos that he creates. His very mystery and absence of reasoning had made him all the more unpredictable and terrifying.
Rewriting him as a troubled social misfit seems too obvious an origin story, which might just undo the good work that Jonah and Christopher Nolan had done. Besides, another Batman reboot? Even the most avid fan has to be tired of watching Thomas and Martha Wayne get shot in the alleyway.
But the man who laughed this time, is not the same Clown Prince we have seen before. The layered character study justifies his on-screen existence, ironically with the help of Martin Scorsese, who had so recently confessed his disdain for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
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Aquaman (dir. James Wan, 2018) – To preserve peace between land and sea, Arthur Curry must find the trident that will prove his worth as the King of Atlantis.
The Atlantean King’s first solo outing gets inundated with one too many villains, including a leaden script.
It was never Arthur’s intent to vie for the throne. But he soon finds his hand forced when the next heir in line threatens to wage a dangerous war. Having left his world behind at a young age, the late King’s firstborn son must find a sacred weapon, which will prove his worth to rule a world in disarray.
The to-be King is no heir of Camelot, but borne of the Atlantean Queen and a mortal lighthouse keeper. As the son of star-crossed lovers from two worlds, Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) knows better than anyone about unity. It takes little convincing for him to get his quest for peace started, as his initial reluctance quickly washes off to make room for explosive underwater action.
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Justice League (dir. Zack Snyder & Joss Whedon, 2017) – After Superman’s sacrifice, Bruce Wayne enlists four other known superheroes to fight against the threat of Steppenwolf.
In a highly anticipated assembly of beloved heroes, Justice League banks on pace and humour to distract from its characterisation flaws, to little avail.
With The Avengers out on their third spin and counting, pressure on DC’s own supergroup debut continues to mount. There was never a chance that Batman vs Superman’s dismal performance would have stalled the long-gestating birth of the Justice League.
Excitement no doubt surrounds the inauguration of the beloved heroes in live action. Sadly, the team’s formation proves premature. History repeats as with the disastrous Suicide Squad, where one too many iconic characters were forced to share first appearances in a runtime of under two hours, leaving behind weak impressions.
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Wonder Woman (dir. Patty Jenkins, 2017) – When a pilot crashes on Paradise Island, young Diana learns of the conflict beyond her Amazonian world and decides to leave home for a war to end all wars.
Taking a breather from the sullen Justice League, Wonder Woman brings hope to the DC Cinematic Universe with her unwavering faith for humanity.
There are very few things I can say about Wonder Woman that has not already been said. It is empowering, tons of fun, and everything an epic adventure should feel like. But how can anyone not rave on about the first superheroine film that has risen above this male-dominated genre?
It is perfect timing too. Post-Nolan, the DCEU has gotten onto an uneven restart. The dour monotony that Zack Snyder has imposed on the new era has long been clamouring for a new voice. This challenge falls into the steady hands of Patty Jenkins, who has previously steered Monster to tremendous acclaim, and is about to do the same for the Amazonian warrior.
Jenkins’ involvement is in itself a cause for celebration. Historically, there are hardly any female filmmakers in comic book adaptations. Lexi Alexander is the only one who comes to mind, with her nine-year-old Punisher: War Zone. What better joy than to watch a woman take on the task of introducing the iconic Princess of Themyscira?
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