I was planning to use my day off to write a positive retrospective on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a movie I maligned back in 2016 but have since come to appreciate in some respects. A cinemeaculpa, if you will. Then I made the mistake of posting a 3.5-star review on Letterboxd — which, for me, means a movie I didn’t love but found interesting enough to think about — and soon enough, there came the dork brigade of young men who have decided their identity is wholly defined by defending a failed attempt at an Avengers-esque team-up by a massive corporation.
Look, I’m kind of a loser, but I’m not that big of a loser.
Still, I wanted to write something that made rewatching BvS worthwhile, so here it is: the Midwest Film Journal’s inaugural Rank Opinions column, our way of buying into the clickbait style of ranking stuff now that no more new movies exist.
No franchise has as many third-act action sequences so reliant on giant feculent foes. Not that they’re literally made of poop, but they all look it. A side effect of limited post-production and behind-the-scenes woes? The result of a corporation unsure of how to budget properly? I don’t know.
What I do know is that of the franchises’ seven films — Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, Justice League, Aquaman, Shazam! and Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) — all but the first and final films have featured an escalating number of indistinguishable, characterless brown-and-grey monsters for our heroes to combat and conquer. Here’s how I rank the films, starting with the two films that don’t feature any because, quite frankly, I prefer movies that don’t remind me of the Great Mighty Poo.
Unranked: Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) and Man of Steel
We’ve published two positive reviews of Birds of Prey on our site. It is by far the best entry in the DCEU, full of character and humor above and beyond the rest of them. Although Harley Quinn and her gang fight a number of goons, most of them are dressed in colorful costumes rather than looking like congealed buttsauce.
Although many would argue Man of Steel is itself a big bowl of poo, I actually really love Zack Snyder’s angsty take on America’s foremost superhero. It’s certainly overwrought and depressing, so your mileage will vary. But at least the ultimate foe is played by an amped-up Michael Shannon. That’s the opposite of a poop monster.
Best Poop Monster: Doomsday, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice — The Ultimate Cut is a three-hour superhero epic with about 90 minutes of truly great material. The other half is mindless dreck made by a director, Zack Snyder, at war with what he wants to do and what the genre requires. Snyder’s Man of Steel pissed a lot of people off — including me — by subverting essential elements of the Superman mythos. But in doing so, Snyder managed to make a Superman movie like we’d never seen, one true to his conception of the charter. Agree or disagree, it’s about as close to a creator-owned Elseworlds as we’ve ever had on the big screen. (In layman’s terms, that’s a comic driven by the writers and artists’ vision rather than the company’s plans). That should be celebrated.
Batman v. Superman, however, was too big a project to let Snyder run wild. His subsequent canning on Justice League is proof positive that the suits controlling the characters realized he was given too much free reign over their two biggest characters, in what amounts to a bastard hybridization of his aesthetic interests and the team-up structure required by this type of tale.
In truth, the slow-paced and visual-heavy start of BvS contains a lot of intriguing ideas. Batman is a fallen hero, cruel and hopeless in the face of Superman’s emergence as an uncontrollable godlike force on Earth. Superman wrestles with whether his actions are doing good when so much of humanity hates him. As Clark Kent — and in sequences cut from the theatrical version — he tries to do his best job as a journalist to bring the increasingly brutal Batman to justice (pointing out that the police won’t and that Batman’s actions largely victimize the poor and destitute). The Ultimate Cut gives Superman and Batman real philosophical reasons to do battle. Hopeless, (literal) God-fearing Batman is a testament to the character’s malleability, and Affleck’s performance is truly great.
However, regardless of the cut you watch, it all comes to a head when Lex Luthor creates Doomsday, an ape-like turd titan that the heroes punch a bunch before Superman sacrifices himself to achieve victory. Doomsday sucks, and that ending sucks.
Therefore, conversely, he’s the best of them. He ruins the movie and kills Superman. What a memorable turn!
2nd Best Poop Monster: Ares, Wonder Woman
As with Doomsday, Ares’ appearance as a giant poop-lookin’ dorkus at the end of Wonder Woman needlessly derails an otherwise decent movie’s big climactic moment. Wonder Woman is a good movie with some cool action and lovely characters. The “no man’s land” sequence is about as perfect as a comic-book movie scene can get. However, the conclusion of the movie with Diana fighting against a big CGI version of the Greek God Ares is just utterly dumb and a total deflation.
3rd Best Poop Monster: Everything Under the Water in Aquaman
James Wan’s underwater epic Aquaman is 90% computer-generated imagery, and although much of it looks fine, the whole movie (for the most part) is just a mugging Jason Momoa riding around on big green-screen ca-ca creatures while screaming “Yee-haw!” It’s not as awesome as it sounds, or should be. Most of these monsters are totally unmemorable Pacific Rim rejects.
Honorable Mention: The De-Aging Effects on Temuera Morrison in Aquaman
Temuera Morrison is preternaturally handsome man and a no-brainer choice for Momoa’s father in Aquaman. However, flashback sequences necessitated de-aging of the famed New Zealander. The technology still isn’t there and certainly wasn’t here. Too many big crab monsters eating up the budget, I guess.
4th Best Poop Monster(s): The Enchantress and Icarus in Suicide Squad
Here’s where we fall into the really bland Poop Monsters who don’t have the distinguished honor of ruining perfectly good movies or being so egregiously present as to distract from the mediocre ones. David Ayer’s Suicide Squad is a mercilessly boring movie clearly rebuilt in post-production from an unforgivingly dumb one. I’d have taken the latter over the former. The big villains are Enchantress — whose completely CGI body does not bridge the uncanny valley — and her brother, Icarus, who, well, just look at him: bipedal anal discharge. What a lame B.A.D. guy. Yeesh.
The two are protected by monsters who also look like crusty BM.
5th Best Poop Monster: The Seven Deadly Sins in Shazam!
A bunch of Colombians threatened my mother after I posted my negative of review of Shazam! last March.I stand by it. I don’t like the movie at all. It is bland and lame. So are its big villains, the “Seven Deadly Sins,” depicted mostly as crusty brown turd creatures who do mean things, etc. Seven deadly stools is more like it!
6th Best Poop Monster: Steppenwolf in Justice League
Zack Snyder’s forthcoming “Snyder Cut” of Justice League will be interesting to watch, given how poorly the Whedon-reshot theatrical version ended up. Snyder was supposedly interested in exploring Jack Kirby’s New God characters, one of the weird hallmark properties for DC and soon to be a presumably poop monster-filled feature film. Sadly, no matter who cuts the movie, Snyder’s horrendously basic-bitch aesthetic approach to the traditionally very colorful New Gods would have remained a gaping albatross around the neck of the film. Steppenwolf (motion-captured by Ciarán Hinds) is the worst Poop Monster of the DCEU, a character whose otherwise interesting comic-book role and backstory became complete shit.
Honorable Mention: Todd Phillips, co-writer and director of Joker
Todd Phillips idolized GG Allin, the punk rocker who famously threw shit on his audience during unhinged performances. Phillips seems to publicly depict himself as a transgressive filmmaker, lamenting the “death of comedy.” His Oscar-nominated take on the Joker was hailed as a “real film” based on a comic-book character, but the impact of his contributions is as much a put-on fake-out as Phillips himself. What works in the movie is solely to the credit of star Joaquin Phoenix and composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, who won Academy Awards for their work on the film. Phillips didn’t, but his dopey press tour was an insult to much more talented filmmakers during the 2019 awards season. Oh, you made Scorsese fanfic by using a comic-book character and couched most of the story on references to Batman? Congratulations.