If there was one studio consistently kicking out amazing superhero films, it would definitely be Warner Bros. They have one of the most diverse and solid track records of any studio. They made an amazing Wonder Woman film 20 years before Marvel would make a film with a leading lady. They turned Batman into a vampire the same year Fox fucked up the Fantastic Four for the fourth time. Hell, they had three superhero team-up films before Marvel’s The Avengers came around. They perfected the genre years ago and continue to create interesting, fan pleasing films.
At this point you’ve probably realized I’m talking about Warner Brothers Animation and not the studio behind such gems as Martha: The Movie and Jared Leto and Friends. Why their live-action films are such a mess is baffling to me considering right down the hall, for a fraction of the budget, one of their divisions is killing it. Just bring those folks over to make your film. It ain’t hard. But I digress.
In honor of SAW’s Superhero Month, let’s pay our respects to the studio that should have been tasked with creating DC’s live-action shared universe in the first place.
This is the 50 Greatest DC Animated Movies of All Time (not including Lego films).
40. Son of Batman (2014)
It’s ironic that one of these New 52 Batman films is named Bad Blood because there’s enough drama between the Bat Family in these films to fill a whole catalog of Taylor Swift albums. Fans are pretty divisive of Damien Wayne. Some like his brashness, while others find him intolerable. I don’t mind him and I don’t think he’s the problem with these films. My problem is twofold:
- There’s nothing memorable about any of them, so they all bleed together in my mind.
- I really don’t like Jason O’mara as Batman.
If you were to put a gun to my head and made me describe the plots of each individual film, I would’ve just given you the titles and hoped for the best. “One is about Batman finding out he has a son. One is about Batman fighting his son. The last one is them fighting everyone.” I have no idea how close I am but I feel like I’m not too far off base and that’s a problem. The plots shouldn’t be able to be boiled down to the films title. Maybe there’s some great shit in these films that I’m not remembering but nothing stuck out to me other then there being a lot of bat drama.
And I know the second problem I have is a personal one but if I don’t dig Batman’s voice, it’s really hard for me to connect. I think O’Mara is one of the worst recurring Batman voices. He has no personality or character traits other than gruff. They should’ve brought back Greenwood.
39. Superman: Doomsday (2007)
Here’s a controversial hot take: I don’t think The Death of Superman was a good comic. I have no problem with them killing off Superman and I think Doomsday is actually pretty badass but there’s no explanation given to anything in the comic. Why the fuck is Superman saddled with D list superheroes? Where the hell are the rest of the Justice League? Who is Doomsday and who created him? Nothing is explained.
It has some great action set pieces and that panel (you know the one) is still powerful but it’s a terribly written comic that felt like a gimmick to sell comics. And it was. He was brought back in less than a year. It’s everything wrong with 90’s comics distilled into one book and almost crashed the goddamn industry. It’s overrated as hell but there’s always room for improvement. The film adapts not only The Death of Superman but the next two arcs in the series: Funeral for a Friend and Return of the Superman. And it does a pretty admirable job with the source material. They rewrite what doesn’t work and streamline the stories to make them all work as a one complete story.
Adam Baldwin is a pretty serviceable Supes, but James Marsters is fucking terrible as Lex Luthor. He’s a god awful actor that only got work because he was attractive to young women. I don’t know why anyone would pay him to read lines when his range is slightly higher than that of a mannequin. And speaking of mannequins, Anne Heche is in this as Lois Lane. She’s a much better actor than Marsters but she’s still garbage. There’s some good story elements and good performances but Marsters and Heche bring the film down hard.
38. Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman (2003)
This is nothing more than a pretty good episode of the television show that includes a stand out performance by David Ogden Stiers as the Penguin. If the film lived up to his performance, it would be in the top ten, no question. It’s easily the greatest depiction of that character and actually makes him feel intimidating instead of either being gross or a joke.
The biggest problem is that it tries far too hard to recapture the magic of Mask of the Phantasm. It even steals that films mystery of trying to keep the audience guessing who the titular character is. It’s unfortunately not the Penguin. And I’m probably mistaken but I believe this is the first appearance of Hector Elizondo as Bane and if it is, the makers realized they struck oil because he played the character for damn near a decade.
37. Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010)
This film has Ed Asner as Granny Goodness in it. I know he was first cast in that role back on the Superman: The Animated Series but it’s such a brilliant piece of casting, I just have to mention it. This is the first film on the list I have almost no issues with. Its not perfect by any means but the pros far outweigh the negatives.
The story isn’t the best but it leads to some really great character moments and the cast is exceptional. I’m such a fan of most of these characters, that just watching some of them interact is extremely entertaining. There’s a scene between Big Barda and Wonder Woman that’s better than every single film before this one combined and all they do is talk to each other. The worst thing you can say about this film is that it feels like an extended episode of the Justice League cartoon, and what’s wrong with that?
36. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)
I’ve never read the Jeph Loeb comic this film is based on, so I can’t tell you how close it follows that story but it’s one hell of a premise. In a time of severe economic downturn and financial crisis, the United States turn in desperation to one man, Lex Luthor, and elects him president in hopes that his vast resources can turn things around for the better. With Luthor now in power, the country returns to a state of peace. That is until the a gigantic meteorite composed entirely of Kryptonite is discovered to be on a collision course with earth. President Luthor wastes no time in capitalizing on this opportunity and, through devious manipulation and media propaganda, gets Superman branded as a criminal.
A one-billion-dollar bounty is declared on the Man of Steel which draws not only a vast array of villains looking to cash in on the bounty, but other superheroes convinced that Superman as gone rogue. Teaming up with Batman, the two must work together if they are to save the world, clear their names and uncover Luthor’s sinister hidden agenda. That premise alone could be an amazing live action film or a season long arc of a television show but instead, we got a 67 minute movie. That’s no where near enough time to deal with every plot line but what it makes up for in story, is it’s break neck pace. It’s impossible to be bored by this film. It’s damn near nothing but action. It’s the equivalent of watching a kid play in a sandbox with all of his toys.
35. Green Lantern: First Flight (2009)
I’ve never understood the appeal of Green Lantern. Take away the ring and there’s no difference between Hal Jordan and Clark Kent. They’re just boy scouts with super powers. Batman has pathos, Wonder Woman has one of the most interesting origin stories, Flash has personality and Martian Manhunter, well, he’s as unique as it gets. I didn’t think Green Lantern was much more than his premise, “Good guy gets magical ring” until I saw Green Lantern: First Flight.
After watching the film, I got it. I completely understood why he has such a loyal fanbase. Yes, he’s a good guy and yes he’s a boy scout but he’s almost the direct opposite of Superman. Instead of an alien coming to earth to protect it, it’s an ordinary man being thrust into the role of savior of the galaxy. He’s like the less cheesy Flash Gordon. It’s unfortunate that DC mainly focuses on either Batman or Justice League because if they made films this good out of their supporting players, they’d definitely get a whole new set of fans.
34. Justice League: Throne Of Atlantis (2015)
“Aquaman is lame. He talks to fish and he’s stupid and dumb.” Now that that bullshit is out of the way, let’s hit these pros and cons. Cons: this is part of the “New 52” universe and with it comes really fucking lame character designs (why the fuck does everyone have sideburns?? That shit died out 40 years ago) and of course, includes Jason O’Mara as Batman whose voice offends my ears for some reason.
Pros: this film gave many people (myself included) a new found appreciation for Aquaman. He’s the King Arthur of the seas and is quite the badass. It also brought in Rosario Dawson as Wonder Woman and Sean Astin as Shazam. Two very interesting decisions that I think paid off. Even though Dawson was born to play Catwoman. Seriously. The woman has been in multiple comic book adaptations but has never played Catwoman. That’s baffling to me. It’s as crazy as the fact that Billy Zane has never played Lex Luthor. Or the fact that everyone in this film has fucking sideburns. Seriously, why?
33. Justice League vs. Teen Titans (2016)
I don’t think there’s a studio that likes to churn out versus movies more than Warner Bros. Just off the top of my head, they have Batman v Superman, Godzilla vs. Kong, and Tom & Jerry for theatrical release, and then their animation division behind DC Comics films has been churning out one every couple of years. I’ve never understood the logic behind it. Everyone should know that by the time the credits roll, the two “enemies” will have put aside their problems to team up against a bigger threat. Batman vs. Joker makes more sense. No one is going to believe that the Justice League and the Teen Titans are actually going to be throwing punches.
And that’s pretty much what we see unfold on screen. We’re introduced to the New 52 Movie Universe version of the Titans who have to step up and rescue the Justice League when they all become possessed by Trigon. They fight, but only because the Titans have no choice. And then the Titans slowly free the Justice League one by one and they team up to save the rest of them. It’s a story we’ve seen multiple times in all these versus movies. It’s unoriginal and it needs to stop.
32. Wonder Woman: Bloodlines (2019)
It seems like every ten years DC decides its time to release a new Wonder Woman animated film. The first one is a damn fine film that should have got a sequel, but never did. Bloodlines is clearly capitalizing off the success of the live-action Wonder Woman. Diana wears almost a carbon copy of Gadot’s outfit for most of the film and her relationship with Steve Trevor is also brought over from the movies. But that’s where the similarities end. The villains in this film are better than both of Gadot’s films which is saying something since they borrow a couple. Cheetah, Doctor Poison, Giganta, Silver Swan, Dr. Cyber, Medusa, Veronica Cale, the film is packed with classic Wonder Woman villains and none of them overshadowed each other or the plot.
Rosario Dawson is back to voice Wonder Woman and once again does a perfect job. She is starting to earn a reputation for being the best part in superhero shows like Daredevil and films like the New 52 Movie Universe. I know she’s going to be busy the next few years playing Ahsoka for Lucasfilm, but after that could someone offer her the lead role in a live-action superhero movie? I don’t care who she plays, I just know she’d knock it out of the park. Actually, Vixen. I think she’d be amazing as Vixen. And then have her fight Gadot’s Wonder Woman because we know Warner Bros. loves a good marketable versus movie.
31. Reign of the Supermen (2019)
I guess fans weren’t happy with the first adaptation of The Death of Superman because DC decided to take another swing at it. The second-half of The Death of Superman story, Reign focuses on the emergence of four Superman successors —Superboy, Steel, Cyborg Superman, and the Eradicator— who try and fill the void following Superman’s death in the first film. There’s some fun moments spread throughout the film (Superboy is a particular highlight), but it still feels like they are rushing the story. The best part of this film is when Superman is reborn and rocks that ’90s mullet. Reign cannot match The Death of Superman released the year prior, but it is still worth checking out if only because it sets up the finale of the New 52 Movie Universe.
What are some of your favorite DC animated films? Maybe they’ll show up later in the list!