Even before the release of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, DCEU’s aspirations of building a cohesive, interconnected universe had come to an abrupt end with the prospect of a big-scale reboot spanning through upcoming live-action and animated ventures. For fans who grew up in the late 1990s, when DC’s diversified animated ventures dominated the pop culture scene, or even earlier than that, when in printed comics DC exemplified absolute dominance in sheer variety and quality of titles, it was inconceivable that its first attempt at live-action world-building would meet a disastrous end—let alone not even come close to replicating the success of the aforementioned mediums. However, even amidst the haphazard, clueless continuity problems, poor reception, and mismanagement, there were silver linings in the form of some iconic moments scattered across sixteen movies and a TV series, which fans will surely remember in years to come. As we bid farewell to DCEU, let us take a look back at those moments as a token of appreciation for the vision of the creators of the source material.
First Flight In Man Of Steel
Zack Snyder’s DCEU movies have generated very mixed reactions among fans and critics due to their choice of narrative formation, and his Man of Steel, a deconstructionist approach to Superman’s origin, which paved the foundation of DCEU being the first movie of the franchise, perfectly showcases the reasons. The movie boasts sporadically highlighted joyous, optimistic moments, which are in line with Superman’s true characterization, but is set against a drab, cynical, almost Randian evaluation of the character and narrative. For a movie that spends most of its third act in the tiresome destruction fantasy of clichéd hero-villain conflict, a poetic scene like “First Flight” (metaphorically acting as the beginning of DCEU as well) comes as a shocking, out-of-place wonder. As Clark, aka Kal El, dons his classic Kryptonian attire for the first time, he remembers the hopeful words of his biological father, Zor El, which inspires him to test the limits of his powers in Earth’s environment. The words of Zor El strengthen Clark’s resolve, let him find a place and a purpose among the people of Earth, mark the completion of his quest to uncover his true identity, and he takes off from the icy mountains of the Arctic in a glorious fashion. Hans Zimmer’s iconic track plays in the background as Clark learns to control his flight while blitzing through the mountains and the sea, and it reaches its crescendo as Clark soars above the clouds, confident of himself and hopeful for a better future. The scene ends with a trademark Superman in space sequence and acts as a cherry on top of one of the most iconic moments in not only DCEU but of the entire comic-book genre itself.
No Man’s Land In Wonder Woman
Till date, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman has held its spot as the best female character-led superhero movie, and the incredible “No Man’s Land” sequence acts as one of the pivotal reasons. As the First World War ravages Europe, Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, reaches the Western Front in Belgium, accompanied by a ragtag team led by Steve Trevor. Moved by the pleas of a helpless mother whose village has been caught in the conflict, Diana requests Steve to use the military might of Allied force to take control of the perilous No Man’s Land, a specific portion of the battlefield that has been occupied by the forces of the Central Powers for over a year. As Steve and his troop deem it impossible, Diana takes it upon herself to even out the odds, and wearing the iconic costume, she steps out alone amidst incessant gunfire and bombardment. Using her shield to stand against barrages of gunfire, Diana provides the troop with an opening to counterattack and eventually win against the opposition to give the land back to its people. The scene is loaded with symbolic significance. As the only woman standing against the nonsensical violence instigated by man, Diana is at the moment no longer just her godly self, but is representing the subjugated women across the history. As a character, Wonder Woman has been celebrated as a feminist icon right from her inception, and “No Man’s Land” is a beautiful acknowledgement of that.
Flash Turns Time In Zack Snyder’s Justice League
For reasons unknown and incomprehensible, one of the most important scenes of Zack Snyder’s original version of Justice League, which didn’t make it to the theatrical cut, was Barry Allen’s, aka Flash’s, unbelievable dash to save the world. In the movie, the combined might of the Justice League valiantly fights with Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons, but they eventually run out of time, and with a portal opening to the Apokolips, the world faces annihilation. Barry, the speedster of the group, who so far appeared timid and unsure of himself, rises to the occasion as he gathers all his strength and resolve to run faster than ever before, turning time backwards in the process, quite literally. With each stride Barry makes by galloping faster than the speed of light, the past gets reconstructed anew, and the mind-boggling imagery accompanied by a synthwave beat drop is something pulled straight out of an artist’s imagination. Flash’s incredible feat levels the playing field, and the Justice League emerges triumphant this time thanks to the massive advantage.
The One True King Moment In Aquaman
Aquaman has been subjected to the merman and fish jokes since the 1980s, thanks to Super Friends ruining the character’s reputation, which further worsened due to all the references made in popular sitcoms. That was, until James Wan decided to reinvent the character’s public profile through a faithful adaptation of Geoff John’s seminal Aquaman run in the movie of the same name. In a genre where directors often used to fret and feel ashamed to depict a comic’s zaniness and imaginative flair without toning it down for the general audience, Wan unabashedly went on his way to turn all the ‘silly’ character traits into iconic scenes, and “The One True King” is the biggest example. After proving himself worthy of wielding the Trident of Atlan as the protector of the seven seas, Arthur connects with all marine life at once in a mystical neural bond, and riding Karathen, a ginormous ancient cephalopod creature, he leads a multitude of marine creatures against his villainous half-brother, Orm’s Atlantean army. This scene is properly epic in every sense of the term, and it is the closest DCEU has ever gotten in terms of matching the level of spectacle of the MCU’s Infinity War and Endgame.
Marvel Family United In Shazam
A core of the stories of the original Captain Marvel, now known as Shazam, is the theme of family, which provides a sense of belongingness. Director David Sandberg understood the assignment when he beautifully recreated the charming moment from Geoff John’s series Shazam (2011) revamp in his movie of the same name. Shazam follows the story of orphan Billy Batson, who gets adopted by the Vasquez family in the beginning of the movie and gets introduced to a dozen adopted siblings with whom he eventually forms a bond after shaking off his initial disagreements. After gaining the mystical powers to become the champion of magic, Billy comes into conflict with the villainous Dr. Sivana. However, despite all the magical shenanigans, Billy remains adamant about reuniting with his birth mother but gets his heart broken after learning that she had abandoned him in the first place. The true significance of family hits him hard when he sees his adopted siblings risking their lives to save him from Sivana’s clutches, and he chooses to share his powers with them. All six of them emerge as champions of magic and use their wit and might to foil Sivana’s evil schemes.
Egg Sandwich Scene In Birds Of Prey
It can never be overstated how criminally underrated Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey truly is. The relatively low-stakes, fun-filled, colorful romp revolving around Harley Quinn and her band of female furies went unnoticed by fans, which is a pity considering it was an example of how liberating comic-book genre movies can be when they are not being bogged down by the stipulations of comic accuracy of the premier character’s portrayal. The “Egg Sandwich” scene being a remarkable, hilarious success among viewers—even those who didn’t see the entire movie—proves that it deserved to be re-assessed. A broke Harley goes to her favorite diner and orders a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich—and further goes on to lusciously describe the making process in tempting detail. The total focus on the sandwich being made and Harley’s expression signifying it to be the most desired object in the universe for her—not only adds a strong dose of humor to the movie but also increases the relatability quotient of the character. More than being just a random moment of the movie, the way Margot sold the scene and the ensuing heartbreaking moment during the fall of the sandwich establishes the “Egg Sandwich” scene as almost a topmost calibre of cinematic art.
A Number Of Moments Involving Peacemakers In The Suicide Squad
Through the years, James Gunn has become renowned as one of the most prolific comic-book movie creators, thanks to the balance he maintains between source material authenticity and quality storytelling. Even more than his Guardians of the Galaxy movie trilogy, his first DCEU project, The Suicide Squad, solidified this trait, which eventually landed him the role of chief of the upcoming, revamped DC Universe. Using relatively lesser-known, complex characters like Peacemaker, Bloodsport, Ratcatcher, and Polka-Dot Man, Gunn admixed brutality with emotion, apathy, and humor in a curious way that only he could concoct and presented several memorable moments throughout the movie. One random coincidence is that the majority of those moments involved the character Peacemaker, played by John Cena. The scenes ranged from the bloody opening with Task Force X members getting killed to a kill-spree rivalry between Bloodsport and Peacemaker, an animated gaze into the psyche of a murderous Harley Quinn, brutal brawl between Peacemaker and Rick Flagg Jr. seen through the reflection of the former’s helmet, and so on and so forth. Later, Peacemaker received a solo HBOMax series of his own directed by Gunn, where Cena’s acting and taut storyline made the character a fan favorite in no time.
Home Invasion Sequence In Blue Beetle
The first superhero movie with a Hispanic lead, DC’s Blue Beetle, turned out to be a call-back to old-school superhero origin tales with its roots embedded in the cultural representation of Latinidad, and despite being a bit derivative on a number of occasions, managed to amaze viewers with strong character dynamics. One of the highlights of the movie was the home invasion sequence, where Victoria Kord’s private military break into the Reyes family home, ransack the place, and drag the family members out of their home in search of the ancient artifact ‘Scarab’. Jaime, who has already inseparably connected with the ancient biotech artifact and has gained superpowers, arrives to rescue his family and lays waste on his adversaries. However, in his effort to save his daughter, Milagro, Jaime’s father, Alberto, sustains injuries that aggravate his heart condition and prove to be fatal. Jaime, on the other hand, gets captured by Kord’s forces, and the devastated Reyes family stands outside their burning home. The scene is a painful, shocking, and nearly horrifying recreation of the sordid experiences a number of members of the Latino community face on a regular basis in so-called first-world countries, where the concept of equality is limited to being a fancy word in legislative directories. Director Angel Manuel Soto didn’t shy away from taking a stance for the community he and his movie represented and further proved the point about how diversifying and empowering the medium of comics and its adaptations can be.
There were a plethora of other memorable moments scattered in DCEU we could have missed, but for us, these aforementioned ones stood out as defining features of the universe itself. We felt that compared to MCU, the tone and treatment of DCEU were much more liberating, experimental, and varied—something that the lackluster reception of the universe never managed to highlight. Hopefully, the upcoming new frontier of DC’s cinematic expansion stays true to this one characteristic of its predecessor, as more than interconnectivity, surprise cameos, and comic authenticity, we adore stories and experiences that share a universal tone and transcend the shadow lines that part the world.