Wonder Woman (2017) Review

The time has come for the premiere woman superhero to finally get a feature film after 75 years. Sure there has been a TV show in the 70’s but after that, it has been little to nothing. There have been numerous attempts at feature films and live action shows that have never materialized. There was a fairly popular animated movie in 2009. But now that the DC Extended Universe is off and running and making a small appearance in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman’s chance has finally come. How does it succeed?

Arguably this is the best movie in the DCEU canon and one of the best superhero movies in years. Origin movies are usually the best way to go especially with heroes whose origins aren’t commonly known. So this was the route chosen for Wonder Woman as well as setting the bulk of the movie in the past during World War I. Wonder Woman is usually tied to World War II but since Captain America: The First Avenger handled that war, you can see why they shifted it. After spy Steve Trevor crashes on Themyscira, Diana (Wonder Woman) agrees to take him back to mainland Earth where he has information on a new weapon to help end the war of wars. People tend to forget how brutal World War I was and this change does not diminish Wonder Woman’s plight against the God of War, Ares.

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Gal Gadot as Diana/Wonder Woman is serviceable as the titular hero. She is not necessarily great in the role. No fault to her as her acting resume is thin with a lot of roles that asked nothing of her. But when she does shine, she does. I can see her growing into the role and becoming a better actor in the process. Chris Pine steals the show for me in the movie. I’ve always been so so on him as an actor until fairly recently. In this movie, he plays a spy who has become world weary due to the war happening. While he is jaded, he always shows that he believes in the good of people. This is a good contrast to Diana’s more naive black and white view of the world. When these two interact, their chemistry is great and help sell the movie. The Amazons played by Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta, Diana’s mother and Robin Wright as General Antiope, Diana’s aunt are strong presences in the movies despite limited screentime. Diana and Steve’s compatriots played by Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner and Eugene Brave Rock are solid and help flesh out the war side and also help flesh out the world for Diana. Danny Huston, Elena Anaya, David Thewlis and Lucy Davis are the rest of the supporting cast are solid and help flesh out the movie.

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Patty Jenkins deserves all the credit in the world for this movie. The tone for the movie was perfect. There wasn’t humor just thrown in for the sake of humor. A lot of humor comes from Diana being a fish out of water. The contrast between Themyscira and the actual world is such a beautiful contrast. When Diana enters the modern (circa 1918) and sees London, you can just feel the pollution on the screen. When the war scenes happen, even though it is not an R rated film, you feel the effects of this horrific war. There are no hidden shots of missing limbs or anything like that, you see them. I think it was a tricky balance to not be too heavy but also show the effects of the war and what it is doing to the world. So when Diana finally does step in and become a beacon of hope, you really feel it.

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The action in this movie is top notch as well. Since Diana comes from a warrior group of people, they are much more melee based combat. This reflects in her combat style as she frequently goes for the legs. The opening action scene between the Amazons and German soldiers is unique to see this group of trained warriors go up against modern weapons that they know nothing about, which helps makes things even. Whenever Diana steps into battle, it is memorable since she is no normal person and can do things like no other. A unique battle shows that even though she is all powerful, she can not do everything and it is juxtaposed with her teaming with soldiers and their weapons to help turn the tides of battle.

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This is also a gorgeous movie. As mentioned earlier the contrast the modern world and Themyscira is palpable. Themyscira is a gorgeous place (probably why it’s nickname is Paradise Island) and the hues of greens and blues make you just want to visit the place. Then when entering the modern world and seeing the effects of war and everything is black and gray helping to sell that the world is really at war. Seeing the world in 1918 is also pretty much being like in a different world. Seeing London in this era and war torn Europe is nothing like the world today. The fashion, the vehicles, the lingo, everything about it.

Is it a perfect movie? No. The third act is a little long winded. The whole thing with Ares is a bit on the thin side. He’s a serviceable villain but not much to him. But it is nice to see a movie about a superhero who actually wants to be a hero. Everyone involved in the movie should be proud of themselves for creating one of the best superhero movies in recent years.

 

SCORE: 9/10

 

Justice League Trailer Takeaway

First thing first, no Superman. We all know that the Man of Steel is in the movie and probably more than a cameo. They even brought Henry Cavill out at San Diego Comic Con 2016 to show that he was in the movie. We know Lex Luthor and Lois Lane both play important roles in the movie. We even see a brief shot of Lois Lane looking towards the sky. Maybe she’s looking at her returned love. Who’s to say? But I can commend Warner Bros. on playing coy about Superman.

But other than that, I think it was a good trailer. We see how Batman is the one to bring the team together. This was hinted at in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. We still don’t know the extent of Wonder Woman’s role in forming the team. She really does not play that much of an element in the trailer. Instead it mainly focuses on the three new heroes who were introduced in cameos in BvS.

The Flash was always going to have the hardest time. The superhero already has a hit television show on The CW. We even see that they have the same origins with the father being in prison after being falsely accused of murder of Barry’s mother. The way that The Flash’s powers work in this universe make him much more faster than any other live action incarnation. Plus Ezra Miller is the total opposite of what Barry Allen traditionally looks like and younger as well. He does look much like Robin than Allen but he looks to be Batman’s sidekick in the movie.

Cyborg is the one who gets the least amount of screentime in the trailer. I figure this may be due to the heavy special effects nature of his character and these shots might not be done. But we do get a sense of his abilities and what he is capable of. In BvS it looked like a Mother Box (powerful tools used by the New Gods…it’s complicated) helped form him into what he is now. We know that the forces of Apokolips play an important part in this movie as the main antagonist but it makes you wonder what Cyborg will function as.

Aquaman looks to be the life of the party. The one who gets off on the thrill of battle. Nothing cooler than seeing Aquaman ride on top of the Batmobile while Batman can only smirk. There is a quick shot of Mera in the trailer as well. It is known that a Mother Box resides with the Atlanteans but we do not know Aquaman’s status with Atlantis. It will be interesting to see his dynamic with Batman as he seems to grate on Batman at best.

We also see a lighter side of Batman in this. I was not a fan of the way Batman was in BvS. Talking about how “you’re not a man” and “men are brave” and all that. It was all a little too xenophobic for me. But this movie seems to have taken a step back. While Batman will probably not be cracking jokes, he does have a dry wit about him. This is apparent in most of his interactions shown in the trailer with Aquaman, The Flash and Commissioner Gordon. By the way, J.K. Simmons looks great as Gordon.

There is not much to the trailer other than mostly battle scenes which are good and bad. Hopefully WB does not do what they did with BvS and ruin all the set pieces before the movie even premieres. Justice League looks to be fluffy fun which is something that the DCEU can use at the moment. Remember The Avengers in 2012, there was not much in terms of plot when it came to that moment. This movie looks to be following suit as well as assemble the team (and possibly resurrect Superman) and kick ass. I honestly hope this movie does not suck.

Why Superman Should Stay Out of Justice League Advertisements

It is no secret that Superman will be in Justice League. Now if you do not know, Superman is “dead” after the events of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Now we all knew from the instant that he died that it was going to be something that was not going to stick. Henry Cavill was brought out in front of the San Diego Comic Con crowd last year where director, Zack Snyder, even announced he would be in the movie.  Paraphrasing, “You cannot have a Justice League without Superman.” and that is a very true statement. So why should they keep him out of the advertisements?

But other than one photo where Superman was shown with the team and a blink and you’ll miss it appearance in a behind the scenes video of the set, there is no indication of Superman being in the movie. This is a good thing. Thing back to when The Force Awakens was being promoted and advertised. Other than a quick shot of Luke Skywalker’s hand and some reused dialogue, there was no indication of him being in the movie despite everyone knowing that he was. This should be the case with Superman in Justice League.

When the set visit news from the film was released, there were two things that many noted. That Superman was acknowledged as being in the film but vaguely and the things from the third act were still kept secretive. It is not hard to think the two things being linked with one another. How does Superman return? When exactly does he return? Who plays a role in his return? These are all things that should be kept secret until the movie is revealed. Even in the plot synopsis it is noted how important Superman’s supposed death shapes the team. He cannot return early in the film.

Think about how special it will be when after about an hour and a half into the movie, we finally get to see Superman return. He certainly will not look the same as he did at the end of the movie. Henry Cavill has teased the appearance of Superman’s black costume that he wore in the comics after the character returned from the dead. The character also sported an infamous mullet, but who knows if that will carry over into the film.

Superman is the first major superhero and probably the most important. It has been noted that so far in the DCEU, he has not been treated the best. What better way to redeem the character by keeping him out of the spotlight to be built up in the film? That way when he finally does return, it will be all the more important and powerful. You can show him in advertisements after the movie is released because once it’s out, it’s out. Either way, it will be exciting to see how Superman returns and just how.

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The DC Extended Universe and Bat-Problem

Batman is my favorite supehero of all time. But now I’m getting sick of Batman. The one issue that I’ve had with Warner Bros. is their over reliance on Batman. When the DC Animated line of movies first began, they were exploring different characters in the DC Comics pantheon. However somewhat low sales on titltes such as Wonder Woman and Green Lantern, halted other projects. Note that none of these were outright flops. So WB doubles down on Batman animated movies. This carries over into the animated TV projects as Batman got a series that flopped and is basically the main star of Justice League Action. 

So with the news that a Nightwing movie is in development, the previously announced Gotham City Sirens and The Batman, it looks like WB is just relying on their crutch character once again. I first became concerned when immediately after Man of Steel was released, it was announced that the next movie was going to be Batman v. Superman. But as time went on, they announced a slate of DCEU movies and surprisingly Batman wasn’t on the list.

But after the releases of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, it seems like WB is running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Grasping at the straws of things that did work (Batman, Harley Quinn) and losing focus on fleshing out the universe. I understand the reasons, Batman is a cash cow. Guaranteed to make money and garner attention. But at what cost?

Not to make too many comparisons but look at what Marvel Studios is doing. With each phase they continue to take risks with characters that are relatively unknown. Even WB TV is fleshing out unknkwn DC Comics characters and with great success. Now a TV show and $100 million movie are two different things but still shows that if the product is good, it will resonate with audiences. Suicide Squad could have been this but the whole thing was a jumbled mess and it focused more on the Batman villains in the movie than anything else.

I’ve tried to be pretty optimistic about the DCEU but the more news comes out, the more I’m worried and frustrated. Now Warner Bros. is a major studio and all their focus should not be on films based on DC Comics characters. But they are in a kitchen with a plethora of delicious foods but with many different chefs all wanting to do their own thing. It’s been said many times that there needs to be a vision for these films. So until then it just seems like they’re just resting on what works with Batman but not others. But time will tell. 

I’m Now Worried For The DC Extended Universe 

With all the recent news coming out about the DC Extended Universe, I’m no longer in “wait and see” mode. I’m now officially worried about this cinematic universe. I loved Man of Steel and more ambivalent towards Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and have grown to really dislike Suicide Squad. So I am more about where this universe is going. But The Flash movie has now lost two directors and getting a page one rewrite. Ben Affleck has left directorial duties on the upcoming Batman movie. Suicide Squad was such a mess because of the studio being reactionary about the reception of Batman v. Superman. The DCEU is a ship that is moving but there is no singular voice and thus it doesn’t know where it’s going. 

I’ve already made my opinions about Ben Affleck stepping down as director known. The Flash losing another director and getting a page one rewrite raises some eyebrows. I can applaud the execs at Warner Bros. not rushing something as they tend to have been doing ever since the announcement of Batman v. Superman. But a complete rewrite of the script? Then there is the Shazam (aka Captain Marvel) splitting into two movies with Black Adam starring Dwaynr Johnson. 

Warner Bros. is in the business to make money. Makes total sense. But their biggest problem is rushing to a billion. Man of Steel didn’t make a billion so let’s scrap a pure sequel and instead let’s introduce a new Batman, introduce Wonder Woman and lay the foundations for Justice League while also paying homage to The Dark Knight Returns and The Death of Superman. That’s a lot and probably the film’s biggest shortcoming. 

It has been said time and time again that there needs to be a central figure in charge of these movies. Too many cooks in the kitchen is what’s making these discombobulated. Is there hope for the DCEU? Of course. These are some of the most beloved heroes and villains in superhero fiction. But there needs to be action done and quickly to help right thr ship. 

Thoughts About Ben Affleck Not Directing ‘The Batman’

So earlier this week it was announced that Ben Affleck would not be directing the solo Batman for the DC Extended Universe. It really was not that much of a surprise considering his recent flip flopping statements about the film. How the film might not be made if the script wasn’t good enough and then how he was definitely making the film. So it was all very cluttered and just flat out confusing. But when announcing that he would not be directing the film, it was said that he would be involved as a producer and presumably his script will be used. But there are various reasons why he probably did not direct.

  • Directing and starring in a film is a daunting task. Many filmmakers can and have done it before to various results. But I haven’t seen a director star in a $150 million plus action film. That has to be rough.
  • Clashing with the studio. All you have to look at is Affleck’s comments about the status of the film and there is something off there.
  • Live by Night was a failure. Commercially unsuccessful and critically just meh. Another big budget movie starring Affleck. This may have shook his confidence.
  • Personal issues. All you have to do is read a tabloid.

So is it a shame that Ben Affleck is not directing the solo Batman movie? Who’s to say? Presumably but these things are a crap shoot. All there is to do now is focus on getting a director that can bring a unique vision to the film and also gel well with Affleck. Fingers crossed.