Despite having the more recognizable and universally familiar characters in comic book lore the DC cinematic universe has had a less than stellar debut. Beginning with “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” while commercially their films do well, critics have widely panned each new installment in the DC Cinematic Universe (DCCU). While “Wonder Woman” hopes to buck the trend at least critically, the studios’ lack of investment in marketing this film have led many to believe that more could have been done to sell this movie. Based on the previews, Wonder Woman plans to give movie goers many of the thrills they look forward to in summer movies. The familiar DC property should be enough to give the DCCU the much needed boost it is looking for before “Justice League” premieres later this year.
A few words about Wonder Woman:
- Great action – Since this movie begins with the earliest of origins for little Diana Prince, viewers get to see glimpses of the Amazons both training and in battle. Early on this is done using both well choreographed fight sequences as well as good use of slow motion during busy action scenes. There are several scenes early on when the Amazons are fighting that are breathtaking to watch. However when the solo scenes of Wonder Woman in action are shown, they are clearly the main course and it is not disappointing. Not only are the scenes crafted to show that she is a capable fighter but many times they allow Wonder Woman to truly be the hero that viewers would like her to be.
- Above average treatment of women characters. – There are a few tropes here that some feminists may cringe at. (as a man there were a couple of scenes/lines that left me wondering if there could have been better execution.) However for the most part women are treated as warriors and strong and not as sex symbols which is refreshing to see. While many of the warriors are “Scantily clad” in the film, it is taken with great care to note that they are dressed to fight, rather than to stand and be seen. There are few times where Wonder Woman is allowed to be the savior of the men in the film, and the men are happy to have her to do the saving. Chris Pine’s character who is shown being defensive of Wonder Woman for the majority of the movie, actually pushes her forward to do the fighting when he realizes she is far more effective at dispatching enemies than he or his crew is.
- Good acting from Gal Gadot (and Chris Pine) – The most I’ve seen Gal Gadot in before this film was the “Fast and the Furious” franchise where she is basically used as functional eye candy. (this is to say a beautiful woman who can also do some stuff, but is clearly being used more for her beauty than for her capability) Her first turn as Wonder Woman in BVS: Dawn of Justice did not require much acting from her besides action scenes and a few exchanges with Bruce Wayne. In Wonder Woman, Gadot is doing much of the emotional heavy lifting of this film. While much of her character is shown through dialogue exchanges, in some scenes she is required to convey her feelings through a look or a sound and she executes both very well. Gal Gadot brings great presence to this character and at times just being on screen swallows up the people around her which is not a bad thing for this movie. Her gravitas along with the professional levity of Chris Pine, who is basically playing an offshoot of his character from Star Trek work very well together. Gal Gadot playing the straight man and Chris Pine peppering the jokes allows for a very satisfying combination.
- Solid plot – This plot was not overly complicated. It was easy to follow and made sense as far as the overarching themes it was attempting to convey. That being said, at times the dialogue was a little corny to say the least, however this didn’t hurt the film. Along with a little corny dialogue there are a few plot holes as well, however these will only bother the most hardened of comic book fans and some of us more neurotic critics.
- Little rough in terms of character development. – If there were any real complaints about this movie it would lie in the character development. There were a couple of times where I questioned the motivations of the characters on screen and had no real answer as to why they were doing what they were doing. This isn’t necessarily a game changer, but a few times there were characters introduced who seemed to be on screen to do “a thing” then just leave, which doesn’t allow the viewer to really connect with them. For the largest characters in the movie, this isn’t necessarily the case but even with Chris Pine’s character he largely seemed to show up and begin completing tasks rather than give us any backstory to make us connect with him. This again, will only bother some of us more neurotic critics.
This was a good movie. It was a good superhero movie. It was a good DC movie. It is a good entry against the Marvel Cinematic Universe which has been pummeling DC for years now. This bodes well for the future of the DC cinematic universe. With all that being said it was also very refreshing to see a woman kicking butt more than the men were, and in many cases kicking the butts of men all over the screen. This is a good movie that allows women to shine and show that being the hero as a woman means that you can do the same things men do without having to be a “sex pot” (unless you want to be). I left this movie feeling pretty good, entertained, and ready to see more of Wonder Woman. I will most certainly be adding her comics to my collection and plan to see this movie at least one more time with my mother and sister. Bring your kids, especially your daughters (but your sons will appreciate it as well), bring your spouses, and even your pets if that is possible. 4 of 5 stars.
Please enjoy Episode 11 of the Time Well Spent with Ronald podcast.
Please enjoy Episode 10 of the Time Well Spent with Ronald podcast.
Also, please enjoy the most recent episode of another member of the ohitsbigron studios family “Talkin’ Loud and Sayin’ Nothin'”:
Please enjoy Episode 9 of the Time Well Spent with Ronald podcast.
Alien Covenant is the second film in the prequel Alien series and the 6th film considered to be a part of the original canon of Alien films. (This is a direct reference to the now defunct Alien vs Predator series which licenses the use of the Xenomorphs from the original films, I should also state that Aliens have also been in comic books and various other media ventures so the property itself has been very profitable.) The continuation of the series picks up after the events of Prometheus which saw the film return to its original suspense/mystery roots. This shift allowed for new questions to be asked and answered of the original series as well as make use of modern advances in film technology to build the world to be visually stunning. Prometheus did well at the box office setting up director Ridley Scott nicely for his plan to make multiple prequels and sequels. Alien Covenant picks up about 10 or 11 years after the events of Prometheus and follows the attempted colonization of the planet Origae-6. This film seeks to add further depth to the Alien Universe and continue telling the origin story of the Xenomorphs and their creators the “Engineers”.
A few words about Alien: Covenant:
- Characters are flat – There is not much character development at all in this installment of Alien. While the characters have an assumed backstory, exposition that is explicitly stated in the movie does little to provide depth to the characters themselves. It does not help that in many cases the characters are making stock horror movie decisions, such as always choosing to split up rather than work together. At one point in the movie, the idea of them continuously splitting up becomes a little comical as one character will be found dead, and the remaining characters still assign separate tasks for each other to complete. The setups for Alien carnage comes off a little convenient.
- Not many Xenomorphs – In this movie while the Xenomorphs (traditional Alien creatures from these films) are prominently displayed, at times their presence did not feel necessary. The central conflict involved them, however, they were not the central villain. This made seeing them feel a little empty or one note. In many cases, it seemed as if they only showed up to ratchet up the immediate tension rather than because they were a necessity to the story.
- Two much fassbender – It is not a spoiler to say that Michael Fassbender plays two roles in this movie. While his acting is solid and interesting to watch, at one point he’s doing scenes with both characters together. These scenes were at least a little bit overwrought. I found myself wondering what the ultimate purpose of these scenes were and don’t ever know that it was revealed. Seeing him “mentor” himself came off hokier than I believe it was intended to be.
- Not much real story development – Prometheus introduces the characters of the “engineer” or the beings that humans suspect created them. In Alien Covenant, the engineers have a brief moment but their story is not really expanded upon. The questions raised about them in Prometheus seemed to be discarded in order to create a different movie.
- Visually Appealing – Much like Prometheus the use of wide shots in this movie did much to establish the contrast between the small humans exploring the vast universe. Many of the shots are breathtaking on the big screen, which in this format does a great job of making the viewer feel small as well.
Overall, this movie did very many traditional “Alien” things. There are Xenomorphs, space tension, action, air locks, acid blood, running, screaming and dying. However, this film eventually ends up just being another installment of Xenomorphs killing humans. While the reasoning for the existence of Xenomorphs is a little clearer, the film ultimate does little to expand the mythology of the Alien universe. I would still love to see a movie that does more to expand this backstory, much like Prometheus began to do. This is a solid summer movie, but ultimately I left the theater feeling like something was missing. Do not bring your kids. 2.5 of 5 stars.
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is the 15th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the third film in the third phase of the same. The first installment of Guardians takes the viewers on a journey far beyond earth and sets the larger stage for what is to come in the MCU. Before the first film debuted there was much doubt to the success of the movie due to its use of lesser known characters in the MCU. However, the hilarious use of witty banter among the protagonists and the well-executed trope of the “ragtag group of misfits” somehow thrown into extraordinary circumstances with extraordinary expectations played well for audiences worldwide. The first Guardians film set the bar high for future installments and created much anticipation for the second film.
A few words about Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2:
- Tries too hard to be funny at times – Right out of the gate Guardians 2 seemed intent on doubling down on the humor that endears itself to the audience in the first installment. However in this installment, while funny on its own, there was a noticeable shift in a number of jokes per scene. While the first installment felt very natural with jokes flowing at the pace of the film, Guardians 2 seemed at times to stop the action or story to tell jokes that at many times felt as if they went on a bit too long.
- Lots of character development – In this movie each of the Guardians gets a deeper look into why they are the person (or tree, or raccoon, or other species) that they are. For the most part, this was done pretty well with explaining the motivations behind each of the characters. However, this made the movie;
- Extremely emotional – There were times in this film where it felt as if the audience was being forced into an emotional cheese grater. There were several instances in which again the film felt like it stopped to make a very specific emotional point about one of the characters. This was at the very least a bit heavy handed and at most emotionally manipulative.
- Fun and engaging action – The action sequences were very well executed. Specifically, there is one involving Rocket that was very entertaining to watch and another involving Yondu (Michael Rooker with a functional mohawk) that was mesmerizing as well. The larger action set pieces were also done very well, watching this film in 3D was very rewarding as the editing made full use of the medium. (this coming from a critic who despises 3D and feels its use is mostly gimmicky)
- Felt very disconnected from the MCU – There is a total of five end credit and mid-credits scenes and only two of them did any work to tie this film to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. Other than those scenes this film felt almost entirely self-contained and outside of the MCU. There are still about four films between this one and Avengers: Infinity War and while we know who the main villain of that film will be (Thanos) it still remains to be seen how the Guardians will mesh with the heroes of the other films. This didn’t hurt the film itself however it did make this seem a little more like a lot of side plot rather than an important part of the main story. (also there is a point in the film where the main villain is destroying earth and it seemed at the bare minimum a little odd that there would be no Avengers interested in helping to stop this)
- Terrible main plot reveal – When the main villain reveals their ultimate plot to destroy much of the galaxy it is done in kind of a crass way. Revealing any more than that would be a spoiler but suffice it to say it felt at the very least a bit “Maury” -esque. (I welcome anyone who wants to unpack this further to contact me on twitter or fb)
Overall the film was not bad. I would say another solid entry in the MCU (whilst not necessary being a strongly connected unit of the MCU) with great action sequences and still remained funny (at times to a fault) The audience loved Baby Groot (albeit it seemed there was more of him than was needed) and there is much visually to enjoy while watching this film. You can bring your kids, but it is a bit long as I sat next to a kid who got very antsy during the second hour. 3 of 5 stars.
Please enjoy Episode 8 of the Time Well Spent with Ronald podcast.