Wonder Woman

wonder woman

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Star Trek Beyond

 

star trek

With the onset of the movie franchise, Marvel has led the way in terms of creating symphonies, after allowing individual instruments to shine on their own.  Not to be outdone Paramount has followed suit, not only cranking out several Mission Impossible movies in recent years but also with the Star Trek reboot series.  Star Trek Beyond is the third installment in this franchise however this movie spends far less time establishing characters or backstory assuming that you have watched the others.  This leaves plenty of time and room for a good story to be told.  If by any indication of the quality of this film, viewers can expect to see a few more installments of this particular franchise.

A few thoughts about Star Trek Beyond:

  1. Deliberate Beginning – For most Trekkies, the beginning of this movie will feel very familiar.  With a voice over from the captain the slow start of this film leads the viewer to feel as if there is something to anticipate that is just out of reach.  While it may strike some as boring, seasoned fans will recognize this familiar setup as a means to an end.
  2. Good homage to the original show/films – This being the first film that spent a significant amount of time on a planet rather than in space, many of the beats paid homage to the familiar off world episode.  Much of the magic of the new films come in the form of a new spin on familiar ideas, this felt very much as if the stakes had been raised.  Being outside of the ship felt like a natural progression for this series.
  3. Great ensemble acting – As Marvel has their avengers, Star Trek has its crew.  The characters felt very much as a team with their dialogue complimenting one another’s.  For Trekkies they will recognize and appreciate the rapport that this cast has gained working with one another.  The character development is also working well, as if you have seen the first two movies the place of the characters felt natural,
  4. Good pacing – Like the first film in the franchise this movie unfolded at a steady pace.  From a slow beginning, the action accelerated at a steady pace from beginning to end.
  5.  Corny at times (but in a good way) – The dialogue at times was a little corny.  However no audible groans or gasps.  This again felt like the corniness a Trekkie could come to expect from a Star Trek property.  Even the corniest lines did not necessarily feel forced.
  6. Very well directed. – Justin Lin did a solid job with this film.  Some may know him from his work with the Fast and the Furious franchise however while elements of that can be seen here, this has proven that with better source material he definitely rises to the occasions.  Beautiful wide shots of the ship, the space station, the planet, as well as great choices in terms of action shots and space combat.  This was a beautiful film in terms of just watching.
  7. Well written. – Simon Pegg wrote the “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy” which consisted of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End.  While those movies garnered plenty of fans this was Pegg’s first foray into a non comedy property.  If pacing and plot are any witness, many more writing opportunities will come Pegg’s way.
  8. Villain was a little lackluster – That is not to say that there wasn’t an element of danger or cool factor with the villain’s actual weapons of choice.  However the villain’s motivation was not entirely executed well.  In the end this did not matter, as he still had the desired effect of being the obstacle the crew had to join together to overcome.

Overall a solid summer movie, and a good Star Trek movie.  This is one your entire family will enjoy, go ahead and bring the kids.  4 of 5 stars.