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.

Suicide Squad

Suicide squad

DC studios continues to make attempts to establish franchise super heroes beyond the Christopher Nolan batman series.  With the highly anticipated “Justice League” in the works DC studios continues to trail behind Marvel studios with regards to quality of product as well as fan interest.  Enter Suicide Squad, a less widely known (among casual fans) DC property that brings together a group of “meta-humans” to fight against threats to the US government.  On literal paper (in the comic books) this worked because of the comic’s commitment to maintaining that these were indeed villains bound only by self preservation rather than any inherent need to do good for goodness sake.  (you better watch out)  On film, this translated as a ragtag bunch of antiheroes with hearts of gold who maybe, just maybe would make a friend in the process of doing a good deed.

A few thoughts about Suicide Squad:

  1. A solid performance from Will Smith – Will Smith leans into his role as Deadshot an antihero hit man who only cares about the welfare of his daughter.  He is funny, at times serious, and all in all refreshing to watch as he breaks from his typical character archetype.  Seeing Will Smith play an ensemble player in a movie that did not necessarily revolve around him was a definite break from the norm.
  2. Clunky pacing – This movie was the victim of some second guessing from the studio after the successful release of “Deadpool”.  At times it was easy to spots the portions of the film that had been updated to fit a more silly tone.  However this happened at the cost of a well paced film with any clear intentions.  As the tone shifted wildly from serious to fun, to grave, and at times ridiculous, it could be easy to forget where the viewer was at any given scene.
  3. Strange villain – Not like “Dr. Strange”, but strange as in strangely placed.  This villain at times seemed to be overly powerful for this group as a first obstacle.  The foot soldiers seemed to be placed in the film as a low level enough challenge to showcase the powers of the protagonists.  This felt very plot device-y.  However the way the team came together seemed to indicate that there will be other adventures and obstacles for the team to face in future films.
  4. Suicide Squad felt like “antiheroes” – In some cases the poison was taken out of the fangs of these villains.  The Suicide squad was meant to be a group of dangerous super criminals who were only released to do the government’s bidding.  At times they felt more like the superhero response to the expendables.  The decision was clearly made to soften these criminals to make them “likable” for the audience. This was done at the cost of complexity to the characters, making some of them seem like flat stock pieces of a typical “team” movie.
  5. Off screen backstory – This film, much like “Batman V Superman:  Dawn of Justice” leaves much assumption to the viewer.  There is some character development and plot that occurs off screen that clearly affects the decisions made by the characters on screen.  Except for some flashbacks to explain some of these decisions or feelings, it seems as much is left to the assumption of the viewer.  This film definitely expects you to know the backstory of batman and the joker.  Speaking of the Joker…..
  6. The Joker’s presence was not necessary – This movie did no real service to the Joker as a character as the viewer is not actually introduced to the Joker as a character with any depth.  While one should not immediately compare this Joker to the Joker from “The Dark Knight” there was definitely a sense that his presence in this movie was either thought necessary by studio executives or some sort of fan service.  This would have been a far more intriguing movie with just the Joker’s finger prints and bread crumbs in the film rather than the lackluster performance from Jared Leto.  (also plot wise, the Joker could have been anyone as far as his actual effect on the story)
  7. Better than most of the other DC movies – Except for the Christopher Nolan Batman films this movie stood out as a minor success for DC.  Not a disaster, while not a resounding success, this film was not as problematic as many of the other DC films in rotation.  (read: superman)

All in all, a nice distraction from the Washington DC summer heat.  Bring the teenagers, leave the young children at the house.  2.99 of 5 stars.