REVIEW: WONDER WOMAN (2017)

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WONDER WOMAN (2017)

After appearing in last year’s Batman v. Superman and stealing that film away from her male co-stars, the comics’ leading female superhero is getting her own solo movie and it’s an origin film at that.

The movie opens with Diana aka Wonder Woman as a child (Emily Carey) on the Amazon home island of Themyscira. She is daughter to Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and being trained in the fighting arts by her aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright). One day, as she has grown to adulthood (Gal Gadot), a plane carrying American spy, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes off the island and he is rescued by Diana. A boatload of German soldiers is following him and soon the warrior women of Themyscira learn of the horrors of mankind’s war, specifically WWI. Diana is horrified and believes only the God Of War, Ares could be responsible. She returns to Europe with Trevor planning to defeat Ares, but along the way learns that people can really suck.

Third film in the DC movie universe is pretty much like the last two in that there is a lot to like and yet, there are some glaring problems, too, that keep it from really clicking. One of the biggest is that this series of films takes itself a little too seriously and there are some gloomy moments and heavy atmosphere here in Wonder Woman. Another is that they are a bit overloaded, where a more streamlined story would do. It’s refreshing that they want to have a different style and tone than the Marvel flicks, but all three films (Man Of Steel, Batman v. Superman and Wonder Woman) have been very bombastic and story heavy, though at least here director Patty Jenkins shows some restraint until the now DC traditional over-indulgent CGI climax. The script by Allan Heinberg, from a story by he, Jason Fuchs and Zack Snyder, still tries to cover too much ground with an origin story, a story about the horrors of war, a story about feminism and a story about battling gods. It makes the film feel choppy, especially as the origin seems rushed, as does Diana’s decision to go to war. Once we get to Europe, the film then heads to it’s climax trying to cram all the story elements in the remaining hour. Even at 141 minutes there seems to be a lot of stuff left on the cutting room floor and this keeps the film from having a smooth narrative flow which doesn’t help as the flick already has a more moderate pace than the average superhero saga. The film never really finds it’s groove. It also keeps us from getting to know any of the supporting characters, especially the villains (Danny Houston as a sadistic general and Elena Anaya as an equally sadistic scientist), who come across as bland. What keeps one interested is that there are some nice moments between Gadot and Pine and once Gadot finally suits up, about an hour into the film, Wonder Woman’s first scene soars…then we go back to the dreary horrors of war stuff till she has her showdown with Ares. The film does have a hard time maintaining it’s momentum, even with some very strong moments of our heroine in action, which are actually few and far between. It’s more about Diana learning about the real world than Wonder Woman saving the day. The mix could have been more even.

Biggest plus in this film’s favor is Gal Gadot who is wonderful as both Diana and Wonder Woman. She really nails the fish out of water aspect and the almost naive nature of a goddess among men for the first time. She also maintains a sense of dignity and strength which really cranks up to 11 when she suits up. She has grown as an actress and really fits the role like a glove in just her second outing. She’s perfectly cast. Chris Pine is fun here too, though seems to be playing a slightly toned down version of his Kirk. He and Gadot do have a great chemistry together and it is some of their little character exchanges that really entertain. Sadly their romance is also rushed and we never really get to feel the emotional resonance of it to give certain scenes impact. As stated Danny Houston plays stereotypical sadistic German general, Ludendorff. Houston is kind of bland here, though not really his fault, as is Elena Anaya as his equally underwritten right hand, Doctor Isabel “Dr. Poison” Maru. David Thewliss also appears as a British Intelligence officer who supports Trevor’s plans to go after Ludendorff on the eve of an impending armistice.

In conclusion, this film sadly suffers some of the same overloaded and over-indulgent aspects of the last two DCU films, though director Patty Jenkins does reign it in a bit and makes good use out of her leading lady’s dead-on performance and the chemistry between her two leads. Gadot’s first scene as Wonder Woman is worth the price of admission alone and it makes us wish Jenkins didn’t go all Zack Snyder (who also produced) for the over-blown CGI slug-fest with Ares. There was enough story for two or three films and the flick rushes to fit it all it, though there are some nice humorous bits in between the heavy-handed melodrama. Jenkins does balance the messages about the evils that men do and women’s rights in nicely without allowing them to become obtrusive and the film’s flaws aside Gadot is an awesome Wonder Woman.

The DCU is slowly headed in the right direction, though will audiences be patient enough for them to really lock in the right mix of elements, hopefully in one of the upcoming planned flicks.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Wonder Women cause Gadot was great!

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: MAN OF STEEL (2013)

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MAN OF STEEL (2013)

I won’t say Man Of Steel is a bad movie. It’s not. I was entertained to a good degree. It’s just that it is quite a disappointing movie in that it has such potential and doesn’t live up to it. There was an opportunity to really tell a good story, but Director Zack Snyder and writer David Goyer would rather serve up Independence Day in overdrive than a story about a unique individual and his journey to becoming a hero. The film’s Avatar-ish opening starts out on the distant planet of Krypton with a military coup erupting lead by General Zod (Michael Shannon), just as valiant Jor-El (Russell Crowe) is explaining that their planet is doomed due to their plundering of it’s core. After some Star Trek-esque dialog about genetic codes and the manufacturing of future Krytonians, Jor-El eludes Zod and sends his secretly and naturally born son into to space along with the genetic codes for Kryton’s people. We then pick up as adult Clark Kent/Kal-El (Henry Cavill) is wandering the planet trying to find his purpose and despite being taught by his Pa (Kevin Coster) to hide his powers, he can’t help but occasionally use them to save lives. So Clark becomes this mysterious savior figure being tracked down by an intrepid reporter, Lois Lane (Amy Adams). I liked this aspect of the story but, like everything else, it is brushed over too quickly to appreciate fully. Meanwhile an alien ship is found in the ice bringing Clark and Lois together at the sight and Clark finds out the ship is of  the same race as the ship he arrived in…how Ma and Pa get a mini-van sized ship secretly into their barn is never explained…He then enters and finds his true destiny on board from a computer simulation of real dad, Jor-El… still with me? At this very moment another space ship enters Earth’s vicinity and it is vengeful General Zod looking for Kal-El and the genetic codes to stage a rebirth of Krypton on earth. Now it’s up to Kal-El to reveal his true alien nature and defend the planet he calls home from the malevolent Zod and his Krytonian thugs.

If  this all sounds choppy, it is. I’m not the biggest Superman fan, so I didn’t mind the revamping of his origin, but I do mind the choppy, too fast for it’s own good, telling of the story. Snyder is too interested in bludgeoning us with the spectacular action than he is in properly telling us Superman’s story. His past is told in flashbacks and while there are some very important events in Clark’s childhood, we just get quick glimpses with barely anytime to appreciate their resonance before Kryptonians are beating each other silly with trains, planes and automobiles. As much as the action sequences wow us, the movie never slows down to let us enjoy the really important details of what could have been a very good story about a lone and powerful alien who wants to use his strengths to make our world a better place…maybe at the cost of the rebirth of his own. And that’s what disappoints the most, there is a good story here, but the filmmakers are more interested in destroying everything in sight as Zod intends to kill Kal-El and terraform Earth into the new Krypton. The action sequences go on and on and while they are spectacular, I was exhausted and had seen everything they could throw at me long before we finally get to see Zod and Supes battle one on one. By that time, their final confrontation is redundant as we’ve already seen enough cataclysmic destruction to the point of being numb to it. It loses it’s impact.

But there are silver linings in this overblown epic. Henry Cavill was a really good Superman and really helps make up for us not be allowed to appreciate his journey from loner to heroic icon by the explosion happy Snyder. Amy Adams is also good as Lois and despite their relationship being underdeveloped, Adams and Cavill have a really strong chemistry that, again, overcomes the filmmakers shortcomings. In fact the whole cast was good from Shannon providing a strong villain with depth and purpose in Zod to Russell Crowe’s noble Jor-El… though his constant appearance as a simulation is overused. Costner and Diane Lane (Ma Kent) shine in their all too brief scenes and again, all the actors have good chemistry together. Snyder gets such good work out of his cast, it’s all the more disappointing we couldn’t linger with them a lot more to enjoy the emotional resonance of their scenes together properly.

Even Hans Zimmer’s wonderful score really supports whats going on on-screen and helps add depth when Snyder’s rapid fire and sometimes choppy editing weakens the impact. And I won’t lie if I did find some of the action truly breathtaking and spectacular. It is, but when something is breathtaking we need to be allowed to catch our breath before the next thrill and Snyder doesn’t allow us to do that. We get a massive amount of destruction on a spectacular level and are then bludgeoned with it till numb. And it robs us of really enjoying the impact of the story’s final scenes which are the most important, as it sets up Superman and his path towards becoming a hero and his relationship with the rest of us. It is the charm of Cavill and cast that still give it it’s potency even with us being warn out from watching skyscrapers explode and fall for the last 30 minutes.

So my final thoughts are that while there was a lot to enjoy, there is a lot that needs fixing to make Man Of Steel 2 fly right. Most importantly is that Zack Snyder needs to overcome his weakness as a filmmaker and tell his story better and let a great cast do what they do best. Snyder is a great visualist but, really needs to sometimes dial it back and let us enjoy the emotions of the smaller moments which, especially in a story such as that of Superman, is really what matters. It doesn’t matter how many heavy objects Superman can lift, how fast he can fly and how many buildings get destroyed when he is in battle…the real story here is about a one of a kind man who has the strength and power to make our world a better place, if we learn to trust him and let him. Now that’s a story worth telling and taking the time to tell. Despite my criticism, I do hope to see Cavill don the cape and boots again and maybe the movie will be a little more about him next time and the spectacular action will be used to add impact to the story and not overshadow it.

3 Men Of Steels as, despite the film’s shortcomings, I enjoyed the cast immensely and did like the spectacular action before I got numb to it all. I also feel it does provide a good starting point if certain issues are overcome. Still the best Superman film since Superman 2 in 1981.

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