Wonder Woman – Review

Let’s cut to the chase. It’s what you have come to expect from this site and now’s not the time to disappoint. Wonder Woman has already been heralded as the saviour of the DCEU. A female has supposedly achieved what DC’s finest two males couldn’t pull off. It’s true, she’s managed to bring about change. But better the Extended Universe? No. Not one iota.

Before cries of misogyny come thick and fast, this review has nothing to do with the gender of the lead, the director, or in any way an attempt to prevent the empowerment of women. The movie does a grand job of resetting the balance when it comes to the perception of females on film.

What is slightly upsetting, is how the World War I era plays up attitudes as archaic when even, a hundred years on, women face unreasonable challenges compared to their male counterparts.

The movie starts on Diana’s all-female home world, the hidden Amazon island of Themyscira. It is here where women are warriors. Her mother, Queen Hippolyta, is against her taking on combat training but Diana’s aunt General Antiope helps her anyway.

There’s a conflict of interest. Hippolyta (played by Connie Nielsen who managed to avoid her brother’s advances in Gladiator) knows – as does Antiope – she is Zeus’s ultimate deterrent against the God of War, Ares.

That particular God is Diana’s half-brother. Oh yeah, Diana is the product of Zeus’s loins.

When American pilot Steve Trevor, or Kirk from the new Star Trek, magically appears through the fabric that shields the island, bringing a bunch of Germans with him, Diana sees it as a call to duty. Against her mother’s wishes, she decides to join Kirk on his return to Earth as we know it.

She’s convinced the head German, Ludendorff, is the manifestation of The God of War. If she defeats him, the human battle will also cease.

The segments in London – and subsequently Europe – are all well and good, in the sense it flows okay and characters are established. Gal Gadot pounces off the screen. She is an inspired choice and without her, it may even have dragged during the build to the final battle.

But it is during this passage and subsequent payoff the film hits terminal problems.

Not – this must be made clear – as a standalone movie. Judged as a brains out film, it’s fine. Nothing challenging at all but fun. Like a Marvel movie. It’s a watered-down Captain America.

The war elements feel too small for Diana; when the God of War finally appears, it’s too far-fetched for a DC live action affair.

Remember, the DCEU’s opening gambit was Man of Steel, a movie with Christopher Nolan listed as producer.

Wonder Woman confirms the worst fears for true DC fans (and I’ve checked with resident expert Christopher William Kinsey) that the DCEU won’t be playing to the strengths of their branding and onscreen successes. Instead it’ll be an imitation Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The CGI ending, with Ares making a suit from the molten metal of destroyed aircraft hangers and debris, was something beyond corny, cheesy, and cringe worthy. It was lazy.

But it has received approval from the same people that misjudged Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice because it actually had depth, thus, needed a little thought. The same people that think the new choice for Spider-Man is good but got lost with Suicide Squad’s dark undertones.

The perceived success could mean the tone of spinoffs like Suicide Squad are phased out and Warner Bros. and DC produce more live action cartoons.

If the DCEU was in trouble before, it is truly doomed if this is the sort of popularity it seeks.


Star Trek Beyond – Review

To boldly go where the Kelvin Universe (Geek-speak for the JJ rebooted universe) has never gone before . . . back to the old feel of Star Trek’s Original Series. That was the mission statement following Trekkies dislike of Star Trek Into Darkness. Were they right to moan? Has the movie pulled it off?

Well, they were a little out of order slating JJ Abrams for paying too much homage to the source material (ring any bells, Star Wars fans?). But to be fair, no film should tamper with The Wrath of Khan. Into Darkness doesn’t deserve the bad press, mind. With the latest movie, Simon Pegg stated they had heard the complaints, loud and clear, and had addressed them.

That can’t be argued with. Star Trek Beyond moves past any pretentiousness (not that I personally had a problem with any aspect of the rebooted universe) and feels very much like an updated episode of the Original Series. Even the bad guy, Krall (Idris Elba under a ton of prosthetics) has a base that could have been lifted from the sixties show.

That’s not to say it looked dated or old fashioned – it was nostalgic, in all the right ways. It understands the styling of the day, the attitudes, the simple approach to honest sci-fi.

It isn’t soft, either. In the opening battle scene, you realise the Enterprise crew are in serious peril. And you can’t see a way for them, their fear is felt in the cinema seat. It’s just the bright costumes, buddy-buddy atmosphere, and one-dimensional villains, are all so swinging sixties.

Teaming the crew off in mini-groups once they are abandoned, allows them to finally get the screen time required for character exploration.

The standout performers are Karl Urban as Bones and Zachary Quinto as Spock. The former has the voice of DeForest Kelley’s McCoy down to a tee. His grislily demeanour that is hiding a good heart comes through. Thankfully, this extended appearance should put to bed talk of him wanting to leave due to being under-utilised.

The new Spock receives word that Prime Spock, our beloved Leonard Nimoy, has passed away. Both on and off screen, it is a call to take on the mantle now. Honour the name and respect the man that came before.

Chris Pine plays James T. Kirk with a better mix of Shatner and his own take than he managed previous. There are signs he will fill the big shoes and do the role justice. Whereas Zoe Saldana, will go on to expand the part of Uhura in ways denied to the original actress, Nichelle Nichols.

Sofia Boutella, made a strong impression in a supporting role as a lonely survivor on the planet that aides the crew. It is possible she could return in future instalments. That would be a welcome addition to this version of Star Trek.

Ultimately, the last action scene aside, it relies on the crew rather than special effects to make its impact. Okay, Justin Lin does repeat that absurd, diving through the air, grab hands act, lifted straight from the saving Letty scene in Fast & Furious 6, but he shows there is more to him than cars. He is a Trekkie.

With that, we get classic Star Trek. Which means, while the curse of the odd-numbered films is avoided once again, it is wholesome fun but fails to leave a lasting impression.

It will be one of the best films of this summer . . . but you won’t remember it ten years from now.