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.

4/10

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Suicide Squad – Review

The post Superman battling Batman instalment into the DC Expanded Universe follows a Black Ops team assembled using the Dark Knight’s captured foes. In real terms it’s another throw of the dice for Warner Bros. after the critics slammed Zack Snyder’s last entry. So, are they the worst good guys ever? Or the best bad guys? Or bad worst bad good guys?

Director and writer David Ayer’s film focuses on the idea that now the world has seen Superman, the terror threat can’t be controlled by standard armies. The character Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is the voice for this point and the mean woman that will do anything to ensure her pet project is given the government green light.

That project is of course, what we know as, Suicide Squad. Six bad guys, some of whom display unique abilities, that can face unnatural enemies and if they fail, the government can deny any involvement.

To ensure she gets her way, Waller scares the living daylights out of the decision makers by using the Enchantress to give a graphic display of her powers.

Suspension of belief part one, folks. The Enchantress is an ancient spirit that had been trapped in an idol. Cara Delevingne’s Jane Moone accidently broke it on an exhibition and has since been possessed. Waller controls the sorceress by prodding her heart (somehow mummified and still intact).

Magic and sorcery isn’t the thing you need to suspend belief with here, it’s the idea Waller thinks a being that can travel thousands of miles and back in the blink of an eye could be kept under lock and key. But hey, we needed a tool for the main villain to appear, right?

In the least surprising turn of events, Enchantress does a runner and then gets her brother’s idol open . . . and away we go.

Enter Rebooted Robocop Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag. Bad ass special forces guy in charge of Task Force X (Suicide Squad), oh, and June Moone’s lover. Because everyone loves to make out with witches.

It’s a pretty easy set-up, and it flows pretty well. Other critics have slammed it for being convoluted. This really isn’t the case. The backstories for each of the main characters offer enough insight without dragging the main plot down and the action scenes couldn’t be simpler. It isn’t too dark nor is it humourless.

Its main flaw is how easy it is to watch. Unlike other DC projects it strips away the deeper issues and just plays out like any easy viewing action film should.

The elephant in the room is The Joker, or the lack thereof. Jared Leto has the thankless task of being the first guy after Heath Ledger to assume the role. He does a sterling job of reinventing the Clown Prince of Crime. This is a mobster style criminal. You get the impression he’s had more turf wars than attempts to destroy the world.

His fleeting appearance makes sense; too much of a good thing and this film would have been derailed. Ayers had to stay on point with a simple Suicide Squad movie.

The Joker’s squeeze, Harley Quinn, steals the show. Margot Robbie is mesmerising and one hopes we see a solo Joker film just to get more of her. Without her colour, the ensemble of villains would lack cement of vibrancy, then, and only then, this film would have been a mess.

Harley Quinn

The other characters range from Will Smith’s Deadshot. In many respects, the human side of the flick but it’s hard to not see it as Will Smith just being Will Smith. He’s caught because Batman confronted Deadshot while he was walking with his daughter.

Which requires a quick suspension of belief once again.

All the baddies Batman catches in flashbacks, baddies we’re lead to believe are the most dangerous on earth, are all caught as if they never attended Day 1 of baddie school, lesson 1, avoid easy capture.

Jai Courtney plays Captain Boomerang and is only here to provide comic relief. He may well be the least fleshed out character, aside from Slipknot.

Lost’s Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje performs as Killer Croc. He’s unidentifiable beneath all the makeup but somehow manages to get enough spirit over and commands attention when on the screen. You probably won’t see him appear as a villain on film but as a member of the squad, he works.

After Harley Quinn, the main props go to Jay Hernandez’s El Diablo. A reluctant participant due to the harm his powers have inflicted on those he loves. He can literally make fire and his backstory feels relevant rather than added for the sake of it.

DC went in big with this movie, from marketing and the future of the shared universe. It doesn’t deserve the negative press but Suicide Squad isn’t the feel good fix it should have been. It trumps most Marvel films out there but it seems DC are being judged by different standards.

Marvel get away with brains-out-live-action-cartoons. DC have made a better one of those but still get slated.

It lacks the depth Batman v Superman offered and the easy fun Star Trek Beyond served up, but it isn’t bad.

The Suicide Squad are the best trying bad guys out there.

7/10

 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Review

Finally, the gloves are off and we get the big showdown. Not the fight between Supes and The Bat. This is the start of DC v Marvel. And the early reaction hasn’t been good for Kent or Wayne.

The problem affecting Batman v Superman is this exterior pressure. Because the Marvel movies have been such a success everyone expects all superhero films to follow this formula. Well, this movie doesn’t. It follows the Zack Snyder method.

So if you’re reading this wondering whether Batman v Superman is for you, just ask yourself: Did you enjoy Man of Steel and Watchmen? If you did, you’ll love this. If you didn’t, then wait for other productions in the DC Extended Universe (not made by Snyder) before jumping in.

Personally, I don’t mind at bit of Snyder action. To put this into context, and give an idea of where this movie sits, it surpasses Man of Steel in terms of ambition but isn’t as tightly told overall. It is better than Avengers: Age of Ultron and the two Iron Man sequels. So the Marvel fanboys taunting DC should get their own house in order first.

The movie gives us a good Batman. Yes, Batfleck actually works. All that fan hatred has been channelled in a fitting angst. His plot is well laid out and worthy of its own flick. That’s part of the problem with the film – it’s too crammed.

Bruce Wayne is on a mission to steal info from Lex Luthor in order to locate, what turns out to be, a transport ship. This ties him back into the larger scheme of things. On his way he briefly meets Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) and decides that Superman is a dangerous threat that he intends to take out.

Everyone else has their doubts about the Man of Steel too. Reviews and courts are being convened and he’s not helping matters by swooping to rescue Lois in Africa which results in villagers being gunned down.

Batman is the vigilante in the dark, mostly under the radar except for the tabloid press. Superman is the outlaw causing government debate.

So far so good. All the ingredients are there for a great final act. Instead it kind of all gets lost in the mix. By the credits it feels more of a relief than a jubilant celebration. DC isn’t trying to be “fun” like Marvel but it does lack any trace of humour.

You can make your own though. For example, one of the cops in a scene where Batman is hiding in the corner of an unlit room, sounds exactly like Alexander Knox from 1989’s Batman. He was barrel of laughs (honest).

Or during the preview of Cyborg (a character that will form part of the Justice League) you see that the scientist handling his human remains and the technology that attaches to him is none other than Terminator 2’s Miles Dyson. We all know how well that ends when he meddles with cyborgs.

Mixed reviews aside, Batman v Superman is on course to make a ton of money. The safe bet is Warner Bros. will hope Suicide Squad gets strong feedback and they can carry on with their phase one plans.

They should include a Batman film, sharpish. And maybe leave Superman in the dark place he finds himself. He’s about as popular as Zack Snyder right now.

Score: 7/10