Saturday, June 3, 2017

Wonder Woman Review

In our on-going battle of Marvel vs. DC, Marvel had their turn earlier in the summer with "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" and now DC is up to bat with our first ever film version of "Wonder Woman," directed NOT by Zack Snyder (although my prayers go out to him and his family after the awful tragedy of his daughter's suicide) or David Ayer, but by Patty Jenkins. Thus we have a female-led superhero movie directed by a female. That might be the first time in, like, ever. We haven't even had a female-led superhero at all since 2005's "Catwoman." In fact, I don't think we've ever had a female-led superhero movie that was even good. The only other ones outside "Catwoman" that I can think of are "Elektra" (2004) and "Supergirl" (1984). All three of those were directed by males. And all three are awful movies. I don't know why this has been such a hard thing for Hollywood to do, let alone get right when they've tried. It's not like there's a lack of female characters in the comics. And speaking of Wonder Woman specifically, I don't know why it's taken until 2017 for her to get her own movie at all given that she's been around since 1941 and is one of DC's most iconic heroes. But whatever the reasons for the wait, Wonder Woman's movie is here and it's glorious!

As far as all the politics goes behind all that, I don't like putting labels on myself, but I am 100 percent for females getting an equal opportunity in the work force. Whatever that makes me, then fine. But I also don't like things to be done just for the sake of political correctness because often that means the final result feels hollow and we get lazy attempts at movies such as our female-led "Ghostbusters" from last year. I do want more female-led superhero movies and action movies, but not for the sake of politics, but because female superheroes and action stars are freaking awesome. I don't need movies oozing in so much girl power that they become political propaganda of how awesome females are and how horribly disgusting, lazy, and perverted all guys are. I mean, I know there's been a lot of injustice towards females in Hollywood, but fighting fire with fire or trying to balance out the negative by creating another negative. That's not making the world equal. That's called hypocrisy. I was really hoping that "Wonder Woman" wasn't going to be another political propaganda movie pushing hard extreme feminist values into the superhero genre. Thankfully it's not. The goal here was to make a good movie as opposed to making a political statement.

With that item of business, let's get to our other item of business. I quick recap of the DCEU. As I say in every superhero movie, I think this Marvel vs. DC fight is a load of bull crap. Extreme fanboys on both sides seem to think that they can only like their brand of comics while endlessly trash-talking the opposing side. Me? I like both Marvel and DC and I want both to succeed because I just want good movies. However, if you point a gun to my head and make me pick a side, I jump over to DC because they've made more of an impact on my childhood than Marvel has. Which is why the recent failures of DC has had me upset. Those are my characters and stories that are being thrown in a blender. If we talk about specifics, Zack Snyder started us off in the DCEU by ripping the heart and soul out of Superman, throwing it in a blender and serving it up as the big pile of disgusting, ugly dog crap that was "Man of Steel." Then that same man decided he wanted to shove five movies in one with "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice." Then we have David Ayer's "Suicide Squad" that had panic written all over it with all the studio interference. The end result being a movie with a lot of phenomenal characters and character arcs, but a storyline that ran into a brick wall.

Yes, it's true that I don't hate "Batman v. Superman" and "Suicide Squad" as much as others. I gave "Batman v. Superman" a 6/10 and "Suicide Squad" an 8/10. Perhaps the latter score is a bit high, but I still stand my ground that neither are as awful as "Man of Steel." "Batman v. Superman" had a lot of great individual moments and "Suicide Squad" had a lot of amazing characters. But there was still missed potential with both and so far none of our three DCEU movies have been able to fully capture the heart of why I like the DC superhero characters and stories so much. Enter "Wonder Woman." I was reasonably nervous about this one for a long time. I wanted to be excited. I wanted to jump for joy at all of the trailers that looked so freaking boss. But I wasn't going to let myself play fool to the boy who cried wolf for a fourth time because all previous three movies I've discussed have had phenomenal marketing campaigns. "Man of Steel" looked unbelievably awesome. I was ready for the epic, historic showdown "Batman v. Superman" promised us. I was ready to crown "Suicide Squad" as the best movie of the year. But none of them pulled through on the promises that they gave me. So I forced myself into the cautiously optimistic level with "Wonder Woman."

Then the reviews started pouring in and ALL of them were positive. Well, all the ones I cared about anyways. And the Rotten Tomatoes score managed to stay in the 90's. I exhaled deeply as it now appeared that we were in for a good movie. And I allowed myself to be excited. But I wasn't even prepared for the glory that was awaiting me in that movie theater when the movie started playing before my eyes. We didn't just get a good movie. We got classic DC revived into the modern day. We got the type of movie that I was hoping for with "Man of Steel," "Batman v. Superman" and "Suicide Squad." We got a movie that comfortably stands side by side with Richard Donner's two Superman movies and Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. We got the "Wonder Woman" movie that all of humanity has been hoping and dreaming for when they envisioned DC's third most iconic superhero live on the big screen. We got a movie that was colorful in terms of cinematography and light-hearted in terms of tone while at the same time being emotional and deep thematically. We hit every right note that a true DC movie should hit and as I was witnessing this, it nearly made me burst into tears of joy. Was this really the same DCEU that disappointed me three times in a row now?

As far as the Wonder Woman lore goes, she was a character that I was less familiar with going in due to how neglected she's been when it comes to our live-action adaptations. Thus I was excited to learn of her origins, thus she had the immediate advantage when it comes to origin stories due to my curiosity level. Yes, I have unashamedly been known to be harsh on origin stories. We've had so many of them in the last several years that it's super easy to fall into the trap of being super cliche and boring with an origin story. I wouldn't necessarily stand on the rooftops and declare Wonder Woman's origin story as the most original origin story ever told, but I was fascinating with the lore of the film as it tied in Greek mythology with our modern day world, with Wonder Woman being a part of the Amazons who were created by the gods and Zeus as means to protect the world for the war and hatred that Aries, the god of war, was spreading around the world. Then I liked the journey that we went on with Wonder Woman in discovering what was real and what was story as she's convinced that this World War I has been started by Aries and that if she finds and kills Aries that it will stop all of the fighting and violence. This was a fascinating setup that had me fully invested.

Then oh my freaking gosh were the Amazons so boss. We have a whole freaking island of beauty queens that are trained soldiers. It was like a young man's dream come true and I think we were all jealous of Chris Pine for accidentally stumbling on this protected island and becoming friends with Wonder Woman. Speaking of Wonder Woman, I think Gal Gadot perfectly encapsulated what this character is all about. First and foremost that woman is so incredibly beautiful that she will melt the hearts of all men watching. When she gets her close ups, those eyes and that face will penetrate your soul. But she's much more than a pretty face. She puts on her armor, grabs her sword, lasso and shield and marches out to battle you've completely lost it at how perfect this character is. She has a strong will and she's not going to be told what to do. If she has her mind set on something, you better just roll with it or you're going to be left in the dust. But then as she sets out on this mission, she immediately becomes a fish out of water as she has no idea what the world outside her is like. This is where Chris Pine comes in. He may not have a fancy lasso and shield or these amazing superpowers, but he knows how the world works and it's up to him to teach her about humanity.

All of this not only ensues in a lot of natural humor, but we begin a wonderful character journey with this woman as she now has to figure out who she really is, what she believes in and what her true mission is in life. There are several moments of discovery in this film that had me truly inspired. One example early on is when she decides that she is going to protect and save a certain group of people when Chris Pine and his company are begging her to move on from because they have a bigger mission they need to accomplish. She decides that she's not going to leave these dying people behind, so she removes her robes, revealing herself as the Amazon princess that she is and charges into battle because she cares about everyone. These led to extremely entertaining action sequences that weren't there just so we could have a fun, action-packed movie, but they were there to support the plot and build this character. And that's where the reflections of Richard Donner's Superman hit me hard. Superman loves and cares about everyone. He stands as their savior that they look up to. He's there to protect them and not leave anyone behind. This is exactly the type of person that Wonder Woman became in these moments and it sent me to cloud nine.

There's a lot more that I really want to dive into pertaining to this movie, especially as we move forward to our final sequences, but alas that dives into the spoiler range and I haven't and won't declare this review as a spoiler review. But nevertheless if I speak in generalities, I loved the full arc that this movie presented us. I loved the deep, emotional themes of humanity and love that the movie explored. I loved how this wasn't a movie that declared that woman are better than men, but rather showed what it truly means to be equal. Wonder Woman needed Chris Pine in order to achieve her true potential and Chris Pine needed Wonder Woman in order to achieve his true potential. There's several sequences with the two characters that were excellent. Chris Pine and Gal Gadot both blew it out of the water with their performances and as far as the resolution goes, this very much parallels "Batman Begins" as Bruce Wayne tries to figure out who he is and what he needs to become while being challenged by Liam Neeson's Ra's al Ghul who gives him a true test while he's still trying to shape himself. I won't tell you how this parallels, but it does. Thus I will just leave you with the statement that I loved the final resolution of this movie. It was beautiful.

Sure, I could nit-pick this movie. It's not a perfect movie as few movies are. There are plenty of things that I could nit-pick with each entry in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, even "The Dark Knight," which has become my all-time favorite superhero movie. I can nit-pick Richard Donner's Superman movies as well as every single entry that Marvel has given us in the MCU, but the overall feeling that I had walking out of this movie is that I just experienced as close to a modern-day masterpiece as we may get when it comes to the superhero genre, given how over-saturated the market has become with superhero movies. All of these movies and TV shows these past 10 years have made me seriously contemplate what it is I want out of a superhero movie and "Wonder Woman" met those qualifications. And I'm not just fanboying out about this because I've been plenty harsh on all superhero movies recently, regardless of studio. I was going to use the cliche line that this was the best superhero movie I've seen in a long time, but then I remembered that "Logan" also came out this year and I don't know which one I like better, so I'm giving "Wonder Woman" the same grade, a 9.5/10.

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