Tag Archives: DC

Wonder Woman Excels Despite the Hype

Many critics were anticipating a poor showing of the film Wonder Woman because it is helmed by a woman: Patty Jenkins. The thinking apparently that a woman cannot drive a major Hollywood Blockbuster. Many people are heralding the film much the same way Hillary was heralded as the first female presidential nominee. Some people complained when a movie theater held a woman-only screening of the film, which drew more criticism from the other side of the issue. Other hype surrounding the film was that this is the first superhero film starring a female superhero as its main protagonist. The simple fact is that there isn’t a better female superhero to launch the effort. It pays off as well because Wonder Woman is the best DC Superhero film to date. This, despite the fact that Zack Snyder had his fingerprints all over it.

Gal Gadot exudes both a strength and a softness at the same time which is perfect for the role of Diana, Princess of the Amazons. Despite having a female superhero and taking the few side shots at feminism during an historical depiction, the film does not follow in the footsteps of the CW’s Supergirl in trying to become an Anthem of the new feminism, which might upset the more militant feminists out there. Rather, the plot focuses on telling the story of Wonder Woman’s development and entry into the modern, human world. This serves to actually tell a compelling story without delving into social mores and issues that would otherwise be divisive and distract from the enjoyment of the film.

The story departs slightly from the comic book depiction of Diana on Paradise Island, as well as its introduction of Steve Trevor, the American fighter Ace who is rescued by Diana and ushers her into the real world. There is no invisible jet, no spinning into her costume, and—for the most part—no alter ego. She is introduced to the war brass as Diana Prince, her secret identity from the comic book and TV show, but for the bulk of the film, she is Wonder Woman, even though no one actually addresses her by that title. She is simply Diana.

The bulk of the movie’s humor comes from Diana’s innocent reactions to what passes for modern society during the Great War. Chris Pratt, no I mean Chris Evans, no, sorry, Chris Hemsworth…nope, that’s not it. Oh, right, Chris Pine, of Star Trek, plays Steve Trevor, the American spy working for British intelligence to stop a Nazi chemical doomsday weapon that threatens to derail an armistice to end the war. There is an instant spark with Diana when she pulls him from the ocean after his plane crashes. The chemistry is tangible and plays well on screen, making their dynamic all the more real in the film’s climax. Pine’s portrayal is fine, if a little anachronistic. He tends to exude a 21st century swagger that would not have been tolerated by the British hierarchy in 1918.

The only detractor for the film is in its producer’s vision. Warner Brothers chose Zach Snyder to helm the DC cinematic universe and Snyder’s vision of the heroes in that universe is a dark one. Many fanboys have filled blogs and discussion boards with posts suggesting that Snyder is trying to adapt the DC graphic novels Injustice: Gods Among Us into the movies. That idea gets a serious booster shot with the antagonist in Wonder Woman. Snyder has an artistic eye for cinematic visuals. There is no denying that. But with the muted color pallet he chose for Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice, it makes the viewing experience depressing. Snyder has a penchant for near monochromatic color filters as he displayed with his highly successful adaptation of the graphic novel 300. That pallet fits certain scenes, such as when Diana is first introduced to London (she says “it’s hideous”), but to make three films that way detracts from the viewing experience.

Despite Snyder’s limited vision, and the feminist hype, Wonder Woman is a great film and definitely worth the price of admission. Heck, skip the matinee and pay full price. It’s still worth it.

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Suicide Squad is Killing It

I found myself doubting the appeal of the latest DC super hero movie to hit the theaters when it was first announced for several reasons. First, a story of a collection of B-rated super villains that team up to save the world when there are already so many super heroes available to do that seemed problematic. Second, the announced roster of villains wasn’t all that impressive and the casting seemed designed to pull seats rather than to do the story justice. When the first previews were leaked at comic con last year, I was increasingly dubious. The film just didn’t hold any appeal to me, so I doubted very much that I would go. Now, I had the same reservations when Guardians of the Galaxy was announced, and it was the best Marvel film until this year’s Captain America: Civil War, so in keeping a similar open mind, I went to see the film, despite the poor reviews it received. I am glad I did. Despite its depressing and ominous title, Suicide Squad is the most fun DC movie to date.

With Man of Steel and Batman Vs. Superman, DC brought in director Zack Snyder, who has really gone dark, trying to add more gravitas to the stories, apparently thinking that movie goers won’t take a superhero film seriously unless it delves deep into the darkness that inhabits the human soul, and reveals the conflict therein. Both of those films do that in spades, to the point of being rather depressing and making it difficult to appreciate the heroics. Suicide Squad was directed by David Ayer, who also has a bent for making dark films such as Training Day, SWAT, and Fury, but also knows how to inject levity into the film to counterbalance the darkness (although I never did find anything funny in Fury). Zack Snyder does have a directing credit on Suicide Squad, probably for the scenes that set up next year’s Justice League.

The plot is rather simple: in an effort to head off the next Doomsday scenario in a world where Superman died fighting the threat, the government decides to create a task force of meta humans that they can control if they ever need to use them. The Suicide Squad is supposed to be made up of the worst of the worst super villains in captivity. Each is implanted with an explosive capsule that will detonate and kill them if they try to escape and the only chance for a reprieve is to accomplish the task given to them. The plot is bleak and a little thin, though I love the irony that the threat the squad is tasked with eliminating is a threat that the government created in building the team.

The real salvation for Suicide Squad, however, is the cast, which is ironic considering I was doubtful about them to begin with. Will Smith is a fine actor, but I always raise an eyebrow when producers change the ethnicity of an established character because mostly it is done out of some misguided sense of political correctness, or in the case of Wild Wild West—to sell more tickets. But Smith does work as the hit man for hire, Deadshot, in this film. The breakout star, without any question, however, is Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. I cannot imagine any other actress assuming that role as accurately, as beautifully and as true to the story as Robbie. She made the film for me. Viola Davis takes a menacing turn as Amanda Waller, the head of a covert government agency tasked with doing things the government can disavow when needed. I’m not used to seeing her as “the bad guy” but she pulls it off easily in this film. Jai Courtney and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, also star as Captain Boomerang and Killer Croc, respectively.

One of the more public discussions is Jared Leto as the Joker. He doesn’t have as significant role in this film as some fans would like, and those fans are being quite vocal about their displeasure. One person is even going as far as to file a lawsuit against Warner Brothers (DC’s parent company) for false advertising. Unfortunately, any real fanboy knows that Joker was never a part of the Suicide Squad. His role in this film serves only two purposes: One, to provide a motivation and back story for Harley Quinn and two, to foreshadow the next Batman movie. He also does interact with the plot in a major way during one of the film’s key sequences, but it is not his movie.

While there are some problems with the script and the dialog, it is good to see a DC movie with plot and character development that consists of more than wrestling with inner darkness. It is also good to see a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, like Batman Vs. Superman did. If the next plate of DC films can continue in this vein, they might just close the gap on Marvel’s cinematic universe and give movie goers a whole different set of films to spend months and years anticipating. Let’s hope that Zack Snyder learns something from this movie in time to make Justice League better than Dawn of Justice, because I would have to say that Suicide Squad is arguably the best DC film yet.

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