Review: Wonder Woman

I’ve had a good reason to be hard on the efforts of the DC Extended Universe over the past few years; especially last year considering my thoughts on their previous two pictures: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. This year, the producers of the DC Extended Universe look to turn the page on last year and seek to do so with their first superhero adventure starring Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.

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Image by Warner Bros. and DC Comics

The film opens with Gadot as Diana Prince who receives a parcel from a new friend that compels her to reminisce on her earlier years. From her upbringing on the island of Themiscyra, home to the Amazons, where she was raised by her mother Queen Hippolyta, trained by her aunt Antiope, and encountered a man named Steve Trevor, who would guide her to the world of man on a journey that would change her life and the world at large forever.

To reiterate: I’ve been hard on the DC Extended Universe and I had good reason to be so. Their previous films have compelled me to set the bar low on their films going forward and I had to go into Wonder Woman with a low set of expectations. That being said, I must be blunt: THIS. MOVIE. IS. GOOD!

I must give credit where credit is due. Producers Geoff Johns, Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder, Charles Roven, director Patty Jenkins and screenwriter Allan Heinberg crafted a solid origin story with coming-of-age themes that culminated in a very engaging, charming and the most entertaining DC movie to come out in years! I was satisfied with how they handled this movie; it wasn’t perfect but this was a great effort that really paid off!

I thought that the strength of this movie lied solely with Gadot’s performance meshed with Heinberg’s script and Jenkins’ execution. Wonder Woman is basically looking at the outside world with the perspective of childlike innocence, guided by a man who exposes her to the good and bad that a world at war has to offer someone who doesn’t exactly need to help.

If Gadot’s introduction in Batman v. Superman didn’t sell you on her ability to embody this iconic character, than this movie will most assuredly convince you! It was a treat watching her carry this movie and her on-screen chemistry with Chris Pine is splendid! Whether Diana is trying ice cream for the first time or feels concern or sympathy for the wounded soldiers on No Man’s Land, she just embodies the strength, compassion and innocence in this iconic character and she is relatable to audiences.

While I enjoyed watching this film, I only wish that the film could have done more with the supporting characters such as Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremmer, Eugene Brave Rock, Lucy Davis, Elena Anaya, Danny Huston and David Thewlis. I also hoped that the film would take more time to explore and examine Themiscyra, the Amazons and their cultures.

The cinematography of Matthew Jensen was solid, Rupert Gregson-Williams’ music was satisfactory, Martin Walsh’s editing was solid, the production design of Aline Bonetto was good, Lindy Hemming’s costumes were very good, the visual effects were to my liking and technically Wonder Woman was very well put-together to give this character the strength to stand on her own.

Wonder Woman clearly raised the bar for films coming from the DC Extended Universe because what separates this movie from the films that came before it: fun! This movie allowed itself to have its own natural fun and that allowed the audience to have fun watching it; this is leaps and bounds better than any DC film that came before it!

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Review: Fantastic Four

I’m not going to lie, sugarcoat or slather my review in any form of bovine-excrement: Fantastic Four SUCKED as a movie!

Image by 20th Century Fox & Marvel

I can’t say that I hated the film. That’s probably because Josh Trank’s reboot lacked any type of inciting or exciting traits or characteristics worthy enough to actually make me care about it at all; it was a tedious, emotionless, draining superhero venture void of any personality at all.

So, the latest attempt to bring Marvel’s first family to the big screen was a rather cut-and-dry origin story starting with child-prodigy Reed Richards building a machine capable sending objects to another dimension and years later he is recruited to the Baxter Institute to finish his research with the assistance of his childhood friend Ben Grimm, Victor Von Doom, Sue Storm and Johnny Storm.

Their unauthorized jaunt into the new frontier goes catastrophically awry and Richards, Grimm and the Storm siblings suffer unimaginable consequences that leaves them and their lives forever changed.

You get the idea right? When Fantastic Four ended, I mourned the loss of the time I wasted watching this. I had an idea that this could be a boom-or-bust film and going in, I heard less than glowing accounts from reviews going in, but by God this made the last cinematic crack at Fantastic Four look beautiful in almost every way.

I don’t know where this film went wrong. Does the fault lie with director Josh Trank? The screenplay written by Trank, Simon Kinberg and Jeremy Slater? The acting? The editing? Tough to say but it is easy to say that blame can go all around for this debacle.

Image by Mark Davis/WireImage

Months prior to the release of this film, I heard stories about the troubles of this production under Josh Trank’s direction and those troubles led to his dismissal from a potential (God-forbid) sequel as well as other projects, but this put the bad in bland! There was a complete lack of an inciting incident to really propel audiences to empathize or sympathize with any of these characters, outside of changing Johnny Storm’s race or sibling relationship with Sue, or whatever the hell he did or didn’t do with Dr. Doom, there was no imaginative twists or imprints that made Fantastic Four distinct. If Josh Trank’s original vision for this movie was to run it into the dirt in the most robotic way conceivable, congrats! Mission accomplished.

The screenplay lacked any personality or wit whatsoever. As you heard Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Reg E. Cathey, Toby Kebbell, Tim Blake Nelson recite their lines, that is exactly what they were doing; there was a complete void of emotion in this story the screenwriting team came up with, which was as arid and dry as the surface of the Thing’s skin. The narrative progression took every usual course and there was just a complete lack of surprise, suspense, levity; there was no joy to be taken from this movie whatsoever.

There was a scene where Reed and Ben, post-powers, where having something of a tussle because Reed went AWOL after the four received their powers and the scene built itself on resembling something of a smackdown, like when Iron Man and Thor had fisticuffs in The Avengers a few years back, but instead, a simple rock-headed headbutt ended it like a gag. It was at that moment where fans should have realized, this was not what I signed up for.

It was tragic watching these actors be a part of something so transparently destined to be doomed for failure. Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Toby Kebbell, Tim Blake Nelson are all better actors than the material they were given to work with and there was no chemistry between any of the actors whatsoever. From what I’ve seen from superhero movies in the past, it at least looked like the actors had fun with their roles, and these actors didn’t look like they had any fun making this movie at all, and that shouldn’t really be surprising considering the stories and speculation I’ve heard about the production.

Fantastic Four wasn’t all bad though. The camerawork and cinematography by Matthew Jensen was okay as well as the visual effects. Elliot Greenberg and Steven E. Rivkin’s editing? TBD because editing makes or breaks a movie and considering that this movie was already broken because of other factors, it’s hard to tell whether the editing of Fantastic Four helped or hurt it’s finished product.

I can’t really say that I hated Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four. I do believe that it ranks among the worst films of 2015 though. Superhero movies are supposed to incite excitement, make you care about something such as the plot, the characters, the purpose, but this was probably the first superhero that failed to bring it’s audience to care about any and everything about it at all.