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: The Legend of Tarzan

I learned from Alfred Hitchcock’s Secret Agent, one of the suspense master’s undervalued works, that it is difficult to support a hero who is reluctant to be a hero in a story, particularly a movie. How can you get behind someone who doesn’t want to be at the front of the action that is to come?

I take an interest in The Legend of Tarzan, and in the film, the major world governments take an interest in Tarzan’s experience and upbringing in the late 19th Century Congo, where King Leopold of Belgium has spent a majority of his wealth and assets into mining diamonds and he has dispatched his emissary Leon Rom, to plunder the land of its wealth to save himself and his country from bankruptcy by enslaving exploiting the Congolese people.

The major governments know of Tarzan’s legend and they seek his help early in the film, and there is where the film falls flat on its face.

Instead of the tree-swinging, alpha-male, chest-pounding ape man born from the imagination of Edgar Rice Burroughs, we find the domesticated, tea sipping, well-dressed John Clayton III, living an idealistic life in London with his wife Jane in the well to-do manor at Greystoke, who politely rejects the request to return to his home in Africa until the urging of American agent George Washington Williams and Jane changes his mind.

If audiences wanted a new take on Tarzan, well they have it in this movie but I doubt that this is what fans expected. The film is practically dead on arrival but it tries to morph into something gradually in the effort its audience back on board by using its title character as an experiment to reintroduce him to his roots, the way a domesticated zoo animal is reintroduced to its natural habitat but it just doesn’t take, at least for me.

Outside the element of reluctance from its main character, the film is essentially poorly put together and I felt that the film knew how bad it was as it was playing out.

Tarzan, why you look so funny?

That is a line from one of Tarzan’s friends from Africa who is as surprised to see him dressed like a man rather than sporting the loin-cloth he wore eight years ago, if he felt like wearing it at least, but this was a funny looking film with all of the extreme close-ups, the slow-downs, the bizarre camerawork, the shabby visual effects, the production value on this movie just felt low and I couldn’t seriously invest in it.

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Image By Joella Marano (David Yates) via Wikimedia Commons

I honestly expected better from David Yates, known for the last four Harry Potter films-three of which were very well done-but he could have done a better job with his approach to Tarzan because the reluctance was a major contributing factor for why this film fell on deaf ears and the sudden use of flashbacks to his upbringing by his ape family, how he met Jane, what may or may not have led to his leaving the jungle; the way this story was visually told left a lot to be desired and how it was told in terms of narrative fell even shorter.

Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer’s story and screenplay, I felt got lost in the thicket and never had the opportunity to find its way back. With the plot trying to get its main character back to the legendary character he once was, the anti-slavery undertones, the majesty of the animals, I felt that all of the subject matter was sloppily handled and couldn’t find a suitable rhythm for this movie to swing through the trees.

I wish I could say that the cast and the acting could illicit some kind of response to defend this movie. Alexander Skarsgård does a decent job in the lead role, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz, Sidney Ralitsoele, Casper Crump, Djimon Hounsou, to name a few all make contributions yet it is unlikely they make any impression. I think that Samuel L. Jackson was the standout performer of the film because he played many roles in his one performance; comic relief, motivator, he brought star-presence to the film and he stood out more than anyone else.

Henry Braham’s cinematography was too invasive, Mark Day’s editing was patchy, Rupert Gregson-Williams’ music went in one ear and out the other, I found Stuart Craig’s production design decent, the art direction was humid and muggy as the jungle, Ruth Myers’ costumes were suitable but not striking.

When it comes to The Legend of Tarzan, I think I had more emotional investment watching news coverage of Harambe the Gorilla a few weeks ago. Watching this movie was like watching a snake shed its skin, crawl out of it and attempt to crawl back in, and it just felt rather, unnatural to me.