I’m a sucker for the old Universal movie monsters. I love them all. When I heard Universal wanted to get into the shared universe game with their classic horror characters, I howled in delight. They’re calling it Dark Universe and plan to release new, connected films featuring the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Van Helsing, Wolf Man, Bride of Frankenstein, Frankenstein, Dracula, the Invisible Man, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the Phantom of the Opera.
Their first outing? The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise.
I had very serious concerns walking into The Mummy because it was not doing well at all on Rotten Tomatoes. I tend not to put too much stock in reviews if I want to see the movie badly enough, but my concern regarded the future of my other Dark Universe movies. I worried that if The Mummy floundered, Universal would abandon the Dark Universe initiative and I wouldn’t get to see my Invisible Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Bride of Frankenstein. After all, this is exactly what happened with King Arthur: Legend Of the Sword. (Yes, I’m still made about that.)
So here’s the thing, I saw it with three other guys, and we all liked it for various reasons. Is it the greatest movie ever made? No, not by a long shot. But, it seemed like they put a lot of effort into it, Tom Cruise delivered a likable character, the special effects were cool, the action was great, and the movie generally entertained. Yeah, there were a few plot holes. Sure, parts of it we’ve seen before. It even got a little confused at times as to whether it wanted to be a horror movie, a buddy action comedy, or a romance. And the ending, well, somehow the ending came off both clichéd and vague.
But, like I said, it entertained throughout. There were all kinds of visual hints and references to the other Universal monsters, and it actually had us chuckling more than we expected. I would definitely consider it far more of an action thriller than a horror movie. Cruise had great chemistry with his wingman in the film, Jake Johnson.
Tom Cruise played a man who is mostly a decent guy, but he’s also a little egocentric, a little bit of a thief, a little blockheaded, and, for quite a bit of the movie, very confused. But, Cruise pulls all of this off with his usual charm and charisma. And while there’s plenty of action, I wouldn’t call Cruise an action hero in this one. He’s more often than not the victim of action and just trying to survive.
It was also a lot of fun to see Russell Crowe hamming it up as Dr. Jekyll. He will supposedly be the connecting link between all Dark Universe films, and, like Cruise, he is a generally magnetic actor. If you’re hoping for a Mr. Hyde appearance, by the way, you won’t be disappointed. Of course, the transformation didn’t make a whole lot of sense. We cracked a few jokes after the film about how he really needs to get one of the timers a lot of older folks use with their medicine, but that’s okay.
Actually, that’s my mantra for The Mummy — “That’s okay.” I wasn’t expecting much, and it lived up to my expectations. Were the female roles a little bland and shallow? Yes. Did the story itself never quite come together organically? Yep. Did parts of the movie look like they had been snatched right out of other films? Absolutely. Did the ending leave us generally confused? Definitely.
But, even having said all of that, we had a great time. We had fun. Fun. Let’s not disregard the importance of that word. Sometimes we want to just go see a monster movie and have some fun. That’s okay.
Last night, the wait ended, and my wife and I got to see Wonder Woman in her first solo film. It’s hard to articulate how much pressure I put on this movie. I needed it to be a critical success, not just a financial one, because that’s the big knock against DC movies so far in their shared cinematic universe. I also needed Gal Gadot to prove she could headline a movie and carry it for the entire duration, not just come in and steal a few scenes. Furthermore, I needed Wonder Woman to take her place as the inarguable international cinematic icon we all know she is. Finally, I needed a Wonder Woman movie I will one day be proud to sit and watch with my two young daughters. (This is a PG-13 movie by the way, and there are a few moments deserving of that rating. I won’t let my nine-year-old see it for another few years, so take that into account.)
For the most part, I’d say Wonder Woman excelled in almost every way.
That’s not to say it’s perfect — it’s not. But it’s very, very good. In fact, my wife said it’s the best action movie she’s ever seen. (Keep in mind she doesn’t watch a lot of action movies.) I’ll start with what I didn’t care for, and then I’ll spend the rest of the review gushing.
My biggest complaint is that, at times, the backgrounds looked really, really fake. Strangely fake. There are about three moments I can think of specifically that totally took me out of the movie because of the weird texture of the background.
I’m also so tired of the big bad guy fight at the end. This seems to be an unavoidable cliché for all superhero movies. I don’t know how they escape it, but it needs to be addressed.
Finally, this will come as no surprise, but we got a lot of the patented Zack Snyder slow motion fight scenes. Now, to be fair, I’ve seen most of Zack Snyder’s films, so this is a thing for which I’m very familiar. I don’t think my wife has seen any Snyder movie, and she absolutely loved those same slow motion fights. To her, it was completely new and fresh. (Yes, I know Patty Jenkins directed Wonder Woman, but Snyder definitely infused a bit of his sensibilities.)
Let’s talk about what I loved …
Gal Gadot. She oozes charisma. She is perfect as Wonder Woman. Her eyes have such intelligence and passion. She is incredibly graceful and athletic. Her comedic timing is even pretty strong! She had some lines in this movie that could have been woefully cheesy, but she somehow delivered them humbly and full of authenticity. In other words, her magnetism in Batman v Superman was no fluke — she’s got what it takes to keep Wonder Woman going strong for a long, long time.
You know what else rocked in this movie? Wonder Woman’s home island of Themyscira and its Amazonian inhabitants. They were so cool, and Robin Wright quickly established herself as the coolest of the cool. Her character is Antiope, and I won’t tell you anymore about her, but she was awesome.
I have to admit, Chris Pine even won me over in this film! He plays Steve Trevor, a character that’s been associated with Wonder Woman since 1941. Pine and Gadot have great chemistry together, and their banter is really fun. It’s important that Trevor be a likable, complex charter, a character worthy of winning over the heart of Wonder Woman. Just as Lois Lane most be pretty special to hold her own with Superman, Trevor must be equally formidable. Pine is always a little hit or miss for me, but he definitely complimented Gadot very well. They make a good team.
When there’s not a ton of special effects going on, director Patty Jenkins shot a gorgeous film. Set during WWI, Jenkins provided a beautiful Paradise Island, a horrific battle-torn Europe, incredibly intricate costumes, and plenty of interesting angles and camera positions. At the end of the day, other than a few strange backgrounds, this is an extremely well-made film.
Though it at times bordered on being almost preachy, I loved the fact that this Wonder Woman wants to be a hero. She wants everyone to be a hero. She is not afraid to call people out, to tell people when they are acting shamefully, and to ignore any complications that could get in the way of doing the right thing. She does what she thinks is right, she says what she thinks is right. She does not shy away from being a hero, and this movie does not shy away from trying to be heroic. Thought DC movies were too dark and brooding up to this point? Wonder Woman defies that trend.
My absolute favorite scene will go down as one of the most iconic in the character’s history. You’ve seen bits of it in the previews. Wonder Woman is crossing a battlefield … by herself. Her reasons for doing so are inspiring. The immediate effects will make you want to cheer. It’s an amazing, wonderful moment in the film.
I absolutely recommend that you see Wonder Woman. It’s not perfect, but it’s about as good as a major summer blockbuster can be. My wife thoroughly enjoyed it, and she’s typically not one for superhero movies. Of course, this isn’t just another superhero movie. Wonder Woman lived up to all of my expectations, and it will live up to yours, too.
(Did you enjoy this review? Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)