Wonder Woman – A Movie Review

You know I loved Batman v Superman, especially Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.  You probably also remember that when the first preview Wonder Woman arrived, I got very excited.

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.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

An Open, Encouraging Letter To Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck, the rumors are swirling that you want to give up playing Batman.  Please don’t.

The Internet can be a beautiful, wonderful place full of information, inspiration, and innovation.  Unfortunately, it can also be a putrid pit of negativity.  It certainly seems as though only those with vile complaints take the time to make their voices heard on the Web.

Well, Ben Affleck, it’s time to spread some positivity.

I’m a lifelong Bat-fan.  As a forty-year-old high school English teacher (and, yes, I am working on a novel—it’s mandatory), Batman has been a constant in my life since 1980.  For the English teachers out there, that’s thirty-seven years.

I’ve enjoyed Batman teaming up with Scooby-Doo, I loved the Super Friends, Adam West will always hold a special place in my heart, Michael Keaton and Tim Burton blew my mind, The Animated Series proved itself a masterpiece, Frank Miller scared me while aweing me, Val Kilmer didn’t scar me, George Clooney kinda did, and then Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan took Batman someplace both old and new in a way that felt important.

But you, Ben Affleck, you’re doing something that’s never been done before.  You are laying the groundwork for a cinematic Batman that must play with others.  No one else had the guts to do what you guys are doing.  No one else dared put Batman’s dark costume on the same screen as the Flash’s, Wonder Woman’s, or Superman’s only slighter less dark costume.  You dared take Batman back to his vigilante roots, and you are brave enough to depict his evolution not only into a team player, but the heart and soul of the Justice League.  Batman has endured a long and illustrious cinematic life, but you are truly breaking new ground.

I know the trolls have been really tough on you.  I understand you are sick and tired of fielding questions about a movie you haven’t even started filming yet.  I recognize that the expectations are impossible to meet.  In the here and now, you have a thankless job.  But please keep the big picture in mind.  You have a vision for where you want to take this character.  You see the end result, though it may be years away.  In time, people will appreciate you and your efforts.  You will win over the haters, trust me.

How do I know this, Ben Affleck?  I’m a diehard Batman fan, and you won me over immediately.  I am being totally honest when I say that I loved Batman v Superman.  I acknowledge it as the initial step in a marathon.   Of course Batman and Superman wouldn’t get along at first!  But, with his death, Batman realizes the great ally he’s lost, and with Superman’s eventual return, both men will recognize even further the good they can do.  In a way, Justice League will echo The Lego Batman Movie – Batman is ultimately a family man.   The orphan always builds his own family.  He has an army of Robins and a multiverse of teammates.  The aloof Dark Knight is nothing of the sort.  You are depicting the advancement of a brooding cynical man believing in heroes again and leading those heroes to a better tomorrow.  In the end, everyone will see that.

So, please, don’t step away.  Don’t interrupt the journey you’ve begun.  Anytime you’re feeling blue, get in touch and I’ll build you back up.  Want to know why you’re my third favorite Batman?  (Sorry, you’ve yet to top Adam West and Michael Keaton.  You’ve got to win over my inner child with those two guys and I just don’t know if that’s possible.)  First of all, you’re big, man.  I mean, you’re a really big dude.  Batman is also a big dude.  And, please don’t take this the wrong way, but you can deliver the smug, arrogant Batman/Bruce Wayne for which we’ve all been pining.  There’s an intelligence behind your eyes that make us believe this is the world’s greatest detective.  You ooze charm, both with the mask on and off.  You can look intimidating as hell one minute, and then project a heart-breaking inner turmoil the next.  You’re able to take every dimension of Batman that we love and combine it into your performance.  Furthermore, you’ve got great chemistry with Gal Gadot, and Batman must always have chemistry with Wonder Woman.  It’s geek law.

Ignore the hate, Ben Affleck. Persevere.  Know that you’ve really struck a chord with Bat-fans everywhere.  Sadly, as a society, we’re slow to heap praise.  Well, I’m heapin’, baby!  I believe in your vision, your performance, and your interpretation.  I believe, in the end, you will be the Batman for generations to come.

Of course, this could all just be a power play to gain leverage on the studio for some reason.  In which case, I wish you luck.  Whatever the case may be, my sentiments remain unchanged!

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Wonder Woman – Leaving the Boys Behind

So you heard me gush about the Justice League trailer yesterday, and then I saw something that appears even better – Wonder Woman.  If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, prepare to be impressed …

“Power. Grace. Wisdom. Wonder.” Doesn’t the tag line say it all?  We’ve waited a long time for a Wonder Woman movie, but if this trailer is any indication, it was worth it.  Here are a few reasons why Wonder Woman is now the movie I’m most excited to see …

One detail that people may not realize about Wonder Woman is that her origin and story is heavily infused with Greek mythology.  Her mother is literally Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons.  Yes, those Amazons.  There are different iterations of Wonder Woman’s creation, but Zeus played a role in them all.  The fact that they name-drop Zeus in the trailer tells me that they are not shying away from this vital, and rich, aspect of Wonder Woman’s character.  And seriously, those magic lasso scenes?  Awesome.  They are going for it!

I am also shocked they are planting her firmly in the middle of World War I.  Batman v Superman certified she hasn’t been seen as Wonder Woman in 100 years, which, by my estimation, means the war scenes in this trailer must be the Great War.  Do you know the courage this takes?  First of all, a comic book movie featuring a female lead has not exactly proven a successful endeavor, but to also make it a period piece?  I love it.  The Wonder Woman team has no fear, and that’s exactly what you need to make a great Wonder Woman movie.

Speaking of no fear, Wonder Woman is one of the most powerful entities on the planet.  She’s a warrior-born, the best of a warrior race.  I love the battle scenes in this trailer because they put that on full display.  She takes on a battalion of enemy soldiers using mortars and machine guns with her sword and shield!  That moment of her climbing the ladder from the trenches … mesmerizing.  You don’t get much cooler than that.

Let’s face it – there’s a lot riding on this movie.  Not only does it need to make money to secure a sequel, to bolster the shared universe they’re trying to build, and to recoup their expenditures, but it also needs to fulfill an incredible void in the super hero cinematic world.  Little girls need more than just Black Widow (who is awesome, of course).  Wonder Woman is an icon on par with Batman and Superman, and little girls need her.  They need a hero with whom they can relate, who can inspire them, who can show them that they don’t need to stand behind or next to the boys — they can take the lead and leave the boys behind!  Compared to the male-dominated movies of the last fifteen years, this will be a breath of fresh air.  And let’s face it — boys could stand to see a tough, self-reliant, intelligent woman on screen who isn’t there merely to serve as a love interest or sex object.

Finally, the majesty.  The cinematography of this movie looks majestic.  Gal Gadot emits a regal aura.  Her costume absolutely looks like the garb of an Amazonian princess.  The colors are rich.  The scenes are epic.

Plainly stated, it looks beautiful and feels full of heart.  “Power.  Grace. Wisdom.  Wonder.”  Absolutely.

 

 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – A Movie Review

I should explicitly state from the beginning that I am an unabashed Batman fanatic.  I discovered him at the age of three and have loved every incarnation of him during the past thirty-six years.  Furthermore, I’ve always leaned toward DC Comics, home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, etc.

With all that being said, I am certainly bias.  Therefore, it comes as no surprise that I loved Batman v Superman.  I am, after all, a fan boy.  I also want to make it clear that I’m going to work hard to convince you to see this film and ignore the misguided negative reviews it’s apparently received.

I say “apparently” because I’ve read no reviews of the film at all.  I wanted to go in open-minded.  I’ve heard it’s gotten bad reviews, but everyone I’ve personally spoken with, and watched it with, loved it.  So, apparently, someone out there isn’t a fan.

First of all, it’s a visually stunning movie.  Like with  Man of Steel, director Snyder is showing you the characters in all their glory.  Batman looks like he stepped right out of a comic book and uses brutal physicality.  Wonder Woman is portrayed as the intelligent warrior we all know her to be.  Superman does the things only Superman can do.  Snyder knows these characters and shows us what we want to see from them.

I found myself surprised by the acting in the film as well.  Affleck nailed Bruce Wayne.  He’s got the intensity, the size, and the anger, but he also shows us the kindness and compassion we know Batman has deep down.  Irons’ Alfred is a delight and unlike any other film adaptation of the character – he’s no longer just the butler.  Amy Adams plays an identifiable, respectable, capable Lois Lane worthy of being called a hero as well.  Gal Gadot captured the enigma that is Wonder Woman – I can’t wait to see more!  Diane Lane provides a very necessary Martha Kent whom grounds the movie amidst all the spectacle. Holly Hunter also delivers a lower profile but instrumental role that had to be performed subtly.  Laurence Fishburne is always great and gets some of the best lines in the film.  Henry Cavill had the unenviable task of playing Superman.

Though no one will every capture the charisma of Christopher Reeve, Cavill is giving us a conflicted, pained Superman – a Superman that is probably closer to what would really happen in the real world.  He can’t be everything to everyone, and Cavill works hard to show us that nuanced inner turmoil.  I believe Superman is a nearly impossible role because he’s such an international icon.  Cavill will never make everyone happy – but that’s not on him.  I think he lived up to the story and the script, and, in the end, he gives us a very heroic Superman.  His Clark Kent/Superman is very much a partnership with Lois Lane, and Cavill shines when he’s with Amy Adams.

But Jesse Eisenberg clearly got to have the most fun in this film.  His Lex Luthor is also unlike any other depiction we’ve seen.  Quirky, twitchy, weird, and creepy, Eisenberg made me squirm in my seat.  His Lex Luthor is not a savvy businessman, he’s not an elegant speaker, he’s not charming, he’s not even charismatic – he’s just disturbing.  I liked this iteration of the character very much.

Honestly, in my opinion, Snyder’s strengths do not rest in directing actors or conveying story, but due to the sheer caliber of actors he worked with, they all shined in their own unique way.  I think the fact that so many well-regarded actors joined this film confirms the faith they had in the plot and Snyder’s vision.

So let’s talk about the story.  For a film titled Batman v Superman, it has far more story than I ever expected.  It plays heavily off of Man of Steel’s greatest failure – Superman’s apathy toward the destruction of Metropolis.  (The visual of Superman kissing Lois Lane with human ash floating around them will never leave me.)  This destruction fuels Batman’s distrust of Superman, which is totally consistent with the character.  It sets up the very concept of the film and provides motivation.  Of course, as all great comic book stories must, the two heroes slug it out, but, again, as all great comic book stories do, they eventually make their peace with one another.  Was there ever any doubt?  I personally loved the reason they make amends – I thought it was a brilliant bridge between the two characters.  And, of course, now that the heroes are pals, they have to come together to defeat a common foe.

This is a very simplified version of the plot.  The movie takes its time establishing character, setting up the conflict, providing lots of motivation for everyone involved, and, thankfully, doesn’t rush the ending.  Does this make for a long movie?  Absolutely, but it didn’t feel long at all.  I thought it went by really quickly.  I was never bored, the multi-faceted story kept me engaged, and I didn’t once look at my phone to check the time or notifications.

You also had to keep on your toes because the film constantly offered little hints of things to come.  For a fan who’s followed DC Comics for over thirty years, these hints were a delight.  The DC Universe is a very big place, it’s not even confined to one plane of existence, and Batman v Superman definitely laid the groundwork for many characters and concepts to come.  Best of all, it gave the heroes a good reason to stick together at the movie’s end – it provided them both motivation and inspiration.

Is this the greatest movie ever made?  Of course not, but it lived up to its title, it depicted the characters they way I wanted, it provided far more story then I ever anticipated, the actors known for acting well did just that, it flew by despite its running time, the visuals were mesmerizing, and the comic book nerd in me delighted at the little hints of things to come.

The negative reviews are wrong.  This film will satisfy.