Wonder Woman (2017) // review

[ NOTE: This review is in-progress but my wifi is spotty so I’m putting it up now for you to enjoy. Thank you for your patience and support! ]

Thank you to Hotchka DC for inviting me to view Wonder Woman early and to the Spy Museum for helping me win my 2nd-ever in-person raffle!

At. Long. Last. After actual decades of a Wonder Woman movie being discussed and passed from studio to studio, director to director, actress to actress, we finally have our first-ever live-action Wonder Woman feature film! Can you believe it’s taken so long? It has taken decades of pressure on studios to convince them that yes, a female standalone superhero movie is not even a gamble at the box office. People are interested in the character and her being a woman will not hurt your profit margin. In fact, women, who are also in possession of money to spend at the movie, are eager to buy tickets to see a movie starring a strong female superhero, THE strong female superhero.

TL;DR: Wonder Woman is a pretty standard Marvel movie with Zac Snyder’s visual signature and a female superhero.

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Quick confession: I have not been keeping up with the DC Extended Universe movies. I begrudgingly watched Man of Steel and found it as meh as friends’ reviews indicated, and I had almost no interest in watching Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad. So, admittedly, my comments about the rest of the DCEU aren’t entirely fair, since I don’t have firsthand experience of seeing those films.

I say that Wonder Woman felt like a standard Marvel movie because it is very familiar, both with its positive and negative qualities. Even the structure and basic premise is quite familiar: Diana, aka Wonder Woman (although no one calls her that in the movie), is a bad-ass and optimistic character who does not understand the strangeness of our human ways and finds herself fighting in a world war with literal brute force. Many critics are saying that her origin story is like a mix of Thor + Captain America. (My faves! Chris Squared!)

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However, I think it has similar pitfalls to many superhero movies now. I’ve complained about it here before and I probably will never stop but I found the villain(s) to be poorly developed and lacking of compelling characterization and motivations. “Because he’s a bad guy” doesn’t cut it anymore as the answer to “Why is the bad guy doing the bad things?” We have several antagonists in this movie and I found myself not knowing very much about them at all. Just some menacing looks and vague ambitions of prolonging World War I in the face of an armistice and for what? Because! (I’ll discuss more of our villain characterization in the spoilers below the trailer.)

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One of my favorite, too-short, parts of this movie was the scenes on Themyscira, not least of all because they are uncharacteristically sunny for a DC movie! (Don’t worry, the rest of the film remains very blue-grey with spectacular flashes of yellow+orange for effect.) While the slow-motion that Zac Snyder often gets criticized for now gets tired, I liked watching the Amazons be bad-ass in slow-mo. Themyscira seemed very beautiful, if poorly protected from outsiders. (It’s an island in the middle of the ocean that is always a sunny paradise but around it is dark and cloudy and the seas are rough. Which means that, as per the trailer, a plane can just fly in. But also boats can basically just cruise on through. Whatever, it was refreshing to see a bright and sunny scene in this cinematic universe and all these amazing women doing awesome stunts. (Don’t fret, most of the movie is filmed in the dark or on suspiciously overcast days, as per the other DC films.)

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What’s not to love?????

Gal Gadot was a pretty good choice to play Diana, Princess of the Amazons. It goes without saying that she is incredibly beautiful. (My boyfriend and I became fans of hers when Fast Five came out.) She is also very bad-ass, as someone who trained in the Israeli military. While I did find myself wishing she was a little more expressive, she was very good at being naive and finding little pleasures in things like snow and babies. She also pulled off subtle comedic moments quite well. Her chemistry with Chris Pine, who always plays a charming guy with differing levels of douche-baggery (see: Star TrekInto the Woods), was great. I really have to commend Chris Pine on playing Steve Trevor as a charming hero who recognizes that Diana is amazing and does not go hypermasculine in response to that. (It is unfortunate that this very basic demonstration of decency is commendable, but it is.) I felt that almost every other actor was… underutilized.

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Robin Wright gets top billing as the greatest Amazonian warrior of all time, Antiope, but she is so stoic and doesn’t have much depth, as with most of the characters in this movie. She is a general, she fights, she trains. She trains Diana to become an Amazon warrior against her sister, Queen Hippolyta’s, wishes. Why does Hippolyta, played by Connie Nielsen, think that she can get away with just sheltering Diana away forever, anyway? It doesn’t look like Amazons age (and I mean, we know Diana doesn’t age at all between World War I and when she meets Bruce Wayne so I mean…) so trying to just wait it out seems foolish. That is never made very clear and, in the context of the events in the film and the very little circumstantial context we are given, it seems dangerously unreasonable.

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I must say that this movie is… not the kind of feminist movie I think I was expecting it to be. There’s a reversal of the male gaze trope where Diana walks in on Steve Trevor emerging from a bath. There really is no reason for him to be naked in this scene, or for him to be naked for as long as he is, but he is naked because nude Chris Pine serves as eye candy, both for the audience and for Diana, who has to ask if the first man she has ever laid eyes upon is “average for his sex”. Even with so many awesome Amazonian women, I feel like maybe there were scenes cut out of the film that would have fleshed some of them out more. For example, at one particularly emotional scene near the beginning of the movie, one of the Amazons runs forward in tears. I have no idea who she is or why she is moved more than the rest of the Amazons? She is visually differentiated from them when she runs forward but I don’t have a clue who she is, she doesn’t even look familiar to me, don’t even ask me to tell you her name. While looking for the movie poster for this post, I wondered if she is the mysterious 4th Amazon woman on some of the posters that feature the powerful women of Themyscira but, again, I just don’t know? And there is a severe dearth of women with depth throughout the movie, aside from Diana. Etta Candy, Steve’s secretary, is sassy and loyal. Doctor Isabel Maru, aka Doctor Poison, is……. uh… she likes poison gas? I don’t know?? It’s a similar problem that we encounter with the villains.

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Before I forget, I also was bothered that, while Wonder Woman and Sameer speak a few lines of a few different languages in one scene, the Germans are all speaking English. (Some with German accents…)  Steve Trevor does, however, put on a German accent when acting as a spy and talking to Germans. (???!) We know that we aren’t simply suspending disbelief because Steve Trevor remarks that Diana and the other Amazons speak very good English. Not perfect English, as everyone on Themyscira speak with a variation of Gal Gadot’s accent, but very good. I think if that line was left out of the movie, I wouldn’t be as bothered about the language thing but it is what it is.

(Also, I’m not sure I like Wonder Woman’s musical theme. It just doesn’t seem quite in character for her, and it plays several times throughout the movie and is featured prominently in the trailer. Not a fan of it, personally, for Wonder Woman.)

I liked this movie. It was a lot of fun and I think it will send the message that Hollywood can stop avoiding making films with female protagonists and should especially stop making excuses to not make female superhero movies. (How long have we been begging for a standalone Black Widow movie???) It isn’t a perfect movie and I don’t think it deserves all the hype it has been getting. Criticism that the fight scene at the end ruin the tone and pacing of the movie is valid, as is other criticism about what about Diana is actually valued by other characters. (Has she been reduced to a token female? Eye candy? The girl who men want to bang because she acts a bit outside of her gender role?)

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Still, this movie is important. It’s so important for young girls to see a character like Diana on the big screen because it’s astoundingly important to see yourself represented in the media. So to see Wonder Woman, a beautiful woman who does not compromise on who she is or the things that make her a woman, a person who does not fully understand why wars happen and the complicated nature of mankind, is extremely powerful. And it will be similarly powerful for movie audiences to use their ticket purchases to show Hollywood that this movie is overdue and that we want more like it.

Wonder Woman is in theaters everywhere today. Discussion of some spoilers after the trailer.

Read More »

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Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Note: I’ll be using a few abbreviations in this review. They can be found above the movie poster in parentheses.
Another note: This is going to be a long review. Please keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle.
Last note: This review is not particularly refined, but I wanted to have thoughts up here while the movie was still fresh in my mind.


Remember how excited I was to see the second Avengers movie last year? How I had been waiting since the release of the first film with such eager anticipation… What I didn’t mention was how predictably disappointed I was, I think. Even after the original Avengers, I knew the second one wouldn’t live up to the hype. Still, I was super duper hyped, maybe the most hyped I’ve been for a movie in a long time.

UNTIL Disney/Marvel announced Phase Three. And then I knew that I was just mega-super-ultra excited for Captain America: Civil War (CACW) for a couple of primary reasons (to simplify my excitement for you all):

  1. Captain America is my favorite Avenger (not least because I love Chris Evans) and I’ve loved his movies.
  2. Captain America: Winter Soldier (CAWS) was intensely good, and I was really glad to see that the Russo Brothers, who gifted us with that great movie, were returning for this movie because-
  3. I was so tired of Joss Whedon for Age of Ultron (AOU) and trust the Russo Brothers to do better than Whedon did with his second chance.
  4. When the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was first established, one of the most prominent comic book storylines that I heard about was the Civil War storyline, so I was thrilled that they were going to bring it to the MCU.

TL;DR This was definitely better than Age of Ultron and was a lot of fun to watch. Me being me, of course, this movie was not perfect, and I’ll talk about that. As per usual, this review will have spoilers below the trailer; before the trailer, there may be information from previous Marvel films and promotional materials.

I have a lot of complaints, but I want to talk about what I really loved about this movie!

Spider-Man was great. I’ll admit that I was one of the people who was upset when Andrew Garfield was replaced. I love him as an actor, and I liked his portrayal of Peter Parker. (I liked Tobey McGuire’s, too, until that last movie… which wasn’t his fault, but I mean…) However, I thought it made a lot of sense to cast an actual teenager to play teenage Peter Parker. I will admit, also, that I was pretty biased against Tom Holland being cast, I think because the photos that I saw of him were of a really young Holland, young teens for sure. I thought that Marvel had gone a bit far on the younger casting, and was not sure how I felt about essentially a middle school child being Spider-Man. But Holland was great! You really get this sense of Peter being a high schooler, nervous around the other Avengers, nervous about his Aunt May finding out he’s Spider-Man, just… nails that teenage nervousness. He’s still pretty charismatic but in that Peter Parker way. One of my big issues with Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Peter Parker was that I was not convinced that an “awkward geek” would be as charming as Andrew Garfield was.

As John Boyega said, saying “Hey everyone” can be really addicting.

I also liked that the suit we see in the trailer is provided by Tony Stark, because honestly, I never bought the story that Peter Parker made his suit on his own.

Black Panther was great. Oh man, I think that T’challa’s first (hero) appearance was almost more anticipated than Spider-Man’s, at least by the people at my screening, judging by the applause and cheers for each character. While I do wish there was a little more depth to his character in this movie, I know he is getting his own stand-alone film really soon, so I was happy for the characterization that we got in CACW. Black Panther is such a great character, and I think really needed in the MCU. As a prince, he brings this dignity to the Avengers that Thor doesn’t quite bring because T’challa took his mantle more seriously than Thor did initially, and that’s because being the Black Panther is not a superpower that was thrust upon him. It is a royal duty that he had to earn.

Chadwick Boseman is fantastic~

It was funny! I laughed a lot watching this, and I didn’t feel burdened by an obligation to laugh like I did with AOU. (Looking at those one-line zingers, Joss…) Marvel movies are always really funny, especially because they cast some great comedians to play our heroes, and sometimes I take that for granted, so I wanted to be sure to let you guys know that I got lots of giggles and chuckles in while watching.

Obviously, seeing so many Avengers on screen, at once, interacting with each other was amazing. There’s a lot of great banter because, again, half our characters are pretty snarky. Sam (Falcon) and Bucky (Winter Soldier) bickering as the two of Steve’s (Captain America’s) best friends. “I hate you,” Sam says pretty directly to Bucky. “We’re still friends, right?” “Depends on how hard you hit me.” Natasha (Black Widow) and Clint (Hawkeye), who are no longer romantically-linked (maybe) are questioning if they are still BSF – best spies forever – given that they stand on opposite sides of the Civil War.

Before this review gets too long, though, I do need to talk about some of my beef with this movie…Read More »

Deadpool (2016)

Although I have not read the comics, I was so thrilled when Ryan Reynolds was cast as Wade Wilson for X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I’m familiar with Deadpool as a character and I really believed Ryan Reynolds was perfect for the role. (He was also my number one celebrity crush, so you know how it is.)

As you may know, it was a bit disappointing, as far as Deadpool portrayals go. So I was pleasantly surprised when that first announcement of a Deadpool movie was made soon after the release of the first Wolverine movie.

But then the project was shelved… and Green Lantern happened…

Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting a Deadpool movie to happen for a few years.

THEN that leaked test footage appeared. And I had to try very hard not to let myself get too excited, because test footage isn’t a sure sign of anything.

But here we are, after several years and a killer Valentine’s-President’s Day box office weekend, and Deadpool has done pretty spectacularly, breaking the record for this holiday weekend set by Fifty Shades of Grey last year and the record for an R-rated opening set by The Matrix: Reloaded.

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