Wonder Woman Review

Wonder Woman movie posterSynopsis
Princess Diana (Gal Gadot) and the Amazons live in isolation from the rest of the world on the island of Themyscira, preparing for the return of Ares, the god of war. When Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American pilot and spy, crashes onto the island and tells of a “war to end all wars” in the outside world, Diana, convinced Ares is behind the conflict, leaves her home with Trevor to stop Ares and end the war.

Review
A Wonder Woman film has been a long time coming. Of DC’s “trinity” (Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman) she is the only character to not receive her own live-action film. In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is easily the highlight of the movie. So how does she do starring front and center in her own film? Well, I can happily say Wonder Woman is the movie the fans have been waiting for in her 75+ year history.

Warner Bros. made an absolutely great casting choice with Gal Gadot. She captures every aspect about the character perfectly. She can be soft and gentle in one scene, like when she was excited to see a baby, or warm and caring in another, like when she had her moments with her team, then she can be strong and tough in the next scene, like when she single-handedly enters No Man’s Land. Gadot gave Diana a sense naivety and wonder about about the world but still felt powerful. I could go on but I’d feel like I was repeating myself. In short, she was positively wonderful.

As great as Gadot was as the titular character, that’s not even my favorite part. I think what I liked best about Wonder Woman was that it actually had a sense of adventure. Also, it wasn’t dark like Batman v Superman or Man of Steel, and it actually had humorous moments. It never became overly doom and gloom, like the previous DC Extended Universe (DCEU) films, nor did it feel as lighthearted as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films. There was a nice balance between the seriousness and the fun sides of the movie.

Every superhero movie these days is building towards the next movie or several movies in the universe, well the DCEU and MCU films do anyway. This is a double edge sword because on one hand, it is fun to see the different characters interact with each other but on the other it can make the movie feel bloated or unfocused. Another one of Wonder Woman‘s strengths is that it doesn’t have this problem. It is completely self-contained. It is book-ended with scenes showcasing where in the DCEU chronology it takes place, but everything in between is its own thing. This works out great because then that means the movie can stay centered on Wonder Woman herself without having to worry about anybody else or future plot points.

Because the film’s focus is strictly on Wonder Woman, the story is very tight and focused for a superhero movie. There are no extra characters. Everyone exists to push Diana’s story forward. Every scene serves a purpose of building Diana’s character or the conflict she faces. There is nothing extraneous, nothing without purpose, or nothing without reason. It is a refreshing change of pace to to see a superhero movie that only focuses on whose name is in the title instead of worrying about anybody else or future plot points.

I mentioned the perfect casting of Gal Gadot but I have to commend the rest of the cast as well. Chris Pine was a great choice as the male lead. He feels like a good, grounded counter to Gadot’s innocent Diana. Saïd Taghmaoui as the team’s quick-talking Sameer was a blast to watch. I would have liked to learn just a little bit more about Ewen Bremner’s Charlie and Eugene Brave Rock’s The Chief. Both seem like they have some interesting histories that were barely touched on. However, the highlight for me was any scene with Lucy Davis as Steve Trevor’s secretary Etta Candy. She was an absolute hoot and stole all her scenes. It’s a little disappointing knowing this will be the only time spent with the character because I cold use more Etta Candy in my life.

Like many superhero films, the weakest part of Wonder Woman comes from its villains. General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Hudson) and Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya) are the main baddies but they only act as the personification of the evil Diana is trying to stop; There isn’t much to them. It feels like they are villains almost simply because they are Nazis. Ares could be called the overarching villain and big bad of the movie. Yet, his presence isn’t really felt until the very end. And even then, he is very underwhelming. I guess I can’t fault the movie too much since it gets so much else right.

I thought Wonder Woman was GREAT 😀 Director Patty Jenkins has finally done what every other DC director since Christopher Nolan could not: create a good superhero movie. Gal Gadot strikes a perfect balance of innocence and strength. The movie mirrors that and isn’t too lighthearted but also isn’t dark and gritty. Diana’s sense of justice and need to do the right thing is the tone we should have seen from Superman in Man of Steel. Hopefully WB and DC will keep Jenkins around because she has been their most successful director yet.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Patty Jenkins – Director
Allan Heinberg – Screenplay / Story
Zach Snyder – Story
Jason Fuchs – Story
Rupert Gregson-Williams – Composer

Gal Gadot – Diana Prince / Wonder Woman
Chris Pine – Steve Trevor
Connie Nielsen – Hippolyta
Robin Wright – Antiope
David Thewlis – Sir Patrick
Saïd Taghmaoui – Sameer
Ewen Bremner – Charlie
Eugene Brave Rock – The Chief
Lucy Davis – Etta Candy
Danny Hudson – General Erich Ludendorff
Elena Anaya – Dr. Maru
Lilly Aspell – Young Diana (8)

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Suicide Squad Review

Suicide Squad movie posterSynopsis
Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), director of ARGUS, creates a team of super villains, designated Task Force X and led by Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), to complete covert missions. When an otherworldly entity attacks Midway City, Waller sends the team of criminals in to retrieve an important asset.

Review
It’s no secret that the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), DC’s response to Marvel’s cinematic universe, has been off to a rough start. Man of Steel has polarized fans of the character and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a convoluted mess to say the least. DC turned to David Ayer to try and turn their ship around and begin heading in the right direction to win back the fans. The end result is only somewhat successful.

I have to start out by addressing the two best things about this film: Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. Deadshot is front and center of the entire film, receiving both the most development and screen time of the villains. Smith himself is such a personality that his characters seem to embody him instead of the other way around. That’s not a bad thing because he is such a great actor, it’s just that his Deadshot ends up being very similar to many of his other film characters.

However, Margot Robbie completely transformed into Harley Quinn. Yes, her outfit was nowhere close to her iconic jester outfit (which does make an appearance, by the way) but let’s face it, that’s not the best outfit for this film. Besides, it does resemble her current costumes, which are more normal outfits anyway, so it works. Moving past her outfit, Robbie nails her character, being completely psychotic and mentally unhinged without a problem. It’s amazing how well she molded into the character.

Another character that many people had their eyes on was Jared Leto’s incarnation of the Joker. Now, I’m not going to compare Leto’s Joker to Heath Ledger’s or Jack Nickolson’s because, quite frankly, they are all different characters. Each actor who has taken up the mantle has focused on a different part of the Joker. Nickolson’s Joker was a gangster, Ledger’s was an anarchist, and Leto’s is a psychopath. I don’t think I can quite say how I feel about this version yet until I get to see him in another film.

And maybe that is an issue. The Joker’s role in Suicide Squad is not as large as the promotional material might have you think. He is a antagonist but not the antagonist. He has a lot of time in Harley Quinn’s flashbacks but only pops up every so often in current day to cause problems for the team, outside of the main baddie. As much as I like the Joker, having two disconnected antagonists in the film didn’t help the story too much.

It seems Ayer tried to learn a thing or two from MoS and BvS and tried to make this movie a more lighthearted affair. The character introductions alone have more color and pop than the two previous DCEU movies combined. I enjoyed this sequence because it gave fun, quick introductions to the main players. Each character also got their own unique song to go with their scene, in a very similar sounding soundtrack to Guardians of the Galaxy, that was just a blast to listen to.

Also throughout the film, it tries to lighten the mood and actually crack a joke or two. Much of the comedy comes from Smith, because why not, but it works for the most part. Other characters get their moments, like Boomerang (Jai Courtney) or Harley Quinn. Not every joke or obviously-meant-to-be-humorous moment hits their mark but it is good to see DC make a movie that is not super dark.

In ensemble films, it is inevitable that some characters will get more or less screen time than others. As I said in the beginning, a lot of the focus is on Deadshot and Harley, and to a lesser extent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and the Joker. This left most of the cast poorly developed. Even the main villain was affected by this. They don’t have much motivation other than “I’m a bad guy.”

I thought Suicide Squad was GOOD :-). Much more of the titular team needed more development besides Deadshot and Harley Quinn, who ended up being the two best things about the movie. I’m interested to see Jared Leto’s Joker again because I really want to get a better feel for his version of the iconic character. Suicide Squad may not be perfect but damn it if I didn’t have fun.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
David Ayer – Director / Writer
Steven Price – Composer

Will Smith – Deadshot
Margot Robbie – Harley Quinn
Joel Kinnaman – Rick Flag
Cara Delevigne – June Moon / Enchantress
Jai Courtney – Boomerang
Jay Hernandez – Diablo
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje – Killer Croc
Karen Fukuhara – Katana
Adam Beach – Slipknot
Jared Leto – The Joker
Viola Davis – Amanda Waller
David Harbour – Dexter Tolliver
Ike Barinholtz – Griggs
Ted Whittall – Admiral Olsen
Shailyn Pierre-Dixon – Zoe

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie posterSynopsis
After the devastation of Metropolis, most of the world sees Superman (Henry Cavill) as a savior. Unsure of Superman’s intentions, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), aka Batman, looks for a way to defeat the seemingly invincible hero. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) concocts a plan of his own to bring down the man of steel.

Review
The two main characters of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice are very polarizing for me. On one hand, Batman is one one of my favorite DC heroes and I grew up with Batman: The Animated Series. On the other hand, Superman is one of my least favorite superheroes and I wasn’t a huge fan of Man of Steel. However, being the superhero fan I am, I wasn’t going to let this one pass by, especially with it being the major kickoff to the DC Extended Universe (DCEU).

When Ben Affleck was first announced as playing Bruce Wayne, there was a lot of backlash. I wanted to wait and see for myself before making any judgments. I thought he did a good job as an older, jaded Bruce Wayne. He really had that grizzled characteristic to him that I would expect from someone who has been fighting crime for twenty years. Jeremy Irons also made for a great Alfred. I want to see more of him in the future because I think with some more screen time, he might rival Michael Cain’s Alfred.

Despite this move being titled Batman v Superman, Gal Gadot stole every scene she was in. She also received a lot of criticism when she was cast as Wonder Woman. Gadot could not have been more perfect. She had the poise, she had the attitude, and she had Wonder Woman’s character down. I’m more excited now for Wonder Woman because I want to see more of what Gadot can do with the role.

As the title suggests, this movie is about both Batman and Superman. The movie does a fine job of balancing these two characters. Although, Batman does seem to get a little more time. This makes sense since this is his first appearance in the DCEU, whereas Superman already received much of his development in Man of Steel. The best scene of the film was when these two finally meet for their showdown. It was big and dramatic and was one long, great fight sequence. Say what you will about Zack Snyder, he knows how to film action.

Now as for the rest of the film, it didn’t fare as well. Much of that comes from the pacing of the first two acts. It would do some set up, whether it was for one of the main characters or the overall conflict. Then rev up briefly. Then slow back down to more exposition. This starting and stopping made for a jarring experience. It didn’t help that the movie was trying to cram a good deal into itself.

There were many subplots throughout the movie. The way they interacted is where many of the pacing issues occurred. It felt like the movie was trying to pack in all these different story lines but didn’t know what to do with all of them. They didn’t flow that well together and would’ve worked better in other movies. Like many of DC’s movies, this one tried to incorporate too much and ended up losing its focus on what it was really trying to accomplish.

Batman v Superman is also supposed to be the first step towards the giant Justice League crossover, so it introduced many future characters and plot elements. It reminded me a lot of Avengers: Age of Ultron actually. In both movies, this prevents them from being self-contained stories, which hurts them. However, in Age of Ultron‘s case, Marvel at least seemed to have planned for it and know what is happening in the movies it was trying to set up. DC just seemed to throw them in there to say “look what’s coming,” without giving many of these introductions much purpose towards the overall story.

If there was one thing that was truly wrong with this movie it was Lex Luthor. For starters, his personality was all wrong. Luthor is calculating, cold, and in control of himself. This Luthor was the opposite of that. He was a genius like his comic book counterpart but that feels like where the similarities end. I’m a fan of Jesse Eisenberg, but he was not a good choice for Luthor. His Luthor was on the edge of insanity. It felt like more of a Joker than a Lex Luthor. That’s not who the character should be.

I thought Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was OK :-|. There are several good qualities in the film, such as casting Affleck, Irons, and Gadot but the weak villain and poor pacing overshadow much of what the film actually does well.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Zack Snyder – Director
Chris Terrio – Writer
David S. Goyer – Writer
Hans Zimmer – Composer
Junkie XL – Composer

Ben Affleck – Bruce Wayne / Batman
Henry Cavill – Clark Kent / Superman
Gal Gadot – Diana Prince / Wonder Woman
Amy Adams – Lois Lane
Jesse Eisenberg – Lex Luthor
Jeremy Irons – Alfred
Diane Lane – Martha Kent
Laurence Fishburne – Perry White
Holly Hunter – Senator Finch
Scoot McNairy – Wallace Keefe
Callan Mulvey – Anatoli Knyazev
Tao Okamoto – Mercy Graves
Brandon Spink – Young Bruce Wayne

The Dark Knight Rises Review

The Dark Knight Rises movie posterSynopsis
After taking the fall for the death of Harvey Dent eight years ago, Batman disappeared and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) went into seclusion inside Wayne manner. But when Bane (Tom Hardy) takes Gotham City hostage, Batman will need to appear again to save the city. But this time, he has the help of the skilled cat burglar Selina Kyle (Ann Hathaway) and police officer John Black (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).

Review
Christopher Nolan crafted some character defining stories in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and looks to do the same with The Dark Knight Rises. It’s almost impossible to do better than The Dark Knight, but The Dark Knight Rises is able to continue the momentum of awesomeness that began in Batman Begins and offers a satisfying conclusion to Nolan’s Batman epic.

This film is influenced by the 90s story arc “Knightfall,” which introduced Bane. Bane is a villain who able to match Batman both physically and mentally. The version of Bane in this movie was very faithful to his comic counterpart. Not only does he develop the plan to take over Gotham City, but he also takes Batman head on (and wins!). The only thing missing is Bane’s signature Venom serum to give him his super strength. Instead, this was replaced with the mask you see in the film.

The purpose of Bane’s mask isn’t explained real clearly. His mask was described to help ease pain he continually feels from a previous injury. But when it gets damage, Bane’s punches take huge chunks out of a stone pillar. So it appears his mask seemingly holds his strength back. I think they should have done something more along the lines of the Venom serum that augments his strength, maybe as something he inhales through the mask.

Another character they took an interesting interpretation of was Catwoman. She was never once called ‘Catwoman.’ The closest thing to Catwoman was ‘Cat Burglar.’ And she wasn’t dressed like a cat. Instead, her super cool burglar glasses create cat ears in her silhouette when they were not in use. I liked it because it was like “Hey, it’s Catwoman!” but they never said, “Hey, it’s Catwoman!”

The League of Shadows played an integral role in Batman Begins, and they play a strong role in this film, bring the trilogy full circle. It’s pretty cool that they were able to bring back such an important group from Batman’s beginning for his finale. And and the center of the League is Ra’s al Ghul. In the comics, for those unfamiliar with the character, al Ghul is immortal. Now immortality in the traditional sense does not fit into the more realistic settings of The Dark Knight trilogy, but there are other ways to live forever, which this film plays with. It is a nice nod to the source material, while still staying within the trilogy’s continuity and realism.

As I have pointed out in my reviews for the previous films in the trilogy, Hans Zimmer’s score is one of my favorite parts of the movie, and it has only improved in each film. A lot of the music is recycled from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, but there is new music for Bane’s Theme and a few others. Once again, the music is well balanced with the dialog. There are moments that the score is silent, making these moments even more emotional. Not everything moment needs a strong score behind it; sometimes the lack of sound is just as powerful.

The Dark Knight Rises offers a satisfying conclusions to Nolan’s Batman epic. Finally, Bane has a big screen appearance that properly portrays his genius and strength in the comics onto the silver screen. The Dark Knight trilogy finishes just as strong as it began.

Rating
4.5/5

For the rest of The Dark Knight trilogy, check out my reviews for Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

The Dark Knight Review

The Dark Knight mo vie posterSynopsis
One year after Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) started fighting Gotham City’s criminal underworld as Batman, a new menace has surfaced. The Joker (Heath Ledger) is bent on spreading chaos throughout the city. Working with Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and the new district attorney, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Batman must bring down the Joker before he brings all of Gotham to its knees.

Review
Batman Begins gave us a strong Batman origin story. The casting was spot-on, the story was great, and the characters were well fleshed out. All of these aspects carry over into The Dark Knight and add some new cast members that are just as on-point as the returning cast. The Dark Knight is darker and grittier than its predecessor, and triumphs not just as a great superhero film, but as a cinematic masterpiece.

Heath Ledger received a ton of flack when he was announced as the Joker in The Dark Knight. Now it’s hard to envision anyone else in the role. Ledger completely embodied the Joker, from his voice to the character’s mannerisms, including freaky body twitches and lip licking. It looks like the Joker is barely on the edge of maintaining his sanity, and it’s all feels real. This is without a doubt my favorite portrayal of the character.

One noticeable difference is Rachael Dawes is played by Maggie Gyllenhaal this time around, instead of Katie Holmes. Holmes turned down the role due to scheduling conflicts with Mad Money. As I said in my Batman Begins review, Holmes wasn’t awful, her performance just wasn’t as strong as the cast around her. Gyllenhaal, on the other hand, has no problem standing toe-to-toe with the likes of Bale, Ledger, and Michael Cane. She also does well bring across the emotion necessary for some of her more dramatic moments. As much as I don’t like to see cast changes in the middle of franchises, this one was probably for the better.

We didn’t get to see much of the detective part of the “World’s Greatest Detective” in Batman Begins, but we do this outing. Wayne uses his skills and resources to find the Joker’s hideout. It was only a few, short sequences, but it was nice they acknowledged that side of Batman since often it’s neglected in favor of action.

The Dark Knight has a long running time, but it doesn’t feel like it at all. Part of the long running time is due to the focus on two villains. Unlike most movies that try to focus on more than one antagonist, this film does not feel claustrophobic. It does extremely well balancing both Joker and Two-Face, who comes in about halfway through the movie. Although it is two and a half hours, it moves along at a quick pace, while still developing the character of Bruce Wayne and the supporting cast.

Not only is The Dark Knight one of my favorite comic book movies, but it is one of my favorites of all time. With superb casting, great balance of characters and character development, not to mention great action, it is hard not to love this movie.

Rating
5/5

For the rest of The Dark Knight trilogy, check out my reviews for Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises.

Batman Begins Review

Batman Begins movie posterSynopsis
After being away for eight years, Bruce Wayne returns to his home in Gotham City. Using what he learned from his time training with the League of Shadows, he takes up the mantle of Batman and begins a crusade to rid Gotham of crime and corruption, starting with Scarecrow and his drug operation.

Review
I grew up with Batman: the Animated Series in the 90s and Justice League in the early 2000s (or Batman and his Amazing Friends as I like to call it). And although I don’t read the Batman comics, I try to stay up-to-date with what is going on in his books. So you could say Batman is pretty close to my heart. As good as Michael Keaton’s Batman was, it wasn’t really an origin story for the character. Batman Begins looks to establish a definitive Batman origin story, and create a dark and gritty Gotham City that is less exuberant and more grounded than the Joel Shumacher Batman films.

The Gotham City in Schumacher’s films evolved into a place full of neon signs and cartoonish characters. It may have started out strong, but it become a mess that tried too hard to display its comic book roots. The Gotham City presented in Batman Begins returns to that grittiness of the 1989 Batman, but doesn’t become overly stylized. You can imagine this Gotham is a real place. Not only is the setting more grounded, but Batman’s equipment is as well. His suit, gadgets, and vehicles are all more realistic than those in previous Batman movies. It’s more fitting with the movie’s more serious tone.

Scarecrow and Ra’s al Ghul are not iconic Batman villains, but I liked the fact they used lesser-known members of his rogues gallery. They could have played it safe and done someone like the Joker or Catwoman, but instead chose B-list villains (Well Ra’s may be considered A-List, but he hasn’t had much mainstream exposure). They took a risk and it payed off because it allowed for a great set-up for Batman’s take down of Gotham’s crime.

I don’t think there could have a better cast assembled for this film. Christian Bale is perfect as both a young Bruce Wayne and Batman. It’s funny how none of the previous actors didn’t change their voice when they were portraying Bruce versus when they were portraying Batman. Now after Bale took the part, it seems like it should be a no-brainer. Michael Caine does great as Alfred and Bruce’s mentor. Gary Oldman as Sargent Gordon (not commissioner yet), Liam Neesan as Henri Ducard, and Cillian Murphy as Dr. Jonathan Crane, all fantastic. And Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, well, when isn’t Freeman awesome? Only one I am a little iffy about is Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes. She doesn’t do terrible, but she doesn’t step up and basically is just not as great as the rest of the cast around her.

Han Zimmer’s score as become iconic and really adds to the atmosphere. I instantly recognize his Batman scores when they come on my Pandora station. And the best part is it balances well with the rest of the sound work. Sometimes a film’s score is too overpowered and covers up the dialogue. But not here. It’s regulated to quiet background when necessary, and loud and prevalent when it needs to be.

I can’t think of very many negative things to say against this film.  With a superb cast, a more grounded world, and an amazing score, Batman Begins is the perfect superhero origin story and first entry in a Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy.

Rating
4.5/5

For the rest of The Dark Knight trilogy, check out my reviews for The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.