Darke Reviews | Wonder Woman (2017)

So here we are, but where have we been to get here. A quick summation of events in the past few years in table form:

Marvel Movies DC Movies

Ok with me so far? Yes, Suicide Squad was absolutely entertaining but it cannot be argued that on critical analysis it is riddled with flaws – mostly in the editing department. Batman v Superman was nothing short of a train wreck, even the longer cut which made some of it more bearable didn’t make it as a final product something anyone should be proud of. That being said, something glorious was indeed found in the carnage of that film. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince. I said it before and I will say it again – I am a fangirl of hers since she first walked on screen in a Fast and the Furious movie.

So the real question you are here to find out – has DC gotten it right yet?

Three writers, in addition to William Moulton Marston who created Wonder Woman, have credit on the film. Story by Zack Snyder, Jason Fuchs, and Allan Heinberg. Heinberg gets the sole screenplay credit so what we finally got was the last touches he put on and the orders from on high. If we take a moment to look at Fuch’s work, as Snyders work is well known and often lamented, he is responsible for the garbage of a movie that was 2015’s Pan and the 2012 film Ice Age: Contintental Drift. Don’t remember it? You didn’t see it. This leaves us Heinberg, who is  primarily a TV writer with a handful of episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, Party of Five, and the OC.  So based on how I chose to write this you might be thinking “this is going to be horrible.”

You’d be right – except you need to replace going to be with should be. It should have been horrible as Snyder has not shown any capacity for character focus or actually understanding characters at their core and why people like them. Fuch’s work on the disaster Pan showed no real understanding of world building or character either. Yet, somehow these three men did it. They told a, mostly, cohesive story that delivered us the Wonder Woman we deserve and need. I think Heinberg may be part of the reason we get this.

Wisely set during World War One, the great war, the war to end all wars as it was called, we are introduced to Diana princess of Themyscira, daughter of Hippolyta Queen of the Amazons. They live an idyllic life of peace and beauty yet continually prepare for a war that may never come. Until it does with the appearance of Steve Trevor followed closely by a small legion of German soldiers intent on killing the American. The battle is joined and Diana ventures into Mans world to try to fight for those who must be protected with Steve at her side.

The story is relatively simple as they go, with a McGuffin and a lofty goal. What they did unlike so many other superhero movies, including Marvels, is watch their scale. Yes it was World War I, but they made it smaller than it was and kept the stakes (even as high as they were) to something we could understand and relate to. There is another success here, but I think it belongs to Patty Jenkins, the director as much as anyone – more on her in a bit. The movie has its action beats but it for once in the DCEU focuses on the character we want to see. Diana. She’s the focus. Period. They let you get to see her wonder, her frustration, her anger, and the depths to which she can feel. They let her personal interactions with people last more than two seconds. Wonder Woman is a warrior yes, but she is also diplomat, a caretaker, a nurturer, and a sign of hope. They got that. They let her be that.

In Man of Steel, they had to tell us “it’s not an S, it means Hope” and we laugh at them because they had to SAY it and didn’t for one moment show it. Here – they show it. They live it. They do it. It’s never said.

So let’s talk Patty Jenkins. Not only do we have our first big budget sole female lead superhero movie, but it also has a woman director at it’s helm. Jenkins directed the acclaimed 2003 film Monster with Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci, since then she’s mostly done a little TV and passed on Thor 2 as she wanted to tell  different story than Marvel did. I am glad she passed so she could do this. Comparing this to all the other DC films there is real character here. Sure not everyone is fleshed out as much as I want, sure some elements are paint by numbers, and absolutely can we see Snyders influence – but we also see Jenkins. A director who is on the set with her cast and crew physically interacting with them and giving them the guidance she feels with an undaunted passion. There are a number of articles on how important Jenkins time in the directors chair is that are worth reading – here at the Washington Post and here at THR the Hollywood Reporter. Sexism is alive and well in Hollywood, and here we are with the most expensive film shot by a woman.

She also took a page from Richard Donner that Snyder missed the memo on. You can do an origin story and let us get to know the character and like them. Let them *show* us why they are a hero by their choices and actions rather than why they aren’t by the dialogue and moping. Show don’t tell. Let us see the action. Let it be kinetic but let us see it. Let it feel SUPER HEROIC. Let it be magical and impossible – it’s ok. We’re dealing with the Amazons here. Jenkins did all of this.

Of course you need actors.

Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman. Full Stop. This cannot be argued. She’s everything she needed to be and more. Nothing more needs to be said about her – she’s absolutely perfect in the role.

Chris Pine is an excellent Steve Trevor, charming, fearless, but believable as a man dealing with the unbelievable. He doubts as much as he shoulder, but trusts as much as his character and heart are supposed to. Connie Nielsen, who I haven’t seen since 2003’s fantastic film Basic,  is Hippolyta and knocks it out of the park bringing what I expected of such a character to life.  Robin Wright (House of Cards), Danny Huston (American Horror Story), David Thewlis (Harry Potter’s Remus Lupin) , Saïd Taghmaoui (GI Joe Rise of Cobra), Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting), Eugene Brave Rock (The Revenant), and Elena Anaya (Van Helsing) bring good performances to screen in multi national cast that is also worth noting.

Alas, the movie does have flaws. The final act fight is a touch green screen heavy. Some of the other green screening doesn’t work well. I think Hollywood needs to find another way – something between green screen and front projection. The lighting never quite matches – or they need to move their green screen work from inside with the studio lights to outside in the sun – so the lighting actually matches. There are some dialogue choices, some thinness to characters, some of a few different things in the production that may distract someone looking for flaws; but with few exceptions these can be overlooked.

TL;DR

In what is currently my longest review this year (1270 words as of this) I can sum it up simply

Wonder Woman is what we have been waiting for DC to make.

Not just because she is the first big budget female solo superhero film. Nor because she is in a list of less then 10 other films that fall under the solo female lead in a super hero genre. Nor because this is a sign for so many female directors in Hollywood that they can potentially make a tentpole film that is amazing. Not for any of those reasons alone but for all of them. Wonder Woman is just good people. It is a good film we need to support. We need it to be as successful as it deserves to be. It needs us and we needed it.

Should you see it?

Yes. I plan on seeing it at least once more this weekend. I’ll post to my personal facebook page as to when/where if folks want to join me.

Will you buy it?

Absolutely. No doubts.

Are you blinded by fan girl of Gadot or Wonder Woman?

No. Look it has flaws. Plenty of them but it still goes beyond them.

Guys – this is a film to watch. It has action. It has heart. Warner Bros finally did it. Do I think they will learn from it? No, but a girl can dream and no matter what I say as a unpaid but trying to  be professional reviewer there’s something more important at work here.

Representation Matters

This is an actual quote from the woman next to me in the theatre when I asked did you like it?

“I am so emotional right now. You don’t see that. Its just the dudes. Not the girl kicking ass. She was amazing.”

51% of the planet now has the chance to see themselves on screen – alone – as the hero we need right now. This is important. This movie is important.

Please support it.

Darke Reviews – Furious 7 (2015)

Furious 7.  As I have said in previous reviews when you are this invested in a franchise it is already a forgone conclusion that you are seeing this film. So how do I review it? Do I review it? Well of course I do. It’s worth mentioning as I open this that there was a clip in the pre movie commercials of Vin Diesel being asked if he thinks this is the best of the franchise. His response brought a tear to my eye.

“Whenever we went to a movie premier, I would turn to Paul and ask was it the best? He would look to me and tell me the best is still in the can. I am hoping to hear from him, somehow that he thinks this one is the best.” These men were brothers in real life as much as they were in the films. Even Paul’s mother knew it and is quoted by Diesel as saying “I thought they needed my strength but realized when I got there and broke down before his family, that it was I who needed theirs.”His mother hugged me and said I am so sorry … I said sorry? You’re the mother who lost a son? … She said yes, but you lost your other half.”

So how was the movie?

The writer on the franchise since Tokyo Drift , Chris Morgan, returns to give us what will likely be the last of the series. If Fast 5 was a love letter to Oceans 11 with cars and Furious 6 was a love letter to shark jumping everywhere, then this film is the love letter to Mission Impossible, while it jumps a shark with friggin lasers on their heads. It is gloriously over the top and embraces it with a smile and a Corona. The natural charm and chemistry of the returning cast members makes every ridiculous scene work. Morgan is also wise enough to give us slow moments where the characters can interact and show why we have stuck with them for the six previous movies. It’s not just long looks, but comes down to the performances and delivery which means Morgan needs some help from the cast

I won’t go too long here. Vin Diesel returns as Dominic Toretto who continues to stubborn and street prophet his way through the movies. Walker’s role is probably more reduced than originally intended, but the moments he gets with Mia (Jordana Brewster) sell every single time. Michelle Rodriguez continues as Letty and is both beautiful and one of the baddest women we have on screen. The meme of keep your pop icons, we have our own should equally apply to this woman. Tyrese keeps earning that paycheck as CinemaSins says and sadly continues to be the weakest part of the family. Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges is once again epic as Tej and a highlight for the film. Dwayne Johnson was born to be in this franchise and clearly has a blast with every single scene chewing line.

Joining this film is Statham as Lee Christmas, er the Driver, er …Deckard Shaw. Oh heck with it. Jason Statham is Jason Statham. Djimon Hounsou comes in as a secondary villain along with Tony Jaa and a brief but wicked appearance of Ronda Rousey. Kurt Russell makes his own appearance as Nobody taking a page from the Rock and looking to chew scenery. In my private fiction I think he was secretly Jack Burton 20 years later. Our movies McGuffin is a person this time, Nathalie Emmanuel, better known as Missandei from Game of Thrones. It was nice to hear her in her own speaking voice rather than her clipped precise tones from the show.

James Wan, best known for Saw, The Conjuring, and Insidious is replacing Justin Lin at the helm. I think that might be where the seams begin to show. He just doesn’t have what Lin did. This isn’t to say he was horrible, but he isn’t as gifted with the camera or ensemble as Lin. There’s some weird camera tricks used that detract from the film and there just is not enough love for certain characters that I think comes down to the director more than anything else. Granted, he still directed the heck out of the film while the shark continued to do it’s double half back flip with a triple twist. He does run this far more as an over the top Mission Impossible action film than a car movie, but that comes across as an observation than a complaint.

From the technicals CG is CG. Physics is bound, gagged, slapped around, and hung up in an oubliette – and we don’t care! Seriously we don’t. You shouldn’t. The movie is absolutely ridiculous and makes no sense from a biologic, architectural, or engineering standpoint. Gravity? HA! Injuries? Don’t make me laugh. Actually the movie did more than a few times and I was thankful for it.

TL;DR?

The final film in the Fast franchise is so beautifully over the top any flaws it has, which there are a few, don’t seem to matter. This is one of the first movies this year I can feel comfortable saying “Go See it

– If you are invested already – you didn’t need my review.

– If you weren’t invested – you also didn’t need it. You weren’t going to see it anyway. Seeing it before the others is a disservice to the series.

The movie is good. It is beefcake. It is cheesecake. It is ridiculous and I love it for all of it. 14 years of these movies and the series can rest now. It earned it and got a good send off.

 

PS

Rollover spoiler –

I did cry at the end from the reshoots they added to address Paul Walkers death. Diesels send off for him was as much to the character of Brian as it was to Paul himself. It was moving and heartfelt. I am not sure what the original ending was, nor does it matter. This was good and I am glad they did it the way they did.

– end spoiler