Tag Archives: Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman (2017)

Expectations are a funny thing. At first, everyone got excited when it was announced that Gal Gadot, who turned out to be the best thing in the otherwise lacklustre Batman v Superman, was getting her own standalone Wonder Woman movie. Anticipation grew even higher when acclaimed filmmaker Patty Jenkins (Monster) was signed on to direct. But then there were rumours that the film wasn’t as good as executives wanted it to be, and concerns were exacerbated when reports surfaced that the film had to undergo late reshoots. Coupled with relatively low tracking numbers for its opening weekend (US$65m domestic) and a late lifting of the embargo on critic reviews, everybody wondered whether Wonder Woman would continue DC’s streak of disappointing flicks.

Well, I’m glad to report back that concerns regarding Wonder Woman were largely unfounded. This origin story about the Amazonian princess is arguably the best DC film thus far, easily besting the incoherent Batman v Superman and the messy Suicide Squad. In my view, it is also more entertaining than Man of Steel, which has become more revered in retrospect, though some will argue that the Superman movie is better crafted overall. Either way, Wonder Woman should be regarded as a success that will give DC a much-needed huge sigh of relief.

On the other hand, I must say I am quite stunned by Wonder Woman’s astounding 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the highest rated superhero movie on the critic aggregate website with the exception of The Incredibles, which is technically in the same category despite being animated. Yes, Wonder Woman has pleased a larger percentage of critics than all the Marvel superhero movies including Iron Man, The Avengers, and Captain America: Civil War, and has topped even all of the entries in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.  The rating will probably come down a little eventually, though it’s hard to imagine a precipitous drop with more than 65 reviews already logged thus far. The favourable reviews have the film set to record an opening weekend north of US$90m domestic and US$175m worldwide.

I say I am stunned because I honestly don’t think Wonder Woman is that good. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like about Wonder Woman, and it’s not just because it’s one of the first times we’ve seen a female superhero get her own movie (besides, Elektra and Catwoman were so widely panned) or because Gal Gadot looks absolutely beautiful and badass in the titular role. Patty Jenkins does an excellent job of creating the mythology of Wonder Woman aka Diana Prince, starting with her youth on the mythical island of Themyscira. It’s not an easy thing to do because of it’s all about Greek gods and the creation of mankind, but Jenkins manages to explain everything in a way that’s easy to follow and allows audiences to suspend their disbelief enough to stay in the story. In some ways, the first part of Wonder Woman is similar to the first Thor film in terms of setting up another world that somehow co-exists with the more grounded reality of the overall franchise.

When Wonder Woman leaves her home to enter the world of man for the first time, the film picks up that fish-out-of-water vibe we’ve seen before in the first Captain America movie. The similarities extend beyond that because Wonder Woman is set in World War I, with the majority of the action sequences coming on the battlefield.

Speaking of action, Wonder Woman absolutely gets the job done, especially in the earlier parts of the movie when we first see the Amazonians galloping on horses and jumping, flipping and gliding effortlessly through the air while shooting arrows at enemies. I particularly liked the use of mixing in slow motion (300 style, without the blood) to accentuate Diana’s super quick movements and skilled manoeuvres. However, I didn’t love all of the action sequences. The CG of some of Diana’s “superpower” movements come across as a little clunky, especially as she looks normal all the way until a sudden burst of speed or strength that doesn’t mesh quite as smoothly as it should. A late battle sequence also disappointingly goes down the Man of Steel route.

Gal Gadot is not the greatest actress out there, but she does have her strengths—bountiful charisma, a steely gaze and a knack for striking perfect poses. She was so great in Batman v Superman because her role was limited; here, as she carries the film, you get to see more of the flaws in her acting, which doesn’t always channel the necessary emotion the character deserves. That said, it’s good enough, and she makes up for it by being fantastic in the extremely physical action scenes.

The supporting cast has plenty of big names who all deliver strong performances to prop up Gadot. You’ve got the likes of Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright as Amazonians, Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Lucy Davis (from the British version of The Office) as Steve’s secretary, Danny Huston as German general Ludendorff, Spanish actress Elena Anaya as Doctor Poison, and David Thewlis as a British cabinet speaker.

I’ve always liked Chris Pine but never thought of him as anything special, though I must give him props here as he is a clear standout. Let’s just say he’s more than a damsel in distress but doesn’t take anything away from Wonder Woman. To the contrary, he plays a big part in defining who she becomes. Less impressive are the three other ragtag members of Steve’s team, Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui), Charlie (Ewen Bremner) and Chief (Eugene Brave Rock). Their performances are fine—it’s just that they are not given enough to do and never end up being fully fleshed out. They feel like they’re just there for the sake of making up the numbers.

At 141 minutes, Wonder Woman is also slightly on the long side. I was never bored, but some pacing issues in middle part of the film did render things slower than I would have liked. One final complaint is the humour—ie, there is humour in the film, but pretty much all of it has already been seen in the trailers.

So on the whole, Wonder Woman does have its fair share of problems. I’m not trying to be negative about the film because I really enjoyed it and thought it was better than what I had initially thought it would be. As a superhero origins movie, it ticks a lot of boxes — great cast, fun, action-packed, character-driven, visually spectacular, and has a nice message at heart. Having said that, I would caution against putting too much stock in the 97% Rotten Tomatoes rating because you might be setting yourself up for disappointment. If anything, the score actually highlights the misleading nature of the RT metric in that the percentage of critics who give a film a favourable review isn’t reflective of how much they liked it. I personally would not put it in my top 10 superhero movies of all time. By DC standards, it’s fantastic, but in terms of storytelling, humour and the “wow” factor, Wonder Woman remains a notch below the best Marvel offerings.

3.75 stars out of 5

Most Anticipated Movies of 2017

Happy New Year! 2017 is shaping up to be one of the most epic years in film history with loads of blockbuster releases.

First up, these are the ones I’m not particularly interested in:

Fifty Shades Darker (Feb 10)

The first one was horrible, and this one — if the books are any measure — will be even worse.

Cars 3 (June 16)

Cars has to be one of the worst Disney animated franchises. I still haven’t been able to watch one without falling asleep. I’m pretty sure I’ll skip this.

XXX: Return of Xander Cage (Jan 20)

XXX 2 with Ice Cube was a movie experience that will probably scar me for life. This looks better because Vin Diesel is back, but I’m not expecting much.

Transformers: The Last Knight (June 23)

I have officially given up on this franchise. I’m sure it will make loads of money, but as long as Michael Bay is at the helm, there’s not much to get excited about. Even the trailer is a little meh this time.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (May 26)

I’ve never been much of a fan of this franchise either. The first one was decent, but since then Johnny Depp’s shtick has been annoying.

Baywatch (May 26)

Gosh. This looks like a disaster waiting to happen.

Saw: Legacy (Oct 27)No trailer yet, but no trailer needed. This is an absolute cash grab that does not need to be made. It will simply soil the franchise further.

Pitch Perfect 3 (Dec 22)

Not even a poster yet. I liked the first one but the second one felt like it already wore out its welcome. I doubt a third one will be any good.

Despicable Me 3 (June 30)

Another animated franchise I could never get into properly. This trailer has not changed my mind.

The Shack (March 3)

I remember being really intrigued by the book when I first saw the cover a few years ago. But then I found out it was a cleverly disguised Christian novel and saw this trailer. Sigh.

Jumanji (Dec 22)

Yet another remake that does not need to be made. Nice cast, but I will be very shocked if this does not turn out to be a shocker.

Snatched (May 12)

After the success of Trainwreck, Amy Schumer is back with Snatched, co-starring Goldie Hawn. The trailer gives away I suppose what can be called a twist? Can’t say this interests me very much.

These are the ones I’m intrigued by but missed the list:

The Fate of the Furious (April 12)

I honestly think they should have stopped after the last one given the way they gave Paul Walker the perfect send-off. But money talks and there are more ridiculous stunts waiting to happen. Must say this trailer does not particularly excite me.

A Cure for Wellness (Feb 17)

Gore Verbinski directs a psychological horror starring Dane DeHaan. Looks fascinating. Count me in.

Insidious: Chapter 4 (Oct 20)

This is a cute little meta teaser trailer. Insidious is definitely one of the better horror franchises, so I’m at least intrigued by what the fourth installment has to offer.

Flatliners (Sep 29)

The cast of Flatliners 2017 take a photo on set.

The original about life-after-death experimentation was not exactly a classic, but it had a super cast (Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, Billy Baldwin, Oliver Platt). This remake features Ellen Page, Diego Luna and Nina Dobrev, and might have some new special effects and ideas to make it worthwhile.

Annabelle 2 (Aug 11)

The first one was a disappointment, but the sequel promises to be better. The trailer suggests this to be the case.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (Sep 29)

The first one was a pleasant surprise. Not sure if the sequel can replicate the magic, but I’m eager to find out.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (July 21)

This is supposedly based on a legendary text that many other movies have borrowed from over the years. The trailer looks okay, I suppose. Hope it’s not another Jupiter Ascending.

Power Rangers (March 24)

I shouldn’t be interested in this, but I am. The trailer does not instill confidence but I’m willing to give it a shot.

The Dark Tower (July 28)

Never read the Stephen King novels upon which this is based, but it certainly looks promising with Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba in the lead roles.

The Lego Batman Movie (Feb 10)

I laughed like a lunatic throughout The Lego Movie, and Batman was one of the major reasons. Hope this one can live up to the hype with Will Arnett once again reprising the voice of the caped crusader.

Get Out (Feb 24)

Not sure what to think of this strange, racially tinged horror flick, but it does seem interesting. Check out the trailer.

It (Sep 8)

The TV mini-series based on the Stephen King novel was the No. 1 thing that scared the crap out of me as a kid, so I am really looking forward to how they do a film version with Bill Skarsgard as the titular monster.

T2 Trainspotting (Jan 27)

I don’t have strong impressions of the original, so this isn’t as high on my list. And sequels that have taken more than 20 years to get made usually don’t perform well.

Beauty and the Beast (March 17)

This was in my top 15 until I realised there was another movie I had completely forgotten. I liked the animated version and I think this has the potential to be very good. Not quite sure about Emma Watson as Belle though.

And here’s my top 15!

15. The Mummy (June 9)

This could be good or bad. Still not sure what to think from the trailer. But I trust Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe and I know this needs to be great in order for the rest of the Universal monsters franchise to have a shot.

14. Thor: Ragnarok (Nov 3)

This would be higher in any other year, and especially after this hilarious “vacation trailer”. I wasn’t thrilled with Thor 2, though this has a chance to be a monster hit given that it also features the Hulk.

13. Blade Runner 2049 (Oct 6)

Oh man, I’m so excited about this long-awaited sequel to the sci-fi classic, particularly as it is directed by Denis Villeneuve. However, my fears of a sequel/reboot that has taken this long to come to fruition are also at play here. It’s the only reason why this isn’t in the top 10, possibly top 5.

12. John Wick: Chapter 2 (Feb 10)

The first one was an exhilarating surprise hit. The second one looks very promising by the looks of this trailer. Could well be the best action flick of the year.

11. World War Z 2 (June 9)

The first one went through production hell but came out gloriously on the other side. I know a lot of people didn’t like it, but I absolutely loved the World War Z. Still no news or teaser trailer or even poster with the scheduled release date just 6 months away, so we’ll have to wait and see if they push it back.

10. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5)

I didn’t love the first one as much as everyone else, but upon a second viewing it’s grown on me more. Guardians is different, fun and funny, and I think this second one could be even better.

9. Wonder Woman (June 2)

DC has not hit it out of the park yet with any of their new DC Extended Universe movies, and I’m hoping Wonder Woman can be the first. I’m sure it will be good, but I’m not sure if will live up to expectations.

8. Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7)

The new Tom Holland version of Spider-Man was one of the best things about Captain America: Civil War, so naturally everyone is excited about his first solo movie . With Michael Keaton as the villain Vulture, there’s every reason to be optimistic that Marvel will get it done once again.

7. Alien: Covenant (May 19)

I was one of the few people on the planet who really enjoyed Prometheus, flaws and all, so of course I’m looking forward to its sequel. This time, Ridley Scott has ditched any pretensions about there not being a direct link to Alien, but I just hope they don’t try to force a connection too much. The first trailer looks like we’re in for a pure horror in the vein of the original.

6. Logan (March 3)

Hugh Jackman’s last time as Wolverine, and it looks like he’s going to go out with a bang. I don’t know when or if they’re ever going to make a movie based on The Last of Us, so this could be as close as we’re going to get for a while. Best trailer of the lot?

5. Kong: Skull Island (March 10)

I’m partial to the big fella, and this movie could be setting up an epic duel soon with Godzilla. Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston. What’s there not to like?

4. Justice League (Nov 17)

I’m almost as excited about this film as I was about The Avengers. I know the odds are stacked against it given DC’s track record, but one can only hope that Ben Affleck’s influence will push it in the right direction. It looks like a lot of fun.

3. Dunkirk (July 21)

I worship at the altar of Christopher Nolan, so it’s no surprise his new war film is up this high. The trailer looks absolutely incredible too. I know it will be fantastic.

2. Star Wars: Episode VIII (Dec 15)

The Force Awakens more or less lived up to expectations and Rogue One was great in its own right. I can’t wait to find out what Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo have been up to, and it will be fantastic to finally see Luke Skywalker for more than a few seconds. Above all, it’s directed by Rian Johnson, so I feel like nothing can possibly go wrong. It’s almost blasphemous that I’m not putting this as No. 1.

1. War for the Planet of the Apes

What. You were expecting something else? Don’t be silly.

Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

batman vs superman

There’s just no gentle way to say it: Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice is a disappointment. It would have been impossible for the film to live up to the hype anyway, considering this is the first time in history the world’s two most popular superheroes have shared the big screen together (fanboys haven’t been spraying their shorts all over the world for nothing). But despite a few cool moments and scenes of action brilliance, this is a deeply flawed movie, an overlong mess with fundamental issues in storytelling.

Remember when audiences complained about all the seemingly innocuous destruction in Man of Steel from the final battle between Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod (Michael Shannon)? Batman vs Superman starts off by making us think that was their master plan all along, revealing that there was indeed a lot of collateral damage, some of which had a very personal impact on Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), the billionaire vigilante otherwise known as Batman.

And so begins an epic sulking match between two dudes with very different philosophies. One is a god among men but a relative amateur at being a superhero, while the other is a jaded superhero who takes the law into his own hands and believes the caped crusader cannot be trusted.

In line with Man of Steel, the tone is very dark and sombre, which have led critics to accuse the film of being too serious and lacking in fun. Personally, I didn’t have a problem with it as DC had to find a way to differentiate itself from the Marvel cinematic universe, and we’ve seen from Christopher Nolan’s wonderful Dark Knight trilogy that dark can work.

This all sounds great, doesn’t it? It’s a premise that should work in theory, though in practice it’s s different story. The problems remain in the surprisingly shit script by Academy Award winner Chris Terrio (Argo; he also wrote the screenplay for Man of Steel) and David S Goyer (Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy) and the execution by director Zack Snyder (Man of Steel, 300, Watchmen).

Snyder has always had talent for visual flair and action, though crafting a compelling narrative hasn’t always been his forte. Batman vs Superman is an accurate reflection of Snyder’s strengthens and weaknesses as a filmmaker. The images are never a problem; the gorgeous bluish grey colour palette, the expensive special effects, and the bone-crunching action sequences offer a smorgasbord of visual delights that will no doubt satisfy fans. A couple of the fight scenes involving Batman and a sequence with the Batmobile are particularly spectacular and warrant the praise.

On the other hand, the storytelling left a lot to be desired. The first half felt like a Batman movie, told from his point of view, which is partly understandable because we’re getting a new actor playing him. But we got so much Batman that Superman became more of a symbol than one of the two main characters. And then towards the end, it shifts uncomfortably into a Superman movie. The result of a Batman-heavy first half and a Superman-heavy second half — rather than letting one of them own the whole film (like what Marvel is doing for Captain America: Civil War) or focusing on both of them at the same time — is that the film feels uneven and disjointed, and neither character gets the development they deserve.

Instead of the layers a film like this needs, all we got was a lot of brooding and angry reactions, which are fine if these emotions are set up properly. However, people just pop up without adequate introductions, and the transitions between plot points are all over the place. It assumes you’ve seen Man of Steel, and secret identities don’t mean much at all. Plot holes, which are expected in any superhero movie, are poorly masked. It’s not that the narrative doesn’t adhere to common sense, it’s just that the story is pieced together in a rather incoherent manner. To be honest, even the trailers feel like they are structured more adequately than the film itself.

Even the dialogue is a mixed bag. You have these fantastic monologues and exchanges some of which you would have already heard in the trailers. But while they sound totally epic in trailers, in the context of the movie they often feel contrived.

My suspicion is that a lot of stuff probably got left on the cutting room floor –important pieces of exposition and explanation are left out, while needless dream sequences take up way too much valuable screen time. Perhaps we have to wait for the R-rated version Snyder is preparing for the Blu-ray release, but at 151 minutes the movie is already way too long — and feels that way too.

Interestingly, the two actors people were concerned about when the cast was announced turned out to be fine. Ben Affleck turned out to be a pretty decent Batman, both physically and acting-wise, while Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was probably the best thing about the whole movie, making it justifiable to be excited about her upcoming standalone movie.

Sadly, Henry Cavill appears to have drawn the short straw. Most of the time he’s relegated to second fiddle behind Batman, and then he’s suddenly called upon for some heavy duty emotional scenes as though we’re supposed to care about him, which isn’t very fair.

As for Jesse Eisenberg, who I really like and think is a good actor, there’s no other  way except to say his Lex Luthor was a misstep. It’s less of a casting problem and more of a characterisation problem. This version of Superman’s nemesis looks like the Riddler and acts like the Joker (and not the Heath Ledger version). Most importantly, he’s simply not putting any fear into anyone.

Amy Adams actually has quite a meaty role as Lois Lane, but the rest of the all-star supporting cast doesn’t get to do much. Still, it never hurts to see the likes of Lawrence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons and Diane Lane (and a couple of surprising cameos).

I’m not trying to trash the film. It has good moments, epic moments that live up to the promise of the trailers. But so much of that good is outweighed by fundamental problems that would doom any movie.

Batman vs Superman has so far polarised fans and critics. As usual, I probably fall somewhere in the middle, though I must say on this occasion I’m more inclined to side with the latter. The fanboys, some of whom have waited decades for this movie, are probably willing themselves to believe this movie is the best thing ever. Or maybe I missed the point and need to see the movie again to understand it better, though to be honest I’m not getting the urge to sit through it again.

Having said all that, Batman vs Superman does do a solid job of setting up what is yet to come (it is, after all, called Dawn of Justice), giving us the hope that the future Justice League films (yes, it’s in 2 parts) will be able to finally get it right.

3 stars out of 5