Wonder Woman (Review)

Wonder Woman (Review)

Though it stumbles at the start, Wonder Woman‘s mature handling of the period and interesting characters help propel the film to heights never before reached within the DC Extended Universe.

The beginning of the film is (arguably) its weakest moment.  It has the unenviable job of establishing this Greek fantasy setting of Themyscira, kingdom of the warrior women known as Amazons.  It has to introduce a different side to a universe that we’ve seen before in previous films and make it understandable to the audience.  Unfortunately, while the movie succeeds in doing all of this, it crunches it all down into the time allotted for the prologue, leaving the pacing of the prologue something to be desired.  There was so much information crammed into the first half hour that I was left without a real connection with any of the other characters.

Ironically, for me, it was when they finally left the bright and colorful island and entered the dreary and dark real world that the movie started to pick up for me (wonderful use of color there; don’t think I didn’t notice).  The World War I setting is unique and absolutely works for the story they wish to tell.  I have to tip my hat to the film for handling the subject matter with such deft precision.  How do you set a superhero movie in probably the darkest time in human history?  By never shying away from the dark but offering us the light that may be too hard to see.  Which is what Wonder Woman is here for.

At her heart, it’s not her Lasso of Truth, or her demigod status that makes her stand apart from the other superheroes.  It’s her ability to feel the pain and suffering of other people around her and to channel that pain into righteous fury.  She doesn’t care for the bullets aimed at her, all she cares about is destroying the ones causing suffering.  Which is what a hero is supposed to do.

The theme also works to explain the dynamic between the two leads.  Gal Gadot as Diana has an unshakable faith that mankind is a beautiful and good race while Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, a Captain who has been fighting the war for a long while, isn’t so sure.  It all fits beautifully together to the point where a wonderful thing happened, the first time in a DCEU film: I actually cared about the characters on screen.

Some of the lines of dialogue are a bit too on the nose but I didn’t care because I cared about the characters.  Some of the lines are also a bit cliche but I didn’t care because I cared about the characters.  The CGI might have been distracting but I honest to god didn’t even notice them because I cared about the characters.  They might have even used that freezeframe slowmotion thing a bit too much during the action scenes but I didn’t care because I cared about the characters.

You can have the biggest budget in the world, the greatest actors in the world and the greatest director and everthing, but none of that matters if the audience doesn’t care what happens to the characters on screen.  And by god, I did care.  I was absolutely invested.  I was so invested, I nearly cried at the end.

Star Trek: Beyond (Film Review)

Star Trek: Beyond (Film Review)

Star Trek: Beyond, directed by Justin Lin (Fast Five), is the third movie in the rebooted Star Trek movie series.  In it, the crew of the Enterprise (with Chris Pine as Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Karl Urban as Bones, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, John Cho as Sulu, Simon Pegg as Scottie, and Anton Yelchin as Chekov (R.I.P)) is shot down on a remote planet and must survive together in order to combat a new alien threat.

Surprisingly, that’s not all the movie’s about.  Kirk has become disillusioned after three years in deep space and wonders if he should continue being the captain of the Enterprise.  Spock has received news that Ambassador Spock as died (R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy) and wonders at his own future at Star Fleet.  The common theme is that the crew is beginning to wonder about their own future.  Not only does this help round out the characters (by actually letting them be characters with their own wants and dreams), but I couldn’t help but feel that this feeling might be directed at the franchise as a whole.

I’ve always felt the Star Trek Reboot series (or maybe its the Alternate Star Trek series?) has always suffered from identity issues.  Star Trek Into Darkness has always felt like a Star Wars movie and not a Star Trek movie.  I can understand that when adapting a long-running TV show to a movie, things can get lost in the process.  Star Trek is definitely more cerebral, with a more moralizing approach to the story and characters.  This works fine for a TV show when you have the time to do that, but for a movie, time is limited.  That said, I feel like Star Trek: Beyond is the first movie in the franchise that actually feels like a Star Trek movie.

The focus is entirely on the crew of the enterprise, making this the first movie in the series that features an ensemble cast.  Whereas in previous movies where the main focus has been on Kirk and Spock, this time every character has a chance to shine and is integral to the story.  You get to see how different members of the crew interact with each other when in previous iterations, they’ve never really shared much screen time.  It’s a refreshing take and one that works for the best.

All of this wouldn’t even be possible without the direction of Justin Lin, who I had originally had doubts about.  With a track record that mainly seemed to comprise mainly of the Fast and the Furious franchise (I’ve only seen the first one so I’m not going to make any comment on if they’re any good or not), it didn’t seem like he would be able to tackle franchise that is more…subtle than a movie about cars.  Fortunately, I was wrong and was pleased to see that Justin Lin didn’t just copy J.J. Abrams.  The imagery is simply astounding and definitely one of highlights of the movie.

All of this leads back to what I said before about questioning the future.  It always seemed to me that Star Trek has had an identity crisis.  Star Trek Into Darkness was basically just a rehash of Wrath of Kahn with 9/11 undertones.  And now, Star Trek: Beyond asks where do we go from here?  What else is there?  Showing that they have fully stepped away from the previous generations of films and created a story that can stand on its own as one of the best basically says, we are now moving forward and leaving the past behind them.  This is the main reason why I feel like this film is the first one that feels like how a Star Trek movie should be.  Maybe I was looking too deeply into it but I can’t deny what I saw and felt while watching it.  And what I saw was a great ride from start to finish.