Tag Archives: Movies

Best Films of 2017

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This is my list of best films that I saw in the theater this year.

silence-posterSilence is one of the most challenging movies of the year as Martin Scorsese adapts Shusaku Endo’s novel about Jesuit priests in feudal Japan. It asks brutal questions about faith under fire. It’s affecting and powerful. I’d say more but I think it’s something that just needs to be experienced and digested, slowly.

 

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How do you say goodbye to one of the longest running comic book characters to grace the screen by one actor, the answer is Logan. Hugh Jackman is a revelation as a broken mutant in a world that’s turned against them. On top of his performance you have Patrick Stewart and new comer Dafne Keen who complete this film perfectly. James Mangold creates not just a good comic book movie but one that transcends the genre. Still one of the very best of the year. Don’t miss The 602 Club episode on it!

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It would be hard to eclipse what I already wrote about the film in my review so here is a bit of that here.

Gal Gadot is a star. She sells every moment of this film. She has a wonderful, childlike innocence that is needed to bring this character, raised in paradise to life. Diana’s transformation from innocence to a fuller understanding of the real world is powerful and moving. The chemistry she has with Chris Pine is fantastic. They are the heart and soul of this movie and luckily they do not disappoint.

The fight scenes in the movie are incredible. Many superhero movies these days seem to have similar types of set pieces, but Wonder Woman does a marvelous job of making her fighting style feel fresh, leaving you silently fist-pumping in your seat. Even the more CGI-heavy battle at the end has enough emotion built into it, to make you care about what’s happening.

One final note, Patty Jenkins direction is excellent. This woman needs to be given a sequel, as well as more movies to direct. She understands clearly how to make a superhero movie feel serious and fun all at the same time and that’s not always easy to do.

Wonder Women is the first major female superhero to be given her own movie (yes I discount Catwoman and Elektra as they are more side characters) and it’s a triumph. The film is serious in tone, but with laughs aplenty. It’s the movie we all hoped for and deserve. Wonder Woman is rated 4 and half out of 5 stars.

Don’t miss The 602 Club episode on it here!

war-for-planet-of-the-apes-poster-5Like Wonder Woman, War is a movie I adored this year and the perfect way to wrap up the Apes trilogy.

This movie has so many other themes I could talk about, but honestly, just go see it. It’s a triumph of filmmaking. The effects are some of the best ever seen on screen. There was never a moment I didn’t believe what was happening. The music was moving and perfectly matched to the film. War for the Planet of the Apes is the perfect conclusion to one of the best film trilogies in years. It’s rated 5 out of 5 Bad Apes.

Don’t miss The 602 Club episode on it here!

bbay_vert_tsr_intl_2764x4096_master-rev-1Christopher Nolan delivers again. He subverts expectations in the best way by telling the story from three perspectives, air, land and sea. Each of these also take place over different spans of time that collide by the end. The movie left me feeling like I had actually been apart of each perspective. This is a must see from the year. Don’t miss The 602 Club episode here!

 

blade-runner-2049-posterLike Dunkirk, this movie is a pinnacle of cinema as art. The themes resonate with the world we live in and it’s a treat for the imagination. It’s one of those movies that needs to be seen multiple times to truly soak in everything it is doing but that left me breathless in my first viewing. I believe it will only rise in people’s estimation over the coming years. Don’t miss The 602 Club episode here!

 

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No movie was more unfairly maligned than this one in 2017. It had a lot to over come in it’s production, most of all, a studio that would not stop meddling. Yet for all of this, what we got still let me grinning.

This movie is by no means perfect. It does feel rushed at only 2 hours. There is a lot happening and it does seem like a bit more time with the stories of the villain, Victor, Barry and Arthur could have helped the audience connect even more with the story. The villain is one note, but it does leave us with more time to focus on the heroes and their journeys to becoming a team. There are places where you wish the effects team had more time with the CGI to refine it and make it better. The best comparison that I can make would be the DC animated films that have come out over the last few years or some of your favorite episodes of Justice League United, if you liked those, you’ll like this. Overall, what wins you over is the team, their dynamic and the charisma they bring to each moment. Justice League is rated 4 out of 5 resurrections.

Don’t miss The 602 Club episode here!

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I love these kinds of movies, small, intimate and affecting. I honestly cannot say more that I did in my review and encourage you to check that out.

The more I think about the movie the more I like it and that’s always a good sign. It’s well acted and moving. I highly recommend Lady Bird, it’s rated four and a half out of five stars.

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Check your cynicism at the door as Hugh Jackman and cast are the perfect antidote to the dourness of 2017. The film and it’s music are a celebration of everything that is good, true friendship, not looking to others for your self worth and not living life as a consumer but as a giver. Loved this last theme, as the movie shows Barnum almost lose everything he’s built because of his selfish using of people to prop himself up. I left the theater with a lighter step and joy in my heart.

Disappointments

2017 also had a few movies that I was looking forward to that I was disappointed in and the biggest was The Last Jedi. My review says it all and The 602 Club and Cinema Stories podcast allowed me to cover it from a few different perspectives. A few other notable letdowns are Thor: Ragnarok, Logan Lucky and The Shape of Water.

Honorable Mentions

Ghost in the Shell was surprisingly good, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 was even better than the first, I really enjoyed Alien: Covenant, Baby Driver was fun, but I did not love it like others and lastly, Their Finest was a nice companion to Dunkirk.

PS. I have have now seen Darkest Hour and Molly’s Game. They both make the list. amazing films in acting and story. Highly recommend both!

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Review

ILMVFX_2017-Oct-09Don’t miss The 602 Club  and Cinema Stories reviews!

Two years ago Star Wars roared back into the collective consciousness of the world as The Force Awakens dawned a new era for the saga. The installment left many viewers speechless and eagerly anticipating this return to a galaxy far, far away. Luckily in this era of Disney’s rule, the wait was only 2 years (with a nice side of Rogue One in the middle) for Rian Johnson’s addition, The Last Jedi.

Context 

First, let’s start historically. It is clear that the original “Rebel” generation was unsuccessful in passing on it’s values to the next, as the galaxy has quickly descended back into the universe of pre-prequel. A government that became ineffectual, split into populists and centrists, all the while allowing the First Order to rise, unchallenged because, they’re not really a threat. “Relax, the First Order is the JV squad”. The greed and corruption in the galaxy has returned to what we saw in the prequels, as people line their pockets with ill gotten gain, selling weapons to the highest bidder, on any side. It all boils down to this one truth not being clearly passed on, “freedom isn’t free”, and sadly there are too few in the galaxy who seem to understand that.

Where are you getting all of this, you might ask? Well, not from the movies. All of this has been cobbled together from the ancillary materials that have come out surrounding this new sequel trilogy and that’s only, vaguely been hinted at in the films themselves. The main issue here is that The Force Awakens did very little to set up the context of the galaxy and now The Last Jedi suffers even worse because of it.

Think back to the Original Trilogy, as you watch those movies, you have an instinctive understanding of who all the characters are as well as the overall context of the movies because Lucas based them on archetypes that we know. The heroes’ journey, an evil empire and a a small group of freedom fighters looking to rescue the galaxy. In the Prequels, it’s the fall of a Republic and the story of a man that cannot let go and will do anything to hold on to what he “loves”. Each of these previous trilogies gave us the context we needed to know about the universe as a whole and the characters so that we could understand the journey we were on.

And here’s where this all comes into play, not just with the world building but with the characters. Not only do we not truly understand the state of the galaxy, but we also don’t know the history of these characters and it’s clear the writers of the film don’t either. Say what you will about Lucas, he always knew the history and the future of his creation. Some details may change along the way, but the journey ended up much the same. The same can be said for Rowling with Harry Potter , she knew the end from the beginning, so she understood what each character needed to go through to get them to that end.

8d0b255a-fce7-4718-a50a-bbe1ba16d5e4-screen-shot-2017-12-05-at-121817-pmIt’s been clear from The Force Awakens and now through to The Last Jedi that there is no knowledge of what the end game is for their characters. Writing 101, if you don’t know their past and future, you don’t know how to write their “present”. You can see this in the all of the characters. Take Snoke. We have absolutely no idea who or what he is. We don’t know how he came to power or seduced Ben Solo, he’s a vague phantom menace so that when he goes out like a punk in this movie… well lets just say fans may be arguing whose death was better, Snoke or Boba Fett. Oh and remember Phasma? Well don’t worry, you don’t really need to, turns out she wasn’t all that important any way.

Ben suffers from this same problem we saw with Snoke, he’s completely ill defined and so is his “fall”. As with The Force Awakens, there is still no context to his story other than him having darkness in himself and somehow, Snoke temps him to the dark side. It’s all so nebulous that when he turns on Snoke, I don’t know what to make of it. There is no weight to his decision because I don’t know enough of the history of the character to actually care.

636357292308378766-EP8-FF-000005As bad as this issue is for Ben, my first impression was it was worse for Rey. The ultimate mystery box seemed to still be very much an enigma. The answer we get about her family was vague and unconvincing, I still don’t believe she’s a nobody and while I am frustrated that they skirted the issue of her family, I can see why they sidestepped that to make the focus, who she chooses to be. Her struggle for identity is fascinating. The questions of who we are, is it a product of bloodline, upbringing or are we a sum of our choices and experiences is brilliant. I think the movie comes down on the side of choices and experiences and the idea that personal responsibility is the answer is outstanding. Rey shows us that even though we are personally responsible for ourselves, we are also responsible for those around us, to look after one another, teach each other, guide one another, pass on hope to one another and the chance of redemption.

The most damaged in all of this is Luke Skywalker. We know Luke’s past, how he saved his father, who’d effectively become space Hitler, because he believed there was still good in him. By the end of Return of the Jedi, Luke is the culmination of the collected wisdom of Anakin, Obi-Wan and Yoda but greater because he avoids the mistakes of the past and forges a true, new path for the Jedi. But then, we get nothing. Oh we know Luke started a new Jedi Order and thought he could help Ben, only to be scared by his raw power and darkness. Wait, really? This is the same guy who redeemed Vader but can’t find a way to help Ben? Luke was right, “This is not going to go the way you think.” It’s as if the history of Luke has been forgotten. Now, I get the idea that Luke, like Obi-Wan, feels the pain of taking too much on, but at least Obi-Wan didn’t try to murder his student in his sleep and gave him a chance to change before delivering the “killing” blow.

Now, all that said, the lesson Luke learns about failure being part of life and how to deal with it, is actually a timely one. In life, failure is the best teacher. Yet, again, Luke’s past should have prepared him for this, his knowledge about Anakin and the help of force ghosts like Yoda, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon, should have been able to help shepherd him through this ordeal, instead of running away to an island to die, screaming, “get off my lawn” to anyone who comes calling.

It is interesting that Kylo and Luke are actual after the same thing, Kylo wants to burn it all down and so does Luke, but for different reasons. Kylo because of his anger at everyone and everything and Luke because of his own hubris. He sees the Jedi as a failure, as well as himself, yet he’s blaming the wrong thing. In the end, it’s people and their choices that lead them to the dark or to the light, not the teachings of the Jedi. The Jedi texts and code are only a guide, that applied properly, promote peace, prosperity and hope in the galaxy. Over a thousand generations is not a bad run. Even though Luke gives Rey a lesson in humility in relation to the Force, it seems much to learn, he still has.

All of the issues I do have, stem from there being no direction for this trilogy. With no clear plan or endgame, this is what is left, each installment trying to make sense of the last, leading to it not always having fullest depth or payoff. This is post modern story telling at it’s worst, characters and plot without history and context that could have been more cohesive with planning.

Pass on What You Have Learned

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Just as the galaxy and the characters in the movie lack context, the original characters fail to pass on their wisdom to the next generation and Luke is the biggest offender here. He seem incapable of passing on what he has learned as Yoda told him to. He’s driven by fear to almost kill Ben, and then the same fear leads him to reject training Rey for most of the movie. When he finally does train her, there is no depth or true substance to what he offers. You’d think someone with access to the original Jedi texts and a few good force ghosts would be able to provide more guidance than what we see.

Just because one has talent at something, does not mean they don’t have to practice, be taught and hone their skills. Rey is never given any of this, in the end, she’s forced to intuit who she should be for herself and from who Luke was, in the Original Trilogy. This may fit into the post modern world of “make your own way and your own truth”, but it’s not Star Wars. Lucas himself said,

Star Wars has always struck a cord with people. There are issues of loyalty, of friendship, of good and evil…I mean, there’s a reason this film is so popular. It’s not that I’m giving out propaganda nobody wants to hear…Knowing that the film was made for a younger audience, I was trying to say, in a simple way, that there is a God and that there is both a good and bad side. You have a choice between them, but the world works much better if you’re on the good side.”

Lucas is clear, wisdom is meant to be passed on, the wisdom of failures and of triumphs.  It’s what both Obi-Wan and Yoda both do for Luke. Yes, they were wrong about Anakin, but that does not mean they didn’t have wisdom to share. Proverbs reminds us, “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.” And the place to find wisdom is through, as Job reminds us, “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” Lucas was once asked how he felt about the human condition and he said,

I am very cynical, as a result, I think the defense I have against it is to be optimistic and tho think people are basically good, although I know in my heart they’re not.

It is clear that he understands that wisdom and goodness must be passed on and taught because they are not something we are born with’. Sadly Rey is left to find her own path, alone. Hopefully the books she saved from the force temple will give her some guidance, now that she is the last Jedi.

Luckily Rey seems to instinctively understand what Luke did at the end of Return of the Jedi, the Jedi are the embodiment of hope and light in the galaxy. Rey allows people to be defined by their choices, not their bloodline or possible history. She does not lose hope in that person’s chance at redemption until they make the choice to turn away from it completely. At that point, she stands on the side of the light, in it’s defense and in the defense of others. I think this is what is frustrating, is that I still feel like Luke should have been the one to show her this and he does, it’s just the Luke from the past not the present.

The only one in the movie doing any actual mentoring is Leia. Her relationship with Poe is a good example of passing on what you have learned. She gives Poe responsibility and then takes the time to discipline him, instruct him and trust him all over again when needed. Sadly the story is muddled with the interjection of Admiral Holdo, but it’s still the best example of someone passing on what they have learned to the next generation and it actually changing the character being taught.

The Movie

The plot of the movie is all over the place. The most glaring issue is with the Resistance story line. They don’t seem to know what to do with them, in the least and it leads to the worst “chase” scenes since Speed 2. There is no logic to what is happening. In space, there is no weight, so it’s all about thrust. If the First Order ships can create enough thrust, they could catch up to the Resistance ships. Another possibility is having a ship jump into the system, in “front” of the Resistance (it’s three dimensional space so there really is no “front”) and take them out. Now here is where context comes in again. Because we have no idea how big the First Order is, are we to assume that all the ships chasing the Resistance are it? And even if they are, could they just not jump “ahead” of the Resistance fleet and be done with it?

1513223317210Another massive plot issue is why Admiral Holdo refuses to tell Poe and the rest of the Resistance her plan. Does she suspect a saboteur or a spy and that’s why? Well, we’ll never know, because the movie gives us no indication what she is thinking. It just creates a bad plot reason for Poe, Finn and Rose to come up with their alternative plan, to give Finn something to do.

As mentioned above, in the previous section, context creates a maelstrom of issues revolving around the plot points between Luke, Snoke, Rey and Ben. This leaves us with not always feeling the fullest weight behind who they are, the choices they make and who they become as the movie ends.

I enjoy the music, the effects are wonderful except that Yoda puppet, not too keen on his look. The design work is not bad here. Canto Bight is cool, but why is it in the movie and why is that not the story for the Resistance? Going to Canto Bight to try and rustle up support for the cause seems like a much more intriguing idea than the universe’s slowest chase. And would it kill the sequel trilogy to have some aliens we know from the rest of the series? What’s it going to take to get a freaking twi’lek in this series?

Another point of contention in the movie is the humor. Lucasfilm seems to be taking a page from the Marvel playbook and has inserted humor everywhere. Humor in itself is not a bad thing and the Star Wars saga is replete with funny moments, but The Last Jedi pushes it too far. So much of the humor that works in Star Wars is the dry, sarcastic kind that is exemplified in The Empire Strikes Back. Here, it feels forced in many places such as the constant porg jokes, Poe’s ribbing of Hux or Finn waking up in a clear suit and leaking fluids everywhere as he walks down the hall. It just does not feel as organic as it needs to, to truly work. The Star Wars franchise has it’s own rules on how things work in it and as Gareth Edwards said, “There’s such a fine line in Star Wars, if you go just slightly to the left it’s not Star Wars, it’s another sci-fi movie that doesn’t feel right. And if you go slightly to the right, you’re just copying what George did. So trying to navigate this thing where it’s new but feels fresh was like the dance that was the process of making the film.”

Conclusion

The Last Jedi suffers under the burden left to it by The Force Awakens. With no clear trajectory or plan for this trilogy, Johnson works to forge his own path but it’s one fraught with plot holes and many times, muddied character motivations. The universe, as it stands, lacks cohesion, history or context and it’s hurting the story. I love that Johnson tired to be different and some of it really works now that I have seen it a second time, while other parts still fall very flat. I love some of the moments in the movie, especially Luke’s noble end and the strong work done with the Rey/Ben/Luke story but Abrams has his work cut out for him with Episode IX. I never thought I’d say this, but J.J. Abrams, you’re our only hope. The Last Jedi is rated 3 out of 5 stars.

Lady Bird – Review

vMYzdmdmednGmEr0FZaLFZj2ptZLady Bird is the new film from director Greta Gerwig in a semi-autobiographical work staring Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Mefcalf (Gerwig has said nothing in the movie happened to her, but the feelings and core of the movie did). The film is an exploration of the troubled relationship between a mother and daughter, struggling to find understand each other.

Longing

Lady Bird is not actually her name, it’s the name she’s given herself. She’s determined to find out who she is and be that, on her own, with no help from others. She has a profound longing in her soul to be known, loved, understood by herself and others. Her “Lady Bird” moniker is one of her many ways of trying to satisfy this lacking sense of being and belonging. Yet, as we see throughout the movie, her attempts to satiate her desire is through molding herself into what others want. She tries to be what different boys want, reading their same books, smoking what they smoke and this is not limited to just boys. Lady Bird does the same thing with girls, trying to be their friend but “hating” what they hate, telling lies about where she lives to seem “cooler” and shunning her actual life. Her search for meaning leads her from one quicksand to the next, continually finding herself drowning in the disappointment of another false identity.

She works to not only define herself through others, but wrestles with this internally. She  wants to be good at things she already knows she’s not. There’s a brilliant scene that exemplifies this when she’s talking to one the nun’s, at her Catholic school,

Lady Bird: What I’d really like is to be on Math Olympiad.
The Nun: But math isn’t something you’re terribly strong in.
Lady Bird: That we know of yet.

Of course we already do know she’s dismal at math, since we’ve already seen her in math class and the grade she received proves the nun’s point. Lady Bird, like many of us, seeks to be everything she is not because what she is, seems completely incomplete.

Lady Bird is not the only one with this sense of longing, permeating their lives. Her mother grapples with working double shifts at the hospital in an attempt to keep the family afloat. Her father’s depression has worsened because of his inability to find a job, in an culture that sees him as too old to contribute. Lady Bird’s best friend pines over her teacher who is nice to her,  a wishful desire for a father figure that is lacking her life. The film is replete with characters who are aching for something they might not even be able to put a finger on.

The end of the movie beautifully brings all this longing into focus. Lady Bird has gotten her wish to attend college in New York, “…where culture is…”. She’s at a party and starts a conversation with a guy, asks him if he believes in God, to which he says no, because it’s ridiculous and her reply is most interesting. She says, “People go by the names their parents made up for them, but they don’t believe in God.” The next morning, she wakes up on a hospital bed, not remembering how she got there. She leaves and as she walks the streets, asks a man what day it is, he say’s Sunday. She finds her way to a church and as she’s there, you can see the wheels turning in her head. Maybe life is not about being what others want me to be, maybe it’s about being who I was made to be.

To accentuate the point she calls her parents and leaves them a message on the answering machine. She calls herself by her given name Christine for the first time in the movie. She’s dropped all pretense about who she is and begun to accept it. Where she is from, how she was raised, her parents, all of it. It’s a powerful moment.

DI_0SwQVoAAQ9DzA bit earlier in the movie, she’s asked her mother if she likes her. Her mother says to her,

Marion McPherson: I want you to be the very best version of yourself that you can be.
Lady Bird: What if this is the best version?

At the end, Christine accepts who she is, for who she is and it seems that it will actually free her to finally become the best version of herself. She recognizes the name that her parents gave her, which earlier she equated with a belief in God. Maybe she’s realized that the longing to be loved, known and accepted can be fulfilled, if she’ll will take hold of it. She’s been fully known from the beginning of her life. In that conversation with her mother, she wanted her mother to say something nice and her mother ask her, “Do you want me to lie?”. The ugly truth about love is that it does not lie to protect our feelings, it pushes us to see our faults and loves us too much to leave us in them. It’s only by knowing the bad news about who we are that we can be ready to accept the good news.  Tim Keller puts it this way,

“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

Conclusion

The more I think about the movie the more I like it and that’s always a good sign. It’s well acted and moving. I highly recommend Lady Bird, it’s rated four and a half out of five stars.

An Open Letter to Zack Snyder

Dear Mr. Snyder,

First I want to say, thank you. I have appreciated and loved you films, especially your work in the DC universe. You were not afraid to take a risk, to explore the depths of these characters, deconstruct them and ask why they are, the way they are. You didn’t just accept the answer, “They are this way, because”. You started at the beginning, built them piece by piece, so we could see their journey and understand why they became what they did. I appreciate that dedication. The journey is what life is all about, even for fictional characters, it’s what helps us relate to them, get in their heads and root for them when they are down or possibly make the wrong choice. You understood that these characters are icons, but dared to show us how they became them.

Second, I want to apologize. No one deserves to be treated as you have. In the end, these are still fictional characters and even though they mean a great idea to so many, they are still just stories. If fans don’t like your interpretation, there will always be another one in a few years, such is the life of comic book characters. You gave your heart and soul to your films and people hated you for it. In much the same way Superman gave his heart and soul in Batman v Superman and people still hated him. Yet, like him, you showed yourself to be a good man, who put the needs of his family above things like work. You know what matters and you help show this world by your actions. Comic book movies and characters are fun and they can be used to teach us things, but they are not as important as family. Thank you for shining a light on the perspective our world is so sorely missing.

Lastly, a huge thank you for the Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, Wonder Woman and Justice League arc. I know you didn’t get to finish Justice League, but you have nothing to apologize for. You showed this world much more in your actions by not finishing it. You pointed the way to what is truly important, the hope that we could put what really matters back in it’s place, flesh and blood people, in our lives, who need us. You embodied the characters in your films and for that, I thank you.

Sincerely,

A Fan

A Maligned Movie

tsc-153-th-square-1440In the past 20 years there have been a few movies that have been completely lambasted by fans to the point of almost absurdity. One of them was The Phantom Menace (let’s be honest the entire Prequel Trilogy has been treated this way, Revenge of the Sith to a lesser extent than the first two). No film has received more ridicule and hate than The Phantom Menace….. but is that true? I think there is one that has eclipsed the first Prequel and it’s none other than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. With this reputation in mind, John Mills and I put this film to the test in the latest episode in The 602 Club. We talk though the whole movie, trying to hit as many points as possible and you might just be surprised where we end. Give it a listen and tell us what you think!

 

The Wonder Woman/Man of Steel/Batman v Superman Connection

wwsmWonder Woman has hit the ground running since it came out and has only continued to pick up steam. The reviews have put it in the top 1% of superhero movies and it just had the fourth largest 3rd weekend for a superhero movie behind The Avengers, The Dark Knight and Spider-man.

I’ve seen Wonder Woman four times now and I am surprised that more has not been written about how it’s so similar to Man of Steel. The themes in both movies, for both characters are very similar, what is different is the two characters themselves and their circumstances growing up.

Norman Lao said it best on my Facebook so I will quote him here.

“I think the biggest difference between Clark and Diana are the ways they were raised. Clark was an alien raised by humans who worried what “mankind” would do if they ever discovered his secret. The Kents, knowing full well that mankind is in fact laced with a rich history of paranoia and violence towards not only each other, but that which they fear – especially proof of alien existence – i.e. Kal El, makes them, and especially Jonathan, very wary of how they raise and educate Clark until he needs to reveal himself. Diana on the other hand was raised as a warrior amongst other warriors – training and honing herself to defend the world against and the inevitable return of evil without any exposure the gray and ambiguous nature of good and evil and the spaces in between. I think this is where she actually has the advantage over Clark because she has been raised with extreme and concrete definitions of “good” and “evil. She knows and believes what is right and wrong. These are the fundamental differences in the storytelling and what I believe succeed very well in their respective films.”

Even though Diana and Clark are raised in different circumstances, the lessons they learn are not that different. What is most interesting about them is the ways in which watching the sacrifice of a loved one affects their actions forever. Clark watches his father die in a tornado. Now so much has been said about this scene but the best thing I have read on it comes from The Fanboy Perspective.

dghfgfd1hgdftIn the context of Man of Steel, Jonathan’s death is all about sacrifice, not only Jonathan’s sacrifice but it was also setting up Clark’s sacrifice later on in Man of Steel. Clark learning limitations to his powers mattered little in Man of Steel because he wasn’t so incredibly overpowered to begin with, but to learn about sacrifice and selflessness was paramount for the narrative and development for this version of Superman. Clark sacrificed himself, at least according to Jonathan, for the Earth and in the end Superman sacrificed Krypton and the future of his own kin, for us, for Earth.

The fact that Clark could had done A, B or C in the tornado scene is what made this scene so powerful, that it was a conscious decision by Jonathan and that his death was not a fluke of destiny ie a heart attack. Jonathan’s willing sacrifice basically made the man of steel who he is and who he will become, Earth’s greatest champion. Because let’s face it, when Clark finally becomes Superman, he sacrifices himself for us 100%, and I think Jonathan gave him the courage to do that. Jonathan taught Clark his most defining lesson through his own death and I think that’s rather poetic.

Clark sacrificing himself and his life on Earth for the safety of Earth when Zod first showed up demanding Kal El present himself to them, ‘or else’ is powerful, the only way Clark could protect Martha was by volunteering to leave her behind forever. Superman destroying the world engine on what was very likely a suicide mission. Superman destroying the scout ship and the genesis chamber, which was Krypton’s only chance at living again, and Superman ultimately killing Zod, the last of his brethren. It was all about sacrifice. That’s what Jonathan’s death taught Clark, sacrifice and selflessness, and I think that is the absolute epitome of Superman, and what he represents.

Jonathan’s death scene was the underlying pulse of the entire movie and remains Kal El’s moral compass, long after he’s gone. Sacrifice is what Man of Steel was all about in the end. Superman sacrificing himself, his people and Krypton for us, the shamelessly ungrateful humans. Now I think that’s some powerful storytelling right there. Very few comic book movies even attempt to imbue the sort of heart and internal fortitude that Man of Steel did with Superman.

I also take issue with the popular usage of the word ‘Tornadocide’, that word implies that Jonathan had a suicidal intent when he went back for the family dog, he clearly did not want to die. Jonathan had every intention of coming back to his wife and son but the circumstances quickly changed and Jonathan was forced to make a monumental decision in what was literally, a second. Jonathan had explained to Clark before that there were bigger things at stake than their own lives and in that moment, Jonathan had to decide if he had the courage of his convictions, and he did.

wonder-woman-trailer-image-46Now, this scene for Clark is pivotal for his growth as a character and why he will act the way he does later on and Diana has her moment. Ares almost has Diana. He’s almost convinced her that mankind does not deserve her or is worthy of her protection. Like Zod (who’s name is a lot like God), offered Clark the opportunity to remake the world for the Kryptonian people, Ares offers Diana the same choice, to join him and recreate paradise. What happens in that moment, as Diana, tank raised over her head, ready to bring it down on the worst of humanity, she remembers Steve’s sacrifice.

Remembering Steve make the choice to put the lives of his enemies above himself as well as his friends changes Diana forever. She chooses to believe in the truth about humanity, there is a great darkness within them, yet there is also the ability to transcend that darkness though self-sacrificial love. The word agape in Greek means, “selfless love of one person for another” and that is the love with which Diana fights in the name of. She, like Steve, puts herself on the line, even for those that don’t deserve it.

This not only mirrors Man of Steel, but also Clark’s decision in Batman v Superman. Clark willingly chooses humanity and Earth. He says this is his world and he willingly sacrifices himself for it, even though, as we we have seen, half the world is either afraid of him or worse hates him. Sacrifice is the DC Comics mantra in it’s films and each film has been building on this theme. Loving sacrifice is the hallmark of the truest heroes. At the end of Wonder Woman, Diana emails Bruce, thanking him for bringing back Steve to her, but it’s bigger than that. Remember, Diana has taken a step back from suiting up as a hero. She’s been working from the shadows to inspire humanity. What Bruce has reminded Diana of is the lesson Steve taught her so many years ago and that Clark reenforced not that long ago, loving sacrifice is the best way to inspire love and change in others. So at the end of Wonder Woman, we see her go off, to join Bruce as a team, to help stand between evil and the world. The age of heroes has come again.

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Don’t miss The 602 Club and Cinema Stories episodes about Wonder Woman. For more on Man of Steel, check out The 602 Club #15 and for more on Batman v Superman check out The 602 Club #74 and S20.

Wonder Woman – Review

C-38A4SXkAAVYkz.jpg-largeThis review does contain Spoilers. Listen to The 602 Club episode as well!

For over 75 years, Wonder Woman has thrilled fans in spectacular fashion, through comics, television shows and cartoons. Yet there was one place were she had still not broken though, the big screen. In 2016 she joined the rest of the DC Comics trinity, Batman and Superman in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman, teasing her history in the world and setting up her first solo film.

Story

Diana of Themyscira grows up under the watchful protection of her mother Hippolyta who’s one goal is to keep her daughter safe. To do so, she forbids her daughter from learning how to fight, as well as keeping from her, her true lineage. Diana was not sculpted out of clay and bought to life by Zeus, she is actually a living weapon that Hippolyta and Zeus came together to create as a last defense against Ares, if he should ever return.

Diana and General Antiope (Hippolyta’s sister) have different ideas, they secretly begin Diana’s training and when Hippolyta finds out, Antiope is finally able to convince her sister that it’s the right thing to do. It turns out to be a wise decision as WWI and Steve Trevor accidentally stumble upon Themyscira, leading Diana to embrace who she is to stop Ares once and for all.

Responsibility

Hippolyta does not want her daughter to leave Themyscira. For one thing, if she does, she can never return and secondly, she’s worried about her safety. She asks her daughter not to go, to which Diana replies, “Who will I be if I stay?”.  It may be the seminole question of our day; “Who are we if we shirk our responsibility in the face of evil?”. Diana must make the decision on what kind of person she wants to be. Steve Trevor helps her see the two options in a conversation they have. He tells her that his dad always said their are two options for anyone, do nothing or do something. He says he’s already tried doing nothing and that’s clearly not the answer.

Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” What evils are perpetrated while men and women sit on the sidelines? The most innocent and helpless among us suffer and die while we stick our heads in the social media sand, pretending our outrage helps, when in reality it’s meaningless. Diana and Steve stand against that, they will fight and die for what they know is right, even if no one else around them will.

wonder-woman-embargo-lift-image-full-236508A Time to Fight, A Time to Love

Diana and Steve are able to bring a notebook he stole from one of the villains, Doctor Isabel Maru (Doctor Poison), back to the British, who he is working with. Even though the book clearly lays out the plans for an unstoppable gas, that could kill millions, the men in charge insist that the armistice with Germany is of paramount importance and that the men on the front are expendable in the name of peace. Diana is livid at the thought of men who are willing to sit in rooms, hundreds of miles away from the front, and treat the lives of their men so cavalierly. She and Steve can see the clear and present danger that this breakthrough in poison gas technology could mean for the world if is not destroyed. There is a time to fight and a time for peace and knowing which is which takes wisdom. It also takes courage to stand up and lead the fight, even when it’s not the popular course, but the right one regardless.

As the movie comes to the final confrontation between Ares and Diana, Ares tries to make her see the unworthiness of man. Hippolyta told Diana before she left Themyscira that mankind did not deserve her. As Diana ventures into man’s world she finds it an ugly place that is rife with more greys than she expected. Ares continues to press this idea that man does not deserve her protection, yet it’s something that Steve says and does that helps encourage Diana to do the right thing. Steve is well aware that man does not deserve Diana, but he tells her that maybe it not about what they deserve, but what she believes. Mankind is clearly not good, but they can be. Steve willingly gives up his life to save millions. Though all her experiences, Diana can see that mankind has the potential for good and that it’s though her love of Steve that she is able to see that spark in all men. She chooses to love men and defend them, even though they are unworthy and complete undeserving. Diana and Steve live out the greatest love there is, being willing to give up their lives for others. Diana is a hero that fights for love and to bring peace, to help show mankind a better way. Even in the face of the overwhelming evil man is capable of, she bestows grace and love in place of judgement. She’s the better angel of our nature, encouraging us to stand up for what is right, even if it’s not easy or popular.

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The Movie

Gal Gadot is a star. She sells every moment of this film. She has a wonderful, childlike innocence that is needed to bring this character, raised in paradise to life. Diana’s transformation from innocence to a fuller understanding of the real world is powerful and moving. The chemistry she has with Chris Pine is fantastic. They are the heart and soul of this movie and luckily they do not disappoint.

The fight scenes in the movie are incredible. Many superhero movies these days seem to have similar types of set pieces, but Wonder Woman does a marvelous job of making her fighting style feel fresh, leaving you silently fist-pumping in your seat. Even the more CGI-heavy battle at the end has enough emotion built into it, to make you care about what’s happening.

One final note, Patty Jenkins direction is excellent. This woman needs to be given a sequel, as well as more movies to direct. She understands clearly how to make a superhero movie feel serious and fun all at the same time and that’s not always easy to do.

Wonder Women is the first major female superhero to be given her own movie (yes I discount Catwoman and Elektra as they are more side characters) and it’s a triumph. The film is serious in tone, but with laughs aplenty. It’s the movie we all hoped for and deserve. Wonder Woman is rated 4 and half out of 5 stars.