Wonder Woman 1984 Is A Problematic Sequel

Wonder Woman 1984 is a disappointing sequel. It isn’t solely because the movie itself is just so basic, but because it represents a significant step backwards for a franchise. While the first movie is not perfect, it still scores itself well as a memorable, significant and quality film. WW84 ends up just being another movie that goes into that inoffensive and unmemorable pile of flicks where you’ll forget the bulk of it by the time you watch something else.

It’s a shame because there is a lot of the movie that could and should work. Actors are acting, characters are charactering, plot is plotting but nothing makes it feel more than that. It feels like a first draft kind of movie and they just rolled with it. Not that you need excessive focus group testing and 25 corporate writers to make your script, but I feel it would have benefited from some extra input and someone with the job title of “Hey wait a minute!” to flesh out the ideas while also bringing the focus in tighter.

The movie feels unwieldy like it is barely holding itself together due to chronic sequel-itis. So inoffensive it almost becomes offensive in how tedious it can be. I’ve said it before, but few things bum me out more than movies that waste potential.

Sometimes it feels like Suicide Squad. “Hey that part is good. Wow this part is boring. That actor is doing well. What’s going on here? Why are they doing that? That was a nice moment. Hey these actors have chemistry. Hang on, what did they just say?”

Then it ends and you go “Yeah okay I guess” and maybe that’s how it should leave you. I wasn’t even planning on writing this because I couldn’t make up my mind on the movie.

Now I’m fully aware I’m a CIS white male and all the stuff that goes a long with that. Not everything is made for me, I get that. A little girl or another person could like this movie and that’s great. Certain scenes I found lame could be inspirational and resonate with someone else. There’s no universal deciding factor on what can be formative on a person and what can’t.

I could see where the first Wonder Woman movie would resonate with people. I just can’t see anything in this movie resonating with anyone.

It doesn’t quite feel like a “DC Movie” in the sense of their big dumb action movies, with the dumb action with loud noises and constant grimacing but it also feels a bit slapdash like the DCEU movies have tended to feel.

The first Wonder Woman film is a better Superman story than anything made for live action cinema in my lifetime. That was one of the highlights to me. Wonder Woman can be a lot like Superman, and quite often is just considered a female version of the character, and that is not a bad thing. She’s typically an overpowered character who struggles more with upholding their ideals through adversity and keeping a strong moral compass than winning or losing a fist fight. That’s what makes “boy scout” characters most interesting. How far can you push them and how far can they be taken and still keep themselves on the right side of the line.

I liked that movie. I didn’t really like this one.

It isn’t to say there is no craft to the movie. It is shot on film so you do get that slightly grainy edge to the film which does help it look older and feel a bit like an 80s movie. However, and maybe I was expecting Stranger Things levels of 80s Porn, but this movie outside of a few scenes doesn’t hit you in the face with the 80s as hard as you might think. It can’t pass for modern, but you can forget you’re in the 80s pretty easily. I don’t know if that’s intentional. I both like it and dislike it. Use the 80s to trash up your film with 80s trash but then I’d probably be like “stop the 80s trash in the film.”

There’s also some fun schlock and I’m not going to pretend for even one second that I’m above that.

You have writing and characters that mirror the first movie. Maybe it isn’t obvious enough for a lot of people, but I saw it and your brain probably recognized it. The central theme around greed and power is a good one, but I can see how someone could know that theme is there without really consciously understanding full scope of it.

It’s just another part of the movie that feels like it’s only 75% of the way there.

Maybe the best part of the movie, one of the few parts that is 100% actualized, is Pedro Pascal. This dude rocks. Maxwell Lord really sucks! He gives it his all and really nails home that yuppie businessman conman character. He really nails the Gordon Gekko thing. When he speaks you believe he believes what he is saying. The execution of his character is really strong with the give and take of his powers. His dynamic versus Wonder Woman would have been enough for a movie on its own.

Kristen Wiig also does well. I temporarily panicked when her character felt like she might be doing Ghostbusters again, but she thankfully doesn’t go that far. She’s very measured and believable as Barbara Minerva and she’s easy to follow. Her design as Cheetah looks actually good unlike Cats. My only gripe is that I don’t think her character went far enough into the evil. She doesn’t quite fly off the handle to give you that breaking point moment where she really gets drunk on her new reality and revels in it. Maybe if she just happened to kill someone? Like one particular dickhole?

As an aside, I don’t think anyone dies in this movie which is a little weird. I’m not quite sure what brought this movie up to a PG-13 as it feels a lot more like a PG movie. I guess a few dudes hold some guns?

Chris Pine is back as Steve Trevor. It’s nice to have him on screen as I think he’s my second favourite Hollywood Chris and he has fantastic eyes. He and Gal Gadot have great chemistry and when they’re playing off each other it helps the movie a lot. It’s a great bit of role reversal this time where he’s the fish out of water and Wonder Woman is the normal one showing him about the world.

Gal Gadot is good again as Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman, but the character this time feels less defined. I can’t quite put my finger on what notes she hit in the first film and what notes were missed here. She is still the same character. Maybe she’s more tired of humanity and the world is wearing her down, but that doesn’t exactly come across. Something is just missing and I am unsure of what.

Maybe it’s a general DC thing where the uncertainty of the overall universe has made things murky for how everything is to be handled and tied together. It kind of feels like this was more of the Justice League version of the character when that is, at least, two films away. It feels a little like the character arc has gone 1918-2016-2017-1984.

Part of it could be that Wonder Woman is still a relatively undefined character. Outside of her World War 1 storyline, she doesn’t have a particularly unified comic book character in ways that Superman, Batman and even someone like The Flash do.

Through the years the character has gone from 70’s feminist icon to naïve adolescent to weird alien who doesn’t understand earth customs to an acerbic pessimist that thinks humanity is doomed – from there splintering off into the “its hopeless but I’ll fight anyway for the 1% chance it works” to the rarer “humanity sucks and we should leave them” stories.

One of my favourite parts of the first Wonder Woman movie was how the character felt like she progressed and grew to be a hero over it. I really liked that. I was hoping for that to continue and maybe it does? I just didn’t really “get” Diana the same way this time.

The themes of the movie are solid but the delivery is to the driveway and not the doorstep. Which is weird considering the movie is 2.5 hours long but it could have used an extra line here and an extra scene there.

I wasn’t too big a fan of the Themyscira stuff in the first film and I’m less of a fan of it this time around. It feels more divorced from the rest of the movie this time and then movie gets doubled up on intro scenes with totally different tones – melodramatic to campy 70s wink-wink. Movies don’t need superfluous scenes when the run time could be better used elsewhere.

Mild-spoilers will be throughout the rest of the review but nothing should be experience breaking.

This movie has the Spiderman 3 and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice problem of having 2 different movies going on at once.

There’s a film here that is Kristen Wiig vs Wonder Woman and centers on that plot. Wonder Woman is Wonder Woman and its super easy to see there being people deeply jealous of that. Jazz that out and it’s a whole movie on its own.

Then there’s also a film here that’s Maxwell Lord (I almost typed Max Power) and that guy’s entire schtick vs Wonder Woman which is a lot like a Lex vs Superman kind of story, which is no bad thing.

Maybe people don’t want that kind of focused story because people are dumb and think that’s boring because the hero can’t punch the villain. That was the charm to the first Wonder Woman movie though. Maybe they just didn’t want to do that again so that’s why they didn’t go hard into that. However, it just doesn’t commit hard enough to Diana Prince vs Maxwell Lord and reduces Cheetah to his enforcer.

Cheetah is Wonder Woman’s Joker or Lex Luthor. Unfortunately, she felt like she was kind of just there so that there could be a fight scene, instead of something where Max could’ve been like “don’t you wish you were super tough?” to some soldier dudes or crooks and used them as goons.

The action was a highlight for me in the first movie. I can think of some really strong visual action scenes that felt visceral and had weight and mattered. In this one I feel like the action scenes are more there to be action scenes because it has been an hour since the last one.

If you’re like me, you’ll agree that the worst part of the original Wonder Woman movie was the big dumb ending. In a refreshing change, there isn’t an absurdly ugly big dumb loud CGI explosion fight for a climax. The end of the movie is basically “Just talk.” Wonder Woman is a “let’s talk this out” style hero instead of a “I’ll punch you until you don’t have a pancreas” hero.

You could argue this movie ends on a better climax but even that feels a bit undercut by the way you get there because it isn’t memorable. It’s so melodramatic but has no lasting power. There is no line or key phrase that sticks with you. This is the big Hero Inspires The World Speech, and its talking about how the life is beautiful and the truth is what matters?

The first movie was just directed by Patty Jenkins, and this one is directed, co-written and co-screenplayed by her. Her previous writing includes Monster which is so different from this movie maybe she didn’t quite know how to sew the stuffing in on a more fantastical plot and property. Probably wouldn’t hurt if someone besides Geoff John’s came in as a co-writer.

The movie tries to get by on heart more than sense. You can see a bit of the original if you squint. An issue that comes with that is, again, the movie feels like a first draft and didn’t get that extra attention to detail to stitch up the edges.

You can nit-pick any movie into oblivion. No movie is air tight. But when you’re movie starts lacking in quality of some smaller obvious details it becomes harder to hand-wave other elements as you might normally do.

The big thing is around Steve’s resurrection. It’s freaking weird when you go over it for more than a hot minute.

Steve did not need to even be in that dude. At all. Other wishes in this movie materialize out of thin air. In fact, most of them do. Steve being inside that guy didn’t need to happen. But it did. That’s fine that it did… until it wasn’t anymore.

I feel bad for Handsome Man that got replaced. Did he have no family or friends that bothered to check in on him? Did he have no job he had to go to? Was he a drifter?

There had to be someone at some point who went “Hey wait a second. This is ghost rape. Should we have that in our movie?” It’s implied they get coitus-y together. There’s a gross scene in some Adam Sandler movie that is similar to this, where Adam Sandler takes over some guy’s body and then tries or does have sex with that guy’s wife who has no idea it’s actually Adam Sandler. Just awful. It immediately came to brain for me.

Beyond that, the characters also never really acknowledge that Steve Trevor is in this random guy after the first scene. That could have been its own subplot, replacing Cheetah, where they have to un-Freaky Friday this situation. Where the characters are trying to separate the two entities but also dealing with the fact they’re putting this guy into life threatening danger to do it. If that was played up, you can add a lot more tension to your action scenes as Wonder Woman has to protect him and it gets to a point where Steve also has to balance risking this person for Diana to succeed.

It’s never brought up during the bulk of the film though so you don’t really consider that as a consequence to manage.

Even his departure is kind of ambiguous. You feel like that scene should build to a “My time has passed. It’s okay” goodbye that leads into a glamour shot of the character, he’ll look off to the sky with a glint in his eye, etc. But I know some people who didn’t realize that was his goodbye moment due to it sort of happening off screen.

The movie struggles with some details that just would require a Google search. Just an extra level of detail you don’t get that keeps that first draft feeling. Flying from Washington to Cairo is 6000 miles but they take a plane that has like a 1300 mile range.

The movie talks about Egypt as this oil rich country when Egypt is one of the most oil poor nations on earth. It’s weird that the movie talks the country up as so oil rich that even the Saudis, the most oil rich place on earth, is after their oil.

The other implication is that every wish is selfish and greedy. Surely some people were like “I wish I didn’t have Alzheimers” or “I wish I could get pregnant “. Maybe some kid in Gotham wished his parents didn’t get shot in an alley.

The invisibility comes out of nowhere a bit. Just show the coffee cup. Going from 0-100 with a New Plot Power always annoys me. 1-20 is easier to believe, and so is 20-100.

I don’t really get how the final fight concluded and only one person got electrocuted there.

Maybe I did miss things as a side effect of at-home viewing. But I’m not an inattentive movie viewer. There’s a tech design saying that applies well to media too. “There’s no such thing as a user error.” I’m usually quite focused and I’d like to think I kept my focus on this film. A girl once got really mad at me on a date because I was too busy watching the movie to pick up on her signals and hints for some smoochy-smoochy.

The last nuisance for me when it came to this sort of thing was I don’t know if DC is respecting Justice League or Batman V Superman anymore as films in their franchise. Details from those films don’t seem to line up with presentation in this film. The main point of a cinematic universe is to watch all these films so you understand the threading of the spiderweb.

But in Batman V Superman it is presented as if Wonder Woman spent about 100 years not fighting crime, especially not petty crimes to globetrotting adventure crimes.

I’m fine with people not recognizing Diana as she lives her life. People aren’t observant. People don’t notice things if they aren’t paying attention, especially in small moments and flash instances. I love this scene from 1978’s Superman. Granted, I think Christopher Reeve does a lot more to change his physicality and entire demeanor, but his face doesn’t change. Lois doesn’t notice though because why would she? She has no reason to put the two of them together.

But you’d think there is some record of all these events. The USSR and the USA decided to go nuclear holocaust on each other. The entire world, for whatever length of time it was, had their every wish granted and then taken away from them with her very prominently involved. This is where the roadmap comes in handy.

The movie overall isn’t capital B Bad. But it just feels less like art and more like product. I was pretty neutral to Man of Steel, was neutral but have soured on Batman V Superman, I thought Justice League was a pile of crap, I quite liked the first Wonder Woman film, Shazam is the best 8/10 a movie could 8/10, and enjoyed the big dumb Power Rangers shlock-fest that was Aquaman. (Authors note, I forgot about Suicide Squad until after I posted this whole review so I think that answers that.)

This movie finds itself on the bottom half of that list. That’s likely where the vitriol directed at this movie comes from. A lot of people LOVED the first Wonder Woman film. And they wanted something on that level again. Of all the things that this movie could have been, and maybe needed to be, for it to end up like this is disappointing.

Maybe I’m being too harsh, but I don’t think expecting your super hero movie to be actually good is a bad thing. This feels very 2000’s super hero movie like it would fit in with Spiderman 3, Fantastic 4 and X3. I probably would have considered it a better film than a lot in that era but I expect more now.

I don’t want my time back but I also don’t expect to watch it again. If anything, it makes me want either a new Marvel flick or to see whatever Shazam 2, Black Adam, Green Lantern, Batman and The Flash are up to.

This movie isn’t a death knell for DC or for Wonder Woman, but it’s definitely the kind of thing that can have people go “eh, maybe I’ll skip the next one.” Because it feels like they somehow ran out of ideas for Wonder Woman already.

If you want to get mad at me or be my friend: @Adam_Pyde on Twitter, Adam Reviews Things on Facebook. CanadianAdam on Twitch.

Everyone Needs To Watch Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Image result for spider man into the spider verse style

What if I told you that an animated Spider-Man movie would be so stylish, so well done, so dense and so thoughtful that it would be one of the greatest animated movies of all time? Well, you better believe me because Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse exists and it totally whips.

This movie is a masterpiece overflowing with style and care. I don’t remember the last time a movie had so much style that I kept thinking about it. On a rewatch all I wanted to do was pause and take in every single scene and setting. Most movies have scenes or sequences to that affect, but another movie that is end to end as stylish as Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse? Honestly don’t think it exists. This movie is excellent on so many levels it’s impossible to spill enough digital ink on it.

This may be my new favourite animated movie. It’s right there with The Lion King. It won a freaking Oscar. It captures all the best parts of an animated movie in a time where Big Hollywood seems to want to make everything that was animated into “Live Action” at the expense of imagination.

It’s a Spider-Man movie that doesn’t even follow Peter Parker. We’re following Miles Morales, the half African American and half Puerto Rican Spider-Man through his origin story. A super hero origin story in 2018. That isn’t rote.

Miles is an awesome character. They do a great job establishing him as his own hero.  He isn’t just the new Spider-Man. He wears sneakers, a black suit, hoody, doesn’t tie his laces. He has confidence even as a kid. He’s into graffiti and is creative.  He’s so much more than “Black Spider-Man”. He’s a real character.

And he’s still a high school kid. High school Spider-Man is so much fun. Spiderman should always start in high school. He can move on and grow, but you got to get to know Spider-Man when he’s a kid. Spider-Man learning to Spider-Man as a kid is integral to the character. He’s a young teenager going with the suffix “Man” when that is typically reserved for ambiguous 30-something’s like Iron Man, Batman, Superman, etc.

Miles’ personal style is woven into the storytelling and visuals. I don’t think this movie works with a Peter Parker at the center of it. It feels like the movie is entirely in Miles’ perspective and you see the world as he sees it.

Can’t overlook how refreshing it is for a super hero to have parents that are alive and supportive. It provides new avenues for the hero to work through the conflicts and motivations that give a unique take on being a vigilante. The story moves, twists, turns and satisfies in so many different ways with this flexibility.

We’re living in a Spider-Man exclusive New York. It is helpful to distinguish this world from the live action films (RIP now) where Spider-Man is hanging out in a New York where Doctor Strange, Iron Man, the Avengers and everyone else seems to room on the daily.

Getting the weird fringe Spider-Man’s into the movie is radical too. Peter, Gwen and Miles are pretty mainline at this point, but Noir, Ham and Peni are pretty obscure. It’s neat to see them get some time on screen instead of this being more of a Batman family style movie where you get Peter, Miles, and Gwen hanging out with like Kane Parker, Flash Thompson, etc. and whatever other dudes find themselves adjacent to mainline just Peter Parker.

The movie gets meta in a fun way. Sometimes it’s a gag that subverts your expectations. Other times it’s a small love letter to everything Spider-Man at some point: how many times Uncle Ben has needed to die, the spider bite that gets everyone, dancing emo Peter (which I defend) and a great post credit scene that memes out .

The visual style is the main attraction to this movie though. It does some weird 2 frame play, 1 frame hold, 1 frame skip type look to give it movement as if it’s a flip book or a motion comic but also keeps fluid animation. It takes a bit of time to get used to, but after a little your brain adapts and gets absorbed by it.

There is so much to look at. The base animation mixes with comic panels and hand drawn inserts for flashes. Thought boxes, onomatopoeia words coming and going, panelling in and out. Backgrounds are “drawn” but the characters look 3D. Elements of cell shading and Ben-Day dots/halftones mixing with CGI creates a sharp focus in part of the frame, while having the background look as if it’s a 3D film when you don’t have the glasses on.

Every frame is packed in detail without being distracting. The colour work is phenomenal. So much pop but also keeps the scenes distinct. There’s impressive use of long takes, which is typically unimpressive in an animated movie. There is so much “Show, Don’t Tell” storytelling going on. The directors, animators and cinematographer really outdid themselves.

The score is rad and the mix of hip hop totally fits the style and tone of the film. The music melts right into what you’re looking in every frame and raises the visuals. The voice cast whips and is only outdone by the art style of each character. Nic Cage, Mahershala Ali and Chris Pine in the same movie? And they’re all varying levels of secondary supporting characters? Damn man.

Shameik Moore never falters as Miles. Jake Johnson is perfect as Peter. Hailee Steinfeld couldn’t capture Gwen better. Brain Tyree Henry nails being a father in the soft moments and the harder ones.

Image result for spider man into the spider verse style

An issue you could have in a movie like this is “how do you differentiate what are basically six spider people?” Just have every single one of them radiate their entirely own style. Miles has his modern hip hop fusion from the suit and his movements. He has his own set of distinct abilities on top of the base Spider-Man ones. Peter A Parker as the ideal and Peter B as the “I’ve been at this for so long” shlub version. Gwen’s mix of punk rock while moving gracefully like a ballerina. Noir being… well very noir with the suit and classic “Put up your dukes” fighting. Ham is full on Looney Tunes and Peni gets the anime treatment complete with posing, mannerisms and a 2D style.

This carries through the villains too: from the behemoth that is Kingpin to the fluidity of Doc Ock to the precision of everything Prowler does. The freedom of imagination and creativity is on full display and while you might not pick up on everything, your brain is noticing and picking up every bit of subtlety. Every character has a distinct silhouette so despite the richness on screen you can still pick up everything going on. The action isn’t a mess.

I can go forever. The movie is so damn good. There are more layers to this film than an onion. I also have the same pair of Nike’s that Miles wears.

If you’re already seen the movie and want to just get more about how great it is then make sure you watch this video. You won’t spend 15 minutes better today.

@Adam_Pyde on Twitter, Adam Reviews Things on Facebook. CanadianAdam on Twitch.

Star Trek: Beyond Is As Star Trek As 2016 Will Give You

Star Trek: Beyond 4.5/5

This is the best Star Trek movie I’ve seen, and I’ve seen three! Wonderful touches of great action set pieces, character moments, pacing, fun and humour. This is what good movies is!

There are lots of little character moments that make you give a care about the characters. There are some really well set ups that pay off nicely and make sense. There is Beastie Boys music and Public Enemy and it both totally fits the tone of the film when it is used. Yeah wrap your head around that one!

Its weird to say that a movie that has two giant space ship fights with explosions en mass feels scaled back, but it does. The story feels very confined. I always like movies that feel like they’re almost happening in real time.

The story takes two thirds classic Star Trek (I’m told by numerous dork friends), a healthy scoop of Mass Effect 2 (right down to Admiral Shala’Ran vas Tonbay being on an admiral type committee), a pinch of The Fast and The Furious and stir it all together with writers and actors that cared. (Maybe even a little Mars Attacks).

Every character gets their own little moment to shine. Many that used to have nothing to do actually have things to do! One thing that is good in all these films is the cast. They all have chemistry and seem to enjoy their screen time.

It always makes me happy to see Karl Urban on a movie screen.

Even the evil alien played by Idris Elba was done pretty good. And he acts pretty well through some serious make up/prosthetics. Or CGI. Whatever it is. It works and he’s great as an actor.

I like how this movie felt different than Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy. Really felt like its own thing.

If you can see this in Imax, do it. Space movies are good in Imax. I like space. Space movies are so cool. Space video games are dope. More stuff should be in outer space! (Can’t wait for Fast and Furious 9 where they race cars on the moon and explode Mars or something).

But seriously, this movie is just damn good.

I can’t wait for more Star Trek if they’re gonna be this good.

Previously:

To Come (at some point):

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows
  • Batman: The Killing Joke
  • Jason Bourne (July 29)
  • Suicide Squad (August 5)
  • Sausage Party (August 12)