Shang-Chi Is Marvel Doing It Right

Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is very good. This is what Marvel needs to do through their next phase of movies to keep people interested. Less Black Widow and more Shang Chi. The formula can still work. Is it tiring? A bit. But if you dress it up right with an influx of new ideas, world dynamics and characters? You’ll be making happy movie goers from nerds to normal people.

Something Marvel has done a mostly bang-up job on is taking comic book movies and placing them over top existing genres: heist movies, political dramas, spy thrillers, fantasy, etc. Now we’ve got a kung fu movie with a kung fu super hero.

Taking that a step further, he isn’t magically kung fu or enhanced kung fu like Captain America. He has no mega powers, inherently. He’s just an exceptionally well trained, disciplined and excellent individual. That’s rad as heck because it makes the character much more believable, real and personable.

Simu Liu plays the titular character and this rules pretty hard because he is Canadian! There hasn’t been a whole lot of Canadian’s appearing in these movies so I’m pumped to have one in a new leading man. I think there have only been 5 in big roles and they’ve all been ladies: Evangeline Lilly (Wasp), Cobie Smulders (Agent Hill), Emily Van Camp (Agent 13), Rachel McAdams (Dr Stange’s love interest) and Pom Klementieff (Mantis).

It’s a big deal in Canada when a Canadian gets any level of success at anything besides hockey, so having the new leading man in a Marvel movie be Canadian is pretty rad. Plus he’s decked out in red too so I’m going to tell myself that’s because Canada and not because its red and gold like the Chinese flag.

Awkwafina comes in as the fish out of water character that gets the world explained to her and she does a solid job. She’s more comic relief but she doesn’t undercut too many scenes that it becomes annoying and her role is taken seriously. Her chemistry with Shang is great too.

Meng’er Zhang comes in as Xialing, Shang’s sister, and is a realized slight foil to her brother. Basically what if Shang had stayed behind all those years and continued to live with their father this could have been his reality and future.

Which brings us to the best performance in the film; Wenwu portrayed by Tony Leung Chiu-wai. This is as much his movie as it is Shang’s. If more Marvel villains were of this quality we would finally be able to get passed those dreadfully boring memes and Hot Takes about bad villains. Killmonger never hit with me that well from Black Panther. I think because he disappears for 45 minutes without any presence and then the third act of that movie sucks and thus brings down his overall grade. But to me this was the villain performance of the MCU in the non-Thanos category.

And he isn’t even a villain. He’s an antagonist and that’s a distinction that does so much for this movie. He’s working to his goal, for reasons that make sense to him and honestly kind of make sense (if he wasn’t the bad guy and thus you know he’s in the wrong) and you feel for his story. You fully understand the what, why, when, where, who and how of his character.

It’s a family centered plot at the core. Finding love, making changes as a family man, heartbreak and revenge, and then trying to recover and put the pieces back together. It’s way better than another world-ending extinction catastrophe level event. Those are so passé.

The movie wastes no time to get going. You get your intro, you get your Present Day scene and then you’re right into it. No fake out or dragging out things for no reason. It pops and the movie is going.

Pace and tone does so much for a good story, and the story holds for most of the movie. The first half is better, and even the first 80% is great. But you have to get your big CGI ending for some reason where two monsters do the graveyard smash. 

I would rather that have been saved for the next movie and having a looming, unresolved threat from this movie. That scene and climax can have more impact that way.

It also was lame because you could tell this was all done in pre-viz where they probably had this scripted out before they finished the script, which then makes the plot in service of action and not the other way around. Your action should be in service of the plot.

Other than that, I quite liked the movie. I’m glad these movies seem to be passed the point where they need to slap you in the face with a “The hero isn’t a White Guy scene”. I’m not a moron. I can see it’s a Chinese-Canadian fella. I can see it’s a Chinese lady too. You don’t need some scene where they go “Don’t forget, I’m not The White Man!” It’s insulting and petty when movies do that. I appreciate this movie skipping that scene and treating the audience with respect.

There’s also no reference to The Snap or Thanos. The movie isn’t totally divorced from the MCU, but where it does tie back in doesn’t feel cheap and distracting. Instead it feels logical.

The power of the 10 Rings also makes way more sense in this movie. In the comics are basically 10 baby infinity stones that each have their own power and personality… sort of. Now they are a mix of Dr Strange glow hands, Iron Man blasters and Cap’s shield. Sounds overstuffed, but it isn’t. They’re unique.

This movie is great, and it’s just barely not too long to the point it becomes boring at points. There’s a bit of snipping you could do to tighten this up that would really make it next level for me. Mainly the comic relief cameo that gets more screen time than it needs. That’ll be phone checking time on re-watches.

I want to know how this guy works into the larger Marvel world more than I want to know how The Eternals will or how the TV shows (I haven’t watched) are going to tie into things. Give me more Shang Chi! Don’t make me wait until 2025.

This is most of the world’s introduction to this character, and Marvel aced it.

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

I Don’t Know What To Make of Marvel’s The Eternals

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I mean it when I say I don’t know what to make of this movie. Marvel’s The Eternals isn’t a normal Marvel movie. It breaks the formula and is so different tonally you’d be forgiven for not getting that comfort dopamine of a Marvel movie. You can’t watch Black Widow and then watch this and say  “Oh jeez that Marvel formula at it again!” That’s both good and bad, and ends up making a totally average movie.

I’m not familiar at all with Chloe Zhao’s work as a director. But this movie very much doesn’t feel like Black Widow or Ant-Man. I appreciate the attempt to try and make something feel so different. Make something that is very much of its own and not just another in the list. There’s a focus on cinematography here that you don’t normally get in these movies. Almost every scene has a strong shot emphasizing silhouettes and colour palettes and vision of the scene to convey the emotion. And that’s cool!

But the movie is long and a bit boring.

Introducing ten characters is a lot. This isn’t like the original Avengers or Civil War, where you have a big team but you’re already mostly familiar with 80% of the cast. These are all newbies. I’m a comic dork and I knew nearly nothing about these folks, so it doesn’t even have the benefit of a Justice League where you might know not this The Flash, but you do know The Flash.

One benefit to the entirely new characters it that many of them steal names from history: Ikaris, Sersi, (a)Thena, Ajak and Gilgamesh are all names you should have heard and have some idea of what they’re referencing. I’m sure the others in Makkari, Sprite, Phastos, Druig and Kingo have basis in something as well though I’m just not familiar. 

When you have so many characters, it can be difficult to differentiate them but the movie does a well enough job to do that. You understand each individual power set and personality pretty easily. You could argue its reductive and simple, but it’s a 2.5 hour movie with 10 newbies, evil monsters and a Big Cosmic so it’s forgivable.

Characters do change in this film though and they do seem to hold to their convictions. There isn’t any “aw shucks okay I change my mind” scene just for convenience. Out of our cast of ten, there is only one or two that don’t really have a significant change. How much you care and sympathize though is up to you. I waffled and most didn’t grab me.

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The movie is on a timeline to an extinction event, which I get you need for this level of characters considering they’re basically angels or gods or whatever, but there also doesn’t feel like there is urgency until the very final conflict. The build doesn’t have to be frantic, but you don’t really get the sense of urgency or importance of a “the earth is going to explode by lunch time” level thing. You don’t feel that ticking clock. 

You also get to learn that these characters have been around and interacting/protecting humanity since way way way back when sharp sticks were the closest thing to weapons we had.

I am a sucker for when movies or video games or TV going back in time and adding little asterisks to history and filling in notes in the margins with new details. when they go back in time and weave themselves into history in a fun way. Gilgamesh the ancient warrior? He was an Eternal! These folks were hanging at Babylon. Icarus, Circe and Athena? They’re actually Ikaris, Sersi and Thena! Eternals! Hiroshima? The Eternals fault!

If you’re going to pull the “we were here all along” thing, then that’s a fun way to do it that helps add a bit of believability to your world. 

At the same time, there is a lameness to hidden characters that have been here all along and secretly being the guiding hand of history. Especially when you learn the reason they were sent, you can pretty easily say “hey, why didn’t you help with all the bad stuff?” and the answer isn’t particularly strong.

I don’t know if the movie is trying to make a religious point about any particular sect with that. You can have In The Shadows organizations, but the good ones have realistic limitations. Men In Black works because the world is totally normal outside of the weirdo nonsense in their direct jurisdiction. But this is a world with wizards and robots and and an unlimited supply of floating space ships and thousands of super secret agent soldiers and doomsday events every 3-4 years.

At some point you think one of those may have pulled them from hiding.

The conflict in the plot comes from the characters and what they’re purpose is, which again relates to their secrecy. The Deviants aren’t a great antagonist, though I thought they might build to something cool before they didn’t, and then you get to the big ending with the reveal and twist which is going to be mileage-may-vary for everyone.

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Time for some random one off thoughts: 

  • I like that the movie isn’t the same formula like building to a big dumb CGI ending divorced of the plot.
  • There is so much CGI in this movie though. It mostly looks good but at times it breaks and Angelina Jolie turns into gumby.
  • I miss practical effects in movies man. I’m watching the special features of Lord Of The Rings and its inspiring the lengths they went to. More movies need that 2003 mindset.
  • The flashbacks can be a bit long and uninteresting.
  • There appears to be no Disney+ tie in, and that rules.
  • Comedy takes a back seat to the movie. That’s good. The only real line that sticks out is “Fall catalogue. Ikea.” Barf.
  • There could be a fan edit of this that dials it back 15-20 minutes and might be more interesting. The bloat just starts getting to you at some point.
  • I want to see the characters again but just not for like 4-5 years.
  • The Bollywood scene was fun. I love how wild and crazy Bollywood is.
  • Celestials could be neat as a new Thanos.

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Ultimately, the movie was a chance and it was different and I like that. I’ll take this over another Black Widow any day. The movie isn’t bad but I’m not going to watch it again. Maybe if it’s on TV while I’m in a hotel room one day I’ll turn it on and scroll through my phone at the same time.

That just gets back to the problem with the movie though. I love seeing movies in the theatre and when I’m in the theatre I focus on the movie. But I did get bored at one point and thought “I wonder if anyone’s texted me…”

I get the feeling though that this movie will be on a bunch of lists in 5 years like “TOP 10 UNDERRATED MOVIES PEOPLE WERE WRONG ABOUT” in the inverse way now you get Star Wars: The Force Awakens on every “TOP 10 MOVIES THAT
SUCK THAT WEREN’T ACTUALLY GOOD!”

I want to like this more but I can’t because I just don’t care that extra bit.

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

Black Widow Got Her Movie

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Disney’s Marvel’s Black Widow is the movie you probably think it is before you even enter the theatre. That’s both good and bad. It’s eminently watchable and perfectly enjoyable. But for a marquee character of the MCU to finally get their own solo project, it just doesn’t really live up to the level set by the other main event stars in the franchise.

It’s another capital ‘m’ Marvel movie that goes in the “it’s fine” pile with like Ant-Man, Dr Strangeand Captain Marvel. You know a completely a-ok 3/5 but not something I’ll be thinking “I should watch that again.” I don’t want to say it doesn’t live up to the expectations, because I’m not sure anyone really expected this to hit the level of something like Guardians of the Galaxy or Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

But I really wanted this to be another The Winter Soldier. I was very very ready to see a fun espionage movie in the vein of Jason Bourne or Mission Impossible. I really thought it could be considering the character and what kind of story works best for her and her skillset. So maybe this falls on me tricking myself into thinking the apple pie was blueberry.

Something I found really interesting is that for a movie that takes place between Civil War and Infinity War, the film is super self-contained. There are no surprise cameos. There’s no awkwardly woven in appearances to remind you of the scope of all these movies. It can be watched as a standalone film and the viewer wouldn’t miss out on anything critical to the experience.

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The tone early on is quite serious and the film is taking itself and the subject matter seriously. Black Widow is on the run and trying to avoid being thrown in international prison. She’s living an unglamorous life and hoping to fade into a new identity.

It feels like a spy movie.

Unfortunately, it starts to become weightless as the plot progresses. And not just because it gets too big in scale – because it moves away from spy stuff to CGI and quips.

Prequel films tend to lack the same weight of something in the proper flow of the timeline because you know who the character is before the movie, and then also who they are after so there’s only so much room in the middle to work with. But hey, someone had to go for the soul stone and that leaves you only so much space to work with for the story.

The plot is 1 + 2 = 3 and mostly straight forward. There wasn’t as much espionage as you would think from a super spy character in their own film. There’s like one fake out twist. Bad military guy wants macguffin. Our Hero needs to stop/protect/save macguffin. Blow up a giant spaceship along the way.

Even if you don’t want to repeat The Winter Soldier too much, go steal the Mission Impossible writing team and stick Black Widow in one of those films. Tense scenes where characters might take a beating that lasts the rest of the film, a lot of tense down to the second timing for espionage and spy-craft and some “oh jeez how will they get out of this”.

One thing I noticed, and this is me being cynical, is that there are a lot of pre-viz fight scenes that movie transitions into which were clearly drawn up mostly-ish before the script was done. So the action isn’t always in service of the plot, but sometimes the plot is in service of the spectacle and action scenes. That isn’t a crime but it can make the feel “too big” when a smaller, dirtier, tighter fight or scene could have had just as much or more impact.

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One of the strengths of the movie is when it slows down to let the actors act and give them the time and space to be actors. The opening of the film is quite good that way. The moments in between action scenes where the family is forced into their family dynamic is quite good. And you have talented actors that can act in this movie. Watch Marriage Story or Stranger Things or any of those British/indie things Florence Pugh has done. Great actors just acting it out. I remember the details of those scenes a lot more than I remember explosion #13 that the characters survive with a little bit of dirt on their cheek.

I don’t know what there is to say about the titular Black Widow. It’s Scarjo. She does well with what’s she is given and can completely handle the weight of being a leading lady in a movie.

David Harbour is great in his limited role. He plays a really believable dad and has great chemistry with everyone around him. He doesn’t quite get as adorable as in Stranger Things but oh well. Rachel Weisz as the slightly colder character of the mom is good too – though I think she gets off the hook a bit lightly for some of the stuff she’s pulled.

The villain is a silly caricature of villainy. I think that’s another reason why the movie feels more fantastical than real as the plot progresses. He’s a Harvey Weinstein inspired bad military man that just has it out to hate women and take advantage of women because he can and that’s why he trained them to be assassins for a comedic reason versus anything practical.

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That’s kind of a plot thing that loses a bit of impact and is something kind of infects a lot of female led projects. The need to make a statement that Women Are Capable People Too. Yeah, I know. Smart people know this. Your average audience member knows this. Morons don’t but they’re morons. The Wonder Woman movie did this excellently just a few years ago. Know what movie didn’t because it got comical with it? Ghosbusters 2016.

We’ve had badass females heroines before: Alien released in 1979, The Terminator released in 1984, Buffy was one of the biggest shows in the 90s, Disney has an entire army of strong female animated characters, Hermione saves the day countless times in Harry Potter, Eowyn killed the motherf*cking Witch King, Jennifer Lawrence launched an entire genre of movies with The Hunger Games, Charlize Theron and Uma Thurman and Angelina Jolie have been kicking ass in movies for 20 years. Video games are full of female leads that whip ass. This all came to mind as I was writing.

I’m not saying you don’t celebrate the fact this character has got her moment and her chance now, but when your villain basically says “women are worthless trash” and then it gets tough to take the movie seriously. Especially when that attitude has led to countless and continuing human rights violations that the main characters don’t really seem all that bothered by because it’s time to blow up that spaceship for the next action scene.

I get a story for a female character is different than a male character and its reductionist to say “just write James Bond but now it’s Jane Bond”. But there’s not much in Mission Impossible or The Winter Soldier or the Bourne franchise that you can’t have Black Widow do here. But you have to maintain a tone and atmosphere for that to happen and this movie didn’t.

Part of a serious tone is that a character takes their lumps and has to fight through those lumps and improvise. That’s something that separates John Wick from The Fast and The Furious movies. Your character can’t just find the cheat code to turn off damage – and if they do then you have to explain it. Logan did that excellently and you just need something similar.

It results in the movie feeling less visceral or gritty, or whatever word you want to use, in exchange for it feeling more fantastical. When Captain America is getting the snot beat out of him by evil Bucky and takes a bullet and an explosion or two, he struggles to get that last disc in the space ship thing. This Black Widow is getting hit by explosions and punches and debris and still just is able to keep on running into a new explosion that doesn’t ruin her makeup or hair. It’s all part of the stakes in a movie.

It’s hard to buy into the stakes of “the characters have to get away from the bomb or avalanche or exploding space ship really quickly or else!” Or else what? There are half a dozen things that should have very obviously killed our Black Widow as she’s been established in nine other movies and a few that should have killed the supporting characters. But nope, and they don’t even put on some lazy bandages like a wrestler. They all recover from fights like Vin Diesel.

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Like that beating Cap gets at the end of TWS would have left this Black Widow with nothing more than a broken nose that she could just easily pop back into place with no swelling so the visual effects artist or make-up team doesn’t have to do a lot of scenes giving her a jank nose.

Oh, and the heavy the villain employs, Taskmaster, is pretty badass but then you realize this super assassin that is a big threat you need to be scared of only manages like one kill the whole film and infinite near misses, to add to the other misses of the movie. I’ve been a bit harsh on the movie but I think it’s just because I wanted so much more. I get frustrated with movies that waste potential more than anything and this movie is a victim of that. Instead of Mission Impossible it went for Big Quippy Action Marvel Movie. I hope some people love it. I don’t want to poopoo anything too hard, but after taking so much time off from “the Marvel formula” over the pandemic, coming back to it does feel… less exciting. Maybe mentally I ended at Endgame a bit. I wouldn’t blame anyone who did, especially when the first film to try and hook you was this one. Maybe the #MarvelFormula has hit critical mass.

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

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is exactly what it is

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is the exact movie it needed to be. This movie knows what was the good part of the first movie, Eddie and Venom, and then gives you more of that plus a foil in Cletus Kasady and Carnage. I really liked this movie. It was exactly what I wanted to see… almost.

I don’t really have complaints about this movie. It did a lot of things right. It was violent, a bit messy in the good way, entertaining, funny and it’s tight. There are no wasted scenes. You can’t take a bathroom break during this movie because every scene is relevant to what is going on.  

Like it’s only 90 minutes long. You can’t waste a scene in a movie that long. I love it… except it should be rated R.

I know why they didn’t, and they do a good job to cut around and keep their PG13 rating while still pushing the envelope as much as you can expect. I just really want to see the rated R cut of this movie. Hopefully it gets a special release but unfortunately it isn’t likely to be quite the pop culture hit of Deadpool. They did take full advantage of PG13 though and drop an excellent f-bomb, but no boobies.

The best part of the movie is the titular characters: Eddie and Venom, Cletus and Carnage. You get all the great couples therapy moments again but now they’ve grown more used to each other, but still aren’t totes besties. Cletus and Carnage have a simple dynamic, which shouldn’t be a surprise.

Carnage is one of my favourite comic villains for the simple reason that he is simple. Cletus loves murder. Carnage loves murder. That’s why they’re so good together. No plans of world domination. No delusions of grandeur. They’re plenty happy together just roaming into a small town and killing everyone at the diner just because they can.

It sounds awful, because it is, and a bit sick, because it is, but that’s why I love the character. Villains don’t need to be complicated if they’re effective when played straight. There’s no ambiguity around the morals of Carnage. He has none.

And because Carnage is a bit simple and more of a small-time villain despite his main event status, the movie follows suit. The plot is small and personal to the characters. There’s like six people in this movie with speaking roles. The two headliners and four other folks. There’s no unnecessary bloated arcs to give side character 3 a full arc. Who cares. Not me. The whole movie is in service of Venom and Carnage.

Tom Hardy does a great job being the nervous, twitchy regular-ish fella that has an alien amoeba slime half in control of his body. Venom, voiced by Hardy though you wouldn’t really know it, does a great job of caring for Eddie and being sick of him at the same time. But they just work, and that’s the point of them. They’re the cutest Lethal Protector and I ship them forever <3.

Woody Harrelson just seemed to have fun on this movie. His performance isn’t exactly deep or layered like an onion but he’s gets Cletus Kasady. See above for why.

The rest of the cast are all good. They do their parts well and make you care just enough. They play well off the dynamic of the movie. Michelle Williams does her thing. Peggy Lu returns and is fun. Naomie Harris looks unrecognizable as Shriek. Whoever plays Dan is great because Dan is a great guy.

Andy Serkis directed this movie and you can tell someone who cares about motion/performance capture and CGI directed this movie because it looks SO MUCH BETTER than the first film. You know what is happening at all times in this movie. I also feel like he brought a bit of his Gollum-Smeagol experience on the characters to this film which is no bad thing.

Part of what helps that is that Venom looks like Venom. Big and black. Carnage looks exactly like Carnage. A bit more slender and red! They pulled more from the Maximum Carnage design with the black mouth and black accents than the more modern Carnage’s that are almost a straight red Venom.

Ultimately, I want to watch this movie again way more than I want to watch the first one again. If you’re reading this and haven’t seen the first one, give it a shot. There is great odd couple energy from Eddie and Venom. And the movie is perfectly fine enough to watch once.

But the real prize of these Venom films is this movie. It’s kind of like a throwback to the era of Raimi Spider-Man and Fox X-Men and Fantastic Four and “ice skating uphill” Blade. It’s cheesy but not insulting you for watching.

The movie takes itself exactly as serious as it should. There’s lots of little key frames and in jokes and iconography that hardcores are going to love, but nothing a general audience member won’t understand. I’m happy. This movie was fun. And fun things aren’t bad.

Oh! And the end-mid credits scene! Please sit and stay and watch that because that is some gourmet teasing. Holy poop! Heck, it even makes the Morbius movie somewhat interesting.

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

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.