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Movie Review: Wonder Woman 1984 Delivers Throwback Fun

Wonder Woman 1984

The much delayed and anticipated Wonder Woman 1984 has finally been released in an unprecedented roll of the dice and experiment by Warner Bros. and its parent company AT&T. Released on HBO Max and in theaters, the film has pivoted a few times due to the current pandemic and shifting needs of consumers. Taking advantage of my big-screen television and surround sound, and not wanting to risk COVID, I took advantage of my HBO Max subscription to watch the film and in doing so, I felt transported back decades to the early years of comic film adaptations. That’s both a good and bad thing in the end. But, the end result is a film that’ll be polarizing and over years most likely dissected, analyzed, and opinion will shift for the positive.

Shifting the setting decades from the original, Wonder Woman is now in 1984 living her dual life. Longing for the return of her Steve Trevor, she’s been lonely and somewhat isolated. Enter the dreamstone, a MacGuffin that can make wishes come true. A failed businessman, Maxwell Lord, also wants the statue in hopes that he’ll be able to turn around his ventures and become a worldwide business dynamo. What results is a film that examines the 80s while also upending superhero movies in many ways.

Directed by the returning Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman 1984 features a story by Jenkins and Geoff Johns with a screenplay by Jenkins, Johns, and Dave Callaham. The story and direction have their bumps but overall the film feels like a throwback to earlier years of superhero films both in tone and look. This isn’t a film filled with cynicism and negativity. Instead, it’s a story about hope, love, and a positive future. It’s bright at times and wears its pacifist leanings on its armored sleeve.

The biggest break from other superhero films is the lack of a villain with a motivation to cause harm. Played by Pedro Pascal, Maxwell Lord is Donald Trump mixed with 1980s television hucksters. It’s established early Lord is a fraud attempting to make money through a pyramid scheme. He wants a successful business not to rule anything and we see that through his actions.

In the end, the issue presented is desires uncontrolled. Lord’s plan spirals out of control putting the world on the brink of nuclear war. In that way, we get a very different story from DC and Marvel films of the past. This isn’t a nefarious plan so much as a mistake. It’s a scam that gets out of control and results in unintended consequences.

Jenkins attempts to have fun with that spiraling out of control world as things amp up slowly and then the avalanche. Lord wants more and uses his newfound powers in an attempt to enrich himself and at the same time also create some stability… which only creates more instability. We’ve seen a similar plot in Bruce Almighty. While that film stayed isolated to Buffalo, this takes it to a global scale.

The team slowly builds Lords out of control failure from his empty office, to the Middle East, to the White House, and then beyond. It’s a ramping up of an out of control power and a man desperate to figure out what to do next. He easily could have just made himself the ruler of the world but he doesn’t. He wants to be “the” businessman.

Jenkins attempts to bring an 80s vision to the film’s 1980s setting. That results in a mixed result. The tone of the film has much more in common with Richard Donner‘s Superman than it does with anything post-2000, the “modern superhero film era”. Its colors, lighting, and overall attitude are one of positivity. It has a light tone never taking itself too seriously and playing loose with the logic of the story. We’re treated to a finale that breaks from the traditional punching that crescendoes most comic films. It puts an exclamation point that the film attempts to do something different.

But what the film really does is remove itself from the meta-cinematic universe we come to expect. Yes, the film has the return of Steve Trevor from the first story but it has little direct impact on other DC films nor does it set up or continue a meta story that involves 20 other films. It’s a two-issue story arc giving us breaks between drawn-out “events”. It’s supposed to be a breezy popcorn film focused on fun and it generally succeeds.

The film absolutely has issues with its story. Trevor’s return has a lingering of rape due to how it’s done. Kristen Wiig‘s Barbara Minerva/Cheetah is underused. Some of the film could have been tightened up in the details. The film is loose with some fat to it. Minor changes would have made a leaner and tighter film. Special effects at times are rough and some fight sequences feel a bit uninspired. But, every comic film released has had problems none are perfect and there are modern releases that are in a far rougher shape than this.

The actors all bring some interesting aspects to the film. Gal Gadot is supposed to be front and center and while she plays alone very well, she doesn’t quite have the draw power she had in the first film. That’s partially because everyone else is so over the top in their performances that her Diana/Wonder Woman comes off as too serious and dour at times.

Returning is Chris Pine as Steve Trevor. Pine has the most fun of the actors continually being excited about the world he’s returned to. The joke happens over and over but Pine’s delivery never gets old and through him, the film gets to poke a lot of fun at the time period. Pine is our time capsule reminding us of the fashion, dances, and innovations of the decade.

Joining Gadot and Pine are Kristen Wiig as Barbara Minerva and Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord, the two “villains” of the film. I put that word in quotations because neither is truly evil.

Wiig plays the bookwormish Minerva who also works in the museum with Gadot’s Diana. In Diana she sees someone she inspires to be and her wish to do so brings unintended consequences. Wiig does a fantastic job of evolving from one thing to the other playing a convincing flower blooming. She does the stumbling nerd well and then the confident woman everyone wants to be around. There’s a lot of 80s John Hughes in the performance and it captures the decade well.

Pedro Pascal puts in an over the top performance tapping so much of what was wrong the decade. His scheming Lord is the insecure loser and con-artist we knew so many of the titans of the time were. Donald Trump, televangelists, late-night infomercials, Lord is all of these things in a bad wig. He’s the embodiment of everything wrong during that time period and does it with a delivery that emphasizes the slime. But, he also gives us a villain who isn’t so much one and as we learn someone the audience can relate to more than they want to admit.

Wonder Woman 1984 feels like the enjoyment will be directly inversed to how cynical one is. The more you are, the less you’ll like it. It’s a film that doesn’t take itself seriously and just roles with its ideas. The action sequences are enjoyable, performances a bit over the top, and a story that you just roll with. This is a popcorn film that wants you to not think and just go for the ride. It’s comic book escapism that takes its tone and look from comics delivering popcorn digital enjoyment.

Overall Rating: 8.0

Wonder Woman 3 is a Go with Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot Back

Wonder Woman 1984

Wonder Woman 1984 is a success in the eyes of Warner Bros. and its parent company AT&T. Soon after the film’s release on Christmas Day, the film studio announced a third film has been greenlit. Director Patty Jenkins will return to complete the trilogy with Gal Gadot starring once again. The film “will have a traditional theatrical release”.

Wonder Woman 1984‘s release had a “strong opening weekend performance” according to Warner Bros. chief Toby Emmerich.

The film opened with $16.7 million domestically from 2,100 theaters and $68.3 million from the international box office. That’s one of the best debuts post-COVID.

The film opened in both theaters and the same day for HBO Max viewers. The film studio said that around half of the platform’s retail subscribers watched the film on Friday. Millions more viewed it through cable or wireless access. HBO Max is reported to have 12.6 million active users.

Those stats exceeded expectations in the first 24 hours on the service and the momentum is expected to continue well beyond that.

It’s unknown when the film will make it into production as Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot are working on a film about Cleopatra from PAramount and Jenkins is set to direct a Star Wars film, Rogue Squadron, which is slated for Chrismas 2023.

Wonder Woman 1984 Shines in its First Trailer

The first full trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 is here and it shines in fully embracing the 80s.

Fast forward to the 1980s as Wonder Woman’s next big-screen adventure finds her facing two all-new foes: Max Lord and The Cheetah.

With director Patty Jenkins back at the helm and Gal Gadot returning in the title role, Wonder Woman 1984 is Warner Bros. Pictures’ follow up to the DC Super Hero’s first outing, 2017’s record-breaking Wonder Woman, which took in $822 million at the worldwide box office.

The film also stars Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Kristen Wiig as The Cheetah, Pedro Pascal as Max Lord, Robin Wright as Antiope, and Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta.

Wonder Woman was created by writer William Moulton Marston and artist H G. Peter and debuted in All Star Comics #8 in October 1941.

Wonder Woman 1984 is set to open June 5, 2020.

Patty Jenkins Goes from Directing to Funko Pop!

Celebrate Patty Jenkins, one of the highest-grossing female film directors of all time. Her global and critical smash hit movie, “Wonder Woman,” quickly became part of the zeitgeist of 2017, and her follow up, “Wonder Woman 1984,” is due to hit theaters in Summer 2020. Jenkins’ first feature, “Monster,” swept the awards and garnered an Oscar for best actress, and her award-winning work on many television series includes such critical favorites as “I Am the Night,” “The Killing,” “Arrested Development” and “Entourage.” Bring home Pop! Patty Jenkins!

pop! directors: patty jenkins

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Wonder Woman Fast Forwards to the 1980s as the Film Begins Production

Wonder Woman was one of the biggest hits of last year and it’s not surprising that the film is getting a sequel, Wonder Woman 1984. The movie has begun production and is currently filming in the Washington, DC region as it transforms the area into its 80s self.

Wonder Woman 1984 will find the hero up against The Cheatah played by Kristen Wiig. Chris Pine returns as Steve Trevor a mystery since his character seemingly died in the previous film. Also new to the film is Pedro Pascal and Gale Gadot returns as the hero.

Patty Jenkins is directing the film and she’s joined by director of photography Matthew Jensen, Oscar-nomination production designer Aline Bonetto, and Oscar-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming. Oscar-nominated editor Richard Pearson will cut the film.

In addition to Washington, DC and Alexandria, Virginia, filming will take place in the UK, Spain, and Canary Islands.

Wonder Woman 1984 will be in theaters November 1, 2019.

Movie Review: Justice League

Justice League posterIt’s hard to think of a time recently when a film has had so many expectations riding on it. 

And Justice League will undoubtedly fulfill many of those for a lot of fans of the source material. If you’ve been a fan of what Zack Snyder has done with the DC universe so far, you will continue to enjoy this. If you enjoyed Joss Whedon‘s work on The Avengers but have been “meh” so far on Man of Steel or Batman v. Superman, then you may enjoy yourself here, as the best explanation of Justice League is “Joss Whedon meets Zack Snyder.”

Unfortunately, that also means the film also embodies many of their respective weaknesses, too.

It’s no wonder this feels like a mishmash. Zack Snyder finished principle photography on the film and then had to step away from the project due to family issues. He entrusted finishing the film, including some reshoots and a script polish, to Whedon. Both of their fingerprints are evident in this film. Snyder’s stylized action is key and brings a bombasticity to the fights Whedon has never been capable of. Whedon brings some humor and teases out character elements in little asides that are key to enjoyment of the movie. In a lot of ways, this is a marriage that makes sense. In others. . . well, let’s say it’s easy to tell which parts of the film who was responsible for. It’s sort of like listening to The Beatles’ White Album — Lennon and McCartney were credited for all of their songs together, but it was very clear who took the lead on which track as the two partners styles started to diverge more wildly.

THE SETUP

Superman is dead. (Spoiler alert!) Sensing a moment of weakness and hopelessness, intergalactic conqueror Steppenwolf has returned to Earth to try to conquer it. Yes returned, because apparently he tried this schtick before and was repelled by the combined armies of Amazons, Atlanteans, and men. So he’s going back after them and artifacts he left behind that he needs to conquer the planet.

Batman (Ben Affleck), wracked with guilt over the death of Superman, is trying to put together a team to fight what he sees as this oncoming storm even before he’s aware of Steppenwolf’s presence. When Wonder Woman (Gal Godot) informs him the threat is already here, they redouble their efforts to find new teammates.

This includes Arthur Curry aka Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Barry Allen aka The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Victor Stone aka Cyborg (Ray Fisher). While Bats and Diana get top billing, make no mistake that the other teammates are not sidekicks. Indeed, each gets their due and gets their own fun moments and character arcs.

Yes, Aquaman is really f*#king cool. You would’ve told me 20 years ago I’d be saying my favorite part of a Justice League movie might be Aquaman, I’d have laughed in your face. You’ll believe a man can swim. . . and kick all sorts of ass. Momoa’s comedic skills are put on full display here as well, delivering some of the best lines in the movie.

Speaking of comic relief, The Flash has always been the Justice League’s jokey conscience. In this version, we get a much younger, greener version of the character who is only barely discovering his powers. This is a double edged sword, as it gives the character room to grow and a great story arc, as well as giving Batman a chance to play superhero mentor. Ezra Miller does a great job and tries to steal every scene he’s in, which can sometimes be a little overbearing, but is overall really fun.

Unfortunately, we also get a wildly uneven powerset and skillset. At one moment Flash is literally tripping over himself, and not ten minutes later must perform a demanding run to deliver a static electricity bolt at a precise moment. Characters can be layered and be able to grow and have varying degrees of competence, but we can’t expect someone to be so bad at something one minute and five minutes later perfect at it (without even the use of a sports training montage!) That’s not showing growth and nuance, it’s just sloppy storytelling and characterization.

Speaking of, this brings us to Cyborg. It’s a good thing most audiences aren’t familiar with the character, or else they may have expectations about his powers. Apparently, Cyborg’s main superpower is exposition. He also has the ability to pull a Deus Ex Superhero at any given time. Need your jet to take you from Gotham to Russia in under 2 hours? Cyborg can “hack” your plane and make it happen!  Need to prevent Steppenwolf from assembling his doomsday terraforming machine to conquer earth? Cyborg can “hack” it!!

To be fair, [Minor Spoiler] Cyborg’s origin in the film is tied in to one of the artifacts Steppenwolf is using, but it’s still incredibly convenient. You know what else is incredibly convenient? The Kryptonian spaceship containing all sorts of technology (for the THIRD. MOVIE. IN A ROW.) whose main purpose, again, is to move the plot forward. Equally convenient? Another alien would-be conqueror who wants to terraform the earth.

It’s almost hard for Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and The Flash to shine under the weight of all of this– but they do. It’s just unfortunate that they have to.

WHEDON v. SNYDER: DAWN OF “JUST US” LEAVE

Getting back to the description of the film as “Joss Whedon meets Zack Snyder”– Note that in this description of the film, nowhere is a mention of Patty Jenkins. And that’s with good reason. Jenkins’ Wonder Woman still stands head and shoulders above all other DC movies, including this, as Princess Diana herself does among her teammates. Nowhere here do we match the spirit and fun of Wonder Woman, but we get occasional glimpses of it.

And Wonder Woman is the best part of Justice League. Her mere introduction on screen elicited cheers and applause from the audience, and her opening intro is masterful and fun. No small amount of credit should be given to Whedon, whose trademark handling of “strong female characters” is basically a cliche at this point, but it’s still missing some of what Jenkins brought.

Indeed, the film’s best analogue is Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. That film nearly collapsed under its own weight of trying to move Marvel’s franchises forward, but forgot to really ever be or say anything in and of itself. Justice League sometimes feels that way– an obligatory team up sequel because that’s the next step in the movie franchise plan.

Another apt comparison might be to Superman II, which famously had Richard Donner fired from it and the rest of the film was completed by Richard Lester. The seams are clearly visible on that Frankenmovie where Donner ends and where Lester begins. So too is it clear how much of Whedon’s sardonic essence was brought into this film both in its script and reshoots which he oversaw.  While Snyder stepped away due to family issues (and I’m not going to give him any hard time about that) and entrusted Whedon to finish his movie, the end result is more Donner-Lester than Lennon-McCartney.

But perhaps this is best seen in the film’s most glaring flaw: Steppenwolf is a boring villain. The only thing remarkable about him is he’s big and powerful and he wants to conquer the earth, so we need an equally awesome team to work together to defeat him. In this, he’s a lot like Ultron. . . and, come to think of it, Zod. Unfortunately you don’t have as interesting an actor portraying Steppenwolf as Terrance Stamp, Michael Shannon, or James Spader. He’s not bad, he’s just lackluster. He can join Malekith from Thor: The Dark World as the least interesting superhero movie villains of recent memory.

And yet, both Avengers: Age of Ultron and Superman II are incredibly good, enjoyable films. You might invoke an aphorism about how great power brings great responsibility, and so maybe we should expect even better than this, but that’s a completely different guy– and he has his own track record of mediocre movies he’s trying to fix (and largely succeeding).

A STORY ABOUT SUPERHERO MOVIES

My son is 9. He is a frequent companion of mine to press screenings, especially when superhero movies are concerned. His first movie in the theater was The Avengers in 2012. He liked Batman v. Superman ok, but mostly just the final battle. Fast forward to 2017: He liked Guardians 2, but not as much as the first one. He was not a fan of Spider-Man: Homecoming — let’s be clear, that was a teeanagery John Hughes movie with superheroes in it, so give him a few years. He was not a huge fan of Wonder Woman —ugh. Girls. (His father is hugely disappointed in him for this)

He gave Thor: Ragnarok a “13 out of 10” and begged to go see it again as soon as possible.

He gave Justice League a 9 out of 10. Because if you can just enjoy this movie for its jokes, its iconography, its action, and its broad characters, you can have a great time with it. Truth? It made my inner 9 year old pretty happy, too– the same 9 year old who taped Superman II off of tv and watched it over and over not at all aware of the film’s flaws. It was simply “Kneel before Zod!” time, and everything else was just fine.

There are also moments of sheer brilliance in this movie, some of which we can’t get into without spoilers. DC fans will be happy, though, as other characters are referenced or implied.

And there are some sweet moments. In a flashback that opens the movie, little kids interview Superman for a podcast they’re doing. A sign of the type of hopelessness Steppenwolf and his parademons feed off of are a white skinhead hassling a Muslim shopkeeper and kicking over his fruit stands. Wonder Woman signs autographs for some little girls and I triple dog dare you not to tear up a little at how much it matters to them.

And then there are the after credits scenes. Yes, two of them. So make sure you stay. The one at the very end of the credits made me want a direct sequel as soon as meta-humanly possible.

It’s unfortunate these moments only checker the film rather than deeply permeating it like a piece of finely marbled kobe beef. Instead it adds extra sizzle to the steak, but doesn’t leave the whole thing as tender and juicy as it might otherwise be. But when you’re dining at Snyder & Whedon steakhouse, this is the meal that we expect. And at the end of the day, it’s still a pretty good steak.

3.5 out of 5

Around the Tubes

The weekend is almost here and there’s lots of awesome movies opening! What are folks planning to see this coming weekend? Sound off in the comments below. While you decide on that, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

Around the Tubes

The Beat – Analyzing Marvel’s May Sales: There Are Two Different Marvels and One’s Selling a Whole Lot Better – Thoughts?

CBLDF – Kenya Censorship Board Bans Six “Pro-Gay” Cartoons – Grrrr.

CBR – Patty Jenkins Confirms She Will Direct Wonder Woman 2 – Not too surprising.

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

The Beat – The Abominable Mr. Seabrook

Talking Comics – Edge of the Venomverse #1

ICv2 – Your Name Vol. 1

Around the Tubes

It’s new comic book day! What’s everyone getting? What are you excited for? Sound off and let us know! While you wait for shops to open, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

Around the Tubes

Kotaku – Injustice 2 Pro Proves The Game’s Lightly-Regarded Joker Actually Is A Threat – Who’s playing the game? Have you been enjoying it?

Korea Times – Comic books inform children and their parents about rare diseases – Graphic medicine is becoming a big thing!

CBR – Wonder Woman 2: Jenkins & Johns Already Writing Treatment – This isn’t surprising.

ICv2 – ‘Ghosts’ Wins McDuffie Award for Kids Comics – Congrats!

Publishers Weekly – Layoffs at Papercutz – Wishing the best for those impacted.

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

Newsarama – Crosswind #1

Comic Attack – Harrow County #24

Talking Comics – Jimmy’s Bastards #1

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

“You can save the world.” Those words are spoken by Chris Pine who plays Steve Trevor in Wonder Woman, the latest superhero comic adaptation film that debuts in theaters this week and has all eyes on it for a long list of reasons. While those words focus on Wonder Woman’s role in the film it can also be taken as a statement about the movie as a whole which has the potential to transform cinema or become an excuse that’ll damn it for decades to come. I can’t think of a movie that has more pressure on it and has the potential to shape cinema like this film does.

Played by Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman is the film that many are looking towards to see if DC Comics and Warner Bros. can right their cinematic universe, whether a woman can headline such film and turn it into a blockbuster, and if so how much of a blockbuster can it be. It has the potential to shatter a ceiling that has plagued women led action films and especially comic films which have been dominated by testosterone. And, much like the rocks on the side of a tower as she climbs it, Gadot, director Patty Jenkins, and everyone involved crushes it delivering a film that while not super, delivers consistent entertainment that is one of the best origin story comic adaptations released by any company.

Wonder Woman is fun. Wonder Woman will have you cheering. Wonder Woman will put a smile on your face. Wonder Woman delivers the summer experience and leaves you wanting more and wondering why we’ve waited so long.

Much like Batman v Superman, Wonder Woman is framed through Bruce Wayne picking up from that film and the mysterious photo from World War I. Through that narrative we’re taken through an adventure that begins with Diana at a young age and her growing up until a mysterious individual crash lands in the waters off the shore of their island. Man has found their land of Themyscira the magical and hidden land of the Amazons. With war looming we learn of the mission of the Amazons, to protect the world from Ares who may or may not be behind the “War to End All Wars.”

The use of World War I as the setting, as opposed to World War II like some suggest, shows some of the intelligence that went into the film as the details, no matter how subtle, that create a film that soars. World War I provides the setting and helps with the theme of the birth of technology on many levels as technology is part of the enemy here embodied in Dr. Maru played by Elena Anaya. That extends to the world of the Amazons being shaken by the introduction of man and their technology easily represented by the bows versus guns battle that really kicks the film up a notch and Diana having to enter that new world to save it and defeat Ares.

Again, it’s the details that makes this film soar with its feminism firmly in place. Diana, as she’s introduced to the world of man, questions its norms through her actions, her words, the looks on her face. This is a warrior who fights for equality and freedom and has a pure innocence that radiates. She questions why a woman is a secretary. She questions why a room is just of men. She questions why she’s not allowed to speak up. She’s a stranger in a strange land and through her we’re shown that all of mankind is corrupted in different ways. She’s similar to Leeloo in the Fifth Element in a way. Innocence as a warrior who will save the world from a god.

But, what might have surprised me most is the film’s comedic tones to it all. While it could easily have taken a serious tone in lecturing the evils of man, instead, much of that is addressed through comedy. Much of that is just through Gadot’s actions and facial expressions showing this actress can do more than kick ass. She was surprisingly funny, not something I’ve ever seen in the previous action films I’ve seen her in. She’s helped by Pine who brings his usual charm but Gadot also plays off the brilliants cast including Lucy Davis, Ewen Bremner, Saïd Taghmaoui, and Eugene Brave Rock, with whom the film turns into a version of the Dirty Dozen.

Visually the film is engrossing from the varied Amazonians to a diverse cast, here the use of colors is deliberate taking place mostly in the drab mechanical world contrasted with the beauty of Diana’s homeland. While some have complained of the pallette choices of previous DC films, this one it adds depth and to the story.

Not everything is perfect though, the film falls a little flat in the final boss battle, though almost all comic adaptations have fallen flat in similar ways. The genre hasn’t overcome that villain in storytelling, yet. The story also has a little too much Steve Trevor who acts as Diana’s guide throughout the film and while their missions are on similar paths, at least aren’t one and the same.

95% of the film is fantastic and while it doesn’t do anything superb, it does everything to such a level I left entertained in a way I haven’t been at a film in a long time. This is one of the best comic origin stories to have been released and one of the best comic films to be released hands down from any company. The crowd cheered at the end with smiles, laughter, and energy buzzing about. Wonder Woman defeats the villain in the end but also feels like it will shatter the box office in many ways.

Overall Rating: 9.5

Take part in Gal Gadot & Patty Jenkins Facebook Live Chat

Wonder Woman is designated as United Nations Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls in support of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal No. 5 – to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. The historic moment was live streamed and throughout the day there’s Q&As with individuals associated with the iconic character.

Currently, there’s a Facebook Live Q&A going on with director Patty Jenkins and actress Gal Gadot which you can participate in on the page or below.

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