Wonder Woman (2017)

The one shining light in the utter mess that was Batman vs Superman (2016) was the brief appearance of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). And with this release, she not only gets her own backstory, but also makes a bit of history with the first female-led superhero movie.

Usually I’m all about the entertainment, the story, the visuals, but I think it’s really quite important to see this movie as a bit of a Big Deal. Female superhero lead, female director – and if you think that’s not important (I just don’t think that it should be) then you only have to scratch the surface very gently to see what a difference it actually makes.

You might come away from a viewing with a sense that it was a bit different from every other action pic – not in terms of story, which is fairly run of the mill and predictable, but when you stop to ponder (or, just read any of the numerous reviews) then there is a shocking “why is this still a big deal?” feeling. Yes, 21st century, and this is possibly the first movie where the woman gets to be the hero full stop – she’s not there to be a token, she doesn’t pose with her butt facing the camera. The other Amazons are amazingly kick ass – and oh, they might actually be over 30, shock horror. It was a AMAZING!!

Now, I must admit it’s taken me a while to understand this. I came out of the cinema thinking, “Well, yes, easily the best thing DC has managed, but that was a low bar.” The lack of a ‘new’ storyline left me a little ‘meh’, but it was still rolicking good fun.

But then I started reading some of the opinion pieces. And my view changed from, “C’mon, it’s just a superhero movie!” to “Oh my god, why did I not see how much we needed this take on this flipped version of this story!?”. A woman being strong but real. Why the hell is that still such a big deal to see on screen?

Anyway. You don’t have to feel or think about any of this to enjoy the movie. It’s about an Amazon princess, Diana, getting her first glimpse of the outside world and refusing to let the injustice continue without trying to fix things. There are some brilliant action scenes. The opening location of Themyscira is something very different to what we’ve been given in these kind of movies before, which is ace.

You also don’t need to wade through the dull Superman, BvS, or Suicide Squad to see this one – a huge plus. The only link is the photo Diana is sent right at the beginning, which was used in BvS to show Bruce Wayne that Wonder Woman had been around, kicking butt, for longer than he had. The tone here is much lighter, if still not Marvel-funny, but all in all a very very welcome change, in so many respects. Absolutely recommended.

Released: 1st June 2017
Viewed: 3rd June 2017
Running time: 141 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 9/10 – I can’t rave all of that above and not give it an extra point for cultural significance. From a freakin’ comic book movie o_O

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Suicide Squad (2016)

The trailer looked good. The critics disagreed. The question became: how bad is Suicide Squad?

Not bad at all, in my opinion! It’s definitely flawed, but going in with such low expectations (and ice cream! Improves any movie! ;)) there was a lot of fun to be had here.

The premise: following the events in Batman v Superman (2016), the powers that be are worried that they cannot hope to survive against a meta-human (not that they have really been identified in the DCEU (expanded universe) yet, I believe?) who decides to be ‘foe’ rather than Superman friendly. Step forward shadowy government agency, Argos, and its morally dubious head, Amanda Waller, with a plan so bad it might just be good: put together a team of the worst criminals, and let them fight the battles the army can’t. Besides, if it all goes wrong, they can just “throw them under the bus.” Charming.

The first big flaw of the movie comes from the introductions to this Task Force X. It’s a looong line of intros. And the importance of the characters is spelled out by the time they get, speeding up as we go through the list. So, Will Smith’s Deadshot gets a lot of time – and the character gets a backstory and some motivation and roundness. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn also gets a lot of time, and I’d argue is the most interesting character – perhaps too interesting, as this intro barely scratches the surface of her background. And then it starts to get a little blurrier, until a couple of members just turn up, no intros at all. Hmm.

Such is the length of these introductions that the move into ‘actual plot’ is rather badly handled. I’m sure it was at least an hour of movie before I got past that feeling of still being in pre-story mode, even though the main mission had begun. Once we’re past that blip, though, SS manages to be a rather fun action movie. It’s not as dark as previous DC offerings, although much grimier than anything from Marvel. I’d read of reshoots to put more humour in, and if there was originally less than there is here (a bare minimum to lift the story and easily the highlights), I’m really glad they did!

Best character of the movie for me was easily the utterly deranged Harley Quinn. Alas, the handling of the Joker subplot is also the worst thing in the movie – this is SO iconic, a story that would easily be a whole movie, that relegating it to a background thing feels just way off. You should never feel you’ve seen a less interesting part of the story than the one dangled just offscreen.

Overall: go in with low expectations (and snacks!) and this can be a fun bit of entertainment. Be prepared, though, for grumbling about how it could have been quite a bit better handled! Still, I liked it more than the Superman and Batman movies that have preceded it, and perhaps have some extra hope for the DCEU.

Released: 5th August 2016
Viewed: 13th August 2016
Running time: 123 minutes
Rated: 15

My rating: 7/10 – I’m feeling generous!