Saturday, June 3, 2017

Wonder Woman

I saw Wonder Woman on opening night and while I thought it was pretty good, it has definitely taken me a while to ascertain my true feelings. I often have this problem in life, just not usually with movies. Rotten tomatoes gave it high praise, and while poignant and entertaining, I'm leaning towards the fact that perhaps it was given a little more praise than it deserved. However, I am in it for the long haul (development of the DC universe), so I'm primarily happy that DC didn't squander their first chance to delve into the origins of one of the Justice League's core characters. After all, Marvel's introduction of Iron Man, and subsequent Avenger movies was pretty brilliant.

Firstly, let me start off by saying that I am a D.C. fan. In fact, I'm still upset at the cosmos for not having been born as Bruce Wayne. And while Superman Vs Batman (BVS) received undue criticism from fan boys and critics alike, in contrast, I think Wonder Woman may have received a slight boost in its rating assessment. However, when juxtaposed with the rushed, poor plot-driven, character soup that was Suicide Squad, this movie may have well been Lord of the Rings.

By the time Wonder Woman's release date was eminent, I had gotten over the fact that they casted a slightly skinner Amazonian demi-god warrior princess than I would have liked, ultimately because her cameo in BVS was spot on. Gadot, a former Israeli soldier, is buff enough for a slender 5'10" frame I suppose, but more importantly, she is stoic, elegant, and believably concerned with defending mankind...a staple sentiment that is shared by all heroes...although in a way, unique to the Princess of Themyscira. I think Gadot accurately portrayed the perfect combination of innocent and warrior.

Unlike the destruction of Krypton, or the murder of the Waynes, Princess Diana's upbringing is a
lesser known story, and for the most part, the establishment of her warrior roots was apropos, although I think a little more could have been done to illustrate that Wonder Woman is arguably the best comic book combatant in existence.

As a family hero movie, Wonder Woman was mostly perfect. Chris Pine stated in an interview that it's a different comic hero movie than its Marvel counterparts, as some of it is both a love story, as well as a coming of age story. Some of the scenes deviated from the overall feel of the film teetering on the verge of being campy (e.g. picking up a tank during a fight as her hair flows in the wind and fire consumes the background), but otherwise the action sequences were well choreographed, there was strong chemistry among the characters, and as much light-hearted humor as one can expect during World War I.

I think my biggest issue with this movie, and I'm beginning to realize that this could be a systemic issue with all of DC's movies thus far, is either the selection and/or characterization of the villain. One of the many problems with Suicide Squad, was that there were two antagonists, only one of which had a plausible purpose, and neither had a particularly compelling final battle. Similarly, Wonder Woman's foe was both a little far-fetched, and equally anti-climactic. Without divulging too much, I feel as though Diana was never in any real danger and the director, while admittedly having a lot to balance and live up to, didn't quite create the necessary suspense and sense of urgency analogous to a super villain intending to unleash a dangerous gas on humankind, or one in tune with the capabilities of the God of War.
All that being said, the cinematography was striking and the fight/battle sequences were well-timed, credible, and engaging. The creativity in demonstrating Diana's powers was sufficient, although I felt some was left on the table with truly displaying her full battle potential (e.g., boomerang tiara). However, her naiveté aligns with the idea that the Amazon princess is still discovering who she is, and is not yet fully battle tested.

In the end, Patty Jenkins and Zack Snyder delivered a solid origin story that successfully lays the ground work for subsequent DC movies and a firestorm of consumer paraphernalia unrivaled since Batman Begins. Wonder Woman is definitely worth the cost of the ticket and its battle cry sets the tone for the season of summer blockbusters. I give this movie a rating of three and half out of five brownie points, and I think I may be lassoed into seeing it again...enjoy!

Humpty Dumpty

As I sat on my patio this morning sipping coffee and reading my new book, Trevor Noah's "Born a Crime", I heard a cacophony of little birds chirping just above. One doesn't need to be from the jungles of Panama to discern that these frantic signals were not jubilation, but an alarm of danger. Seconds later, the ominous bully descended upon the tree's canopy, his black wings flapping aggressively like loose window shutters in a hurricane.

Determined to put up a fight, the little birds desperately chirped louder and flew from branch to branch attempting to confuse and startle the dark invader. The crow remained stoic and unexcitable, calmly surveying the maze of branches and leaves while the tree's inhabitants flurried about in desperation. Looking up from my book, I sat paralyzed as I pondered the possibility of intervening. Should I let nature take it's course, or attempt to help the birds? What if the crow hadn't eaten in weeks, and was resorting to petty theft for a respite?

While initially letting the universe unfold as it may, in the end, I decided I did not like the menacing crow causing a raucous and disturbing the birds, even if their chirping often wakes me well before my alarm is set to go off. Feeling a sense of kinship with my neighbors, I stood up and shouted at the crow and waved my book as intimidatingly as one can from 15 feet below in pajama pants and a cardigan. I'm certain the woman pushing a stroller as she walked by thought I was crazy.

Despite our synchronous teamwork, the ruse proved futile. As though a hand reaching in to a shallow, clear brook to retrieve a shiny gem, the crow's beak plucked a nest I hadn't noticed from a branch and absconded to a nearby rooftop with its prize. I had acted too late. Disappointed, I sat back down, but kept my eye on the bird as I watched it shake apart the expertly crafted nest to sift through its contents. Luckily, nothing fell out. I smiled sipping the last of my coffee, and after I was certain the bird noticed I was giving him the stink eye, I returned to the memoir of a baby born to interracial parents during apartheid....a much calmer affair indeed.

I have since left my perch on the patio, but can still hear the birds. Their chatter seems to have calmed a bit, and now sounds like spouses arguing in a flooded basement over not having purchased the other house. Surely the female bird was right...I assume her partner will have a long day of reassembling what remains of their tousled abode. At least they didn't lose anything far more difficult to know, like health insurance, or...say a planet.