“I can save Today. You can save the World” – Wonder Woman (Film Review)

After a few divisive releases the DCEU has finally produced a film that has met the widespread acclaim that had previously alluded them. With audiences and critics both heaping praise upon the movie and Justice League just months away has the DCEU found its mojo?

Diana Prince AKA Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is a demigoddess from the isle of Themyscira, a mythical land populated entirely by women. When US air service Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes off the shoreline Diana learns of the massive conflict encompassing the globe and chooses to leave the isle believing she can bring the war to an end by finding Ares, the God of War, and defeating him.

Off the bat, Wonder Woman is my favourite of the DCEU movies. I liked parts of Man of Steel and Batman Vs Superman, but felt both were weighed down by disappointing third acts. While it would be fair to say Suicide Squad was about as engrossing as a slice of wholemeal bread. Wonder Woman doesn’t have the structural issues that have dogged the other DCEU films, some editing issues aside. Gadot is a convincing action lead, showing a range of ability in both conversational and physical sequences though the screenplay she is reading from doesn’t always equip her with the dialogue to match the expression of her performance. The supporting cast do solid work, with Chris Pine now an experienced performer who has developed into a formidable screen presence in the last couple of years (Into the Woods, Star Trek, Hell or High Water) managing to imbue Trevor with a hopeful optimism underneath his jaded exterior. There is plenty of experience in the rest of the cast with Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielson and numerous other recognisable faces filling out the ensemble. Despite being an improvement Wonder Woman is not a great film and falls into the same trap in its third act with a twist that you can see coming a mile away preceding an uninspired CG filled fight sequence reminiscent of the Doomsday battle from BvS. It’s very much a functional film, a couple of good action sequences (Specifically the one with Wonder Woman “going over the top” in the trenches), some decent jokes scattered throughout and, at its core, a strong relationship between its two leads that is emotionally sincere with a fitting resolution. What it does do is lay a solid foundation for the future. I’m still not sure Justice League will be able balance all the different features of the DCEU, but with Affleck’s Batman and Gadot’s Wonder Woman they have a core that is beginning to develop into something of promise.

This isn’t the amazing blockbuster that some of the reviews have made it out to be but it is in its own way revolutionary. To see a superhero blockbuster with a female protagonist shouldn’t be something newsworthy, but it is. If we want to live in a world where a big budget film about a female superhero, directed by a woman, isn’t a rarity then go to your local cinema and check it out.

3/5

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“You know what they say about the crazy ones…” – Suicide Squad (Film Review)

After a highly mixed response to BvS: Dawn of Justice the DCEU has gotten off to a rather stuttering start which has placed Suicide Squad in the unenviable position of being a flagship release rather than an offbeat niche cinematic offering. Therefore we’ve heard rumours of reshoots being administered to the project in an attempt to add more humour to the film and the marketing departments changed the tone from the original trailers dark and grungy take to a more pop based style adding more fun and colour.

Following the death of Superman from the end of BvS government operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) assembles a team of incarcerated criminals in an attempt to form an expendable tactical squad who could contend with a possible meta-human threat. She recruits the hit-man Deadshot (Will Smith), mentally unstable Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), possessed Witch June Moore/Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), pyrokinetic gangster (Jay Hernandez), Aussie bank-robber Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtenay), deformed man-beast Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and really good climber (There’s little else to say) Slipknot (Adam Beach). Waller puts the squad under the guidance of Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), a by the book military officer, and his bodyguard Katana (Karen Fukuhara). Following a suspected supernatural attack in Midway City the squad are sent out to retrieve a secret package all whilst Harley Quinn’s psychotic lover, the Joker (Jared Leto), attempts to rescue her.

Suicide Squad opens with a promising, energetic opening introducing the large array of characters with a high volume of pop song based montages. However following a relatively strong first act Suicide Squad sadly dissolves into a myriad of bland, uninteresting, action sequences occasionally highlighted by an interesting sequence or two all culminating in an anticlimactic third act finale. Needless to say I was monumentally disappointed by what was one of the most highly anticipated films of the year that despite a promising start stuttered to a halt forty minutes in and promptly self-destructed into a convoluted mess of poorly edited action, horrifically written dialogue and Cara Delevingne performing some sort of gyrating hula dance that opens portals to the sky.

Despite those shortcomings the cast, for the most part, do a good job. Will Smith delivers his most charismatic performance in years as Deadshot and Margot Robbie has an impressive screen presence though her performance is undercut by some poor writing in a lot of her scenes. As amusing as Robbie manages to be at times her dialogue is unfunny and conflictingly designed. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Robbie’s scenes with Jared Leto. Much has been made of Leto’s meticulous preparation in taking over the role of the Joker and he’s featured heavily in the promotional material for the film despite his role being minimal at most. With little more than five minutes of screen time Leto does manage to make a significant impact, a highly disappointing one at that. Leto’s Joker is a gangster, a career criminal, and it would have been interesting to see the character return to his golden age comic book routes with a modern twist. However this Joker is an impotent, posturing, flaccid man-child impossible to find interesting. Despite Leto’s silly voice affectation, his “quirky” mannerisms and David Ayer’s attempts to photograph him with faux artistic intent you never find him intimidating, amusing or anything at all beyond irritating. Perhaps the most ridiculous thing about suicide squad is watching a film in which Jai Courtenay playing a boomerang throwing bank robber is far more watchable than Jared Leto as a green haired gangster wannabe. The most impressive actor in Suicide squad, unsurprisingly, is Viola Davis as the terrifyingly fierce Amanda Waller who displays an air of vile disrepute none of the so called Suicide Squad can match. She’s an intimidating presence and owns every scene she’s in. Though they get little screen time Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Karen Fukuhara leave positive impressions while Joel Kinnaman and Cara Delevingne are somewhat lethargic in their roles lacking any real energy or charisma. There’s also a very funny brief appearance from Ike Barinholtz as a security guard and hopefully we will see more of him in a future film.

 

Suicide Squad is a mixed bag and despite my admiration for the past work of David Ayer and his grungy style seeming a good fit for this project if there is a sequel (which after a massive box office opening there will be) I hope a different director comes on board with a more coherent vision than what he has managed to capture, or at the very least a different screenwriter. At times DOP Roman Vasyanov manages to capture a large variety of interesting plateaus however these too seem to vanish once act two kicks into gear. Despite my disappointment I have hopes for the future of the Suicide Squad, Jared Leto aside, and hopefully the DCEU can find its stride following the huge financial success of the film.

2/5

Dir: David Ayer

Scr: David Ayer

Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Jai Courtenay, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Joel Kinnaman, Karen Fukuhara, Cara Delevingne, Adam Beach, Ben Affleck, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood

Prd: Charles Roven, Richard Suckle

DOP: Roman Vasyanov

Music: Steven Price

Country: USA

Runtime: 123 minutes

Suicide Squad is out now in UK cinemas.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

*Warning – Mild spoiler alert (Nothing that wasn’t in the trailer though)

Having sat back and watched this film get savaged upon release by critics, and succeed exponentially at the box office, I finally had the opportunity to see one of this year’s most anticipated releases. Directed by Man of Steel helmsman Zack Snyder the film chronicles the ideological battle between two of the most famous superheroes in the world, Batman and Superman.

batman-v-superman-poster-ben-affleck

It’s been 18 months since the events of Man of Steel when Superman (Henry Cavill) pretty much totalled Metropolis in his fight against General Zod. Turns out Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) was there that day, and horrified by the destruction of Superman’s altercation with his fellow alien Batman has made it his mission to find and “immobolize” this threat.

Superman has always been a difficult character to translate to screen. His earnest morality makes him troublesome to adapt to complex storylines, especially in a realistic setting such as Snyder’s Metropolis. Cavill does his best to create a compelling character but I don’t feel the script gives him much to work with and his arc seems repetitive and dull. He never seems to develop, and his characterisation is caught between his morality and Snyder’s attempts to create a grittier Superman, resulting in an unclear blandness. On the other hand Affleck’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne as a paranoid, grief stricken man on the edge is much more decisive and interesting. Snyder’s tenacious, visceral; imagery seems to mesh better with Batman’s naturally darker inclinations. This moulded with Affleck’s Batman, who seems like he has worn the mask for so long it has clouded his morality and corrupted his judgement, is one of the films strongest aspects. I wouldn’t call him the definitive Batman, yet, as Keaton, Bale and Conroy have all delivered interesting portrayals of the character in the past, but it’s a very strong start. Jeremy Irons is effortlessly brilliant as Alfred, however his screen time is unjustly limited, while Jesse Eisenberg’s in full scenery feasting mode as a megalomaniacal Lex Luthor. Unlike some I wasn’t as irritated by Eisenberg’s performance and I felt his motivations were one of the clearer threads in an otherwise tangled narrative. Amy Adam’s doesn’t have an opportunity to do much as Lois Lane, again not her fault, whilst Gal Gadot’s small role as Wonder Woman was understandably enigmatic, but I am interested in seeing her in a starring role next year.

Superman

The film’s opening two acts are quite strong, with the occasional foible, but things start to unravel following a rather underwhelming brawl between the two eponymous superheroes. The last act is a bloated mess, rather than a satisfying resolution. Superman’s ultimate weakness in the film isn’t kryptonite but just being boring. The film has to cobble together some giant creature (Yes I know he’s Doomsday) for Superman to have an opponent who can match him, whilst Batman stands behind a wall shooting an occasional grenade like a renegade member of the Gotham SWAT team. The films best action sequence? It’s not Batman v Superman, or the Doomsday fight. It’s when Batman takes on a group of about thirty men in a warehouse. It’s visceral, brilliantly choreographed, and one of the best directed sequences of the film. The character feels vulnerable, the hits feel real, and if Superman took on thirty guys in a warehouse it would be incredibly boring because he could do it without trying.

The film has an impressive style, and I think there are some promising signs in the future for the DC cinematic universe, but Batman v Superman does lack clarity and vision. The ideological battle of the two leads is discarded in favour of shoe horning in a CGI knock off of a LOTR cave troll for Superman, and Wonder Woman to duke it out with, whilst Batman occasionally swoops by on a grappling hook. The final act is a let-down, and may be why the film has received a generally negative reception, but the work up to that point was nicely constructed and investing enough to keep me interested for the future of the Justice League.

*** out of *****

Review summoned to being by Alexander Halsall