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Is she with you?

Wonder Woman is good. Like, Marvel Phase 1 good. In fact, it owes such a massive debt to both Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor that the weird and often toxic fandom around DCEU and their obsession with being “better than the MCU” is even more ironic than usual. However, forgetting about those kinds of people as they so richly deserve leaves the question as to whether it should count against this movie that its creative team bothered to finally learn something from their wildly more consistent and successful counterparts at Marvel. I don’t think so. I think good superhero movies with actual shit to say is a tide that raises all the ships. I have given this current generation of DC superhero movies a lot of shit, we all have, but most of us still want them to be good.

And with Wonder Woman, there’s a glimmer of hope that they can be. People are looking for a fluke reason why Wonder Woman is good, like this success couldn’t be replicated without secret handshakes and spinning around in place an arbitrary number of times before sitting down to write the script or pick up a camera or whatever. It’s nonsense. This movie is good because it gives a shit and the people who made it give a shit. They aren’t embarrassed or cynical about this being a sincere story about heroism. They lean into it. On top of that, it’s probably one of the most if not the most culturally significant superhero movies there is. It’s embarrassing at this point, 10 years into the era of shared superhero universes, that we’re only now getting Wonder Woman. I will talk about Wonder Woman‘s feminism and its impact (including some similar ideas), but I also want to point my readers to a great piece by BMD’s Meredith Borders, who offers a nerdy woman’s perspective on the significance of this movie.

That all said, there are definite imbalances and flaws in the movie. I’ll talk about them below, but by and large this movie stands up well against the MCU, or I should probably say alongside it? Honestly, I don’t think many people would be able to make a meaningful distinction between MCU and DCEU properties using Wonder Woman as a basis. And I think that’s okay, but it may disappoint DCEU fans who are looking for something more distinguishing besides just beating Marvel to the punch on having a movie focused on a woman. Wonder Woman focuses on what works best for these kinds of movies: character, humor, symbolism, and heroism.

SPOILERS AHEAD Read the rest of this entry »

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Believe it or not, this bit works a lot better in context than it did in the trailers.

The Wolverine isn’t just the best X-Men movie (First Class has not aged well), it is also nuanced and focused in a way that most comic book superhero movies just aren’t. This makes it feel more like a “real movie” than Origins or even First Class ever did. This is because pandering is kept lower key, characters don’t get thrown in for no reason or just to be cute, and most everything is foreshadowed, setup, justified, and paid off. There is way less “and then” storytelling going on in The Wolverine than has become typical for superhero movies, let alone Hollywood’s foundering big budget output.

Though the third act is clunky and full of bad contrivances that threaten to derail the movie, it’s also the only part where The Wolverine fully indulges its comic book origin. This is going to work for some and be a dealbreaker for others. For me it was a mild mess. I’ll go into more detail later, but for now be satisfied that it’s the third act problems that keep The Wolverine from being legitimately great. It seems like we have to wait a bit longer for a superhero solo outing to be truly awe-inspiring (Man of Steel comes so close), but in the broader context of these types of movies it is hard to be cynical about the satisfaction level that The Wolverine reaches rather handily. Read the rest of this entry »

Batman and Bane are BFFs. Spoiler!

NO SERIOUSLY. I AM GOING TO SPOIL THIS MOVIE. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT YET (WHICH, WTF?) THEN STOP READING THIS NOW. Read the rest of this entry »

And then this happened.

Warning: There will be spoilers

My version of what everyone is saying about The Avengers is that we’re now living in the post-Avengers world. For over 3 years, everyone knew this was coming. The Avengers is a huger part of the public consciousness than it ever was as a comic and now that the movie has finally arrived, and the big ballsy gamble paid off, it’s going to get even bigger. No joke, The Avengers is hands-down the best Marvel movie yet made and is almost hilariously easily the best superhero movie yet made. This is because Joss Whedon was the right guy, with the right cast, and the right amount of money to create a big blockbuster movie that is a total treat, presenting set-ups and pay-offs not only within its own confines, but dependent on 4 years of Marvel movies and 40 years of Marvel comics.

Just how right is Whedon? It won’t even surprise anybody who’s watched shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and especially Angel that the guy is the world’s leading expert on juggling superhuman egos and powers with humanizing vulnerabilities, attachments, and aspirations. While able to juggle the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor, Whedon shows the potentially unique ability to let each character weave their way in and out of the core narrative, making sure that everyone has their moment in the spot light. And yes, this extends to Black Widow, Hawkeye, and especially the Hulk. Not only is Whedon the first filmmaker to give us a Hulk we can stand up and cheer for, he also manages to take an eye-candy non-character like Black Widow (as far as Iron Man 2 had it anyway) and turn her into someone far richer. If you’re well-versed in Joss Whedon’s work, his ability to capture depth in character and theme with a deft and effortless hand isn’t going to surprise you. All I can do is tell you that he pulls it off here, and then some, and for everyone else: this stuff is what makes this movie so very exceptional. Read the rest of this entry »

This movie is full of iconic shots. The more understated ones are the best.

Captain America (which I will refuse to refer to by its unnecessary long-form title) is the best Marvel movie since Iron Man and it’s not even a close race. Whether or not you’ll think it’s the best of them all is really going to come down on your specific taste in tone, character, and what you think makes for a good hero in our cynical, post-modern times. To be honest, I probably prefer a character like Tony Stark to a character like Steve Rogers though it helps that Chris Evans (who is amazing, the end) does his best work yet in the role bringing authenticity to even the gee whiz brand of altruism that Cap has always personified. There’s also that Captain America is just such a good fucking movie.

It’s funny because I was very kind to Thor and it took seeing this entry into Marvel’s shared universe experiment (it’s an experiment until The Avengers hits, after that I might have to call it something else) to force me to reassess that kindness. Thor is a movie that is full of situations, plot points, characterization, etc that could have been better. Watching it, you know that, but you give it a pass because hey they made a fucking Thor movie. There’s Anthony Hopkins. Chris Hemsworth is the real deal! Idris Elba! And so on. But you don’t need to give Captain America a pass. You don’t need to be kind to it. It is confident even brazen at times and it earns that sure-footedness that every other Marvel movie has lacked (to varying degrees) every step of the way. Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t let cool images like this fool you. The crazy space opera stuff is just so much window dressing.

I pride myself on trying to find cool quotes, or at least apt ones, to fit my reviews. The quote I chose this time is a chastisement against what I view to be the thing Green Lantern is the shortest on. There is some sense of scope, and there’s certainly imagination involved in creating the planet Oa or the creature Parralax, but most of this is owed to the comics. I’m hard pressed to give the filmmakers much credit for translating the work of others and doing such a piss-poor job of making even that work, let alone adding anything to the proceedings.

Green Lantern is a by-the-numbers movie. Yes, superhero movies have progressed to the point where there’s a template of bland genericness which seems to be a combination of samey origin stories, daddy issues, and what worked in Iron Man. We get it already, Hollywood, these movies are hip to the fact that they are about ridiculous guys in tights with unlikely names. At the same time, a movie that was much more earnest than Green Lantern yet had many similarities in apparent scope and context is Thor, which is by far the better movie. Read the rest of this entry »

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