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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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The power of flight means a lot to me.

Man of Steel is the movie that will do for Superman what Batman Begins did for Batman. This does not mean it’s perfect. Like with Batman Begins and due to their having the same writer, there are stretch-marks here and there that feel like the pangs of a mighty child whom suffered a difficult birth. Man of Steel is probably a much better film than Begins, however, if only because as a directorial effort it far surpasses the often clumsy Begins. The only reason I compare these movies is because it is the Dark Knight trilogy of Christopher Nolan’s that most directly informs the project. This ends up coming up more as a writing comparison, because of David Goyer, than anything else.

Zack Snyder is making movies at his peak right now and Man of Steel is the finest distillation of his tremendous, possibly unique strengths and sensibilities. He knows what kinds of things people want to see in a Superman movie and he was absolutely the right guy for this job. He understands instinctively how to shoot and score and direct in a way that keeps this movie both epic and grounded which seems to me like a very difficult balancing act. The purest joys of Man of Steel are derived from its cinema, not it’s story. For one thing, Man of Steel is a sensory slam dunk with constantly beautiful imagery accompanied by rousing, grandiose music. I said the same sort of things about Sucker Punch and probably about Watchmen but here is a creativity backed by serious resources and unhampered by the demands of adaptation or of authorial vision. Free from the responsibilities of writing the movie or slavish translating a beloved, singular story, Snyder is allowed to play in the sandbox like the visionary architect that he is.

All credit where it’s due, Goyer is consistently a writer whose work I struggle with liking. His pretentious, on the nose themes and speeches and indulgence in cheesy, pandering one-liners that induce cringes instead of the limp grins they’re going for. That said, Goyer frequently takes ideas and concepts from comics and makes them work on a very different kind of paper. He’s the guy who made Blade work (though he deep-sixed that franchise when he tried to direct it) and he’s likely who we have to thank for fucking ninjas in Begins and the best-written (let alone performed) Joker we’re ever likely to get. Man of Steel is not free from his irritating indulgences: they have been pared down making cringey shit few and far between but also resulting in that shit being even more noticeable and jarring than usual. I’ll get to specific examples later.

FROM THE DEPTHS OF SPACE COME SPOILERS. GO EASY, STAR-SAILOR. Read the rest of this entry »

SUCKER PUNCH

The Lesson is: Do not believe what they are saying about Sucker Punch.

You heard me. The best most people are saying about Zack Snyder’s first (?) original movie is that it’s an ambitious failure. The general consensus is that it sucks, it’s like a videogame, it has no story, yada yada yada. It’s all pretty much bullshit. Sucker Punch is a total success and maybe the most exciting movie I’ve seen this year not only for what it proves about Snyder’s skills as a visionary not only visually but sonically, but what it sets out to do thematically. It’s actually hard to know where to start with this one, so bear with me and hopefully we can get there together. Read the rest of this entry »

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