It’s been 70 years since we last saw Diana Prince (Gal Gadot). She’s working at the Smithsonian in cultural anthropology and archeology, she’s doing her hero work on the down-low, and she’s been missing her sweetie, Steve. She’s been missing him for 70 long years.
Her new colleague at work, the meek and self-conscious Barbara (Kristen Wiig), is a gemologist doing a little investigative work for the FBI. The stone itself is worthless, but it claims to be a wish-granter, a dream stone, and both Barbara and Diana make wishes on it before they realize its true potential. Diana, of course, wakes up beside Steve (Chris Pine), but Barbara wakes up cool and powerful and strong, like Diana, although wishing to be like Diana does come with a little more than she bargained for.
Anyway, Max Lord (Pedro Pascal), greedy 80s business man, seemed to know the stone’s possibilities very well, which is why he cozies up to Barbara in order to snatch it. With infinite wishes at his disposal, Lord becomes overwhelmingly powerful and practically unbeatable – especially since the wishes seem to extract something from the wisher, and Diana’s been growing weaker. Barbara, meanwhile, is growing stronger, but also shrewder, meaner. And Lord’s finding ways to increase his reach, taking his avarice international, influencing entire nations, not to mention enemies.
In fighting Max Lord, Wonder Woman is fighting pure greed, corruption, and the world’s obsession with more. Wonder Woman has always been more than capable at taking down villains with her expertly applied kicks and punches and of course her trusty lasso. But how do you fight concepts, ideology, or human nature? This presents an interesting challenge that even Wonder Woman hasn’t seen before.
Gal Gadot is of course absolute perfection as both Diana and Wonder Woman. Having spent the past 70 years among humans, she is of course more jaded, more knowing, but she’s also more human herself, subject to the same loneliness that anyone would be if they’d been grieving for seven decades, and reluctant to get close to anyone because of it. She’s become more familiar with her strength and her abilities, and puts her weapons (tiara, lasso) to greater use. To win, Wonder Woman will have to flex not just her muscle, but also her ingenuity, and harder still, her faith in humanity’s inherent goodness despite plenty of evidence otherwise.
Kristen Wiig is well-cast as Barbara Minerva, a woman who is tired of being overlooked. As she transitions into the film’s co-villain, Cheetah, her confidence and her newfound powers race to outstrip each other, and we see her grow into her new role, wearing her new power like a mantle, like the fur coats she’s begun to adopt.
As for Pedro Pascal, it’s just nice to see his face for once. He understands that Max Lord doesn’t have to be evil to be a great villain. Villains who go around murdering and pillaging are easy to identify and unanimously reviled. But a villain who gives the people what they want will get away with a whole lot more. Since eliminating Lord would also mean negating their own wishes, people like Cheetah, who would otherwise perhaps not be on his side, are willing to fight for him to protect their own interests. Pascal puts a charming face on greed and desire, convincing an awful lot of people to wish for things they probably know they shouldn’t.
Director Patty Jenkins’ action sequences remain divine, but she’s not afraid to remind us that Wonder Woman, unlike some super heroes who shall remain nameless, is about more than just brawn or fancy gadgets; she’s got heart, and not just her own strong sense of right and wrong, but an impressive belief that ultimately humanity will share it and choose it as well.
In flashbacks, we saw a young Diana (Lilly Aspell) competing in Amazonian warrior games, where she learned that she couldn’t win until she was truly ready. What will the grown up Diana be asked to give in order to win, what sacrifices will she make for people who will never know or appreciate it, and how will she fight differently when she actually has something to lose? Seventy years among humans will change a woman, even a Wonder Woman.
If you’re in the U.S., Wonder Woman 1984 is available to stream on HBO Max. In Canada, it’s available as a premium rental. Stick around for a mid-credits scene.
Zach Galifianakis is our tour guide as we enjoy a behind the scenes look at the set of his wildly successful talk show, Between Two Ferns. It’s completely fake of course. And wonderful.
Zach’s “show” is a series of web videos you can find literally anywhere on the internet but most of all on Funny or Die. It looks like a bit of amateur public access television that somehow manages to book very high profile celebrities and seat them betwixt the eponymous two potted ferns. He has interviewed the biggest names: Brad Pitt, Justin Bieber, even Obama, but the thing that makes people seek out his videos is that he uses it as an excuse to insult celebrities to their face. He uses his own name but the interviewer character is extremely antagonistic and recklessly inappropriate. As Will Ferrell states, we’re laughing at him, not with him.
The movie’s premise, which is as thin as they come, is just Zach hitting the road in order to film 10 rapid-succession shows in order to achieve his ultimate goal of a network late night show. The plot, if you want to call it that, is flimsy because it’s just a vehicle for random acts of bizarre humour. You either like it or you don’t. It’s on Netflix so it’s low risk, but this is not going to win over any new fans and isn’t trying to. It’s just a 10 course dinner rather than its usual light snack. Can you take that much fern? Can anyone?
“People find you unpleasant,” this according to David Letterman, and he’s putting it lightly. This version of Zach Galifianakis is an asshole, but that’s the fun of his little show: it subverts the usual softball style of celebrity interviews. It looks Jon Hamm straight in the eye and asks whether Bradley Cooper’s success “will open doors for other hot idiots?” If you think it must be hard to get those insults out while remaining deadpan, stay tuned through the credits for proof.
For the life of me I cannot get the title of this movie right. I’m so used to Wreck-It Ralph wrecking stuff, not breaking it. So I’m trying to adjust to this relatively small change, but it’s been tough, and that must mean I’m getting old.
In related news, my knee started hurting this week for no reason at all. Granted, it worked out just fine because I used my knee pain as a convenient excuse to stop cleaning the kitchen and start playing Red Dead Redemption 2, but still. Making me feel even older is that I just learned it has been six full years since Wreck-It Ralph was released and I never would have guessed it had been so long.
Just like in the real world, six years have passed for Ralph (John C. Reilly), Princess Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) and the rest of the gaming gang, who have all settled into comfortable routines inside Litwak’s Family Fun Center & Arcade. Sure, the routine may be a little boring, but Ralph is happy with his predictable days and nights, wrecking (sorry, breaking) Fix-It Felix’s building by day, and hanging out with Vanellope at night. Vanellope, on the other hand, feels trapped by her routine, having mastered the three available race tracks in her game. When Ralph tries to alleviate Vanellope’s boredom by building a new track, things get both wrecked and broken, and Ralph and Vanellope are forced to explore the arcade’s newly-installed internet in search of a new steering wheel for Vanellope’s game.
Of all the things in the world besides my knee (which is feeling much better, thanks for asking, though if Jay asks tell her I need a few more days off to fully recover), there is probably nothing that makes me feel older than not knowing any of the memes that have come out in the last decade, except for the select few that Jay has taught me about after realizing I had no idea that (insert hilarious meme) was a thing. And, as you may have guessed, there are a lot of memes referenced in Ralph Breaks the Internet. The nice thing is, I felt like Ralph (with some minor help from the creative team) went out of his way to ensure I didn’t feel old for not knowing that (bee puns) were a thing. Ralph simply made me laugh at his bee pun, and at all of his attempts to help Vanellope get her new steering wheel.
Ralph’s antics would have made for a decent sequel just on their own, but Ralph wasn’t alone. Every one of the supporting players in Ralph Breaks the Internet make their own contribution to the comedy. I was particularly impressed at how the Disney princesses were incorporated, not (just) as a shameless product placement but as a way to teach Vanellope about her hidden princess talents.
The only criticism I might make is that the movie probably included a few too many characters and references, and ends up a bit long as a result. But don’t ask me what I would have cut out, because everything that’s here is consistently good and often great. Ralph Breaks the Internet is a very clever and accessible comedy that will provide plenty of laughs for everyone, regardless of age and regardless of whether you’ve ever heard of a screaming goat. What a wonderfully comforting thing that is (the accessible comedy, not the goat’s screams). It made me feel young again, a feeling that should last until my next random ache. Meaning I may need to see this one again very soon.
“What movie are you seeing?” the waiter asks.
“Justice League!” I answer with all the enthusiasm of someone who has been waiting for this night and all the sheepishness of someone who is fully aware that this movie is going to suck.
“I didn’t even know that was out yet. Are you a fan of Marvel?”.
“DC,” I quickly correct him.I remind myself not to be offended, that it’s an easy mistake for anyone with a life to make.
“Whatever,” he replies.
That’s the thing though. It’s not whatever. For many comic fans, the rivalry between the two publishers is as bitter as that between Star Trek and Star Wars. And I’m a DC guy. It’s not that I can’t admit when Marvel does something right. I can admit that their movies- especially within their respective shared universes- have generally been much better than DC’s. It’s just that Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and Spider-Man will never mean as much to me as Superman, batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg, or even Aquaman.
I’m such a DC guy that I could even find something to love in the colossal messes that were Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad. I have rooted for this universe since it began with Man of Steel and celebrated when they finally did something amazing with Wonder Woman. But there’s something about Justice League that’s hard for even me to defend.
Maybe I’m just getting tired of making excuses for mediocre movies. Or myabe it was just different sitting next to Jay. I couldn’t help putting myself in her shoes and worrying about how painful this must be for her. Because a fan can find lots love if they’re feeling generous but those who haven’t read the comics are sure to have a harder time. Those who are unfamiliar with the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg are counting on this movie to give them a reason to care about them and it’s here where Justice League fails the most.
Ben Affleck continues to be a much better Batman than I ever would have expected him to be and he’s in most of the film’s best scenes. Wonder Woman continues to feel like a fully realized character mostly thanks to Gal Gadot’s performance and all the good work that she and Patty Jenkins did in her much better stand-alone film. The new characters are a little more awkward. Ezra Miller’s charm goes a long way in making Barry Allen/The Flash likeable (although, for the record, TV’s Flash is better) but his backstory feels vague and rushed and we don’t know nearly enough about who he even is or what makes him special. Aquaman and Cyborg get barely any introduction at all. They’re just there.
The good news is that Justice League is shorter and more focused than Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad were and is almost never boring. The bad news is that it’s not nearly as exciting as it should be, especially considering what a dream come true this big-screen live action team up really is for me and so many others. There’s just not nearly enough attention paid to what makes these characters great and what’s worse is that there is even less attention paid to their relationships with each other. The Zack Snyder era of DC movies has not ended on a high note.
It pains me to say this so I’m just going to spit it out first thing: I hated Wonder Woman.
The film opens with young Diana, the only child living in idyllic Themyscira, a secret island free of men, where all the women are trained to be warriors strong in mind and body. Her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) is the fiercest of them all, the greatest warrior the Amazons have ever known, and she’s in charge of training. Though Diana’s mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) wants to protect her daughter and extend her childhood, Antiope teaches Diana in secret. Themyscira is hidden from mankind, but you never know when the enemy might arrive. Themyscira is lush and beautiful. Filmed on location in Italy, the production is fantastic. The opening scenes where the diverse population of Amazonian women are all training with Antiope are gorgeous. The fight choreography is top notch, with particular sequences slowed down to showcase athletic feats. But we all know utopia can’t last forever, and as soon as Diana (Gal Gadot) is grown, one man does penetrate their paradise: a pilot named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) is shot down in their waters. Diana saves him from the wreckage but they’re pursued by Germans. An epic battle between Amazons and Germans unfolds on the beautiful beaches of Themyscira. The Amazons fight unlike anything anyone has ever seen, but the Germans are armed with guns and the Amazons suffer loss. Steve Trevor tells the women that the world is at war (WWI to be exact) and that millions of lives have already been lost. Aghast, Diana swears to accompany him back to where he came from so she can help bring peace, as is her sacred duty.
What did I hate so much about these first 20 minutes that sound so well crafted? I hated that it made me cry, and more than once. I wasn’t prepared to feel so emotional seeing Themyscira, a mythical land only for women, where all these badass ladies are just going about their business. I’ve never seen that on the screen before, and I thought: so this is what men feel when they watch a movie, when they see images of themselves being heroes. I felt proud, and moved. Each woman is highly capable and specialized but in battle, there is no ego; they work together. The costumes are not sexualized as I feared, but instead they highlight muscular shoulders and toned legs. There can be no doubt that the Amazons are capable of truly anything. The fight sequences are among the best you’ve ever seen, the hand-to-hand combat precisely choreographed with as much grace as intensity. And it made me cry to see it. And I felt ashamed to cry, as a woman in 2017, ashamed that it’s taken this long to see a woman successfully take up the mantle of hero, and a woman behind the camera as well, capably directing a tentpole film. Patty Jenkins has so much unfair pressure placed on her shoulders but she’s made a movie that’s close to perfection, that far surpasses anything the DC Extended Universe has produced so far.
After such a soundly convincing start, I could relax and enjoy the rest of the film as intended, feeling confident that my entire gender wouldn’t be blamed if this movie was anything less than spectacular. It is fucking spectacular. Wonder Woman, though never called that in this movie, is a sight to behold. Gal Gadot is well-cast, which has proven to be of utmost importance in these franchises. We have to believe that she is a hero. Her comedic timing works just as well as her dramatic turns. And she’s got great chemistry with Chris Pine.
Wonder Woman is long overdue for a stand-alone movie as she is truly a phenomenal superhero. The action sequences in this film are among the best, a delight to watch, full of energy, strength and ferocity, as good and frankly better than the stuff we we’ve seen from other comic book movies lately. And arguably, the reason she’s so strong is because she welcomes her softer side. Believing in fighting honourably, while looking your enemy in the eye, Diana never picks up a gun. She runs toward machine guns with only a shield and her cuffs to protect her. And she fights from a place of love. Not duty, not fury, not patriotism or revenge. She fights because she loves. Male superheroes seem to think that love is a weakness, but Wonder Woman knows better: love is the greatest motivator you could ever have.
This is a completely unnecessary comedy that I’m feeling kind of forgiving toward because I watched it on a plane. Had I paid money to see it, I’d be spitting nails [What a weird expression. Should I just be squirreling away nails in my cheeks to have handy should some unacceptable circumstances arise?]. But I had some time to kill and only Air Canada’s seat back entertainment system for diversion. I briefly considered counting the rings in my fingernails to determine how old I was. I also flirted briefly with learning the “safety” card by heart, just to impress people with my emergency plane procedure knowledge, but in the end, no, I turned on a movie, mostly to drown out the phlegmatic cough that was going on in front of me, but a little out of curiosity and a certain about of what-the-heckness.
Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher play a married couple who are very cozy in the little rut they’re in. The kids are away at summer camp but they still can’t figure out what they should do differently. And no one’s talking about the big hairy elephant in the room: how does a Grade A hottie like Fisher settle for Zach Galifianakis? It’s not just that he has pervasive neck beard. His character doesn’t make serious bank, he isn’t independently wealthy, and he’s about as charming as a toddler who ate cake for breakfast and is now hearing the word No for the first time. He’s a buffoon. He’s what the word buffoon was invented for. It’s under these questionable circumstances that they meet their new neighbours, the Joneses.
Gal Gadot and Jon Hamm have just moved in next door. Isla Fisher is immediately suspicious of them: why would any suburban married couple still have the hots for each other? They travel the world, they engage in public displays of affection, they dress well and have nice things. The true secret of their success is that they don’t have kids. But since this is the movies, they’re also international spies, which Isla somehow intuits despite the fact that no one else has ever breached their cover in all their years in the field.
The spies are targeting Zach’s work, so of course he gets sucked into an operation that’s well over his head. And that’s not a knock on him; he is NOT a spy, never claimed to be, and it’s kind of unfair that with only an expensive suit for cover, he suddenly has to go head to head with super-baddie Patton Oswalt. Haha, that’s such a ridiculous thing I just said. Zach Galifianakis vs Patton Oswalt: it’s a showdown I wouldn’t mind seeing, just not like this.
In summation: nothing super wrong with the performances. The story’s just flat. There’s no polish. A few laughs, yes, but the simple fact is that keeping up with the Joneses has never been this easy.
Just when you thought the title of this movie was as pretentious as it could get, Zack Snyder delivers a pre-movie PSA on spoilers. I was offended. What else is the internet for aside from spoilers and porn? And since Snyder and crew spoiled some key parts about this movie in the title (namely the Batman VERSUS Superman part) and trailers (revealing the big bad guy), it was doubly ridiculous to waste time on a PSA that I could have spent watching a post-credits scene (SPOILER ALERT: THERE ISN’T ONE).
There’s really not much to spoil anyway. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is exactly what you’d expect. The script is so cookie cutter and routine that the writers could skip exposition or backstory whenever convenient (and they take full advantage). But don’t worry, Batman fans! SPOILER ALERT: you will get to see Thomas and Martha Wayne get gunned down outside a movie theatre. Because we haven’t seen that often enough…
At least we don’t rehash Superman’s origin (thank Krypton). But (SPOILER ALERT) we don’t get any hint of Lex Luthor’s origin or his motivations, other than (SPOILER ALERT) he’s evil and crazy and rich and smart and an orphan. It’s the same way with Wonder Woman – the no-origin part, not the evil crazy rich smart orphan part (as far as I know). That left me to guess as to why Lex hated everyone to the point he was willing to cause the destruction of Metropolis and Gotham (which, SPOILER ALERT, are right next to each other in a very lazy move by the writers), and why a literal greek goddess (I’m assuming) is conveniently hanging out in these twin cities waiting for an opportunity to (SPOILER ALERT) don her metal bathing suit.
One final SPOILER ALERT: despite all its issues, Batman v. Superman is actually fun in its brainless way. Batman’s costumes look great, the much-anticipated fight between the two titular characters is awesome, and the stakes are suitably high by the final battle that Wonder Woman’s participation feels like a necessary deus ex machina (and seeing all three on screen together was worth the price of admission).
So if nothing else, Batman v. Superman accomplishes its objective. It made me want to see the Justice League movie. A lot. And despite my griping, Batman v. Superman is not nearly as bad a film as many critics would have you believe. I mean, it’s your typical trashy comic book movie but it delivers exactly what it promised. Judge it as art if you want, and on that scale it fails, but so does every Marvel movie! Genre fatigue is the only reason I can think of to explain the backlash, and to that I say: if you are tired of superhero movies, you will not enjoy this film. But you also won’t enjoy any “critically acclaimed” superhero movies past, present or future. And if you are still up for more, well, see this one, and then start saving your money for May’s double feature of Captain America: Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse. Both of which will probably be much better reviewed EVEN THOUGH THEY WILL BE THE SAME EXACT MOVIE AS BATMAN V. SUPERMAN. Critical scores are so meaningless.
And on that note, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice gets a score of seven holy trinities out of ten.