Film Review: Wonder Woman

By Olivia Armstrong (@starcadet96)

The general mantra among comic book and movie fans at the announcement of a new DC movie these days seems to be “please, don’t suck”. That mantra was amplified tenfold with the announcement of Wonder Woman. Not only has DC had a mixed reception with audiences and a fairly poor reception with critics since Christopher Nolan’s Batman days, but this is the first time DC was finally putting their biggest heroine front and centre on the big screen.

There’s been a long debate about female-led comic books movies and how few there are and how the ones that do exist tend to be on the terrible end of things (see; Catwoman, Elektra, Supergirl (the movie, not the well-received tv series) etc.). There’s obviously been plenty of bad adaptations of male superheroes as well but that still hasn’t stopped them being made on a consistent basis, whereas developers and focus groups seemed to determine the tired stereotype that female-led superhero movies don’t do well because the focus was on a female character and not because the movies themselves were simply awful and poorly made. So there was a lot riding on this movie; not only for DC to redeem themselves with critics and audiences but to show that a profit could and would be made from a film about arguably the most well-known female superhero of all time.

Despite only having a small role in one of DC’s previous films Batman Vs Superman, many audiences and critics who disliked the film admitted that Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was easily the best and most exciting part of the film and it reawakened the desire among fans for her to have her arguably long-overdue solo movie. Come June 2017, it finally appears that DC may have cracked their questionable track record and for the first time in a while have delivered a truly great superhero movie.

The key element of what makes this film succeed where previous DC films have failed is all in the tone and presentation. DC have received a lot of criticism in their previous films for being too focused on being edgy and dark and as a result coming off as unpleasant and boring. With this film, however, the lead character’s idealism and strength are what drives the narrative. The tone is lighter, incorporating some genuinely humorous elements in the first half but the darkness and grit are still there, distancing it from its competitor Marvel. The film is set during WW1 and doesn’t shy away from showing that, with both the visuals and themes of Diana’s (Wonder Woman) character arc as she learns about the nature of humanity and war when she leaves her peaceful life among the Amazons to help the people of Earth.

And yet, this darkness does not swallow the film due to the spirit of the character. Instead of annoyingly edgy and nihilistic, the film opts for being actively hopeful and inspiring. It looks at this darkness and actively rejects it, which is far more inspired than any preachy rant about the dark nature of humanity which has been heard umpteen times. Just the visual in the scene of Diana rising and walking through no man’s land against soldiers and gunfire feels like a powerful sigh of catharsis to those who claimed this film couldn’t work. It perfectly exemplifies the strength, nobility and justice that Wonder Woman stands for and it’s played as a straight, cheer-in-your-seat cinema moment.

Gal Gadot is perfect in the lead role. Any doubt from her previous appearances for her ability to hold her own movie is completely dashed. She perfectly captures Wonder Woman in every enjoyable light she can be seen in. She’s an incredibly strong, one-woman army who will show no mercy to who she is up against and the film doesn’t play this down, which is wonderful to see. And yet at the same time, she shows such a strong sense of empathy and desire to see the right thing done. Therefore, when her morality is questioned and she goes through an arc of discovering the humanity and inhumanity of war, it’s a legitimately engrossing struggle, almost like it was being told for the first time. At the same time, her charm and enthusiasm are so endearing as she learns about the world of man and how different it is to the world of the Amazons. While she gets some strange looks, the characters around her don’t sneer or belittle her; they instead explain how this place is different to her home and what is simple differences in culture and what legitimately makes no sense in the time era (such as gender roles, expectations and even racism).

She also has a strong supporting cast to work with, with Chris Pine as Steve Trevor (an American spy attempting to stop the German weapons of war) and a later group of misfit soldiers who join them in trying to take down the German General Ludendorff (whom Diana thinks is really the God of War, Ares) to stop him using gas to wipe out the allied forces. Diana and Steve work well off each other and the team assembled feel a genuine connection that makes them enjoyable to watch. There is also a twist at the end concerning the villain which actually ties very well into the core themes of Diana’s moral struggle and, while the ending battle can feel a bit fatiguing, the execution is done well enough and wraps up the arc nicely.

Whether this is the start of a true redemption for DC in movies or simply a combination of all the right things at the right time remains to be seen. Both this and Lego Batman are being taken as signs that the criticisms are being listened to and improvements are being made. But in any case, Wonder Woman stands as the best DC film of the decade and the adaption the character always deserved. It blasts through all cynicism and delivers a great helping of idealism and hope. Despite the valid criticism of their past projects, DC can hold this film up proudly as a true example of “that’s how you do it”.


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THOUGHTS ON: Batman VS Superman

I should have known it was too good to be true: a film where Batman and Superman brawl, right there on the big screen. It’s not like we haven’t witnessed it before, countless comic issues as well as The Dark Knight Returns were every DC fan’s wet dream, but this was gonna be a big budget, live action adaption.

We can all admit that we were excited for it. Even if you were suffering from superhero fatigue at the time, as soon as that trailer dropped you knew you had to see it. God Versus Man. Day VS Night. The Son Of Krypton vs The Bat Of Gotham. It was shaping up to be the must see film of the year, arguably the decade.

So why do I feel so disappointed?


A big

SPOILER ALERT

is needed as there’s no way I can talk about this film’s flaws without going into some detail. Oh, not that I should have to mention this but this is my opinion so if you liked the film, hell, even if you loved the film, that’s fine. I’m glad you had fun with it as the numb feeling I endured when walking out of the cinema is not something that should be envied.

Where better to start than addressing the title itself as, after all, the main reason you probably went to see this film was to see The Dark Knight take on the Man of Steel. The fight itself wasn’t actually horrible, both characters putting in an equal amount of punches though Batman undoubtedly was the victor. Or would be anyway if it weren’t for the stupid fucking reason they stop fighting.

The reason they start fighting isn’t exactly well thought out either. What should be a battle fueled by their conflicting ideologies, which isn’t so much hinted but flat out stated during the movie, is instead down to Superman having to so he can save his mother. This will be totally subjective as will everything else I list but really? It’s 2016 and we’re still using “x’s y is captured by z” as a motive to move things forward, possibly the biggest cliche in the superhero book.

Back on track however, one word will stick in your mind and possibly in any cinema staff having to stand outside the screen due to the loudness: Martha. Believe me when I say this that Batman and Superman stop fighting because their mum’s have the same name. You can try and excuse this by saying “Bruce lost his mother so he doesn’t want Clark to go through that” and I’d say good point and also how are you talking to me when I’m the one writing this?

I’d also say that Batman, with his view that Superman needs to be destroyed as he is too dangerous, wouldn’t do this. Batman straight up murders people and there’s no way to deny it as at one point he chucks a grenade into a small room with two people as well as setting a guy on fire. While I’m not overly bothered about him going against his usual moral code, it seems odd that a guy who so unempathetically murders crooks who no doubt have families of their own somehow turns a new leaf as soon as Superman mentions his mum. Not only that but they act like best buds after this revelation despite the fact Batman was about to stab Superman into something that would titled a kryptonian kebab just a few seconds ago.

Let’s change focus now and have a look at the man who set, and I use that word very lightly, this fight up: Lex Luthor. Played by Jesse Eisenberg, every moment he was on screen I was either laughing at how ridiculously over the top and absurd his performance was or cringing at the constant metaphors and quotes he was making. Those who argue that there’s no humour in BVS will tell you that Luthor gives a few good laughs and they’d be right. Unfortunately though, and bare with me because my Superman knowledge ain’t the best, this is supposed to be YOUR MAIN VILLAIN WHO IS INTIMIDATING AND A GENIUS, NOT SOME INDIE PRICK WEARING A BANKSY TOP WITH A LOT OF MONEY. Luthor didn’t feel like a cunning character and had little motive for Superman to go away as he seemed to benefit greatly from the aftermath of Man Of Steel. If he really wanted him dead, surely he would do the smart thing and just shoot him with a kryptonite missile or something?

I feel like a large amount of my gripes with BVS comes from the clunky script. We all knew that DC were lagging behind Marvel in terms of a cinematic universe but oh christ was it blatantly obvious and poorly executed. Slate Marvel films all you want but they’ve at least gradually churned these films out. DC on the other hand incorporated the other members of the justice league in the most lazy way imaginable by having Batman email Wonder Woman.Yup, you read that right: EMAIL.

Even if you ignore this, the flow of this film just feels so rough, full of subplots that just feel messy and not well thought out whatsoever. Lois Lane suffers from Amazing Spiderman syndrome here, having some sort of independence and, dare I say it, character before having it stripped away and becoming a damsel in distress who needs saved not once, not twice but THREE TIMES. The dream sequences also felt unnecessary, either telling us an origin story that’s been told countless times before or just existing so they can tease at a future villain.

I couldn’t write a spoiler review without touching upon the big shocker that was Superman’s death. This I can blame partly on the trailer that revealed Doomsday who previously has savagely murdered Kal El so as soon as I was aware he’d make an appearance, I knew this was coming. I suppose you could say I would have been like this regardless if the trailer showed me but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. DC would never be ballsy enough to kill Superman permanently and so, the very last shot is off the dirt as his grave slowly rising. So close DC, you were so close to doing one ballsy thing.

I wanted to like this film so badly. Despite all of the negative reviews I had read, I still wanted to see it and enjoy it so for fans to dismiss criticism as critics being “marvel fanboys” is absurd. The film isn’t the worst thing ever. Ben Affleck gives an amazing performance, there’s the expected spectacular Snyder visuals and the action that I mentioned was a joy to behold. I have my hopes that future films, such as The Flash, will be an improvement and that DC will learn their lesson. Unfortunately though, as it stands, the gif down below sums up perfectly how I felt about Batman Vs Superman.

None animated GIF

4/10

~

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Batman: Arkham Knight review

“Remove yourself from the piece.” This is a piece of advice, well not so much a piece of advice rather than a rule, that I got repeatedly told during my first year of journalism. While it’s easy enough to stick to this rule while writing about the news or something miscellaneous, it proves to be far more difficult when it comes to something you’ve got a great interest in. I’m sure anyone who’s read any of my pieces about Biffy Clyro can see what I mean though I never was subtle about my love for the band.

When I got Arkham Knight, the final chapter in the Batman videogame trilogy by Rocksteady, I knew I’d face this same issue again. However this wasn’t due to the fact that I’ve been a fan of the Caped Crusader since I was a child. Although I’ve followed the superhero through the majority of my life, watching the Christopher Nolan film trilogy countless times and religiously viewing the 90’s animated series, there’s something about the Arkham games that’s unlike anything I’ve experienced before.

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I can confidently say that this pure disbelief at how immersive a game can be is not only still part of this explosive finale but it’s been somehow improved beyond my expectations. The first thing you’ll notice as soon as you start up the game and create a new save file is the absolute scale of Gotham, standing on a radio tower and seeing how much area you have to traverse. As cliche as it sounds, Gotham is a character in itself, gothic architecture perfectly matching the dark atmosphere that shrouds every inch of the city. From the grand buildings of Founders Island to the conveniently named Bleake Island’s broken down homes and abandoned buildings, there’s a real sense of variety that helps each part of Gotham stand out.

This variety is well needed though seeing as you’ll be spending countless hours gliding over and driving through the gritty streets fighting some of the batman’s most notorious villains. The main story will take up a large chunk of your time and will have you tackling the Scarecrow’s nefarious plans to pollute Gotham full of his fear toxin which, if you didn’t already guess, transforms its victims into violent individuals tortured by their worst fears.Despite the fact there’s not any scenes as creative as the nightmare levels from Arkham Asylum, the story is still interesting and once you’re inevitably inflicted with the toxin yourself, the plot becomes even more interesting.

The main campaign is far from terrible but a few things hold it back from being truly exceptional. Arkham Asylum was called so because of the Asylum it was set in, Arkham City was called so because of the city it was set in and unsurprisingly enough Arkham Knight is called so because of the name of the main villain. After the amount of hype the character received in previews, it disappointed me how Rocksteady treated him. Anyone with a reasonable knowledge in Batman will know who he is and even if you don’t, you’ll be able to guess who it is if you remember the most important rule in entertainment: if you don’t see them die then they’re not dead.

Arkham-Knight-51
One of the game’s major selling points also suffers some flaws. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved the Batmobile in this game. The driving was perfect, making light work of any trees, fragile structures and bins that got in your way and I’ll even back up battle mode which has been criticised by a lot of reviewers. It was consistently challenging and as long as you go into the settings so that you can toggle the mode, the controls are near enough flawless. However this battle mode brings with it something that I just can’t let slide by and that is stealth sections in a tank. Yeah I said it. Stealth sections. In a tank. Now I know that this might have seemed like a fun wee idea by some developer at the time but so did communism and look what that lead to it.

Fortunately the plot does hold your interest and you really do feel like this is the endgame. In past games you felt like, yes, you were at risk but Rocksteady never really took any punches at your feels until the end of Arkham City. Now every character you come across, regardless if they’re a villain or ally, is just as vulnerable as you are. You might have your batmobile and your belt full of gadgets but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel like I was outnumbered and on the brink of failing. It’s not an easy game either with some sections even at normal difficulty forcing you to prove your worth. It might be the weakest story in the series but it’s like saying Return of the Jedi has the weakest story in the Star Wars trilogy.

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Despite these problems I had with the game, I had an amazing time with Arkham Knight. The combat is as flawless as past iterations and has had some tweaks such as environmental takedowns and better animations, you can even get the batmobile involved and fight alongside Nightwing, Catwoman and Robin. The side missions are also a blast to play through, providing some of the game’s best moments including an appearance from one of batman’s lesser known antagonists. Of course there’s the riddler challenges as well which are just as difficult before and will be a challenge to get through but will be essential for you getting that 100% completion rating and the real ending to the game

Overall Arkham Knight is one of the most entertaining games I’ve played in years and is the first game I’ve played on PS4 that’s felt like a truly next gen title, utilising the console’s specifications to deliver an immersive experience that makes you feel like the Batman, finally allowing you to relive those childhood dreams.