Movie Review: Justice League

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Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), and the rest prepare to kick some ass in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. (Source: IMDb)

The DC Extended Universe has finally released a great movie this year with Wonder Woman. Not only did it become the highest-grossing film ever to be directed by a female, but it sparked a new light into popular culture; as it did back in the 1970s. Wonder Woman teams up with Batman and new group of heroes in Justice League, the shortest film in the franchise (clocking in at two hours). Zack Snyder returns to the director’s chair to give a big, beautiful mess. Surprisingly, however, I find it to be quite solid.

After Batman’s (Ben Affleck) fight with Superman (Henry Cavill), Gotham City is in mourning after Superman’s death. Bruce Wayne recruits Diana Prince a.k.a. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to save the world from a group of mythical aliens, led by Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds). They assemble the Justice League. This includes Barry Allen a.k.a. The Flash (Ezra Miller), Arthur Curry a.k.a. Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Victor Stone a.k.a. Cyborg (Ray Fisher). All of them work together to show Steppenwolf who’s boss.

I will never forget what Snyder did to ruin Batman vs. Superman. He has a tremendous visual style, but he never has enough substance to carry through. While Man of Steel had a different take on Superman, Batman vs. Superman fell apart after the first 30 minutes. The biggest problem with DCEU is how their movies (except Wonder Woman) take themselves so seriously. While Justice League can draw comparisons to The Avengers, I had a good time with it. With a screenplay written by Joss Whedon (of all people), the movie manages to have somewhat of a sense of humor. While the cast does a good job, Miller is the one who steals the show. He maintains Barry Allen’s geeky personality almost to perfection.

While there is a lot of kick-ass action to feast the eyes (how can you not get pumped during the scene where Wonder Woman takes down those terrorists in London?), the movie falters with its bland villain and dull subplots surrounding Superman and Lois Lane (Amy Adams). It’s riddled with holes and it should have been a little longer. But–at least we all got a taste of the upcoming Aquaman. And boy–does it look good!

2.5/4

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2017 Summer Movie Review: Wonder Woman

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Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) springs into action in Patty Jenkins’ origin story of the Amazon princess. (Source: Screen Rant)

Wonder Woman has been around since World War II. Not only has the heroine been appreciated by women, but also men. A lot of you might remember the campy show from 1975 starring Lynda Carter, as she saves the world from the Nazis. While Wonder Woman has been featured in a couple of feature-length films (e.g. The LEGO Movie, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice), and straight-to-video animated films, there has never been a live-action standalone film starring her. Until now.

The DC Extended Universe is off to a rocky start. While Man of Steel provided a more twisted take on Superman, it hardly managed to stick with the nature of who he really is. Last year’s Batman vs. Superman had potential to make up for its predecessor’s flaws (including Superman seeing humanity wipe away from his eyes as opposed to saving it). While it did for the first thirty minutes, it resulted in being an absolute disgrace to both Batman and Superman. Suicide Squad, which also came out last year, also became a wasted opportunity featuring a talented cast, clunky action, and horrible exposition. This time, director Patty Jenkins (Monster) and her crew save the day by providing an origin story with heart, humor, badassery, emotion, and bursting with color.

Welcome to the Amazonian island of Themiscyra! Where it’s populated only immortal women, and men aren’t allowed due to war. Diana (Gal Gadot) wants to become a warrior just like everyone else including her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright). While her mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) does not allow this to happen, Antiope secretly trains her anyway. One day, Diana discovers a plane crash landing in the water. She finds out the pilot is a man. His name is Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American working as a spy for the British. Diana learns about the Great War, and thinking Ares, the god of war, might be responsible. With her body armor, lasso of truth, among other weapons, Diana and Steve go to London to save the world from German general Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and his minion Isabel Maru (Elena Anaya), also known as Dr. Poison.

Prior to its release, the Alamo Drafthouse decided to hold women-only screenings for Wonder Woman. Not surprisingly, this caused outrage among everyone. While the theater chain never had screenings where men are only allowed for any superhero movie, it’s just a blow to the head in terms of gender equality. The demographic among movies based on comic books are intended for everyone. Wonder Woman is a prime example of being a symbol of gender equality. This movie is no exception. She works alongside men and cares for those around her. Given the movie is set during World War I, Jenkins intended to have the movie set during the height of the suffragette movement in Great Britain and the United States. With its traditional three-act structure, they each have an exhilarating, sleekly-edited action set piece. The scene where Wonder Woman walks through No Man’s Land is one of the best you will see all summer.

From being Miss Israel to starring in Fast and Furious, Gadot has certainly come a long way. She proves that she can be more than just a pretty face. She is charismatic, naïve, and simply kicks ass! Seriously! How can you not get pumped when the electric guitar music starts playing in the background once Wonder Woman heads into action!? (The score is another great one to add into Rupert Gregson-Williams’ repertoire).

Pine’s Steve Trevor provides the film’s deadpan sense of humor as he tries to understand about Diana’s nature, and eventually working with her and his buddies. His motivation serves the movie well, given its gender-neutral state. The supporting characters also have motivations of their own, particularly Ewen Bremner (Spud from Trainspotting) as the Scottish sharpshooter Charlie, who suffers from PTSD.

If the villains had a little more depth, Wonder Woman would have been a perfect movie. This is the first film from the DCEU that I’ll watch over and over again. Bring on the Justice League!

3.5/4

Movie Review: Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

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Two superheroes are about to clash in Zack Snyder’s Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Sadly, the red capes have come to the silver screen.

With years of anticipation, we finally get a movie featuring two of DC’s most iconic superheroes—Batman and Superman—going at it. It does sound like a fun time, right? Not exactly.

Ever since Ben Affleck was announced, he didn’t seem to be the right actor to play the caped crusader. Zack Snyder returns to the director’s chair after giving his own darker take on Superman in Man of Steel (although flawed there is still some mild enjoyment to be found), and Henry Cavill gives a fine portrayal as the title character. I figured Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice might make up for the problems Man of Steel had; making Superman a controversial figure after destroying mankind as opposed to saving it. With a promising beginning, the movie quickly falls apart.

Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) is now working at the Daily Planet. The controversy surrounding Superman gets everybody’s attention including Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), whose parents got fatally shot when he was a child. Now, he lives with his butler Alfred Pennyworth (Jeremy Irons). As Batman, he fights crime in Gotham City (with a darker side of his own). As his rivalry with Clark begins, they encounter the LexCorp CEO Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), whose diabolical plan known as Doomsday (who looks like a decomposed version of the Hulk) will bring chaos to Metropolis. Along with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), they team up to save the world.

With his unique visual style, Snyder cannot direct a compelling story. It’s a shame given that I have been a huge fan of Batman and Superman for a long time. There is so much potential being put in the two-and-a-half hour running time. As a result, the movie goes all over the place!

When I saw the movie late Saturday night with a decent-sized crowd, I had a lot—I mean, A LOT—of thoughts going on. It keeps raising questions without any answers. There are scenes that are there for the sake of keeping the movie going (e.g. Superman saving the day in Mexico during a Day of the Dead parade). Even though Affleck (who gives a surprisingly emotional portrayal of Batman/Bruce Wayne) and Gadot exceeded my expectations, they, along with everyone else, are written as thin as a piece of paper. Hell, Batman murders people without any given reason whatsoever. Amy Adams’ Lois Lane is a bore, and Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is laughably psychotic—how could he ruin such a great comic book villain? Even though how deadly serious the movie’s tone is, he provides moments of unintentional hilarity especially when he comes face-to-face with the judge (Holly Hunter) prior to Superman’s court appearance.

The faulty exposition leads up to yet another boring CGI-fueled, PG-13 fight sequence consisting of the two heroes throwing fists and crashing through walls. The audiences cares less on who will win. Snyder has created yet another convoluted mess, and it reminds me that I’m glad Affleck is going to direct and star in his upcoming Batman trilogy.

1/4

Movie Review: Fast Five

Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) faces up against federal agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in "Fast Five"

Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) faces up against federal agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in “Fast Five”

Now onto the good stuff!

Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) saves Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) from custody. Along with Mia (Jordana Brewster), who has exciting news, they flee to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro to pull off a heist worth millions of dollars. In order to do so, they build a team consisting of Roman Pierce (Tyrese Gibson), Tej Parker (Ludacris), Gisele Yashar (Gal Gadot), Han Seuol-Oh (Sung Kang), Leo (Teo Calderon), and Santos (Don Omar). Meanwhile, federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and his team track down Brian and Dom. Fast Five was the first Fast and Furious movie I’ve ever seen. I saw it in a packed theater with my cousin in 2011. Without seeing the predecessors back then, I enjoyed every bit of it. Seeing it again after watching the others, this takes the franchise into a whole new level. With some of the best stunts, action, laughs (especially from Roman and Tej), this is the best of the Fast and Furious franchise. Not to mention that awesome showdown between Vin Diesel and The Rock.

3.5/4