‘Wonder Woman’ Review

Director: Patty Jenkins

Writer: Allan Heinberg

Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock, Lucy Davis, Elena Anaya and David Thewlis

Synopsis: Before she was Wonder Woman she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained warrior. When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, she leaves home to fight a war to end all wars, discovering her full powers and true destiny.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There are no post-credits scenes.*

 

It’s finally here. After years stuck in developmental-hell and so many scripts, a film about one of the most famous comic book and pop culture characters is here. Wonder Woman was always worthy of having her own film, but for some reason Hollywood thought – and still thinks to some degree – that female lead action films don’t draw. However, those that get the chance always shine and now that more causal movie fans saw what Wonder Woman can do thanks to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and with Warner Bros. building their shared universe, it was finally time to bring Wonder Woman to the big screen.

So, after all the years of waiting and getting a glimpse of what she was capable of, Wonder Woman is here. However, is all the hype surrounding the film real and worth the long wait? Well, for the most part, it is a resounding yes.

Wonder Woman goes back to basic giving us an origin story to Wonder Woman. The film begins on the hidden island of Themiscrya, where a young Diana dreams of being a warrior like her aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright). However, her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) doesn’t want her to train, but eventually lets Diana train under her aunt seeing no end to Diana’s desire to train. We jump forward in time and see a grown up Diana (Gal Gadot) continuing to train and one day sees a plan crashing off the shore of Themiscrya. Diana goes to save the pilot who turns out to be Steve Trevor (Chris Pine).

When Steve wakes up, he informs the Amazons that there is a war to end all wars – World War I – and there is a new dangerous weapon being made by Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya) aka Dr. Poison and commissioned by a dangerous German general, Ludendorff (Danny Huston) that he found out. Seeing this as a possible work of Ares, the God of War, Diana takes Steve back to London so he can tell his superiors and for her to stop Ares once and for all.

Like I mentioned, Wonder Woman is essentially the origin story of the character. Diana is, for all intent and purposes – put in a fish-out-of-water situation as she’s taken away from the paradise of Themiscrya and is thrust into the world of man, pain and war. However, there is an innocence and naivety to her that never makes her sound or come off as dumb. She knows little of the world beyond her homeland, but not enough to fully understand it.

This strength is also thanks to Gal Gadot’s delivering of the character. Whatever doubts people had about Gadot’s ability to deliver Diana – and Wonder Woman for the matter – should go away. Gadot does a tremendous job playing a proud warrior bound by duty to defend the world, but after seeing what the world really is; filled with pain, sorrow, and fighting, she questions it. It’s something the drives the whole film and her character which Gadot handles well. She can play the vulnerable, conflicted Diana, but when it comes down to fight, may the gods help whoever is in her way.

The rest of the cast is surprisingly a mixed bag. Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor is a perfect opposite to Diana in terms of knowing what the world really is like. They, Pine and Gadot, play off each other very well and their characters grow together. It’s also nice that the love story doesn’t take control of the film, but rather it shows how the two change each other for the better.

Along on Diana and Steve’s journey is an actor turned solider Sameer (Said Taghmaoui), a Native American called The Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) and a sniper named Charlie (Ewen Bremner). All three have their chance to shine, but the only one we really get a chance to know a little more of is Sameer, which is a shame because Charlie has an interesting characteristic that could have played well with Diana’s confused nature of the war. Also helping them from afar is Steve’s secretary, Etta (Lucy Davis), who adds some levity to the film, but her character and her purpose disappear by the third act.

Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright as Diana’s mother and aunt do well for the short time they’re on screen. Nielsen’s Hippolyta wants to keep Diana safe, but does let her go to train and eventually leave knowing that Diana is destined for more. Wright’s Antiope is purely a badass. We don’t see a lot of her fighting but when she does, oh boy is it a sight.

The villains are a little bland in terms of being capable villains to really challenge Diana. Danny Huston can play a bad guy in his sleep by now, but his general character never really feels like a threat to Diana expect for one scene – spoiler territory, so I won’t go there, but that does bring up a question that never gets answered. The other villain is Dr. Maru aka Dr. Poison played by Elena Anaya, who could have been written a little better, and if her role was reversed with Huston’s Ludendorff, it probably would have been a better dynamic. Also, she comes off more menacing that Huston, thanks to her skill, but also the protective mask she wears to cover half of her face.

Of course, when it comes to Wonder Woman, we know there’s going to be some action, and thankfully the action is pretty damn good. I’m surprised how fluid the action looked too. There isn’t a lot of close ups or shaky cam when Diana is beating up German soldiers, so we really see how badass she can be. Also, the brief fight we see with the Amazons is damn awesome to watch too. It’s a shame that it is only one scene, and hopefully we see more Amazon action in the sequel. Of course, like all superhero movies, there is a big battle that gets a little bit into too much CGI-territory, and runs a little long, but we get to Diana do her thing so I was kind of okay with it. I’m sure many will also argue that the No Man’s Land sequence is the best sequence in the film.

All in all, Wonder Woman is undoubtedly the best DC Extended Universe movie so far. However, considering what we’ve gotten that, to me, isn’t saying much. However, that shouldn’t, and doesn’t, take away anything from Wonder Woman. It’s a great origin story that sees our main character grown from start to finish, and leaves us wanting more. This isn’t a story or film about Wonder Woman, it’s a story and film about Diana becoming Wonder Woman, and what it takes to be a hero. But, more importantly, the challenges a hero has to make and take to fully embrace their heroism.

I don’t know where Wonder Woman where fall into fans’ list of best comic book movies, but it should rank high among them. Gal Gadot is a terrific Diana/Wonder Woman, and while I was a doubter, my doubts are no more. I believe Gadot is Wonder Woman when she’s on screen, and I’d gladly follow her into battle. Hopefully, Warner Bros. does more Wonder Woman films and brings along director Patty Jenkins, because this my friends, is a winning combination we can, and should, get behind.

Wonder Woman

4 out of 5

‘Macbeth’ Review

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Director: Justin Kurzel

Writers: Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie, and Todd Louiso

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Jack Reynor, David Hayman, James Harkness, Ross Anderson, and David Thewlis.

Synopsis: Macbeth, a Thane of Scotland, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based on the William Shakespeare play of the same name, Macbeth may be one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, because I love the complicated characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. It also lends itself to be interpreted in many different ways – like all Shakespeare’s plays – Hollywood has made many different versions of the character from Orson Wells directing and starring as the character himself, Roman Polanski’s take starring Jon Finch, and even a modern-day gangland iteration from Australia which starred Sam Worthington. However, director Justin Kurzel and the cast take a more visually impactful, grim, gritty and artistic film that would probably make Shakespeare himself proud (too much?).

Michael Fassbender plays Macbeth, the Thane of Scotland, who at the beginning of the film leads King Duncan’s (Thewlis) army to victory in a bloody battle that gets him a better place amongst Duncan’s court. After the battle however, Macbeth along with his friend and battle partner Banquo (Considine) encounter four witches – three adults and one child – that tell him Macbeth he will one day become King of Scotland. Macbeth curious of their prophecy goes back home and tells his wife Lady Macbeth, played by Marion Cotillard, of what he was told and she convinces him to fulfill his destiny and kill the king himself, rather than wait to let the crown be passed on to Duncan’s heir, Malcolm (Reynor).

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If you know the play – or watch the trailers – Macbeth eventually convinces himself, of course with much convincing from his wife, and kills Duncan in his sleep. Macbeth becomes king, takes the throne and slowly grows paranoid of everyone around him, including his own friend Banquo and Macduff (Harris). What follows is his and Lady Macbeth’s own descent to madness and paranoia that lead them deeper into darkness with no way of coming back.

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I’ll be honest, it’s hard to review a film based on a play that maybe most of us, if not all of us, read in high school or maybe even college. But, like I mentioned, the play happens to be one of my favorites and when I found out that this was being done with Fassbender and Cotillard, I got really giddy and excited. Thankfully, the movie didn’t disappoint. Sure they changed some things around, like the fact that there are four witches instead of three, even though the youngest witch which happens to be a child never speaks, or even that some events are tweaked, omitted or even added, but truth be told, the changes they made really make the film work.

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I’d dare say that of all the Macbeth films I’ve seen this is the most moody and grimiest take I’ve seen. That could be thanks to cinematographer Adam Arkapaw who does a fantastic job of making every scene feel different from the next and giving the film it real dark, gritty and down to the bone artistic type of the film that sometimes make you wonder if what you are seeing is all in Macbeth’s head or if it’s really there. Hell, some of the scenes and shots look like a moving painting and are stylized in such a way that brings you into the gloomy atmosphere of the film. One of the big highlights is the last act of the film that involves the “Birnam forest” and the final battle which has a fantastic atmosphere that I loved being a part of. Add that with the amazing production design and wardrobe, Macbeth is probably one of the best looking films of the year. It truly is probably the best looking Shakespeare adaptation ever made.

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But, when it comes down to it, Macbeth works because of two people: Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. Taking on these two characters isn’t the easiest task – especially in the Shakespearian verse – but both Fassbender and Cotillard are and were highly capable to bringing these two twisted and complex characters to life in their own way. Fassbender’s portrayal slowly unravels as the film goes on. You can see him become paranoid of everyone around him and the grand diner scene is something that was truly great to witness. Even the famous “O, full of scorpions is my mind” speech is something that Kurzel and Fassbender bring to life so well that Macbeth is literally saying the lines as he’s clenching his teeth and is about to crack.

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When it comes to Cotillard, some of her scenes are just amazing to sit through. For most her scenes, including the “to bed” scene, Kurzel simply just lets the camera linger and slowly move in on Cotillard as she delivers her lines. Her take on the character, for me, proves that Lady Macbeth is much more of a tragic character than Macbeth himself. She can see that monster that she created and the monster than she allowed herself to be. She wanted the power and pushed and manipulated her husband to kill the king so they can take it all, but the cost is something she didn’t think of. Dare I say, Cotillard steals the film from Fassbender, which is not an easy task nowadays.

The supporting cast aren’t too bad themselves, but with Fassbender and Cotillard having most of the screen time it’s reasonable why they’d be overlooked. Sean Harris, who plays Macduff, plays Macduff as a more silent type at first, but when pushed to his own breaking point he becomes a mad and rage-filled man himself. Paddy Considine is almost unrecognizable as Banquo and delivers a great, short and sweet performance. The same can be said for Elizabeth Debicki, who plays, Lady Macduff. She only in about three scenes total, but one of those scenes completely delivers and changes everything for one of the characters.

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All in all, Macbeth is a great atmospheric, gloomy, artistic iteration and approach to the famous characters. Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard bring their A-game with director Justin Kurzel to deliver a great film that like all Shakespeare material will probably have to be watched multiple times absorb everything.

 

Macbeth

5 out of 5