Tag Archives: DCEU

‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Review

This film’s entire message is “careful what you wish for,” and it rings true about the release of the film itself.

“Wonder Woman 1984” is the sequel to the 2017 film, and features Gal Gadot returning to the titular role. Here, she and her long-lost love Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) must stop a businessman bent on taking over the world (Pedro Pascal). Kristen Wiig also stars as supervillain Cheetah, while Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen reprise their roles as Wonder Woman’s mother mentors; Patty Jenkins returns to the director’s chair.

I really liked the first “Wonder Woman” film. The climax leaves more to be desired, but the overall product was good enough to place on my 2017 Top 10 list, and I think it remains the best film of the DCEU (granted, a low bar). “1984” was due out this June but then, well, you know what happened. Warner Bros. ended up releasing it simultaneously in theaters and streaming on HBO Max on Christmas, a move met with a polarized response. From the success of the first installment to the fun trailers for this one, hype and clamoring for this were high, but after seeing the end result we would have all been fine just waiting to see it on the big screen.

One of the highlights of the 2017’s film was the chemistry between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine, and that again is the film’s biggest strength here. I won’t go into detail about how/why Pine manages to return to a sequel set 70 years after the first film, but rest assured he’s a treat. Gadot is again solid, although the thick accent occasionally makes bits of dialogue hard to make out.

Newcomers Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal are a lukewarm bag. Early on, they are both chiasmatic and own the screen, with Pascal being a (borderline) con-man and Wiig being her normal dorky self. However once both go into supervillain mode they become literal cartoon characters, and don’t seem to belong in the world that Patty Jenkins has created.

And let’s talk about that world. Much like the “X-Men” reboots/prequels, this film goes out of its way to remind you the decade in which it is set, however other than using the anxieties of the Cold War, this could have taken place at any point in time. Jenkins throws fanny packs, arcades, and perms at the screen, and it’s fun to go “ha ha, the 80s were weird, huh” a few times but after a while you just want the plot to, you know, make some sense.

And almost none of this film makes any sense. There is a magic stone that grants wishes, and as the plot goes on there are more and more things that it can do, but it is never explained how or why. Do people have to submit to the will of the stone once asking for something? Is one person’s wish negated by another? They establish you must be touching it to get your wish, but then that rule is ignored later one in a big way. None of these things are answered, and by the time the climax comes around there is so much going on yet it feels like nothing is happening.

Some of the effects are cool and action scenes well-staged, however a few sequences are laughably bad. Whether it is over/under-acting by Gadot, to clear stunt wires and greenscreen, maybe seeing this on the big screen would make these flaws more forgivable. But seated on my couch with others I am free to vocally point out my issues as I see them, instead of being wowed by the spectacle of it all. Warner Bros. may have inadvertently created a situation that advocates and encourages theater-going over streaming, because I feel I am not the only one who will walk away from this with a sour taste in my mouth from the final 30 minutes, instead remembering the fun (enough) two hours.

“Wonder Woman 1984” starts out fun and fine, but as it chugs along it eventually goes completely off the rails. It is a disappointment in a year of disappointments but for whatever it’s worth, this is still one of the better DC films; unlike “Suicide Squad” or “Justice League,” at least this doesn’t feel like a studio-mandated Frankenstein of a film.

Critics Rating: 5/10

‘Birds of Prey’ Review

When your film franchise continues to be “that one good one and everything else,” maybe it’s time to call it quits while you’re behind.

“Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” (the only time I will be typing that entire title) is the eighth installment of the DCEU and a spin-off to 2016’s “Suicide Squad.” Focusing on the titular Harley Quinn (played again by Margot Robbie), the film follows her as she goes on the run from a crime boss (Ewan McGregor) in search of a diamond stolen by a young pick-pocketer (Ella Jay Basco). Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina and Ali Wong also star as Cathy Yan directs.

I have had a lukewarm-at-best reaction to the DC Extended Universe. I will defend “Batman v Superman” and think 90% of “Wonder Woman” is fantastic, but that’s about it. “Man of Steel” is a slog and “Aquaman,” “Suicide Squad” and “Justice League” are all ugly messes (“Shazam!” is fine, but the fact its climax lasts two hours is too much to bear). When “Birds of Prey” was announced I was mildly intrigued, mostly because it would be rated R and I am big fan of Black Mask, the villain that McGregor plays. I should have known this would just be another DCEU mess, and one that doesn’t even have big special effects or well-known heroes to distract us.

Margot Robbie’s rise to stardom was solidified in 2016 with her portrayal of Harley Quinn in “Suicide Squad,” and even those who did not much enjoy the film praised her performance. So naturally, just like with Rebel Wilson in the first “Pitch Perfect” or the Minions in “Despicable Me,” the studio saw a little side character that audiences enjoyed and thought it would be smart to give them their own two-hour movie. Robbie is so annoying and dumb in this film that it hurts. Her character is a former psychiatrist (meaning she went to school and has an MD) but she just speaks and makes decisions like trailer trash. I know that the character of Harley Quinn is that she became deranged and is unpredictable because the Joker brainwashed her, but you don’t lose IQ points when you give into your inhibitions (the script even has her ramble off a sentence full of big words at one point to demonstrate that she is in-fact still smart in an attempt to have its cake and eat it, too). Her voice is also very grating at points, mixing Robbie’s Bronx-ish accent with a high-pitched cartoon twist, so the fact she narrates the entire film gets old quick.

The rest of the cast is, fine, although I don’t think any of them have any sort of characteristics outside the one trait the film needs from them. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is Deadpan Assassin, Jurnee Smollett-Bell is Singing Fighter, Rosie Perez is a Cliché Cop; we get it. Ewan McGregor starts out fine as Black Mask, injecting some flamboyant life into his scenes, but then something switches and he becomes almost a completely different character from a separate film. He, too, really only has one characteristic (he’s the bad guy so he’s evil!) and has no real motivation. People knock the MCU for having cookie-cutter villains, but they also gave us Killmonger and Thanos, two bad guys who have plans the audience can relate to and see why they are doing what they do. Here, Black Mask (who wears his mask in just one scene, because god-forbid we cover the McGregor face for the trailers) wants a diamond to get rich and wants to kill Harley because… reasons.

The actions scenes are passable, there is one set piece in a police station where Harley rampages with a non-lethal grenade launcher that had me chuckle a few times. But the ending is just quick edits of punching masked disposable bad guys, and the stakes feel so low you just want to go home.

Also, and this is a personal complaint but I had the same issue with Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy: Gotham City has no distinctive (or consistent) feel. This film was shot around Los Angeles, while “Suicide Squad” was filmed in Canada and “Batman v. Superman” in Detroit (and, for what it’s worth, “Joker” in New York City). The color palette is bright and sunny, but the whole city feels like it’s just several blocks; the entire film essentially takes place in three locations.

I’ll quickly touch on the script, and if you haven’t guessed, I was not a fan. On top of thin characters and contradictory logic, the screenplay is just lazy. The film is rated-R but that is barely for the violence; it’s more because this is one of those movies that acts like a 13 year old who just discovered the f-word and awkwardly shoves it into every sentence it can (a grown man and professional business owner shouting “what the f*ckety-f*ck?!” is amusing maybe once, but then just looks foolish). Also, every single male character in the film is either a jerk, a rapist or an idiot, and pretty much every woman is a saint (despite Harley self-proclaiming herself as “a pretty terrible person”). This isn’t even me being a triggered straight white male, as I’m sure Twitter will label anyone who doesn’t like this film. We criticize Michael Bay for having exclusively one-dimensional female characters in his films, or Martin Scorsese and Christopher Nolan for having them only serve the plot, so I’m calling out the sheer laziness and one-sided nature of this film.

“Birds of Prey” is not a female-empowerment film like “Wonder Woman” or even simply a fun female-led one like “Captain Marvel.” It is an ugly-looking, thinly-written and overly-acted mess that offers only the occasional chuckle or moment of intrigue. Margot Robbie tries, and this was surely a passion project for her, but it is just nowhere near good enough. I continue to think the DCEU peaked in 2017 with “Wonder Woman” (let’s hope that sequel lives up to the hype) and Warner Bros. needs to go back to the drawing board. Say what you want about Zack Snyder’s Superman quasi-trilogy, at least those films had ambition and weight, and tried to be something different in the superhero genre. Here, we are left with a wannabe “Deadpool” dressed in “Suicide Squad” clothing, and it fails to clear even the basement-level bar set by its predecessors.

Critics Rating: 3/10

‘Wonder Woman’ Mostly Succeeds at Being Fun and Fresh

Wonder_Woman_(2017_film)All it took for the DC Extended Universe to get on track was pairing a director who hasn’t made a film in 14 years with a female character who has never had her own movie.


“Wonder Woman” is the fourth installment of the DCEU, and follows Amazonian goddess Diana Prince as she accompanies an American pilot in World War I Europe on a mission to stop the launch of a deadly German biochemical weapon. Gal Gadot stars as the titular character with Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston and David Thewlis in supporting roles. Patty Jenkins directs.


The DCEU desperately needed this film to be critical success. Following mixed responses to “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman,” “Suicide Squad,” the film many thought would save the series, turned out to be the biggest dumpster fire of them all. So if “Wonder Woman” turned out to be bad like its predecessors, all hope for the franchise would be lost and no one would care about “Justice League” in November. Well thankfully for Warner Bros. and audiences, “Wonder Woman” is far from a failure, thanks to some fun action and performances, even if its climax is a letdown.


Whether you liked “Batman v Superman” or not, everyone agreed Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot each stole the show. And Gadot again shines here, giving us a character with heart who views the world with the innocent eyes of that of a child. Not only because she is a fish out of water, going from her secluded exotic homeland to 1915 London, but because she insists on seeing the good in humanity, despite the fact that they are killing themselves by the millions. She is beautiful yet fierce, kind yet physical; it’s an overall great performance and places Gadot as the building block for the DCEU.


Chris Pine is also great as Steve Trevor, a pilot who crash lands on Wonder Woman’s previously uncharted island. Pine has some great comedic moments and his natural charm that has been shown in non-Star Trek films like “Horrible Bosses 2” and “Hell or High Water” bleeds through.


The action is nicely shot, with Jenkins and cinematographer Matthew Jensen not cutting too often and making sure the audience can actually tell what is happening on screen. Numerous times I had a smile creep onto my face when Wonder Woman kicks a bad guy through a wall or spin kicks a German, and the sequences are accompanied by a great musical score by Rupert Gregson-Williams.


Everything was going great. I was having a blast and even the slower character-building scenes were engaging because of the incredible period piece set design and fun performances. Then the climax happened. Not since “The Wolverine” has a film betrayed everything it stood for so much.


Most of “Wonder Woman” is a boots-on-the-ground, relatively “realistic” superhero film, in the sense that it is her in trench warfare with her shield or punching guys in a room. However the climax of this film goes from that to CGI destruction at such a breakneck pace that it left my jaw on the floor, and not in a good way. Suddenly it was god against god, with lightning bolts and fireballs being hurled in a desolated wasteland and it gets boring real quick. It is the same problem that plagued literally all three other DC films, and if “Justice League” follows suit (which its trailer implies it will), then I will just give up on this franchise ever knowing how to properly conclude their films.


I feel ambivalent right now because I truly loved the first two hours of “Wonder Woman;” I was legitimately sitting in my chair thinking that it was one of the better superhero films we’ve gotten in recent years; but the finale really did leave a bad taste in my mouth. Instead of being excited to run out and tell people to see this, I have to attach a big asterisk next to my recommendation that reads “but the finale hurts it a lot.” And I know my score will seem high given the tone I’ve ended my review with, but what’s a score but a subjective summarization of a review you already read?


Here is the bottom line: you should see “Wonder Woman,” because Gadot and Pine are great, the action is fun and it makes me excited for the future of the DCEU, but try your hardest not to fall in love with the film because the ending with break your heart.


Critics Rating: 8/10

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.