“G.I. JOE: RISE OF THE COBRA” (2009) Review

”G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA” (2009) Review

Ten years ago, I saw a movie that was based upon a popular toy franchise for the third time in my life. This movie turned out to be ”G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA”. And if I must be honest, I ended up seeing the movie under confusing circumstances.

I never had any intentions of seeing ”G.I. JOE: RISE OF THE COBRA” when it was first released in theaters. Let me make this perfectly clear. After the mindless action of the first two ”TRANSFORMERS” movies, I had vowed never to watch another action movie based upon a popular toy. In fact, I had intended to see the new comedy at the time, ”JULIE AND JULIA”. My family and I ended up watching ”G.I. JOE”, because I thought a relative of mine wanted to see it. As it turned out, my relative thought ”I” wanted to see the movie. Which goes to show how dangerous the lack of communications can be. We ended up watching a movie that neither of us had intended to see.

Stephen Sommers, the creator of ”THE MUMMY” franchise and director of the first two movies, directed this tale about the G.I. Joe Team, a covert unit of international special forces commandos, under the command of a U.S. Army general named Hawk (Dennis Quaid). Original, huh? Following an attempt by terrorists to steal nanotechnology-based warheads, two regular Army commandos, Conrad “Duke” Hauser and Wallace “Ripcord” Weems, join the “Joes” in an effort to prevent the warheads from falling into the hands of terrorists. During Duke and Ripcord’s training at the G.I. Joe’s command center in North Africa, two terrorists named the Baroneess and Storm Shadow attack the base. And in the process, manage to wound General Hawk and steal the warheads. The Team eventually learn that the warheads’ creator and owner of an arms manufacturing company called MARS, James McCullen, was responsible for the attack and wanted the warheads back for his own nefarious means.

What can I say about ”G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA”? It was simply your typical summer action blockbuster based upon a popular franchise. And like many of these action films, it was filled with the usual action, explosions, violence, silly one-liners and special effects. Nothing special. Nothing original. It also featured an underwater battle between the “G.I. Joe” Team and McCullen’s troops. I read somewhere that Sommers wanted to pay homage to the 1965 James Bond movie, ”THUNDERBALL”. Well, he certainly succeeded as far as I am concerned. Sommer’s underwater battle in ”G.I. JOE: RISE OF THE COBRA” seemed just as boring as the one featured in ”THUNDERBALL”.

However, ”G.I. JOE” turned out to be surprisingly better than I had expected. In fact, the movie possessed enough attributes for me to enjoy it. You heard right. I actually managed to enjoy ”G.I. JOE”. Despite the usual action nonsense, the movie turned out to rather enjoyable. More importantly, screenwriters Stuart Beattie, David Elliot and Paul Lovett included several twists in both the plot and some of the characterizations that took me by surprise. And ”G.I. JOE” did not strike me as the type of movie that could generate that kind of surprise. Another aspect of the movie that allowed it rise above the likes of the ”TRANSFORMER” movies, were its exploration of background stories of characters like Duke, the Baroness, McCullen, the Baroness’ brother Rex Lewis and the two former rivals, Storm Shadow and one of the “Joes”. The movie also featured a surprisingly effective action sequence set in Paris – a sequence that ended with some noteworthy special effects produced under the supervision of Christian Roberton and shot wonderfully by cinematographer Mitchell Amundsen.

Another aspect of ”G.I. JOE” that impressed me was its cast. Aside from one particular actor, the actors and actresses struck me as surprisingly impressive. Channing Tatum led the cast as Duke, the Army Special Forces officer who decides to join the “G.I. Joe Team” in order to continue his assignment regarding the nanoprobe warheads. Duke is also haunted by a past tragedy that involved his former girlfriend, Ana Lewis aka the Baroness and her brother, Rex. In the decade since this movie’s release, Tatum has managed to become a major and talented Hollywood star. But I have to be honest. He did not exactly appeal to me as a screen presence when I first saw “G.I. JOE”. But I thought he gave a very solid and competent performance in this film. Portraying Duke’s best friend was comic actor, writer and producer Marlon Wayans. He portrayed Ripcord, another Special Forces soldier who decides to follow Duke in joining the “Joes”. Ripcord also harbored a desire to be acknowledged as a top military pilot and he fell in love with another member of the “G.I. Joe Team”. As expected, Wayans provided a great deal of laughter in a role that could easily be labeled as comic relief. Only in this movie, Ripcord had a well written romance and managed to save two major capital cities in the movie’s finale. Wayans not only handled the comedy with great ease, he also did a solid job in his romantic and action scenes.

The supporting cast was filled with first-rate actors and actresses that provided solid performances. I especially enjoyed Sienna Miller as Duke’s conflicted ex-girlfriend, Ana Lewis. Family tragedy led her to join McCullen’s villainous team and change her name to the Baroness. It seemed quite obvious that Miller was enjoying herself in the role. Rachel Nichols gave an interesting performance as the brainy and uptight Scarlett, who learned to open up her heart to Ripcord’s humor and warmth. Also, she and Wayans provided great screen chemistry. And it was great seeing Adewale Akinuoye-Agbale for at the time, I had not seen him in a period of three years, since early Season Three of ABC’s ”LOST”. In this movie, Akinuoye-Agbale was his usual commanding self as Hershel “Heavy Duty” Dalton, the team’s ordinance expert who acted as field commander of the “Joes”. I also enjoyed Said Taghmaoni as Abel “Breaker” Shaz, the Moroccan hacker and communications expert that harbored a fondness for bubble gum. I especially enjoyed his performance in a scene that featured his character’s dismay at being banned from French soil, following the Eiffel Tower debacle. I have to give kudos to Lee Byung-hun for giving a convincingly complex performance as the villainous Storm Shadow. Young actor Brandon Soo-Hoo (from 2008’s “TROPIC THUNDER”) was equally intense as the character’s younger self. Christopher Eccleston was pretty solid as the main villain, James McCullen. Jonathan Pryce was equally solid as the President of the United States. Kevin J. O’Connor gave an interesting and slightly bizarre performance as Doctor Mindbender, the creator of nanomite technology. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a hoot as Ana’s slightly neurotic brother, Rex Lewis. I could say the same about Arnold Vasloo’s colorful performance as the murderous, yet colorful Zartan. Brendan Fraser provided a brief, yet entertaining cameo as the Joes’ trainer.

There was one performance that failed to impress me. And it belonged to Dennis Quaid as General Hawk, leader of the “G.I. Joe Team”. Now, I have been a fan of Quaid for years. Out of all the performances in the movie, his was the only one that turned me off. How can I put this? Quaid’s General Hawk sounded and behaved like an authority figure – whether it be a police officer, politician or military officer – from a 1950s or 60s “B” movie. You know – he spouted the usual flag-waving crap in an exaggerated manner that came off as stiff. I only thank God that his role was small.

Before I saw ”G.I. JOE”, I had suspected that it would become another ”TRANSFORMERS” or ”TRANSFORMERS 2”. Unlike the movies from that particular franchise, I did not have to turn off my brain to enjoy the film. And that surprised me, despite the movie’s flaws. Also, Stephen Sommers did a pretty good job in directing both the cast and crew in order to create a surprisingly entertaining movie. He also had the good luck to work from a solid script that provided a few good twists and surprises. ”G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA” is not a cinematic masterpiece, an action masterpiece or exercise in intellectual introspection. But it must have did something right. I enjoyed the film and it was a hit big enough to lead to a sequel some four years later.

And If you want a movie that you might be able to enjoy with kids . . . or even a few friends, then I would recommend it.

“WONDER WOMAN” (2017) Review

image

 

 
“WONDER WOMAN” (2017) Review

Since the release of “MAN OF STEEL” back in 2013, the D.C. Comics Extended Universe (DCEU) franchise has been in a conundrum. Although the 2013 film and with the two movies that followed – “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”and “SUICIDE SQUAD” – were all box office hits, they had been heavily condemned by many film critics. Then along came “WONDER WOMAN”, the first superhero movie that featured a woman in the lead since 2005. 

Directed by Patty Jenkins, “WONDER WOMAN” is basically a flashback on the origins of Princess Diana of Thymerica aka Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman. Some time after the events of “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”, Diana received a package at her Antiquities Curator office at the Louvre Museum. It came from Bruce Wayne aka Batman and it contained the original photographic plate of her, Steve Trevor and their comrades during World War I:

j0h9Z90

The photographic plate led Diana to recall her past, starting with her childhood on Thymerica Island. While being raised by her mother, the Amazonian Queen Hippolyta, Diana learns about Zeus’ creation of mankind and his son Ares’ jealousy of his father’s creation and the latter’s attempts to destroy humans. After the other Mount Olympus gods were killed by Ares, because of their attempts to stop him, Zeus created a weapon for the Amazonians, a “Godkiller”, in case Ares decides to return. Although Queen Hippolyta has no trouble telling Diana about Zeus, Ares and the other Mount Olympus gods; she forbids her sister and military leader of the Amazons, Antiope, to train Diana. Eventually she relents and demands that Antiope train Diana harder than the other Amazons.

During the last year of World War I, Diana rescues an American military pilot named Captain Steve Trevor, after his plane crashes off Themyscira’s coast. The island is soon invaded by German sailors from a cruiser, pursuing Trevor. The Amazons engage and kill all of the German sailors, but Antiope sacrifices herself to save Diana. Interrogated with the Lasso of Hestia, Trevor informs the Amazons about World War I, his position as an Allied spy and his mission to deliver a notebook he had stolen from the Spanish-born chief chemist for the German Army, Dr. Isabel Maru. The latter is attempting to engineer a deadlier form of mustard gas for General Erich Ludendorff at a weapons facility in the Ottoman Empire. Against her mother’s wishes, Diana decides to help Steve’s war efforts by leaving Themyscira and accompanying him to London. Recalling Hippolyta’s tales about Ares, she believes the latter is responsible for the war and hopes to kill him with the help of the Lasso of Hestia and the “Godkiller” sword that Zeus had left behind.

As I had earlier pointed out, “WONDER WOMAN” received a great deal of critical acclaim. In fact, it proved to be the first film in the DCEU franchise to do so, leading many to regard it as better than its three predecessors. Do I feel the same about the movie? Not quite. Do not get me wrong, “WONDER WOMAN” struck me as a first-rate movie that I found very entertaining. As a woman, I found it personally satisfying that it proved to the first successful comic book heroine film. More importantly, it was also the first comic but the first to be directed by a woman. In the end, “WONDER WOMAN” became one of my top favorite movies from the summer of 2017. Many people were surprised that most of the film – namely the flashback – was set during the last month of World War I, especially since Wonder Woman’s origin began during World War II. It could be that Warner Brothers wanted to avoid any comparisons with Marvel’s Captain America, whose origin began around the same time. I am glad that the movie was mainly set during World War. One, I feel that it would have been compared to Marvel’s 2011 film, “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER”. But more importantly, the World War I setting meshed better with the film’s portrayal of one of the villains, Erich Ludendorff. And without the World War I setting, I would have never experienced one of the best action sequences I had seen this summer – Wonder Woman’s foray into “No Man’s Land”, as seen in the images below:

image
image
Thinking about the No Man’s Land” sequence reminded me of other action scenes in the movie that I found satisfying. Those scenes include a montage of Diana’s training as a warrior, the Amazons’ defense of Thymerica against invading German sailors, Diana and Steve’s encounter with a group of German spies in a London alley. The “No Man’s Land” sequence eventually led to another fight in which Diana, Steve and their companions led a liberation of the Belgian town Veld, which had been occupied by the Germans. You know what? It is possible that I may have enjoyed this sequence even more than the charge across “No Man’s Land”. One, it lasted longer. And the sequence featured more of a team effort between Diana, Steve, their three companions and troops from the Allied Powers. In fact, one scene featured Steve remembering an Amazonian tactic from the Thymerica battle and utilizing it with Diana in Veld. I literally smiled at that moment.

But “WONDER WOMAN” was not all about action scenes. Personally, I regard the movie as a character study of its lead character. Ever since Diana had informed Bruce Wayne that she had walked away from mankind for nearly a century in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”, I have always wondered what led her to become that slightly cynical woman. For me, “WONDER WOMAN” told that story . . . to a certain extent, thanks to Allan Heinberg’s screenplay. The Princess Diana aka Diana Prince that we see in this film is an intelligent woman with a fierce sense of justice and duty. Whereas her mother and other fellow Amazons want to isolate themselves from humanity and the rest of the world at large, Diana views Steve’s arrival and his revelation about the war being raged to save humanity from what she believed was Ares’ destructive influence. Diana is also portrayed as a compassionate woman incapable of turning a blind eye to the devastating effects of war upon the Belgian civilian population and servicemen like Charlie, a Scottish sharpshooter and ally of Steve’s, who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD). She also possessed enough compassion to become aware of the discrimination that Steve’s other two friends faced – the Blackfoot warrior and smuggler Chief Napi and the French Moroccan secret agent, Sameer.

But Diana’s belief in Ares’ role in the Great War also revealed some negative aspects of her personality. One aspect of Diana’s personality in this film was her naivety. There were scenes in which her naivety about the “world of man” that I found humorous – namely her shopping trip with Steve’s assistant, Etta Camp; her introduction to ice cream; and her discussions with Steve about human sexuality. But there were plenty of times when I found her naivety very frustrating – especially in those scenes in which Steve tries to explain the true ambiguous nature of human beings and the war. A good example was Diana’s interruption of the Allied Powers’ high command and her attempt to instruct the generals on how to “run a war”. Many found this scene as an example of Diana’s feminine empowerment. I found it as an example of her naivety and a bit of arrogance on her part. In these scenes, Diana seemed to display a stubborn, almost hard-headed and blind reluctance to let go of her misguided beliefs. Because of this unwillingness to believe she might be wrong about matters, Diana killed one of the characters believing him to be Ares without any real proof. I found this moment rather frightening. This hard-headed trait revealed what I believe was one example of Diana’s penchant for extreme behavior. Diana’s angry and frightening reaction to Steve’s sacrifice was another example. And the hard lessons she had learned about humanity, along with personal tragedy, led to her almost century long foray into emotional isolation. In many ways, Diana’s journey is that if an idealist, whose positive assumptions had been ripped away in the most painful manner.

While watching “WONDER WOMAN”, it seemed obvious to me that Patty Jenkins is more than a competent director. She is obviously first-rate. Mind you, I do not believe that she possesses Zack Snyder’s razor-sharp eye for imagery. And yet, judging from the sequences of the Thymerica battle, Diana and Steve’s arrival in London; along with the outstanding “No Man’s Land” sequence, it seems obvious to me that Jenkins has a solid grasp of imagery and is capable of being a visually original director. It helped that cinematographer Matthew Jensen and film editor Martin Walsh contributed to Jenkins’ visual presentation of “WONDER WOMAN”. I would not consider the costume designs from “WONDER WOMAN” to be among the best of Lindy Hemming’s career and a costume designer. But I thought she did an excellent job in designing the Greco-style costumes for the Amazons – including Diana’s Wonder Woman costume. And I found her re-creation of the 1918 wartime costumes for the characters of both genders well done:

4fc9d8f9e7181da3820a8afd026e4a7d--princess-diana-wonder-woman 8cbe7793af4847a3c3485c4bb184827d

Although I believe there is a great deal to admire about “WONDER WOMAN”, I do have a few complaints. One of them happened to be Jenkins’ use of slow-motion filming in many of the film’s action sequences. Yes, I realize that Jenkins was not the first director to use this form of filming action scenes. Her fellow DCEU director, Zack Snyder, was notorious for his use of this technique – especially in his pre-DCEU films. Unfortunately, I found myself getting tired of the slow-motion technique not long after ten to fifteen minutes into the film. I mean . . . good grief! Jenkins not only used it in the film’s every action sequence, but also in one scene that featuring one of the Amazons’ combat training sessions. I just got tired of it . . . really fast.

My second problem with the film centered around the final action scene between Wonder Woman and Ares. I had no problems with Ares’ revelation about his identity. And I certainly had no problems with his revelations about the true nature of humanity and the war itself. And I found Wonder Woman’s reactions to his revelations and Steve Trevor’s sacrifice rather interesting. But why . . . why in God’s name did Jenkins and Heinberg find it necessary to have Diana say the following line to Ares before their final duel?

“It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love. Only love will truly save the world.”

While the sentiment is lovely, it contradicted Diana’s cynical attitude and words to Bruce Wayne, following Clark Kent’s death in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”:

“A hundred years ago I walked away from mankind; from a century of horrors… Men made a world where standing together is impossible.”

Now, one could say that Diana had acquired this attitude during the 97 years between her showdown with Ares and the incident with Doomsday. But she made it clear to Bruce that she had walked away “a hundred years”, which is roughly between the end of World War I and “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN”, save a three years. Why did Jenkins and Heinberg allow her to spout that line about how love with save the world? Was this some emotional sop to those critics and moviegoers who wanted to pretend that Diana had managed to avoid wallowing in her grief over Steve and disappointment over Ares’ revelation? If so, that is bad writing . . . or bad timing. Jenkins and Heinberg could have saved the line for Diana’s narration at the end of the movie. After she had received the photographic plate and Steve’s watch from Bruce . . . and after she had finally lifted herself from her cynicism and detached air.

I certainly had no complaints about the movie’s performances. Mind you, there were two performances that failed to knock my socks off. One came from veteran actor Danny Huston, who found himself saddled with the clichéd riddled character of General Erich Ludendorff. Huston did not give a bad performance. Being a first-rate actor, he did the best that he could with the material given to him. But the screenwriter’s portrayal of the character reeked with the Hollywood cliché of an aggressive German military officer, straight from the “Ve haf vays of making you talk” school of screenwriting. And I believe this may have hampered Huston’s performance. I also had a slight problem with Eugene Brave Rock, who portrayed one of Steve Trevor’s allies, Chief Napi. Rock was not a bad actor and I found him very likeable. But it was easy for me to see that he was not exactly the most experienced actor. And I was not surprised to discover that he had spent most of his film career as a stuntman and stunt trainer. When Ewan Bremner first appeared in the film, I suspected that he had been cast to portray another one of the many comic roles he has portrayed in the past. However, his character Charlie proved to be another kettle of fish. Thanks to Bremner’s skillful performance, Charlie proved to be a tragic figure whose peace of mind had been ravaged by the violence of war. Elena Anaya, whom I have never heard of before this film, gave an intelligent and intense performance asIsabel Maru aka Doctor Poison, the Spanish-born chemist recruited to create chemical weapons for the German Army and specifically, for General Ludendorff. Unlike the latter, Dr. Maru is a villainess straight from the pages of the D.C. Comics titles for Wonder Woman. And yet, thanks to Anaya’s performance, she was not portrayed in a ham-fisted manner. But I must admit that I adored Saïd Taghmaoui’s portrayal of French Moroccan secret agent, Sameer. I found his performance charming, witty and very intelligent. And in my view, he had the best line in the movie (about Diana, of course):

“I am both frightened… and aroused.”

Connie Nielsen’s portrayal of Diana’s mother, Queen Hippolyta of Thymerica proved to be more interesting that I had assumed it would be. Frankly, I thought Queen Hippolyta would be a somewhat bland parent figure, who was simply protective of her only daughter. In the end, Hippolyta’s protectiveness toward her daughter proved to have a major impact upon the latter. This same protectiveness, along with her world-weary response to Diana’s decision to leave Thymerica revealed the true, ambiguous nature of the character and Nielsen did an excellent job in conveying it. Robin Wright had an easier time in her portrayal of Diana’s aunt, Antiope. The actress not only did a great job, I was especially impressed at how she embraced the more physical aspects of the role. After all, Antiope was the Amazonian army’s lead general. I was very surprised to learn that the actress who portrayed Etta Candy, Steve Trevor’s assistant, was none other than Lucy Davis, who had a supporting role in the 1995 miniseries, “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”. Personally, I adored her portrayal of Etta. Like Taghmaoui, she was a walking embodiment of charm and wit. I especially enjoyed Davis’ performance in the scene that featured Diana and Etta’s shopping trip. David Thewlis gave a superficially pleasant performance as the dignified Sir Patrick Morgan, a diplomatic liaison with the Imperial War Cabinet. I found him intelligent, subtle and a little tricky.

I have a confession to make. I have always liked Gal Gadot as a screen presence. Honestly. She has a very strong presence. But I have never considered her as a top-notch actress . . . until recent years. But I must admit that her portrayal of Princess Diana of Thymerica aka Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman really knocked my socks off. I was impressed at how Gadot managed to portray Diana during two distinctive phases in her life – the naive, yet stubborn young woman who seemed convinced that she knows what is best for the world in this film; and the cynical and weary woman who is somewhat contemptuous of the world in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”. And she did such a marvelous job in conveying this two phases in Diana’s life . . . in two different films. Ms. Gadot has come a long way. I think Steve Trevor might one of my favorite roles portrayed by Chris Pine. Aside from the fact that he has great chemistry with Gadot, Pine gave a very entertaining portrayal of the American intelligence officer who first befriends Diana and later, falls in love with her. I found it fascinating to watch Pine convey Steve’s intelligence, cunning and wry sense of humor. I also found it fascinating to watch how Pine conveyed Steve’s struggles with Diana’s naivety, stubborness and impulsive behavior. And he did so with a great deal of skill.

“WONDER WOMAN” is the fourth film released through the D.C. Comics Extended Universe (DCEU). And like the other three, I found myself not only enjoying it very much, but also impressed by it. Aside from a few flaws, I thought director Patty Jenkins did a first-rate job in telling movie audiences the story of how Princess Diana of Thymerica became Wonder Woman . . . and how she also became that world weary woman from 2016’s “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”. And she did so with a first-rate movie crew and a wonderful cast led by Gal Gadot.

image

“The Complexity of Wonder Woman”

 

“THE COMPLEXITY OF WONDER WOMAN”

Ever since the release of the DCEU’s new movie, “WONDER WOMAN”, film critics and moviegoers have been raving over it and raving over the Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman character as this ray of sunshine in the middle of Warner Brother Studio’s DCEU’s “doom and gloom”. Sigh! 

First of all, the main reason I had looked forward to seeing “WONDER WOMAN” in the first place was my curiosity over the main protagonist’s development. I was curious to see how the Wonder Woman/Diana Prince character had transformed into the somewhat cynical and weary woman that I saw in the 2016 film, “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”. That was it. I was not that concerned about Wonder Woman being portrayed as some unstoppable figure of action in the middle of World War I or some one-dimensional feminist icon.

To be honest, if Wonder Woman had simply been this “symbol of goodness and hope” in this new movie, I would have dismissed her as a boring character. I would also have dismissed the film as not worthy of my time. I believe that kind of description would have shoved Wonder Woman into some kind of whore/Madonna category, with her being “the Madonna”. Wonder Woman was a lot more than this “symbol of hope and compassion” . . . this Madonna. A lot more.

For me, Princess Diana aka Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman was a person . . . an individual who was compassionate, strong-willed and intelligent. But she was also a person whose bubble-like upbringing by her mother, Queen Hippolyta, also led her to become a rather naive and unpractical person by the time she left her homeland of Themyscira Island with Steve Trevor. And her unwillingness to let go of her naivety also revealed that she could be quite stubborn. The reason why I liked the portrayal of Diana in “WONDER WOMAN” in the first place was that the movie was not afraid to show both the good and the bad about her character. And I have to thank director Patty Jenkins; screenwriters Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder and Jason Fuchs; and actress Gal Gadot for this well-rounded portrayal. I found the Wonder Woman characterization quite refreshing and an example of really good writing.

As I had stated earlier, I did not watch “WONDER WOMAN” in order to view the main character as some kind of one-dimensional feminist ideal or some symbol of everything that is pure, good and whatever form of moral saccharine that many critics seem inclined to dump on her. I wanted to see a story about a woman, a complex woman with virtues and flaws . . . and how she was forced to grow up and develop as a character. And as far as I am concerned, that is what I got.

“Irrelevant Bashing”

 

“IRRELEVANT BASHING”

I am another moviegoer who is getting sick and tired of the regarding Marvel/Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films and Warner Brothers/D.C. Comics’ D.C. Extended Universe (DCEU) films. I have come across articles in which fans of both movie universes have accused the other of excessive bashing. 

I never understood this rivalry between Marvel and DC Comics movie franchises. To be honest, I find it unnecessary. And I believe today’s audiences are getting too caught up in this so-called rivalry, thanks to the media, the studios and the two comic book conglomerates. I have seen both DC Comics and Marvel since “SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE” first came out in 1978. Why do certain films from one comic book company need to be better than those from another one? I have seen films from both that I found very impressive. And I have seen films from both that left me feeling disappointed. For me to decide whether the Marvel films or the DC films are better strikes me as ridiculous.

Some fans have claimed that since the MCU films perform better at the box office, they are without a doubt, the superior series of films. One major problem with this reasoning was the box office performance of the five major comic book movies released in 2016. Marvel’s “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE CIVIL WAR” proved to be the second (or third) biggest box office success of that year. Yet, D.C. Comics’ “BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” proved to be that year’s fifth biggest box office success. Although both the DCEU’s “SUICIDE SQUAD” and the MCU’s “DOCTOR STRANGE” never reached those heights in terms of box office, both were successful and ironically, the DCEU movie proved to be a bit more successful.

However, I believe that box office performance is not a true reflection of a movie’s worth. No one knows the true reason behind the critics’ current and more positive reaction to the Marvel films. Not really. True, some film critics might honestly believe they are better. Then again, it is possible that some film critics were bribed to praise the Marvel films to the sky and/or bash the D.C. Comics movies. Personally, I had stopped regarding their opinion as fact a long time ago. After all, their opinions are dictated by personal tastes, or . . . other means, just as the opinions of moviegoers are dictated by personal tastes. – Yes, there might be more people who believe that the current Marvel films are better. But I have encountered a great number of opinions that favor the current DC Comic movies. And I cannot help but wonder if the MCU fans are simply the loudest. Also, judging a film based upon box office success or the number of fans for a certain franchise strikes me as irrelevant. There are a lot of fans of the “TRANSFORMER” films. A lot. Which is why those movies generated a good deal of money. In the end, it is all subjective.

I am fans of both the MCU and the DCEU. I have been aware of some bashing of the MCU films by certain DCEU fans. However, their bashing seemed to be minor in compare to the consistent and excessive stream of criticism and bashing directed toward the DCEU films … and I believe this bashing is getting out of control.

Sometimes, I get the feeling that a lot of Marvel fans (or perhaps I should say the Marvel/Disney company is threatened by the three movies released by DC Comics between 2013 and 2016. These three movies signaled the end of the Marvel/Disney’s monopoly on a series of comic book movies based upon a collection of titles. The bashing for the DCEU has become utter ridiculous and excessive. I am also beginning to wonder if those who had accused Disney/Marvel of paying off the critics to bad mouth ALL THREE DCEU movies that have been released so far … had been right after all. Because this criticism has become over the top. It has now extended to both “WONDER WOMAN” and “JUSTICE LEAGUE” and they have yet to be released. Has bashing the DCEU movies become the “in” thing to do? Just as bashing the “STAR WARS” Prequel films is still a popular past time? I hope not. For I had almost bought it myself.

When “MAN OF STEEL”“BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” and “SUICIDE SQUAD” first hit the theaters, I was reluctant to see all three, because I had stupidly accepted the bad opinions about them. Yet, I overcame my reluctance and went to see them, anyway. And when I finally saw those three movies, I enjoyed them. All of them. Very much. In fact, I regard “BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” as one of the best comic book hero movies I have ever seen. And that was when I finally realized that a film critic’s opinion was worth dog shit. No more. I am simply going to form my own opinion of any movie I am interested in seeing. And I refuse to be some mindless drone and accept the views of others simply because it is the in-thing to do.

The idea that we are supposed to be accept that the Marvel or MCU films are better than the DCEU films, because many film critics or movie fans say so is irrelevant. It is irrelevant, because their views are matters of opinion. Preference. I do not accept this view “numbers matter” regarding the artistic quality of a film, because I do not share it. I have watched a lot of comic book movies in my time. From my perspective, only my opinion of an individual movie count. I do not care whether any those movies are based upon the titles of Marvel, DC Comics or any other comic book company that exists. And considering that art and entertainment are subjective in the end, what is the point in declaring that MCU films are better or that DCEU movies are better? It seems like a waste of time to me. I think we all should focus on which individual movies that appeals to us and not bother on which company makes the better films.

Warner Bros./DCEU is scheduled to release two movies in 2017. Disney/MCU has scheduled three to be released. I plan to see all five movies this year. And I will be damned if I pay attention to any film critics or moviegoer . . . until after I have seen these movies. Regardless of who performs better at the box office, I am the one who will decide which films I want to see and which ones I want to buy, regardless of whether they came from DC Comics or Marvel.

Critical Reaction to “WONDER WOMAN” and the DCEU

 

CRITICAL REACTION TO “WONDER WOMAN” AND THE DCEU

I might as well put all of my cards on the table. I am tired of people claiming that the D.C. Comics Extended Universe (DCEU) finally got its franchise right with the recent release of “WONDER WOMAN”. As far as I am concerned, the DCEU had been getting it right ever since the release of its 2013 film, “MAN OF STEEL”

I enjoyed “WONDER WOMAN” very much. In fact, it became one of my favorite movies of 2017.  But I do not consider it to be the best film within the DCEU franchise. But that is not my point. My point . . . has to do with the reasons behind this declaration regarding “WONDER WOMAN” and why I find it so troubling.

I cannot help but wonder if today’s critics and moviegoers have balls of rubber. When did it become so damn important to them that all comic book hero movies are “fun” or loaded with humor? There is NO LAW that all comic book movies have to be “fun”. The Captain America movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) franchise were not all fun . . . especially 2014’s “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER” (which is why I am such a major fan of the movie). Neither were the Dark Knight Trilogy films directed by Christopher Nolan. And the DCEU film, “SUICIDE SQUAD” was practically loaded with humor. Yet, that film was trashed as well, and criticized for similar reasons as “MAN OF STEEL” and its follow-up, “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” (another major favorite of mine). So, why criticize the DCEU movies for lacking a sense of humor?

Another criticism that has been lobbied against the DCEU films was the franchise’s ambiguous portrayals of its main characters. Especially Clark Kent aka Superman. I am beginning to suspect that deep down, this negative reaction regarding the DCEU franchise solely began with the portrayal of Clark Kent aka Superman in “MAN OF STEEL”. Many people seem incapable of dealing with Superman being portrayed in some ambiguous manner. They could not deal with his insecurities regarding his place in the world – insecurities that originated with his status as an immigrant from another world . . . and his super powers. These traits – especially his powers – led Clark/Superman to be initially regarded as an outsider and with distrust. “MAN OF STEEL” was the first time any movie had explored this aspect of Superman’s existence. And to be honest, it did not reflect well upon most of the Humans featured in the movie. When it seemed that Superman had finally risen above his insecurities in the next movie, “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”, events in that film proved that he had not – not completely. And the reason he had not risen above his insecurities stemmed from the public’s fickle reaction to him. In the 2016 film, some people worshipped Superman as a god. And this made him feel very uncomfortable. Others regarded him as a convenient savior to be at humanity’s beck and call. Not only did many of the public felt this way, but so did the majority of political and military leaders. And others, like Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne aka Batman, regarded him as a current or future menace. Had this ambiguous portrayal of Humanity or its ambiguous reaction to Superman’s presence annoyed a lot of people?

I do know that many critics and moviegoers had protested his killing of the Kryptonian leader, General Zod, claiming that Superman does not kill. I found this declaration either ignorant or hypocritical. Why? Because Superman had killed Zod in a previous D.C. Comics film, 1981’s “SUPERMAN II”. No one had protested. And many comic book movie fans today insist that scene never happened. It seem many fans and critics will not allow Superman to be an individual with virtues and flaws. Instead, they always seem to demand that he be some damn, one-dimensional symbol used to wallow in their illusions and fantasies of a convenient savior in an unsafe world.

This attitude has been extended to both Bruce Wayne aka Batman and Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman . . . but in different ways. Many critics and moviegoers not only criticized Superman for killing Zod in “MAN OF STEEL”, they also criticized the Batman character for his killing of numerous thugs and his attempt to kill Superman in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”. Considering that Batman has always been such a noir character among the comic book heroes, I found this criticism very hard to swallow. Have there been other occasions in which the Dark Knight had deliberately killed someone? Hmmm . . . he killed the Joker in 1989’s “BATMAN”. He arranged the Penguin’s death in 1992’s “BATMAN RETURNS”. Batman caused Harvey “Two Face” Dent to fall to his death in the 1995 movie, “BATMAN FOREVER”. And in 2005’s “BATMAN BEGINS”, Batman refused to save the life of his mentor-turned-nemesis, Herni Ducard aka Ra’s al Ghul from one of Gotham’s runaway monorail trains. Mind you, some countries do not consider deliberate killing by inaction a felony. Some countries do. And in my eyes, it is not only murder, but hypocrisy at its worst.

However . . . hardly anyone seemed to remember these previous incidents of Batman causing the death of another. Instead, they focused their ire upon Batman’s actions in the 2016 movie. Was it because Batman was not portrayed as a clear-cut hero throughout most of the film? Or that he seemed to be portrayed as a homicidal xenophobe, bent upon Superman’s destruction? Did this negative portrayal put these fans and critics off? Were they unwilling to peek into the uglier aspects of Batman’s persona . . . something that the comic books have never been afraid to explore? But the portrayal did not stick and eventually, Batman saw the light . . . again – something that a lot of moviegoers and critics had failed to notice Or perhaps they were too busy taking umbrage at how director-writer Zack Snyder was willing to take Batman so close to the abyss. In many ways, these same moviegoers and critics remind me of the general public featured in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why so many were negative toward the film. Zack Synder had portrayed them in a way they probably found unflattering.

As for “WONDER WOMAN”, I get the feeling that many critics and film goers are complimenting the movie for THE WRONG REASONS. Unless I am mistaken, I understand that the movie is the first truly successful comic book heroine movie and I am not only glad, but relieved. However, the movie seemed to possess a more ambiguous and complex tale than many are willing to admit. And these same fans and critics seemed to think that it is the only DCEU movie that is truly a “fun” movie. Strange . . . I never came to that conclusion. Looking back on the film, I noticed that the movie possessed pockets of innocence and humor – especially in the first half. But once the movie shifted to the war zone in Belgium, it gradually became more grim and angst-filled. Diana’s innocence and naivety, which seemed humorous in the film’s first half, proved to be an impediment to her character growth in the second half. Yet, I have only come across a few articles willing to admit this.

In fact, many were so busy emphasizing Diana’s compassion, warmth, frankness, strength and warrior skills so much that they seemed to turn a blind eye to her personality flaws. Many had ignored that Diana’s bubble-like upbringing had made her too naive for her own good. Although one might be inclined to compliment her frankness, many had failed to notice that this trait proved to be an impediment to Steve Trevor’s attempts to report his actions in Eastern Europe to his superiors. Or that there is a time to be frank and a time to keep one’s mouth shut. Many critics and filmgoers have been so busy focusing on Diana’s virtues or trying to paint her as a more superior costumed hero/heroine than Superman and Batman that it seems as if they have deliberately turned a blind eye to her flaws. Or pretend that she had overcome her flaws by the end of World War I. Many have also complimented Wonder Woman aka Diana Prince for coming to the conclusion that humanity is not all good or all bad. The ironic thing is that Wonder Woman came to her balanced opinion of humanity after her experiences in “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN”, not in this movie. She came to this conclusion after a conversation with Batman aka Bruce Wayne in the 2016 movie. After her World War I experiences, Diana had spent nearly a century maintaining an emotional distance from humanity and maintaining a cynical view (which I share, by the way). And many filmgoers and critics have either failed to notice this . . . or refuse to acknowledge this aspect of her character.

Now, I am a big fan of “WONDER WOMAN”. So far, it is my favorite movie of the Summer 2017 season. But the movie does have its flaws. I have a deep suspicion that a great deal of the movie’s acclaim originated from gender politics. “WONDER WOMAN” is the first truly successful costumed hero/heroine movie in which the protagonist is a woman. As a woman, I am pleased by this turn of events. But I am also disturbed that so many are using this aspect of the film to judge it superior to the other films within the DCEU franchise. Nor do I regard “WONDER WOMAN” to be morally straightforward as many critics and moviegoers insist that it is. In this movie, the character of Princess Diana aka Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman is forced to shed her naivety and truly grow up. And in a rather painful manner. If the movie truly was that morally absolute to me, I would not have found it that interesting in the first place. Nor do I regard the public’s misconception of the movie as morally absolute as a sign of its superiority over the previous three DCEU films. I have reached a point in my life in which fictional works with a black-and-white morality are not as interesting as it used to be when I was a lot younger.

Due to certain arguments, I do not regard “WONDER WOMAN” as the “savior” of the DCEU franchise. Unlike many moviegoers and critics, I did not find the character of Wonder Woman to be ideally moral. In fact, there were times when I found her idealism and moral absolutism rather annoying. And I did not find the movie as morally absolute as many claim it was. Despite being thrilled that the film is the first comic book hero movie with a woman protagonist to be very successful, I do not regard that as an argument to view it superior to the other DCEU films.

For me, the idea that “WONDER WOMAN” is the D.C. Extended Universe franchise’s “savior” is a load of horseshit to me. As far as I am concerned, the DCEU never required any “saving”. At least not yet.

Top Favorite Movies of 2017

Below is a list of my favorite movies of 2017( List subject to change):

 

 

TOP FAVORITE MOVIES OF 2017

image

1. “Dunkirk” – Christopher Nolan wrote and directed this acclaimed look at the British Expeditionary Force’s evacuation from Dunkirk, France in 1940. Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy and Mark Rylance starred.

 

 
 
image

2. “Wonder Woman” – Gal Gadot starred in this movie about the D.C. Comics’ heroine Wonder Woman and her experiences during World War I. Patty Jenkins directed.

 

 
 
image

3. “Murder on the Orient Express” – Kenneth Branaugh directed and starred in this fifth adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel about a murder aboard the famed Orient Express. Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfieffer co-starred.

 

 
 
image

4. “I, Tonya” – Margot Robbie starred in this deliciously bizarre biopic about the controversial Olympic ice skater, Tonya Harding. Directed by David Gillespie, the movie co-starred Sebastian Stan and Allison Janney.

 

 
 
image

5. “Marshall” – Chadwick Boseman starred in this interesting biopic about an early case of future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Directed by Reginald Hudlin, Josh Gad and Sterling K. Brown co-starred.

 

 
 
image

6. “The Post” – Steven Spielberg directed this fascinating look about The Washington Post’s efforts to publish “The Pentagon Papers”, the controversial Department of Defense documents about the Vietnam War. Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks starred.

 

 
 
image

7. “Detroit” – Kathryn Biegelow directed this harrowing look at the Algiers Motel incident during Detroit’s 1967 12th Street Riot. John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith and Anthony Mackie starred.

 

 
 
image

8. “Justice League” – Zack Snyder directed (most of it) this entertaining, yet flawed tale about the formation of the Justice League of America and its battle against the alien villain known as Steppenwolf. Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa and Henry Cavill starred.

 

 
 
image

9. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” – Johnny Depp returned as Jack Sparrow in this funny, yet slightly poignant fifth entry in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film franchise. Directed by Espen Sanberg and Joachim Rønning, the movie co-starred Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario.

 

 
 
image

10. “Logan” – Hugh Jackman and director James Manigold reunited for this haunting adaptation of the 2008 Marvel Comics tale, “Old Man Logan”. Patrick Stewart co-stars as Charles Xavier aka “Professor X”.

 

 
 
image

Honorable Mention: “Baby Driver” – Edgar Wright wrote and directed this tale about a young Atlanta getaway driver and music lover who is forced to work for a kingpin in order to settle a debt. Ansel Elgort, Lily James and Kevin Spacey starred.

Ranking of Movies Seen During Summer 2017

Usually I would list my ten favorite summer movies of any particular year. However, since I had only watched ten new releases during the summer of 2017. Due to the limited number, I decided to rank the films that I saw:

 

RANKING OF MOVIES SEEN DURING SUMMER 2017

1.  “Dunkirk” – Christopher Nolan wrote and directed this acclaimed look at the British Expeditionary Force’s evacuation from Dunkirk, France in 1940.  Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy and Mark Rylance starred.

 

 

2.  “Wonder Woman” – Gal Gadot starred in this movie about the D.C. Comics’ heroine Wonder Woman and her experiences during World War I.  Patty Jenkins directed.

 

 

3.  “Detroit” – Kathryn Biegelow directed this harrowing look at the Algiers Motel incident during Detroit’s 1967 12th Street Riot.  John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith and Anthony Mackie starred.

 

 

4.  “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” – Johnny Depp returned as Jack Sparrow in this fifth entry in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film franchise.  Directed by Espen Sanberg and Joachim Rønning, the movie co-starred Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario.

 

 

5.  “Baby Driver” – Edgar Wright wrote and directed this tale about a young Atlanta getaway driver and music lover who is forced to work for a kingpin in order to settle a debt.  Ansel Elgort, Lily James and Kevin Spacey starred.

 

 

6.  “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” – Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson starred in this comedy action-thriller about a bodyguard who hired to protect a hitman who has to testify at the International Criminal Court.  Patrick Hughes directed.

 

 

7.  “King Arthur and the Legend of the Sword” – Guy Ritchie directed this new spin on the King Arthur legend and the monarch’s conflict against his treasonous uncle.  Charlie Hunnam and Jude Law starred.

 

 

8.  “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” –   Luc Besson wrote and directed this adaptation of Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières’ science fiction comics series “Valérian and Laureline”.  The movie starred Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne.

 

 

9.  “Spider-Man:  Homecoming” – Tom Holland starred as Spider-Man aka Peter Parker in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)’s first solo film featuring the web slinger.   Jon Watts directed.

 

 

10. “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2″ – James Gunn wrote and directed this followup to the 2014 hit “Guardians of the Galaxy” for the MCU.  Chris Pratt, Zoë Saldana and Kurt Russell starred.