A Sense of Awe — A Musing of Wonder Woman

 

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Let me just say this and say this once:

DC FINALLY DROPS A HELLA GOOD MOVIE, Y’ALL.

Alright, the sentence above is completely subject to argument, as many would passionately argue that DC has done plenty of good movies before. But when we’re talking about the DC Extended Universe, let’s face it, the results have been less than satisfactory. While I personally harbor a strong yet apprehensive affection for the three previous movies, namely Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad, I’ve got to admit that I still wanted something more from DC, something bigger and better in every way. (Preferably nothing too grim dark, thank you.)

Wonder Woman answered the call for longing, surpassing each and every expectation I’ve had for this movie in the first place—which, I have to say, was already pretty damn high.

Wonder Woman is a milestone in so many ways. When so many of the superhero adaptations we’re getting nowadays are grim, dark, and bleak in attempt to make them realistic, Wonder Woman chooses to show its realism by veering into the other side of it all: hope and light and goodness. These three things are not immediately visible within the first scenes of the movie, however; after all, the secret to a good storyline is good conflict.

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Diana, accompanied by allies, going to the battlefront.

Taking place during the first World War, the human world is bleak as it can be when Diana (Gal Gadot) first step foot outside of Themyscira after Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), a war pilot/spy crash landed off the coast of the island. Having lived in Paradise Island all her life, she has no concept of war and the brutality mankind is capable of save by the stories her mother, Queen Hippolyta, told her. At the beginning of the movie, Diana is very much an idealist who believes, without a shred of doubt, in the general goodness of mankind and of the universe. Diana’s naivety, however, soon is put to a test when she is thrown into a battle even she couldn’t conceive.

Wonder Woman is very much a coming-of-age story, chronicling how Diana of Themyscira from the year 1917 became the Diana Prince, the Wonder Woman we’ve seen in 2015’s Batman v. Superman. The somewhat juvenile character of Diana in the beginning of the movie goes through the first of the many trials she was to face through the years, from a girl who grew up in the company of warrior women in the most serene place imaginable to a woman of her own woes and wiles while still maintaining a sense of positivity about the world around her, even after seeing what she’d seen in battle.

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Diana and Steve in London.

While the movies we’ve seen so far pretty much remained grimdark all the way to the end with scarce chances of light, the way the various conflicts and events in Wonder Woman are handled and executed is a topic of its own wonder (no pun intended). Again, being set at the end of one of the bloodiest conflicts in history gives Wonder Woman every chance to go grimdark like all the others—but the film perseveres in its delivery of constant light and good-heartedness found even amid the most desolate of conflicts.

The highest kudos must be given to the director of this movie. Having watched a lot of her interviews, I’ve inferred that Patty Jenkins, aside from caring so much about the character and what she represents, knows what she’s doing, and what she’s doing, she does with an amount of passion that translates into her words and onto the screen. It was clear that Wonder Woman was handled with an amount of care only generable by someone who cares not only about representation in media, but also what makes Wonder Woman a truly unique and timeless character, one that a lot of people could look up to and find optimism in their own often dark world.

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A warrior must also be kind at heart.

Generations of comic book writers have written Diana in a lot of ways, but what makes her distinguishable from every other character is what she represents. If Clark Kent represents hope and Bruce Wayne represents justice, then Diana represents truth. Diana is a character who, we can pretty much say, has seen it all: Born and blessed with longevity, Diana (at least the DCEU incarnation) has lived for a hundred years among mankind, and eons before in the company of the Amazons. Despite that, Diana remains true to herself and what she believes in, willing to fight that others couldn’t fight for themselves.

The one thing I have to point out is how much I love the dynamics between Steve Trevor and Diana. And Hippolyta and Diana. And Antiope with Diana. And Etta Candy with Diana and Steve. And Trevor’s crew with…well, everyone, really. Wonder Woman gives us a healthy dose of everything—from the romance between Steve and Diana that’s so subtle and so tear-jerking that you’ll never see it coming once you’ve started shipping them, the heart-wrenchingly beautiful mother-daughter relationship between Hippolyta and Diana, the harsh-yet-sincere mentor-student dynamics with Antiope, and the sustained camaraderie with Etta and Steve’s band of seasoned war veterans, who were so much more than eye candies and provide the story with more depth than it already possesses. The writing of each character is so good and so humane, in a way that’s easily relatable with the human connections we have and encounter every day.

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Diana’s first meeting with Etta Candy.

The use of disposable villain(s) is one of the main problems found in recent superhero movies, but Wonder Woman is not one of them. Despite having multiple villains, Wonder Woman manages to use all of them effectively. Each of them contributes something to the storyline—none of them is there only to look evil and menacing and does absolutely nothing to drive the story forward (I’m not gonna name names, but, go figure).

Regardless of the differing tone and generally everything, Wonder Woman still feels very much like a DC movie. It somehow manages to find itself in the established universe with subtle characteristics DCEU fans would notice, for instance, over-the-top action sequences. These sequences, however, don’t come off as bad extra (as in Qui-Gon-Jinn-cutting-through-a-blast-door-with-a-lightsaber extra), but good extra. Patty Jenkins explains in an interview with AOL Build Series that the slow-motion effect used in many of the scenes is meant to emphasize Diana’s point of view, as she is experiencing the situations of a real battle for the first time. Extra-ness aside, those scenes did look cool—without being too tacky.

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Extra, but good extra.

A review by me is not complete if I don’t go over the music. And let me just tell ya—Rupert Gregson-Williams is quickly becoming one of my favorites.

Having been exposed to his work in The Crown and Hacksaw Ridge, Gregson-Williams’ music is one I like to think I was getting familiar with. Listening to his score in Wonder Woman, I could place his style immediately—the melodies and the dynamics, for example—and boy did he outdo himself in this film. Gregson-Williams’ music in Wonder Woman offers dimensions and depths like I haven’t encountered in both titles mentioned above with new themes illustrating Diana’s world and experience in Themyscira and the outside world. What gives me more delight is that Gregson-Williams uses the track introduced in Batman v. Superman that has now become iconic, Is She With You? in the battle sequences, which further provides the movie with many a “HOLY SHIT” moment.

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To be released on June 2, can’t freaking wait.

The one downside of this movie—if there is any—is the lack of nods to the comic book runs. While Wonder Woman manages to incorporate elements of Diana’s origin from both the original and New 52 (nicely and with respect to both, might I add), I couldn’t help but felt like there could have been more of the Amazons and the vast lore of Themyscira to be shown in the movie. The two Amazons featured in the movie, namely Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and General Antiope (Robin Wright), are badass enough as they are, but as a fan of the comic book mythos, of course I wanted to see more of the Amazons.

Small disappointment aside, Wonder Woman is without a single doubt the best DCEU film I have seen so far, as I’m sure many people would agree once they’ve seen it. It is a movie done with complete earnestness and faith and generosity to the original source material without being stiff, providing the audience with twists and turns for it to remain entertaining. It is the first female-led superhero movie in recent memory, and one to feature a truly strong representation of how a woman could be in a world we live in now. It is a movie that makes me cry and laugh and swoon within the span of two hours. It is a movie that gives you everything and, though feeling more than satisfied with what you’ve just been given, it leaves you wanting more.

I’m sorry that I’m not sorry for the length of this post, guys. I’ve been a patient DC fan for years and finally those years of patience have been paid. Wonder Woman is really, honestly, whole-heartedly, that good. Don’t believe me? Go see the movie and decide for yourself.

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It’s Clobberin’ Time — A Case for Suicide Squad

Okay, let’s start with a list of questions. Why are you reading this article? Those other reviews online don’t satisfy you? Looking for an honest point of view from the eyes of a DC fan? Or are you still weighing whether or not that $4 ticket is going to be worth your time this weekend?

Fret not. It is.

The worldwide premiere of Suicide Squad on August 2, 2016 was met with overwhelming enthusiasm from fans—at least, from where I’m standing. My Twitter feed was overflowing with tweets from the premiere event, and everyone seemed pretty happy about it. Until the critics’ reviews started hitting the Net—then it turned kind of ugly. I personally didn’t want to read any of those, but I couldn’t help but to feel indignant about how a lot of those articles compare Suicide Squad with films that belong with Marvel. Let me say this once and only once: DC is not Marvel. And vice versa. If you’re going to have fun with either without ruining your time with pointless bickering, that’s important to note.

With that aside, if you want to—or even did—pop over to one of those review sites and see the critical reviews, they’re not mistaken. Suicide Squad suffers from “the lack of sufficient plot”, “too many characters all at once”, “talented cast wasted for a hot mess of a story”, and all that. But it’s all from a critic’s point of view.

I can’t stress enough about how these movies weren’t made to please critics. If I’m being completely honest with you all, movie critiquing system these days aren’t totally reliable anyway. I’m not pointing fingers, but I’ve seen a couple titles I personally don’t like—along with many other fans—receive high praises from critics, even though some, if not most, of their problems are along the critical side. I mean, come on, guys. Time to grow the hell up and be your own judge for the things you like.

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#SKWAD

If you’ve stopped reading this article and bought a ticket to see Suicide Squad already, good. If you’re still reading this, let me tell you why this movie is such a triumph even for a critical, opinionated, hard-to-please DC fan like me.

First off, the visuals. Movies are a visual media and to me, if the visual elements punch you in the face with its eye-catchiness, it’s worth something. And boy oh boy; how many movies can you name that shamelessly employ comical visual effects with glowing, neon information text mid-scene? (Y’all nerds can probably name five in ten seconds, so don’t answer that.)

It doesn’t stop right there. Compared to the grimdark, almost slate-grayscale palette of Batman v. Superman, the color palette in Suicide Squad is iridescent and daring in contrast. The colors pop beautifully and are a delight to see, especially since I walked out thinking, “Holy shit, that looks right out of a comic book.” Honestly, go pick up an issue of the recent Suicide Squad comics run; you’ll get a sense of what you’re about to see in the movie.

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Drain the colooorsss.

The main appeal of a team-up movie is, of course, the characters—their dynamics and how they would interact during such a sticky situation. I mean, who wouldn’t love to see Harley Quinn gracing the screen with her craziness, or Deadshot taking on a horde of creatures with only a couple guns while the rest of ‘em watch? All that is good in itself, but the Suicide Squad doesn’t just consist of bad guys—someone’s gotta be there to control the loose cannons. Colonel Rick Flag is there as Amanda Waller’s reluctant right hand man.

I’m sure it’s been going ‘round the Internet, but Harley Quinn really did steal the show. And it ain’t just because she’s the unofficial poster girl of Suicide Squad—Margot Robbie delivers a stellar performance as the Cupid of Crime and Dr. Harleen Quinzel in the flashbacks. If you have the guts to say that no comic book film can deliver actors with great, if not phenomenal, acting skills—throw them out the window. Viola Davis, Will Smith and Jared Leto gave their absolute all as Amanda Waller, Floyd Lawton aka Deadshot, and the Joker, respectively.

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You mean we get to have all these talented people in one movie? Seriously?!

Individual performances aside, the chemistry the cast have as a team really does show on screen. All that crazy regime David Ayer put them through was not in vain.

Academy Award-winning composer Steven Price helms the original score, and though I could tell you that he did a good job on it, the true star of the music department is the soundtrack. As in, the songs you can sing along because they’re such iconic, well-known tunes. I held back my squeals multiple times when the songs start playing because if there’s a definition to a fun soundtrack, this is definitely one of them. Director David Ayer talked about how the soundtrack plays a crucial role to setting the mood of the movie, and he is not mistaken—the music is as fun as the movie itself.

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Getcha jammin’ to it.

As all movies, Suicide Squad isn’t without its flaws. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I’m a sucker for great plot and I can’t lie—there’s a part of me that longs for a better plotting of the story. Cheeky jokes aside, the glaring thing that makes the movie good is Harley Quinn and Deadshot, and for me, a little more spotlight on the other characters couldn’t hurt. While Diablo and Flag each got a nice emotional segway into their characters, I found myself wanting more. Am I selfish? Yes. Am I just thirsty for more of these characters? Probably.

There is also something that doesn’t quite get me all fired up—maybe it’s the execution, the editing, I don’t know. It’s missing a spark that turns me into a complete rabid fangirl, a 120 in the scale of 100. Right now it’s on 110, but I love it when a movie skyrockets my capability to hype up.

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Get crazy hyped. Geddit?

But you know what? At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. The point of Suicide Squad, from the music to the effects to the promos to the cast’s camaraderie, is to have fun. And fun is what you’re gonna get from watching this movie. Close your ears from all the reviews you’ve read or heard—and yes, including this one—and go buy a ticket. See it for yourself with an open mind. You are your own judge, and if you end up loving it, then you can bet all your expensive Hot Topic merchandises that you are far from being the only one.