“Wonder Woman 1984” Review!

There’s a small but memorable scene in Wonder Woman 1984 in which the film’s major antagonist, Maxwell Lord (the irresistibly charming Pedro Pascal), having just worked his dark magic on the President of the United States and sparked an all-out nuclear war with the Soviet Union, tries to escape from an altercation at the White House only to find himself awkwardly handcuffed to Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), Wonder Woman’s quick-thinking sidekick and lover. I bring this up because it’s representative of the film overall, which handcuffs itself to Pine’s Trevor and stubbornly sticks to him even as his very presence in the story demands that the entire plot revolve around him and not the lead character. The only way this metaphor could have been made even stronger would be if Wonder Woman herself were handcuffed to Trevor in this scene to reflect the film’s inability to give independence or agency to its female characters.

Wonder Woman 1984
Wonder Woman | cnbc.com

Make no mistake, I loved Pine in the first film – and I adored the mature, elegant romance between him and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot): which was written in such a way that both characters could be strong and vulnerable with each other, and both had equal footing – with Diana clearly and effortlessly remaining the lead. Trevor’s death in Wonder Woman was a heartbreaking and powerful moment that allowed us all to see the good in humanity. And yet he’s back in Wonder Woman 1984, nearly a century after his death in World War I, doing pretty well for a guy whom we last saw get blown to bits in mid-air. Prior to the film’s release, I was as excited as anyone to see him return: in hindsight, I’m beginning to realize how foolish it was to ever attempt something that could so easily go so wrong…and did.

It’s blasphemous to even suggest, I know. The first film relied so heavily on that spark of chemistry between the two actors and their characters. But Wonder Woman 1984 had the means to substitute that timeless pairing for another one that could have been just as well-written and well-received, if director Patty Jenkins and her team of screenwriters hadn’t decided to resurrect Steve Trevor for one last lackluster hurrah: because let me tell you, everything that’s bad about this film’s flawed script, from the convoluted globe-trotting adventure to the random interlude with a Mayan shaman, feels to me like the inevitable side-effect of having to devise an excuse for how Steve was even able to come back at all.

And with the return of Steve Trevor, Diana herself gets sidelined in a story that seems almost uninterested in her as an individual. She’s got nowhere left to go and nothing new to learn, essentially. A vague theme about the importance of being true to yourself is woven throughout the film, but it’s not exactly an urgent message that Diana personally has to embrace, unlike the first film’s timely reminder to believe in the goodness of people. She was being true to herself anyway, before Steve randomly came back into her life and took over her entire storyline (oh, the parallels to Avengers: Endgame). I mean, it’s really a shame there was no way to weave this message more cleverly into the plot and romantic subplot by…oh I don’t know, making this a queer love story?

Just as DC preceded Marvel in the department of successful female-led superhero movies, many of us had hoped they’d be the first to give us a proudly and openly LGBTQ+ superheroine onscreen in the form of Diana Prince (Harley Quinn was vaguely bisexual in Birds Of Prey, and a supervillain anyway). We’ve known for some time that wouldn’t be the case, with Patty Jenkins confirming that wasn’t the story she wanted to tell. But what we get instead is a film that tiptoes around even the possibility of a same-sex romance as clumsily as Barbara Ann Minerva (Kristen Wiig) strides around the Smithsonian in high heels. Now, to be fair, most of the romantic tension between Diana and Barbara is more a result of the palpable chemistry between the two actresses (the quiet, ethereal Gadot and sparky, exuberant Wiig complimenting each other very nicely), rather than necessarily indicative of anything intentionally written into the script, but at the same time…come on. Both Diana and Barbara are canonically bisexual in DC Comics, and you’re telling me Patty Jenkins didn’t know what she was doing by casting a romantic filter over their awkwardly flirtatious lunch overlooking the Washington Monument, or having Barbara tumble into Diana’s arms in a subversion of a dated Hollywood romantic trope? It’s queerbaiting that only serves to underscore the fact that the rest of the movie is, in the words of one of my favorite reviewers, Valerie Complex; “aggressively heteronormative”.

Wonder Woman 1984
Cheetah | flickeringmyth.com

To the surprise of absolutely no one, the scenes that center women are the highlights of the film: from those early interactions between Diana and Barbara, to the epic prologue action sequence on the Amazonian isle of Themyscira, to a cheeky and delightful mid-credits scene. But none of these isolated scenes make up for the fact that the character arcs of both female leads in Wonder Woman 1984 (one of those female leads being a literal icon of feminism) revolve almost entirely around men. For Diana, that’s Chris Pine’s Steve, who returns with the help of an incredibly convenient plot device and plays fish-out-of-water for a while…a really long while, during an excruciating montage that exists solely to trot out every semi-nostalgic 80’s cultural trope you can imagine. Pine is still perfectly likable and has some laugh-out-loud line deliveries, but never truly recaptures what made his character so special – and thus feels like a burden the film must carry.

For Barbara Ann Minerva, it’s Pedro Pascal’s Maxwell Lord – who is quite an interesting character, despite being surprisingly little like the young Donald Trump we all assumed he would be based on the promotional material. An oil tycoon with his eye on a legendary ancient wishing stone forged by the Gods, Lord seduces the world with his voice and power to make the impossible possible. He’s got Trumpian elements to his character, of course (among the more obvious examples: he yells “You’re hired!” at one point), but his motivations are relatable, and his charm genuine. Pascal also just oozes the kind of unshakably consistent charisma that can turn a silent, faceless gunslinger into a beloved icon, or make a dumpster fire of a movie like We Can Be Heroes shockingly entertaining.

Minerva herself does get to transform into the anthropomorphic Cheetah we know from the comics, and the CGI isn’t entirely awful as she flails about in her dimly-lit third-act duel with Diana (or perhaps Diana’s Golden Eagle armor is so distractingly awful I didn’t notice), but she deserved to be the major antagonist of this film, and not merely Maxwell’s loyal henchwoman. I’m also afraid that Wiig’s excellent dramatic performance and thrilling action sequences will be overshadowed in the larger fandom discourse.

Apart from Wiig’s notable fights (particularly her brutal takedown of a drunk man who continually harasses her on her jogging route), the action in Wonder Woman 1984 is fairly slight, with the only other standout being the prologue on Themyscira, where the Amazons compete for honor and glory in a series of challenges that test their physical abilities. If Jenkins is going to commit to having Diana only use her Lasso of Truth as a weapon (an idea I actually really like, as it reflects the character’s refusal to kill), she just has to find better ways to incorporate it into action scenes, because it can too easily come off as overly ridiculous.

Wonder Woman 1984
Wonder Woman | cbr.com

Jenkins did make other “campy” elements from the character’s mythology work for Wonder Woman 1984, though, including Cheetah (doesn’t matter if she’s dressing up as a cat, or literally morphing into one: it’s still a hilariously campy concept), and the Invisible Jet – which comes about through a bizarre but acceptable deus ex machina. Unlike Shazam, this film isn’t trying to be goofy or funny: it still takes itself very seriously, and thus comes across as uniquely earnest for a superhero movie. In some ways, I’d say that’s one of several ways in which the movie evokes real 80’s adventure movies: both the good and the bad. The heightened sense of adventure, the not-so-great CGI you’re willing to excuse because everything happening onscreen is just so much fun, and the outdated perceptions of women and foreign nations that make us cringe deeply in our souls (we just need to collectively stop letting white American directors write North African and Middle Eastern nations into their scripts, because they’ve proven they’re not up to the task of handling those nations and their individual cultures at all well).

There’s still plenty of hope for the Wonder Woman franchise in the near future. We’re not dealing with another Crimes Of Grindelwald here (although the box-office reception would seem to disagree). But the divisive audience reactions and legitimate criticisms of Wonder Woman 1984 should hopefully alert Warner Brothers to the need to put this series back on track with better screenwriters and a stronger, more cohesive focus on women as individuals with their own storylines….even (and especially) if that means no more Steve Trevor.

Movie Rating: 6.5/10

“The Snyder Cut” DC Fandome Trailer!

The Snyder Cut of Justice League will finally release on HBO Max next year (in four, hour-long segments), and at last we have a full-length trailer for the now legendary epic film that most thought would never see the light of day. But for several years now, fans have been asking – even demanding – that Warner Brothers release the Snyder Cut, and I can’t blame them, because (a) Joss Whedon’s Justice League, the version of the film that actually got released in theaters back in 2017, was memorable only for how horrible it was, and (b), more importantly to me, the tenacity and perseverance of Snyder Cut fans has since inspired similar fan-driven campaigns such as the push for a She-Ra movie or a Quake spinoff, both of which I support wholeheartedly.

The Snyder Cut
denofgeek.com

But anyway, back to the Snyder Cut. Truth be told, it’s not urgent to me that I see Zack Snyder’s cut of this film, though I will definitely be curious to see how it turns out, and whether or not it lives up to the intense hype. The trailer does a pretty good job of letting us know what we’re in for: an epic of gargantuan proportions, overflowing with darkness and unimaginable horrors, set in a post-apocalyptic hellscape. The members of the Justice League are divided across the world, Superman is dead, and an ancient alien tyrant named Darkseid chooses this moment to arrive on earth with the intention of subjugating the human race.

Prior to this trailer, there was no clear victor in the perennial contest between DC’s Darkseid and Marvel’s Thanos, two suspiciously similar characters who both appear in their respective cinematic universes under very similar circumstances – but I still don’t know if there’s a clear victor, even now that we can compare both of them. Which one looks better? I’d be inclined to say Thanos: his slightly more humanoid features allow for a greater range of emotions to pass across his broad, bald head. But which is the better-written character? Well, that’s impossible to say until we actually see the Snyder Cut. Darkseid was written out of the theatrically released cut of Justice League and replaced with his servant, Steppenwolf, who also makes an appearance in this trailer but not as the main villain. Steppenwolf’s new design looks appropriately fearsome: he’s an alien mass of prickling scales and spines. Darkseid’s design, meanwhile, is still not fully-rendered, so I’m not going to pass judgment just yet, but I will say this: based on what we can see so far, I’m not certain I like his look. He’s a little on the short side, and a bit too bulky, with enormous hands – but then again, I’m not a big fan of his design in the comics either.

The Snyder Cut
Darkseid | nerdist.com

Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” plays over scenes of global destruction as Darkseid and his cosmic armies rain fire on the earth, while the Justice League slowly but surely gets their act together and begins to fight back. Superman returns in his stylish, all-black suit; Aquaman strips down in slow-motion because reasons; Cyborg actually has a lot of screentime, which lends credence to Zack Snyder’s continual promises that his character is the emotional core of the film; Batman poses dramatically on gargoyles in the rain; Wonder Woman, oddly, is almost nowhere to be seen; and The Flash of all people actually has cool action scenes, which is…shocking (no pun intended). Obviously, we all kind of know what’s going to happen: we have, technically, seen this movie before. But the Snyder Cut is sure to feature some major changes from the theatrically released Justice League. New characters like Iris West will show up, while other characters will have vastly different roles in the story.

It’s even possible that the ending of Zack Snyder’s Justice League will leave the door open for future team-up movies: it’s unclear whether DC has an interest in bringing him back for the long run, but based on his celebrity status amongst fans and his popularity with the cast, it probably wouldn’t be a bad business decision. With Ben Affleck officially returning as Batman in The Flash and Henry Cavill set to reprise the role of Superman somewhere down the line, it seems like DC is trying to lure in the Snyder fanbase again across the board, not just with this one film.

The Snyder Cut
comicbookmovie.com

When all is said and done, this trailer is incredible because it’s for a movie that wouldn’t even exist had the fans not rallied behind Zack Snyder with all their might and worked to get something done. On its own, it’s only an okay trailer, and I intend to rate it as such – it really doesn’t make me any more intrigued than I already was by this whole concept – but when you take a step back and see the bigger picture, it’s a lot more than that. It’s a testament to the power of fandoms, and the impact we can – and arguably, should at times – have on the decision-making process.

Trailer Rating: 6.9/10

“Wonder Woman 1984” DC Fandome Trailer!

“Barbara, what did you do?”

What Barbara Ann Minerva has done is somehow steal the spotlight in the second official trailer for Wonder Woman 1984, released today at the opening panel of the online DC Fandome event. Even with the epic trailer showcasing new scenes of Wonder Woman herself, all eyes are on one thing: Barbara Ann Minerva, and her grisly transformation into the apex predator she’s always dreamed of becoming – the animalistic supervillain Cheetah.

How could she not be the main focus of this trailer? For months, we’ve been waiting eagerly to catch any official glimpse of her look, and relished all the merchandise leaks that have given us hints: but nothing beats the real deal. And even though her scenes in this trailer are darkly-lit (making me question whether her design is still being worked on behind-the-scenes?), there’s enough here to make it obvious that she will be a formidable villain to Wonder Woman, armed with fearsome claws, super-strength, incredible stamina and agility, and a feral bloodlust for power. In fact, as much as we all love Wonder Woman and want to see her take the lead, it’s hard not to watch this trailer and wonder whether Barbara Ann Minerva’s tragic story will form the emotional core of this hotly-anticipated upcoming DC movie.

Wonder Woman 1984
slashfilm.com

Wonder Woman 1984 will tackle many issues, some of which are alarmingly relevant today: the main conflict comes from Maxwell Lord, a charismatic con-man (intentionally modeled off a younger Donald Trump) selling lies, empty promises and cursed gifts to the gullible, with both Wonder Woman and Barbara Ann Minerva being ensnared by his spell. But whereas Wonder Woman presumably gets a reunion with Steve Trevor, the former love of her life, as part of her bargain with Lord, Barbara Ann Minerva gets superpowers which put her on equal footing with her arch-nemesis but have the side-effect of turning her into a horrific animal/human hybrid. When I say “horrific”, I mean that in a good way…not in, like, a Cats way. It’s difficult to say when she’ll obtain her powers, however, because most of her action scenes (such as her fight with Wonder Woman in the hallways of the White House) have her wearing an extremely fashionable cheetah-print jacket and high-heeled boots, complemented by a messy mane of blond curls. That and her black evening attire when she strolls into high-society for the first time are still her best looks, based on what we’ve seen so far.

Wonder Woman
cinemablend.com

But while it’s Cheetah that has captured my attention, there are other standout moments in this trailer: we once again see Wonder Woman lassoing lightning and swinging through the clouds, but she has tranquil, emotional beats with Steve Trevor as well (walking past the Washington Monument in what is sure to be a lovely romantic scene), and the duo are just as humorous as ever – Steve Trevor, a man out of time, is clearly having a hard time adjusting to 80’s fashion norms, though if anyone can rock a fanny-pack and parachute pants, it’s him. There’s more footage from the gravity-defying Amazon Olympics on Themiscyra, a sequence which I’m sure must have some significance to Wonder Woman’s arc, but for now just looks really cool.

The trailer is lacking just one thing, and that’s a catchy, era-appropriate song choice. It’s not too major a problem, but it does feel like a downgrade after the first trailer‘s brilliant use of an electronic instrumental rendition of “Blue Monday” by New Order.

So how are we feeling, DC fans? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 8/10

Michelle MacLaren May Direct “Captain Marvel 2”!

Let me just tell you that, in my personal opinion, there was no reason for Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck to vacate their positions as the directors of the Captain Marvel franchise. Was Carol Danvers’ origin story the best-directed film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and did the directing duo do the best job bringing the character to life? No, probably not from a technical standpoint. But Captain Marvel is still one of my favorite films in the entire Infinity Saga, and Boden and Fleck are good directors: their recent work on Hulu/FX’s drama Mrs. America should prove that. But they’re out, and they will not be working on the Captain Marvel sequel (though, intriguingly, it was also reported that they may not be out of the MCU entirely, and could be working on other projects for the studio).

Captain Marvel
imdb.com

In their place, Marvel is supposedly looking for a woman to direct the sequel, which will probably pick up after the events of Avengers: Endgame, where Carol Danvers proved herself vital to the fight against the Mad Titan Thanos. Though she was underestimated, belittled and demeaned for a large part of her own solo film by an assortment of sexist villains – and by the angry, equally sexist internet trolls who put together an inconsequential boycott that didn’t stop the film from easily crossing the billion-dollar mark and becoming one of the most profitable films of 2019 – the heroine, played by Brie Larson, has proven to be fairly popular with fans, though many claim that the character still needs to find her footing in the MCU, with the help of a great director who truly “gets” her: much like how the Russo Brothers elevated Captain America to the same level as Iron Man, or how Taika Waititi reshaped the character of Thor with his zany, comedic touch. I would still argue that Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck could probably do it, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to occasionally bring in a new vision, shake up the status quo, and give something else a try. If people are honestly still on the fence about Captain Marvel (I don’t get it, but whatever), then maybe she just needs a new director.

And I’ve got to say, Michelle MacLaren is not a bad choice. If it’s indeed true that she is one of several women being eyed for the job, then I would love to see this happen: MacLaren has never tackled a major film before (well, actually, she did try twice, but we’ll get to that), but her resume on TV speaks for itself – Emmy-award winning executive producer and director of some of Breaking Bad‘s most iconic episodes, and director of four fantastic episodes of Game Of Thrones (including The Bear And The Maiden Fair), three episodes of The Walking Dead, two episodes of Better Call Saulone of Westworld, and The Morning Show‘s pilot. In fact, she’s so ingrained in the TV scene that I have to wonder whether she might be directing a Disney+ series instead – perhaps even one that includes Captain Marvel in some capacity, such as Secret Invasion or Ms. Marvel. Then again, even though it might seem risky to hire a TV director for a blockbuster film, it’s worth pointing out that the Russo’s and Taika Waititi both had backgrounds in TV before moving to Marvel and directing some of the studio’s best entries. It’s just not indicative of anything.

Captain Marvel Michelle MacLaren
watchersonthewall.com

This wouldn’t be MacLaren’s first experience with superheroes either, though it might prove to be a more pleasant one for her than her last encounter with the genre. MacLaren was originally attached to DC’s Wonder Woman before abruptly leaving the project over creative differences and being replaced by Patty Jenkins (who did an absolutely incredible job, of course). The reason for MacLaren’s exit was supposedly that she wanted to make a more epic, action-heavy origin film for the heroine, but her TV background gave studio executives worries that she might be biting off more than she could chew. After a long and arduous pre-production stage, MacLaren left the project. Something similar may have happened with another comic book adaptation she was supposed to direct: Cowboy Ninja Viking, an action film starring Chris Pratt and Priyanka Chopra, shut down production in August 2018 and has been indefinitely stalled ever since. It was rumored that script issues were the problem in that case, but no details have ever emerged that would confirm or deny those suspicions. At least in the first instance, it sounds like MacLaren’s ambitions were simply too big for what Warner Brothers had planned – which doesn’t sound too bad, if audiences are looking for Captain Marvel to get a serious overhaul (again I ask, why does she even need one?), but Disney might not agree with that assessment, and the last thing Marvel probably wants is another director suddenly walking out on them.

Captain Marvel
syfy.com

But we’ll see. There are many talented women who could direct Captain Marvel 2. Marvel President Kevin Feige has said that the MCU will try to be more committed to allowing individual directors the chance to break free from formula and run with their creativity, something that bodes well for the studio’s future – in the past, it was often said that Marvel films didn’t rely on the input of their respective directors so much as Kevin Feige’s overarching vision: which wasn’t a bad thing, since Feige’s vision allowed the studio to get to the place in which it finds itself today – a place where they can now feel free to hire more clever, unique directors: like Chloe Zhao, Cate Shortland, Sam Raimi, and Destin Daniel Cretton. MacLaren would be more than capable of holding her own even among their company.

How would you feel if MacLaren came onboard Captain Marvel 2? Do you think she could give the character the boost she (supposedly) needs? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“Wonder Woman 1984” Trailer Review!

Yes, this is really happening. Diana Prince, the world’s one and only Wonder Woman, has officially returned in the first trailer for her long-awaited sequel movie, Wonder Woman 1984.

The trailer finds Diana living her best life in the 1980’s, far removed from the horrors of warfare that she braved and defied in her origin movie: elegant and mature, she’s now a wine-sipping, evening gown-wearing celebrity with a fancy apartment in Washington D.C., and easy access to the flashy, vibrant world of the rich and famous. She’s got new friends, including the quirky, clumsy Barbara Ann Minerva, and new enemies, like Pedro Pascal as a charming but suspicious businessman and motivational speaker named Maxwell Lord (more on both these characters in a moment). And of course, she’s joined once again by the love of her life, Steve Trevor, who appears as if by magic to dance with her at a party – there’s no explanation yet for how he’s miraculously returned from the dead, but I think the trailer gives us plenty of clues.

But first: the 80’s. There’s been a lot of tension in the DC fandom recently about whether or not it’s a mistake to take the normally serious and epic character of Wonder Woman and place her in a time period so often associated with…well, shoulder pads and bangles. But Diana fits perfectly in this era – not only when she’s living it up in the big city, but also when she’s going full 80’s action hero: lassoing bad guys in the White House, swinging from lightning bolts (she is the daughter of Zeus, after all), and blowing up an entire caravan of heavily-armored military trucks. So everybody who was worried that a 1984 setting meant cheesy comedy and nauseatingly bright colors can cool it – this movie has the best of both worlds. Incredible action and techno music.

And who will she be fighting? Surprisingly, we still don’t have any idea what Barbara Ann Minerva will look like as the anthropomorphic super-villain Cheetah (though she does sport a lavish cheetah-print outfit at one point: a far cry from her other appearance in the trailer, which has her wearing giant round glasses and a rather bizarre hairstyle). But we do get a long look at Maxwell Lord, who also has a wide range of stylistic choices in these two minutes: he’s a dapper, sickly sweet collector of ancient artifacts, who has the power to make dreams come true – rumor has it that he will grant Barbara Ann’s wish to be a superhuman, and Diana’s personal, unspoken wish to be reunited with Steve Trevor.

As for Steve and Diana, their romance is still just as strong as ever, and they have a couple of cute moments – riding in Diana’s invisible jet and visiting museums together (Steve Trevor not being able to tell modern art apart from garbage cans is very relatable). But the focus is all on the woman herself, and her new, impressive suit of golden armor, which comes with unfolding wings. She doesn’t even need a Godkiller sword at this point, because she just is the weapon. Diana’s really out here about to rock this world to its core, and I don’t know if we as a society are ready for that.

Scratch that – I am. June 5th can’t come soon enough.

So what do you think of the trailer? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 9.5/10

“The King’s Man” First Trailer!

No offense to director Matthew Vaughn, but now was probably the worst possible time to release this trailer. At least for me – probably only for me.

You see, I have only recently finished watching The Last Czars on Netflix: a semi-dramatized documentary about the final days of the Russian Czar Nicholas and his entire family, who were brutally murdered in 1918 during the Bolshevik Revolution. Their story was very closely linked with that of the highly mysterious monk and spiritual healer Grigori Rasputin. Now, I went into this six-episode series knowing full well what happened to each and every one of these people, and how they died horrific deaths: what I did not know was how the series would choose to depict each and every one in the most awful ways imaginable – from Rasputin’s terrifying ability to defy death several times even while he was poisoned and brutally injured, to the slow and agonizing deaths of the Czar’s four daughters, who were probably the last of the family to perish since they were wearing diamonds sewn into their clothes, granting them a temporary immunity to their murderers’ bullets. I was expecting the deaths to happen off-screen, preferably with a minimum amount of anguished screaming. I watched it at night (could it get any worse?), and I couldn’t sleep for hours afterward. The next morning I tried as hard as I could to forget what I had just witnessed.

And who shows up in today’s first trailer for the upcoming spy thriller The King’s Man? That’s right – the bearded monk Rasputin, looking rather more fictionalized, and showing an impressive skill at wielding…glass ornaments? Teapots? I’m not entirely sure what he’s holding at the 1:18 mark, but it’s also very difficult to focus on anything other than those wide eyes, eyes which supposedly hypnotized and enchanted the Czarina of Russia, to the point where she was unable to break free of his spell. I suspect we even see the Czarina in the trailer: one of the two women clinging to Rasputin’s arm as he strides through an elegant ballroom. Then again, the characters in this film are clearly only loosed based on their historical counterparts, since the IMDb page reveals that the fabled spy Mata Hari will also be in this movie, played by Gemma Arterton (who’s been getting her fair share of spy thrillers recently, coming off the unexpected success of Murder Mystery on Netflix), alongside characters like Field Marshall Haig; U.S. President Woodrow Wilson; the Kaiser Wilhelm II, Czar Nicholas II, and King George V of England, all played by Tom Hollander, which makes me suggest that somehow all three warring heads of state are going to be revealed to be the same man; and…and Rasputin’s real-life killer, the Russian prince Felix Yusupov (played by Daniel Brühl, Marvel’s “Baron Zemo”).

And this is what has me slightly upset. Not the fact that Rasputin is actually as terrifying as all get-out, and his portrayal in this film by Rhys Ifans looks even freakier (well, okay, that too), but the knowledge that this film is going to necessarily fictionalize a whole bunch of this part of history. Now, don’t get me wrong: I like historical fiction. Usually, seeing Mata Hari cross paths with Rasputin wouldn’t be a problem for me – but coming at this time, just after I’ve watched the most grim, grisly, realistic depiction of this very intense period of human history…well, it’s just coming at a bad time. Especially because this has so much potential: it could do so many things – it could, for instance, seek to capitalize on the very popular myths of the “escape” of Russian princess Anastasia Romanov. Let me stress that those are myths: trust me, I’ve just watched the documentary – the bodies of all seven Romanovs have been found as of this writing, and Anastasia is among them. She did not escape, no matter how much we may want to believe that she did. I’m going to make myself cry just writing this, because I loved imagining all the creative ways in which she could have made her daring escape from the House of Special Purpose. But, sadly, none of it’s true.

Anyway…that’s all I’m trying to say. At this moment, watching this trailer, my emotions on the subject are very raw, and I’m not currently relishing the idea of watching our British protagonists smuggle the princess out of Russia before the Bolsheviks (or Mata Hari?) can catch her. I don’t even know if that’s one of the film’s plot points – but if it is, I’d rather not know about it for a little while.

Moving on. The rest of the trailer looks really good, though I do have one other complaint. Namely, that this film already looks like it’s trying to copy certain aspects of my all-time favorite World War 1 film, Wonder Woman. Like, literally, right down to some of the shots in the trailer, such as when Ralph Fiennes (I think it’s him, at any rate) gets thrown through a wall by an explosion, while holding what looks to be a Germanic shield of some sort: it’s basically this shot:

"The King's Man" First Trailer! 1
fitisafeministissue.com

But with a lot less dimension: seriously, if you’re going to throw a guy through a wall, have him…I don’t know, fall from a height or something? Instead the man in question just falls onto a really barren patch of gray dirt. Not very visually interesting, if you ask me.

Aside from probably coincidental similarities (such as the scene of British soldiers going up over the trenches), we also have the peculiar appearance of a very familiar name in the cast: that of General Ludendorff, whom Wonder Woman fans will remember for his large role in that film, where he was…a glowing superhuman possessed by the Greek god Ares. I know, I was just complaining about fictionalization.

But leaving all that aside, I’m still a sucker for anything set during the Great War; I like Ralph Fiennes as an actor; and I think this film definitely has potential. It’s got elegance, wit, and a good dose of classic British daring-do. Let’s see how it is – and whether it’s got Mata Hari smuggling Anastasia out of a Russian empire controlled by King George – before we make any assumptions.

Trailer Rating: 6/10

Robert Pattinson is Batman!

Robert Pattinson is Batman! 2
nbcnews.com

Yesterday’s CW Batwoman trailer declared very definitively, in a cringey opening monologue, that “The Bat’s not coming back” – well, that might be true enough for the CW network, which ignores DCEU continuity. In their alternate universe, Batman has left Gotham City and is thought to be dead.

But guess what? The DCEU ignores CW continuity (and sometimes their own continuity) too, so yesterday they revealed that, no, the Bat actually is coming back. And he’ll be played by Robert Pattinson.

The DCEU has always had a problem with having to recast many of their lead actors every so often – their latest Superman, Henry Cavill, is out, and their last Batman, Ben Affleck, is also gone: Affleck’s Batman didn’t even get to have a solo film before he was unceremoniously ousted. Personally, I was not a fan of the “Batfleck”, as his character was dubbed by social media. His performance in Justice League (which, granted, was a bad movie to begin with) was stiff and monotone, and his suit didn’t even fit him properly – seriously, the Bat-suit has to fit. The Dark Knight was reduced to a badly-costumed parody.

But with director Matt Reeves at the helm, DC’s upcoming The Batman is expected to go dark and gritty, with a take on the iconic character closer to that of Christopher Nolan’s sensational Dark Knight trilogy.

Apparently, the Robert Pattinson casting hasn’t been locked down yet, with Nicholas Hoult (star of the recent biopic Tolkien) also on Warner Brothers’ shortlist. But it seems obvious to me that Pattinson is the better choice, and could actually bring some interesting stuff to the table, if he were chosen for the role of the Caped Crusader. Reeves’ Batman movie will follow a young Bruce Wayne in the 1990’s, possibly as a follow-up to The Joker, which will open this fall – with that movie already being tossed around as a potential Oscars contender, it seems likely that The Batman will also have a dramatic and artistic approach to the comic-book source material. This has been Pattinson’s own interest, of late, as the former Twilight actor has branched out into the indie and art film genres – even set to star in a film directed by Christopher Nolan himself. Yet the mainstream DCEU is still conflicted between going dark and serious or light-hearted and ridiculous, with both paths looking fortuitous – the successes of the very dissimilar The Dark Knight Rises and Aquaman exemplify this.

But with Batman, there really should be no doubt in anyone’s mind: gritty is the way to go. You can’t have a Gotham City that isn’t shadowy and hostile, and you certainly can’t explore Batman’s impressive and classic roster of villains without going deep into the darker parts of the human psyche. Bruce Wayne himself is a hugely interesting character with plenty of emotional depth that could be explored in detail by a professional actor – rather than just making Batman yet another superhero with high-tech gadgets. If the script is top-notch and the DCEU isn’t afraid to possibly alienate an audience that would prefer more family-friendly, humorous fare, then I think The Batman could even prove itself a worthy Oscars competitor – superhero films have never really been Academy darlings, and the actors in them least of all: except Heath Ledger, who was given a Best Supporting Actor award for his role as the Joker in The Dark Knight. Maybe – just maybe – Pattinson can build on his experiences in the indie genre to elevate Batman to the same status.

And maybe, though it’s unlikely, his take on the character might be successful enough that we could see another (better) Justice League movie. The romance that was built up between Ben Affleck’s Batman and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman might finally make sense – considering that Pattinson is much closer to Gadot’s own age than Affleck was. Of course, it all relies on The Joker and The Batman being good movies. I am definitely jumping a bit far ahead of myself.

The Bat is back. And hopefully this time he’s here to stay.

Richard Madden Joins “The Eternals”

Richard Madden Joins "The Eternals" 3
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The cast for Marvel’s upcoming film The Eternals continues to take shape – and continues to nab big-name actors, with Richard Madden of Game of Thrones being the latest addition to the team roster. While Marvel has not yet released an official statement on the casting, Madden is believed to be playing the Eternal Ikaris, one of the film’s three male lead characters. So let’s take a brief look into the character of Ikaris, and what we might expect to see from him in the film.

Ikaris is one of the major Eternals, possessing the ability to fly, manipulate energies through molecular distortion, and teleport. He is immortal and invulnerable to most weapons (who isn’t, in the MCU?). He was born thousands of years ago, in Siberia, and inspired the ancient Greek legend of Icarus – well, technically his son did that, but I’m trying to keep this simple. Ikaris is the cousin and arch-nemesis of one of the Eternals’ greatest villains, Druig, who is also expected to show up in The Eternals. I have a theory we might see Druig even earlier, in the Black Widow prequel, and Ikaris’ Russian origin might suggest another connection, however tenuous. In the comics, Druig hunts Ikaris, searching for the location of the Pyramid of the Winds, located in the Arctic Circle – if Druig does appear in Black Widow, he might be looking for Ikaris, following a trail that could lead him to the sacred Pyramid in The Eternals.

In another comic run, Ikaris and the Eternal Thena defeat Druig in the fictional Russian state of Vorozheika, where Druig is attempting to win the allegiance of other Eternals. Ikaris and Thena have a long-standing conflict that could add another dimension to his character. But it is Ikaris’ relationship with another Eternal, the sorceress Sersi, that has frequently been rumored to be a crucial aspect of the Eternals film: it could make The Eternals the first MCU film to actually focus on a romantic storyline. Previous attempts to make love stories fit into Marvel films have all fallen a bit flat, with the designated “love interest” characters feeling one-dimensional and boring – for instance, Sharon Carter, who fell in love with her aunt’s ex-boyfriend; or Doctor Strange’s ex-girlfriend Christine Palmer, who was just…there; or Jane Foster, Thor’s girlfriend, a character that did not deserve to be gifted the incredible talents of actress Natalie Portman – and apparently Portman agreed, since she stepped out of the role after Thor: The Dark World and wouldn’t even return for a cameo in Avengers: Endgame – the filmmakers had to use old deleted footage of her instead.

So having a love story be the possible focus of a Marvel film could be one of two things: one the one hand, it could go down like the Fosters, Carters and Palmers of previous films – or, with a decent amount of screentime lavished on it, it could actually be pretty decent. In my opinion, the greatest comic-book movie romance of all time has to be that of Diana Prince and Steve Trevor in DC’s 2017 hit Wonder Woman, but maybe a similarly adorable couple could replace them – or at least try to come close. Richard Madden seems likely to be starring alongside Angelina Jolie as Sersi, so that dynamic should be interesting, if nothing else.

DC Takes A Whole New Approach With “The Joker”

Yesterday, at CinemaCon, Warner Brothers showed the first trailer for an upcoming release – The Joker, which stars Joaquin Phoenix and will open in October. The movie is going to be an origin story for the iconic Batman villain, and will be set in the 80’s, long before the DC universe as we know it: however, this may not be such a bad thing, as the DC universe is currently going through some renovations, to say the least, and the whole idea of a shared universe with all the DC characters is becoming more and more unlikely with every passing day – most recently, the Wonder Woman creative team have made headlines with their repeated statements that their next film, Wonder Woman 1984, won’t be a sequel: it will be a stand-alone film, for the stand-alone Wonder Woman universe, which apparently doesn’t actually exist in the DCEU proper – it’s all getting very confusing. Actually, it’s interesting to note that Wonder Woman 1984 and The Joker both take place in the 80’s, though I doubt there will be any connection. It’s unclear if The Joker will even have any connection to Matt Reeves’ Batman movie, which is still very much a top-secret project.

Anyway. Getting back to The Joker itself: the thing is, this movie clearly doesn’t want to fit into the DCEU at all. Just based from this trailer, we can see that this movie looks to be all the things that, at the moment, the DCEU is steering away from – dark and gritty realism with a dash of the macabre. It only makes sense when dealing with a character like the Joker: unpredictable, dangerous, defying expectations. We see in this trailer, in fact, the makings of a movie so unlike any previous comic book movie that I would not be shocked if it gets nominated for some Oscars next year – of course, it’s far too early to say that for certain, but it is definitely worth keeping an eye on. Black Panther was able to score a nomination for Best Picture this year: could The Joker be the next comic book movie to do so?

It might seem presumptuous to say “yes”, but take a look at this trailer: this is an intricate and profound character study of Arthur Fleck, the man who will become the Joker – there is sadness here, and a grim and unflinching portrait of a man scarred by emotional trauma. This Joker is not stylized or done up to fulfill comic book fans’ expectations: this Joker is stricken to the core by pain and anguish, he is depressed, tortured, on the brink of taking his own life. He has a job as a sign spinner outside a bankrupt store, where he dresses like a clown, intent on bringing “laughter and joy to the world”. He is robbed and beaten up, and even ends up at the Arkham State Hospital, an iconic location in Gotham City.  The locale looks like the New York City of the late 70’s and early 80’s, and its brutality is also reminiscent of that period.

But Arthur Fleck finds purpose in a new life – a life of crime, that gives him the opportunity to be free, careless, independent. He who once ran from the police now hounds them. He who once hid in the shadows now makes a dramatic entrance at a protest, somersaulting down a flight of steps. He who once slouched over, dressed in dark clothes, trudging through the filthy streets, now dons a new outfit: the painted smile, the green wig, the brightly colored suit. He no longer slouches – now, he leaps over taxi-cabs and strides elegantly down hallways, dancing for the great audience all around him, the people of Gotham. “I used to think that my life was a tragedy,” he says. “But now I realize it’s a comedy.”

And the people embrace him and take him as their figurehead in their rebellion against the forces of law and order. This is not a movie about a supervillain, this is a movie about a man who just happens to become a supervillain: it’s almost like historical fiction, uncovering the truth behind this classic character of comic book mythology and delving deep into his troubled psyche.

There is, however, one hint that may or may not indicate a connection to the wider DCEU – there is a scene, near the end of the trailer, of the Joker meeting a young boy, though the two are separated by the bars of a metal gate. This boy may not be the young Bruce Wayne, but there’s a strong chance that he is.

So no, aside from that one hint (that may not even be a hint), The Joker does not have a connection yet to the DCEU. But it doesn’t need one. It is entirely its own thing, its own bizarre and beautiful being, and it stands alone. The DCEU is moving towards being a fun, family-friendly environment – this stands out as a dark, harsh exception. But this movie (at least from the trailer) seems almost to enjoy and embrace its complete uniqueness.

Trailer Rating: 8.5/10

Ezra Miller’s New “Flash” Script

It’s been common knowledge for months now that Warner Brothers is still working out what to do with the DCEU. They’ve experienced a pretty uneven string of hits, mild successes, and epic fails – from the peak of their creative genius, Wonder Woman, to the disastrous Justice League. But last year’s Aquaman proved to be a billion-dollar hurricane at the box-office, and paved the way for a new take on the DCEU – one that is light-hearted, cheesy, over-the-top, and…well, still completely discombobulated. The emphasis now was on making DC movies stand-alone adventures, without trying to tie them into some bigger universe. Gone was the grim-faced Henry Cavill; gone was the dour Ben Affleck; gone was Geoff Johns, the man behind Justice League: gone was the dark and serious tone of the prior DC movies.

And then, today, we learn that Ezra Miller is making one last effort to try and stop DC from going down this path.

Ezra Miller, the actor who has portrayed The Flash in Justice League and Batman vs Superman, is set to star in an origin movie titled The Flash, which should start production later this year. Just the other day, however, we got news that Miller is taking it upon himself to completely rewrite the script for the movie.

Yes, Miller has enlisted the help of author Grant Morrison, and is going against the wishes of Flash writers John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who currently have a very light-hearted, funny script written for the film, in keeping with Warner Brothers’ new approach to making DC movies. Miller, on the other hand, is writing a much darker, more serious screenplay, and is actually showing incredible bravery in doing so: the official writers don’t seem to be backing this idea, and Miller’s future in the DCEU could be at stake. His script could be submitted as early as next week, which means we will soon learn if a new Flash is coming onboard, and Ezra Miller will be joining the lengthy list of cast and crew members kicked out from the DC franchise.

My feelings are quite conflicted: I do not like this new approach to DC movies, where they all have to be completely stand-alone and ridiculously comical. It works for one or two, like Aquaman, but characters like Wonder Woman would not, in my opinion, benefit from a more humorous approach, and the Flash, even though we’ve only seen him as a funny character, certainly has the capability to be more serious. Ezra Miller has done a great job as the dark and brooding Credence Barebone in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what’s inspired him to rewrite the script – to complement his own expanding talents as much as to help out the DCEU.

So what will happen? I have an uneasy feeling that Ezra Miller’s script probably won’t ever see the light of day, and the Flash will be recast. But maybe…just maybe…there’s a chance that Miller’s script is too good to pass up on, and the movie will end up being a more serious installment in the DCEU. Maybe Miller can initiate a new tonal style for DC movies, who knows? Despite what Warner Brothers likes to claim, none of their “serious” films were all that serious, except Wonder Woman, so this would be a great opportunity to expand the brand.

We should find out next week.