Okay, let's get this out of the way: I don't care if Wonder Woman, the character, is a feminist icon. Nor do I care if Wonder Woman, the movie, is flying an invisible plane through the glass ceiling, or breaking any ground whatsoever. I just want to watch a good movie.

(Although she is, and it does. And I did.)

Honestly I'm starting to wonder--you might brace yourself for this--if the day will come when the physically strong, kick-ass woman character will become a tired, cliched trope that makes people yawn. Hasn't happened to me yet. But my daughter watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the generation before me had Emma Peel, and I watched, well, Wonder Woman, who hit TV in her own series when I was thirteen. You bet I watched that show. I mean, as a comic book fan.

(Now that I think about it, my first literary hero was Dorothy Gale, Princess of Oz, who could be something of an action hero herself.)

Still, to paraphrase Buffy creator Joss Whedon, I suppose the reason we keep getting awesome female heroes is because people are still asking why we don't have them. And that ties right in with why I go to the movies, because Wonder Woman, while not the overwhelmingly perfect superhero movie some claim, is indeed awesome--largely because of one particular Gal.

The various incarnation of Princess Diana.
Gal Gardot is Diana, Princess of--you know, come to think of it, she's never called Wonder Woman at any point in the movie. The flick starts with Diana in modern times, receiving (by courier from Wayne Enterprises) a photo that sends her mind back to her childhood among the Amazons, on an island with no men. Sure, when you're a kid having no one of the opposite sex around is a paradise ...

Diana's mother, Queen Hippolyta, doesn't want her to train to be a warrior, as every other woman there does. She thinks something very bad will happen if the island's only child develops her ability. Sure enough, just when the grown up Diana has reached the peak of her training, an airplane falls out of the sky and delivers *gasp* a man to the island.

Luckily Diana somehow knows what a man is--that saved some awkward exposition.

The pilot is America spy Steve Trevor, (Chris Pine), who's being pursued by German soldiers. Turns out the rest of the world is mired in World War I, and Steve holds intel on a new German weapon that might cost tens of thousands more lives. Diana is convinced the war is the work of Ares, the god of war, who the Amazons have been training all along to someday face. Clearly, all the world is waiting for her.

Wonder Woman originated during World War II, and setting the movie further back in time was the first smart idea of the filmmakers. Let's see: A red, white, and blue costumed hero, rather naive but eager and determined, gathering a band of misfit commandos to take on a German army with secret weapons during the second World War? Surely no one would draw any comparisons to Captain America.

Their next bright idea was the cast.

What a Gal!

With Batman vs. Superman, the naysayers were already out, complaining Gal Gadot was too scrawny to be a proper Wonder Woman. Did they learn nothing from the anti-Michael Keaton outcry with Batman? No? Oh. Well, just as Christopher Reeve owned Superman, Gal Gadot has now taken over from Lynda Carter as the perfect Wonder Woman. Sorry, it's true, and I love Lynda Carter.

Chris Pine is his usual charming action hero self, often reduced to stupified stammering by this innocent warrior who doesn't seem to understand the whole traditional woman thing. The rest of the cast is first rate, especially Connie Nielsen as the Amazon Queen who just doesn't want to give her daughter over to the world. I especially liked the band of misfits Steve assembled for their behind the lines mission. Also of note is David Thewlis (currently menacing everyone on Fargo) as a British military leader trying to broker a peace treaty between the warring nations.

 While this doesn't rank as my favorite superhero movie (although it's well into my top ten), Wonder Woman is a great movie period--of any genre, or at least of any kind of action flick. The stakes are high, the emotions are great, the effects first rate. Really the only complaint I have is that if the next Wonder Woman movie is set in the present, we won't be able to see any of the sparkling supporting cast (who would be well into their second century by now). Maybe we should have them all frozen at the North Pole for several decades? That's never been done.

My score:

Entertainment Value: 4 M&M's, the good brown ones. I'm getting a little worried about this series of first rate movies I've been seeing the past couple of years. Granted that Wonder Woman is even more first rate than many of the others, but sooner or later I'll get hit with a disappointment.

Oscar Potential: 3 M&M's. It's worthy of a best picture nomination but, being based on a comic book, it'll be a supporting characters cold day in the North Pole before it gets one.

 

Warning: a gently spoilery for Batman vs. Superman. Also, you should be warned if you’re one of those automatic haters: I liked it.

Okay, I didn’t love it, and as we all know I’m easily entertained. Still, I don’t get the extreme hatred being doled out with a scoop shovel. The dislike, that I do understand.

The plot was “huh?” inducing. Basically Lex Luthor, for some reason long-haired and apparently a scientific genius who got all his dough from a not-nice dad, decides he has to destroy Superman. Why? My best guess is that Luthor is up to something down the road, and knows Superman will try to stop him.

Meanwhile, Grandpa Batman is still Dark Knighting away, as brooding as ever but even more violent. Evidence suggests he’s darker than ever partially because Joker killed Robin. In addition, the knockdown-dragout in Metropolis during Man of Steel led to the deaths and injuries of Bruce Wayne’s friends and destruction of his property. Bruce blames Superman for this, because, after all, Batman never caused injury or property destruction while fighting off villains.

So Luthor tricks Superman and Batman into slugging it out, while also quite literally raising his own supervillain, who DC fans will be chilled to know is Doomsday.

There’s more to it than that, of course. Like, two and a half hours more to it.

So, the dislikes? Okay, what is Luthor’s actual endgame? I don’t think even he knows what he’s trying to do. Kill Superman, yes—or at least get rid of Batman in the attempt—but then? What does he think Doomsday’s going to do after the big battle? Go raise chickens? Also, Luthor discovers an even Bigger Bad is on the way, a dark presence that always sides with evil, and he has to know that only superheroes might be able to fight it off. So … why is he intent on killing off the superheroes? (For you non-DC fans, the oncoming storm is one of the biggest of the DC bads.)

If it sounds like I’m saying the foundation of the plot makes no sense, that’s what I’m saying. The rest is mostly about Superman and Batman being emo, and generally with good reason, although at least Sups is getting laid.

Other problems:

Seriously D.C.: just a little humor? It doesn’t have to be Tony Stark funny all the time, but could we lighten up just a bit? It’s a comic book movie, for crying out loud.

I’m still not entirely sure how everyone figured out who everyone else secretly is.

How did Alfred, the butler, get such mad technical skills? Who’s dusting the furniture?

Lex Luthor isn’t Lex Luthor. It’s as if Luthor is doing his best impression of Joker, or maybe Joker disguised himself as Luthor to hide from an increasingly homicidal Batman. It’s a fun performance, but it’s not Lex Luthor.

Was it really necessary to pad an already padded movie with another look at the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents? Haven’t we pretty much got that down by now?

They should have waited to throw the rest of the Justice League in—it made the movie too long and added too much unnecessary stuff. I say this despite the fact that Gal Gadot stole the show as the unnamed Wonder Woman.

Which brings me to the things I did like:

See this movie on the biggest screen you can possibly find: It’s visually stunning. We watched it in 3D, and I jumped back more than once.

In your face, Ben Affleck haters! I held judgment, remembering how much everyone hated Michael Keaton as Batman—until the movie came out and he silenced the critics. As Grandpa Batman, Affleck does the same.

In fact, the cast as a whole was outstanding. That includes Jesse Eisenberg, playing some Bizaro version of Lex Luthor with Joker DNA in him. Holly Hunter was especially great, and it was nice to see a cameo by someone we thought dead.

For you Walking Dead fans, here’s a head-exploding cameo: Bruce Wayne’s parents are played by Maggie and Negan. *boom* That means Bruce’s dad is also the father of the Winchester brothers on Supernatural, where he also died while they were young. No wonder the guy got targeted, leading a double life like that.

There are nice shout-outs to the comic book fans, which don’t interfere with non-comic fans enjoying the flick.

Hans Zimmer’s music: Loved it. I have no idea how much Junkie XL contributed to the score, but he needs to slap his parents for giving him that name.

My wife swore she saw Chris Pine in a briefly glimpsed 1914 photo. She was right.

So, overall, yes—worth seeing. One of my major problems with Man of Steel was the huge amount of collateral damage, and I’m glad that was addressed in Batman vs. Superman. I just hope they put some script doctors to work on Justice League.

 

 

            Time travel, yay! I love a great time travel movie. Heck, I love a bad time travel movie.

            Good news: X-Men: Days of Future Past is a great travel movie.

            The movie, which has a title so long it exhausts me to say it, is about mutants in our future who send one of their own back to our past to prevent a war that destroys our present. Can I just say X-Men? Assume I’m not talking about one of the previous ones.

            More specifically, a small group of characters from the comics have been surviving ongoing attacks from Sentinels by detecting when the mutant hunting robots are approaching, then psychically going back a few days in time to warn themselves to flee. In other words, they’ve been time traveling constantly, which can take quite a toll on a person.

            The solution, naturally, is to go back in time half a century or so and stop the murder that eventually leads to the government funding the Sentinel Program, and doesn’t the government always end up behind these things? Unfortunately, the person who committed that murder is one of their own: Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), and why has no one noticed that she runs around totally naked for half this movie? Oh, sure, she has weird blue skin that looks like rubber gloves, but still …

            Anyway, the only person who can survive a trip that far back is Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), whose mind heals as quickly as his unaging body does. Kitty Pryde (my favorite mutant from the comic books) is given specific instructions: Send Wolverine back to a moment where he’s in bed with a lover, so he’ll get up and treat the audience to full (if not frontal) nudity.

            I didn’t care all that much myself, but my eardrums popped from the simultaneous intake of air among all the females in the movie theater.

            And then we’re in the 70’s, where Wolverine realizes all the mutant powers in the world can’t protect him from polyester.

            I’m so glad we aren’t in the 70’s anymore.

            This is one of the best of the X-Men movies, and one of the best of the superhero movies, too. It’s true that you should be a fan of the comic books to get all the little winks, and this is one time when seeing the other movies is a prerequisite. On the other hand, the moviemakers have done a fantastic job of jumping back and forth in time without confusing the audience, and that’s an amazing accomplishment.

            The story’s great, the acting strong, the special effects (of course) mind blowing, and X-Men fans get at least a cameo from almost all of their favorites. Also, as with Star Trek, this story has the advantage of erasing almost all the canon that canon’d before this, giving them a clean slate for the next movie.

            I’m left with just one question: If Halle Berry once received a half-million bucks to drop her top in a movie, how much did Hugh Jackman get for baring his bottom?

 

Entertainment Value: 4 out of 4 M&M’s. That’s two wins out of two trips to the theater.

Oscar Potential: 4 M&M’s for something, even if it’s special effects
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