Wonder Woman | Directed by Patty Jenkins | Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine | B
It’s hard to live up to the expectation of being the most anticipated movie of the year. I can say that Wonder Woman both lived up to and disappointed those expectations. And I think in the movie’s essence, Jenkins really understood who Wonder Woman is at the core. She is someone who is a little naive and idealistic but ultimately resiliently caring and kind and that is who Wonder Woman has been since her inception in 1941. So even though the pacing was a little clunky and it falls into the same traps of typical superhero movies like a predictable and obvious villain and side characters that are not developed enough to be memorable, it still felt true to its heroine. What is slightly different is that Jenkins at least allows the development of small character moments both serious and humorous making sure that the small details about these characters are not slipping through. Just the small lines about babies and ice cream is enough to establish a baseline for the character. Of course, that allows the interactions between Wonder Woman and Steven Trevor to shine through and it was honestly where a lot of the humor came from. I do wish they had done a better job of establishing why Wonder Woman is the way she is. The way they portrayed her made it seem as if she was born like this; I wish they had showed some sort of catalyst. And I think sometimes she jumps a little too quickly to violence even though a big part of her character is showing mercy and kindness to all. Like any summer blockbuster, it’s not all about the characters, Wonder Woman revels in the dramatic and slow motion stylized action moments which is probably why the action sequences were some of the best parts of the entire movie. They felt adequately long and really built on each moment instead of being one long overdrawn battle sequence. My forever favorite scene is when Wonder Woman walks into No Man’s Land to block the bullets and clear the way for the rest of the soldiers to come through. If anything else, Wonder Woman is inspirational precisely because, however cheesy it is, it is ultimately committed to its sincerity and that makes up for a lot of its flaws.
Everything, Everything | Directed by Stella Meghie | Starring Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson | C
Look, this is just not a good movie. Plain and simple. The entire movie felt like one long awkward conversation with excruciating pauses between dialogue and long, silent stares that last minutes too long. One of the biggest pitfalls of the movie is failing to establish a sense of chemistry and urgency. In a movie, if you are going to tell a romantic story about a couple, you must, must, must take the time to establish the individual characters first. I knew a lot about Maddy throughout but I don’t really know anything about Ollie. At all really. What are his dreams, his desires, his motivations, his fears? Without them, he has been spit out from the generic boyfriend machine. Even her mother who has a side role in the movie had better development than him. I wish I could see what the screenwriter of this movie was thinking because the dialogue felt so misplaced most of the time. Cheesy lines felt even cheesier than usual and serious lines were just plain hilarious. On top of that, they failed to establish a relationship between the two characters mostly due to the mediocre writing. So when climactic events occur, you can bet I did not feel a single thing and it’s not because I have a heart of stone this time. But more than that, there is no sense of real danger; I never thought for a second Maddy was in any danger of dying from SCID (and I haven’t read the book), and therefore, no real sense of loss and ultimately growth for these characters. I suppose if you’re in the right mood for a dramatic teen love story, I suppose you can watch this and have a good laugh but otherwise I recommend a hard pass.
Dunkirk | Directed by Christopher Nolan | Starring Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy | B
Dunkirk is the latest of Nolan’s impressive filmography so I expected nothing less than something stellar. I suppose maybe I am too used to blockbuster war movies (the last one I saw was Hacksaw Ridge) or other stylized ones in general. And while I appreciate the craft behind making this film, it was more apparent to me that the story lacked something. It starts off intriguing, a young soldier walking through a deserted neighborhood and for the first some 30 minutes after he almost barely speaks a word of dialogue. For the most part, this provides a sense of mystery, you don’t know this boy’s (I don’t think his name is ever mentioned) motivations, his desires, his fears. I suppose those things aren’t needed for a movie that is about, as Nolan states himself, survival. How he portrays the characters is at once it’s biggest strength but also it’s biggest weakness. Nolan flits between characters and their perspectives for a time before flitting back to another character. And even though I usually love that careful attention on small character moments, this time I wasn’t as satisfied with it. Usually in war films, there’s a period where the soldiers will reveal parts of their lives before they became a soldier and it turns into a point of emotional investment from the audience to the character but here we don’t get that. But even if we did not get the back story I would have at least wanted a better sense of motivation and desire. The characters just feel like faces in the crowd. And if Nolan wanted to portray survival, I think he only touched on surface level facets of survival that could have been explored deeper. There is no doubt that Nolan still knows how to craft a movie in his exact vision. The cinematography follows those frequent over the shoulder shots and careful time on small character moments. And of course, Hans Zimmer once again does an excellent of creating suspenseful and tension filled pieces to fill in the scenes. Maybe I wasn’t able to look too hard into the details. There’s also this sense of build up that continually builds up during the movie but there is no sense of that build up leading to anything significant or poignant at the end. Maybe that was the point, after all, in war, there is no discrimination and no time to focus on the individual, but if so, I think it could have been executed better.