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Wonder Woman – A Review

wwposter5It’s insane to me that Warner Bros. and DC Comics took seventy-five years to make a Wonder Woman movie. In that time, they’ve made movies for Steel, Jonah Hex, Catwoman, Supergirl, Constantine, the Suicide Squad and yes, I chose the bad ones to point out. I mean, they had a Lobo film in the works before they had a final script for their premier heroine.

But, the movie is here, so we can (but probably not for long) move on from that fact. Let’s focus on the film instead.

I had hesitancy about the movie leading up to seeing it. After all, Man of Steel made me rage until I had destroyed all the love in my life. (old blog, please come back to this one). Batman V. Superman was so dumb I just felt bad for it. And though Wonder Woman was a highlight in that movie, anything remotely NOT dumb would have been a relief during that two and a half hours.

But I was pleasantly surprised. For first two thirds of the movie, Wonder Woman is the film I wanted for years. The first third, which takes place in Themyscira, is great and the island itself feels exactly right. The Amazons have a Spartan vibe, without the machismo, and feel like a real society, even if our time with them isn’t that long. The action scenes that take place there have a 300 vibe, but those scenes are done with confidence and not in way that wears our patience.

Steve Trevor, as played by Chris Pine, is likable and charming, but he’s got an edge to him and also comes across as more progressive than his World War I society. The chemistry between him and Gal Gadot is on point and there’s some great interplay between the two early on.

The action is great. I think, like Captain America, we sometimes forget how strong Wonder Woman really is. But, unlike the First Avenger, Wonder Woman’s powers are big league. She can topple buildings, toss trucks and wreck through soldiers as she goes for jog. When her full powers are on display, such as the terrific charge through the front lines that ends the first half of the movie, she really is a full blown super hero.

ww-11802rv21But Wonder Woman is more than just a set of powers and lassos and bracelets. Gal Gadot is, and I don’t want to understate this, fantastic. For years, I thought Wonder Woman would be one of the hardest characters to cast, but I can’t imagine anyone doing the job better than her. There are times when I could of sworn the character walked right out the comics. She’s inspiring, she’s dangerous, she’s funny, smart, naive, she’s stubborn but for the right reasons. When she speaks, you believe her. When she charges into battle, you want to follow her. Gadot embodies the character in such a defining way that it feels iconic before the movie is even over.

wonder-womanAnd now, with all that praise, here comes my critique and my struggle to not spoil anything. And that’s hard, because my problem with the film, is in the third act and might qualify as a twist. For a long time, the movie seems like it’s going one way and it works. Characters are learning lessons, humanity is getting called out for being the worst species to ever walk the earth and it feels right. But, they need a big action scene to end with and after we’ve seen what a tank Wonder Woman is, the stakes have to be raised. The final confrontation is so fantastical and out there, it almost feels like it’s betraying the rest of the excellent movie that came before it. Actually, the excellent animated movie with Keri Russel might have hurt the live action’s take on the confrontation. It’s not a deal breaker, it doesn’t make the movie a bad film, but I feel like a stronger third act could have put this movie up there with Spider-Man 2, X2: X-Men United and Batman Begins.

But, please, don’t take my issues with the finale to indicate I don’t like the movie. It was great, should be seen and I look forward to watching it again. To meet expectations seventy-five years in the making is a daunting task, but Patty Jenkins was up to the challenge and delivered. This was the first live action DC movie I loved since the Dark Knight way back in 2008.

 

Batman and Robin Volume 6 – A Review

I received a copy of this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Batman and RobinThis is the first time I’ve read this title and actually enjoyed it. Maybe it’s because Damian is only seen as a corpse, which means he’s silent. I think a big part of it is that I’ve always liked globe-trotting Batman tales, and I like the guest stars we have in this volume. What comes across as a pleasant surprise, though it shouldn’t, is that Batman isn’t a jerk to everyone he meets. Sure, he’s his normal Batman-self when it comes to people telling him what to do, but he almost seems cordial when talking to Aquaman or Frankenstein. The latter is just fun to see any day.

Ra’s is up to his old tricks again, which is fine, but I wish he would go back to doing some big villain plotting again and give us a break from the Lazarus Pits for a while. Batman is out to find the bodies of his son, Damian and his ex-girlfriend/villain Talia. He’s focused, as he is wont to be, but it’s not a focused that makes him insufferable. He’s downright relatable.

The final issue, with Batman sneaking into the Justice League Watchtower and going to a big, bad place is fun and it was nice to see him to so without coming across better than all heroes on Earth. For once, while reading this book, I want the next volume. And maybe I’ll go back to the books I skipped. Am I just a sucker for fun art? Maybe, but I think Peter Tomasi actually has stepped up his game.

Gotham Academy Volume 1 – A Review

I received a copy of this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Gotham Academy I’m all over the place with this book. It’s fun, moody and has a much-needed playful tone that Gotham City lacks. On the other hand, there seems like some missed opportunities and undefined character work.

Olive Silverlock is the best part of this book because she legitimately comes across as a worldly teen. She has a great design, a cool back story and I’d like to follow her story more. I hope DC doesn’t screw this up and make her into a Justice League sidekick that gets killed someday.

Gotham Academy is an interesting place. Looking right at home in Gotham city, it feels old and not the best place for kids to be sleeping. It almost comes across as a refurbished Arkham Asylum. Sure, it’s a prep school, but it’s extra creepy when we get inside the walls.

The story itself is akin to Harry Potter and might just appeal to the same crowd. Powers aren’t really on display here, but you get some weirdness anyway. There’s a few other characters, plus Gotham’s own Batman, that are likable, but not all the characters shine. Olive’s ex-boyfriend comes across as empty and more of a plot device than a person, and the faculty are missed opportunities.

Not the Ridller

Not the Ridller

Which is where my gripes come into play. Sure, we should have new characters and histories, but I wanted some Bat-related elements. When I read the first page, I thought the headmaster was Ra’s al Ghul and then I was swiftly corrected. But it keeps happening! The librarian looks like the Riddler but he isn’t and all I could think was wouldn’t it be cool if this was some sort of school where the Riddler was your librarian, where the Scarecrow is the school counselor and where wood shop is taught by the Ventriloquist. Obviously, it would be a completely different book, but I think it would have done it for me.

Either way, this is an interesting new title for the DC universe and it’s especially welcomed in Gotham City. We already added it to the library’s collection and I’ll be interested to see how well it does with our patrons, teens especially.

The Divine – A Review

The DivineI received a copy of this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Divine is a weird book. At first, it seems like it’s going to be a book about war, children soldiers and doing things we don’t want to do even though we can’t see any other way. Simple right?

This comic is hard to review without giving some twist away so I’ll just say things get… strange. It’s one of those stories that plays it straight for the most part that when things to start getting out of hand, I had to wonder if what I was seeing was real.

I’m not sure what the message was, but I’m sure there was one. Was it about invading countries we don’t know anything about? Maybe. Is it about child soldiers and how dangerous their youthful ignorance can be? Probably. It might be about parents being unable to protect their sons and daughters from everything the world has to offer, I’m not sure.

The art is nice and colorful, but can get ugly when it needs to, when it wants us to be a bit put off. I’m not sure it’s a classic, but it’s different and you won’t feel like you wasted your time with this book. What Boaz Lavie was going for, I can’t say, but he want for it.

Attack on Titan Review

attack-on-titan-2The wife and I just finished watching Attack on Titan last night. I think it’s the first new anime we’ve completed together. We also finished it in record time when compared to how long we’ve been trying to get through Arrow and Star Trek: The Next Generation. I’m a lucky guy to have a wife that gets excited about anime with giant people/monsters and zipline sword fighters.

Kendra loved the show. I liked the show. You wouldn’t think that would be a big difference in opinion but I’m learning that it is, in fact, a large gap. To love the show the show means to have no complaints. To like the show means those who love it think I hate it. Which isn’t true.

First, the good. The animation is great and probably got me most excited about the show in the beginning. It’s smooth and fast, with perfect coloring and neat designs. The music isn’t overbearing and blends well into the background. The voice acting is good and no one has an annoying sound like Naruto. It’s all played straight and I like that.

The action, when it comes, is great. It’s the kind that I watch anime specifically for, fast and out of this world. The 3d manurvering is one of the coolest things I’ve seen and I wish I could get a set. Flipping in the air like Spider-Man, swords spinning and Titan’s above and below. How can you not feel like a superhero?

Oh boy, and the Titans. They are never not creepy. The big ones are menacing and grotest and they’re like running into a T-Rex. The smaller ones are especially disturbing. They’re fast, they have giant smiles and they only want to eat you. The move sparaticly, have eyes that are focused but vacant…man, I’m creeping out just writing about them.

There’s also some great twists in the story, especially some character ‘fate’ reveals. There were plenty of times Kendra and I looked at each other saying “Holy crap!”

Okay, so that’s why I liked the show. Now on to why I don’t love it.

AttackOnTitan-1First and probably the biggest, are the characters. They are all useless. Skill wise, they all fall short of a standard the show sets for them. They’re supposed to be able to kill Titans? They act like they haven’t had years of training and expectations before the first battle. Only one or two characters ever succesfully kills a Titan and the rest end up running and dying. This is the city’s defense? They’re also all stupid as all get out. Characters are supposed to make bad decisions once or twice, but not when the right answers are so obvious. In one instane, a group of characters refuse to let a certain character use his power that would save them, because they want to prove how strong they are. Then, they all die because they’re have zero skills. Then, the character uses his power anyway and feels guilty about letting the others die. Because they made him. This is dumb characterization by way of Smallville.

The main character is as whiny as Shinji Ikari was, except he’s addes angry screaming to the mix. It’s rough when the character you’re supposed to be rooting for is one of the most annoying. By the end, I was actually more interested in Armin, because he’s had the most growth. Or Mikasa, because she’s the only smart, capable character on the show.

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The second problem I had is the pacing and it seems to be an issue a lot of people have raised. During the beginning, during the big attack on the city when everything should be hectic and insane, characters just stop and talk for half the episode. Now, I understand long conversations that seem to only take a second in the show’s timeframe are a trope of the medium, but not every one has to be as dull or pace-killing as this series would have you believe. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood had long talks but they were always made to hold the viewers interest and push the story foward. Here, on Attack on Titan, they just seem like ways to stretch episodes out for time’s sake. Fortunetaly, this problems seems to resolve itself near the end, but not before it severly damaged my interest in the show as a whole.

Also, twenty-six episodes and no ending? How spoiled did Trigun and Cowboy Bebop make me!

But, you know what? It’s still a pretty cool show. The concept might be stronger than the execution and I might fall into the catagory of people who see the show as a little bit overrated, but I had fun watching it and it was nice to watch it with my wife. Being able to relate to people about having to check under the bed for Titans is great and I love the pictures online of people recreating the attacks. I also enjoyed how much of a giant mech show it was in disguise. I’d never not suggest the show to someone but I think the love one feels towards it will vary from person to person depending on patiance.