AN EMPIRE OF WORDS


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Wonder Woman (2017)

As DC tries to combat the ever-expanding Marvel Universe, they have begun by building towards the Justice League film. In the meantime, we are treated to their standalone backstories. Wonder Woman is the latest film to get the treatment with Gal Gadot returning as the legendary Amazonian.

What I have recently disliked about the comic book movies is that they all seem to be using the same framework. (mainly the Marvel Cinematic Universe) But what is more enjoyable about the DC Cinematic Universe is the darker and grittier undertones they have taken, which was present in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman even though the latter wasn’t as enjoyable.

Wonder Woman is continuing this trend, but referencing the picture that was seen in Batman vs Superman with Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) herself stood with four men during World War One. Before Wonder Woman leaps into how Diana found herself there, they divulge in the backstory and the mysterious land of Themyscira, home of the Amazons.

What was great about Patty Jenkins’ interpretation of this story was that there was enough in the narrative to allow for the audience to interpret things themselves, something that has been missing in my recent cinema outings. And there was some gorgeous graphics in the opening sequence as Queen Hippolyta (Connie Neilsen) reveals the origin of the Amazon race and of the battle between Zeus and Ares.

Zeus cast out Ares, and hid the Amazons from the world until Ares rises again. The rest of the Amazons and Diana train on the beautifully landscaped island of Themyscira away from the worlds view. That is all until Steve Travers (Chris Pine) crash lands on their private island.

And this is where the film really picks up the pace as Gal Gadot and Chris Pine come into their own as characters. Gal Gadot becomes the focal point of her scenes as Diana believes that the atrocities of war are at the hand of Ares, the God of war. Although he has found a new form in the body of General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) as his sidekick Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya) concocts a poisonous gas capable of killing everyone. Diana forces Travers hand in taking her to front line to help the war effort and she just looks fantastic whilst doing it.

It has to be said though that she isn’t objectified in anyway, she rather manifests Wonder Woman as a character in such a way that she is incredibly strong and rather independent, especially as she continually defies her mother and Steve. With Batman v Superman the film felt long, Wonder Woman on the other hand doesn’t. This could down to the enjoyment of the characters and the narrative actually being enjoyable instead of the usual cut and paste method Marvel and DC films are currently using.

As I mentioned, the DC Universe films like to be grittier and Wonder Woman has majority of the film centred around World War One. Patty Jenkins effectively manages to instil the atrocities of war and it really works from the dirt of the Belgian trenches to the empty celebrations of a victory for one evening.

My only grief is the overbearing music that is used. The musical cues aren’t established very well, as it clearly tries to evoke emotions at the correct times and at times this took me out of the picture and made the enjoyment considerably less-so.

Gal Gadot is truly a wonder as the titular character as the film progresses into it’s climax. The final third of the film looks as though it is going to enter the realms of similarity as with previous comic book films, it still tiptoes on those, but doesn’t dive head first into it. The chemistry between Chris Pine and Gal Gadot is electric, especially as Jenkins’ captures Steve Travers occasionally glancing at Diana with astonishment at her beauty, but not in that objectifying way that I mentioned earlier.

Just as I thought I was losing patience with comic book adaptations, Wonder Woman comes along and manages to give some life into a merciless machine. I realised after coming out of the cinema that Wonder Woman tried something new, it left the comedy (that has become a staple point for comic book films now) to a minimum and perfectly integrated it into the film. This worked and garnered appropriate laughs when needed, but on a whole, Wonder Woman was an enjoyable and terrific watch and this has to be down to the enjoyable narrative and brilliant characters that can be connected with.


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Star Trek Beyond (2016)

Star Trek Beyond is the third instalment of the recently rebooted Star Trek franchise, however, this time Justin Lin (of the Fast and Furious franchise) has put his spin on this.

After the events of Star Trek Into Darkness, released three years earlier, the enterprise crew undertook a five year mission, which they are currently three years into. As expected when being cooped up on a ship, they are starting to get a little bit antsy.


As expected Spock and Jim’s (Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine, respectively) chalk and cheese chemistry continues to thrive on screen, rising a few laughs from the audience. But Star Trek Beyond sees a mix-up of the crew as they are ambushed by the villan Krall (Idris Elba) and his ‘bees’. Due to their swarming attack and the destruction of the SS Enterprise, we see Bones (Karl Urban) and Spock team up, Jim and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) together and Sulu (John Cho) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) lead the rest of the Enterprise crew.

It’s clear to see Justin Lin’s influence on the rebooted franchise of  Star Trek with the dizzying flight sequences teamed up with action-fuelled chases (in particular the bike sequence is where Justin Lin is having his fun) which is entertaining for the big-screen, but unfortunately doesn’t make up for the lack of story behind Star Trek Beyond especially the backstory of Krall and his mysterious powers. Who happens to look more like the Villian out of The Mask than an otherworldly villain. 


However, I won’t delve too much into that due to potential spoilers!

Justin Lin has seemed to create a very miss-mash film as some sections of the film are really enjoyable and other parts became frustrating to watch. Lin managed to capture the essence of the characters and continue the trend that JJ Abrams began with Spock and Kirk’s constant bickering. However, this time round the characters role are switched, as Bones and Spock are stealing the show. It all worked, creating laughs from the cinema and becoming the enjoyable scenes throughout the film.

On the surface the film is very entertaining and a good popcorn film, which helps the two hour runtime pass by with ease, unfortunately this becomes the weakest of the three instalments as there doesn’t seem to be a great deal going on underneath the flashy surface. However, the cast are still continuing with their already successful roles from the first two instalments creating that chemistry that was already established. Lin has also chosen to add Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) who could be a more than a bitpart in the future instalments. 


My immediate feeling from Star Trek Beyond is ‘meh’. Although there are some really enjoyable parts, there was that certain finesse missing from the first two. Whether JJ Abrams would have told the story different I am unsure, but considering previously Abrams developed a slight backstory to Khan and Nero, whereas Krall is left largely undiscovered and left me feeling rather underwhelmed considering the fantastic use of villains in the previous two.

P.S. During the aftermath of this film, Sulu’s sexuality seemed to become a point of reference in reviews and talk alike. I thought this was completely irrelevant and doesn’t create the controversial point the media seemed to create out of it. 

Also I realise this has been a shorter post than usual, however, I feel the film in general just chunters along without any outstanding plot points other than the splitting up of the crews and their shared irritation setting in on the SS Enterprise.


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Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

This is strange. I watched this at the cinema and loved it, but never got round to posting a blog on it confessing my somewhat love for the sequel to JJ Abrams newly-imagined Star Trek franchise. I re-watched this on DVD and I must admit, these lovestruck feelings soon disappeared.

So, if you’ve been living under a rock, JJ Abrams rebooted the Star Trek franchises and has made it an action-fest heavy with CGI and etc. The first I liked, it was enjoyable and not being a huge Star Trek fan it was nice to watch a new franchise from a fresh perspective. However, the second one is an even further CGI-infested action thrown together with some of the original Star Trek quotes to what I can only assume is to please the original Star Trek fans.

In all honesty, I understand why the first scene was included, but personally, I probably would’ve preferred seeing the London HQ being blown up in retrospect. It just seemed to me that JJ Abrams loves those shots where the enterprise is rising up from water or the clouds. “Look at my majestic vessel” springs to mind.

Needless scene? Yes or no?

Needless scene? Yes or no?

So, the lowdown on this story is that the Starfleet Headquarters is destroyed on the inside. An ex-starfleet member, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) attacks every captain and first officer when they’re meeting, during Starfleet protocol. Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood) is killed. Sad sad times. Jim Kirk (Chris Pine) who just lost the command of the Enterprise due to failure in the mission we see Jim on in the first scene, is reinstated and goes and is ordered to pursue and kill John Harrison, who has fleed to a Klingon planet on the edge of Starfleet’s boundaries (dun dun dunnnn). You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that the Klingons are the sworn enemy of Starfleet. Everyone knows that.

There’s a little bit of a twist, but when I say twist, it was a plan that was to start a great war between Starfleet and the Klingons through Jim’s rash decisions. But then there’s just other ‘twist’, but more of an act of vengeance by Khan. I won’t explain, because it’ll ruin the story. It’s strange, but builds it up for areas that are just full of action. The characters are similar, with nothing spectacular in their display, because I feel the main focus of this film is the action-based sequences. However, that being said Uhura (Zoe Saldana) has a stronger role in this, than the first. We do get to a more humanised side of Spock occur with the big thing toward the end of the film, as he his bromance with Captain Kirk strengthens regardless of Spock not feeling logical about it (It makes sense when you watch it, trust me). Not being a fan of the original film or series I’m not sure how much Spock shows his human side if it were. Could someone tell me?

startrek_intodarkness

It’s good, don’t get me wrong. But the sequel upon second watching lacked something I felt in the cinema screening. It might be cinema, with the sequences built and acted out for the cinema surroundings. Given that, the film is enjoyable and doesn’t feel too long with the run time of just over two hours. But the ending was sort of a anti climax of sorts, it was more of a iconic Star Trek ending, but I still felt deflated and disappointed with the ending.

As I mentioned about the whole of the Star Trek franchise being rebooted it’s working, it’s roping in more of an audience, but as for the older Star Trek fans, is there any similarities? I can’t answer this, aside from some of the quotes like the shouting of ‘KHANNNNNN’. Some sections I feel as though there are including to please the original fans, because they felt out of place, different from the rest of the film? That could be just me though?

However, whatever JJ Abrams is doing with this franchise, it’s working to an extent, as there is room for more films down the line with the reimagined cast which although are not outstanding, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are playing with good effect. Such as becomes with the big science fiction films, comedy has played a dab hand in some of the films, and Star Trek: Into Darkness does include some elements, primarily from Captain Kirk’s mannerisms and Scotty (Shaun Pegg) confessing madness of situations. One thing I did pick up was Benedict Cumberbatch really enjoyed enunciating his words in this film. It’s worth a watch if you’ve seen the first one, or simply looking for a science fiction film, or simply wanting to get into the Star Trek franchise, realistically though with JJ Abrams, you know what you’re expecting from a film like that. Don’t expect anything too amazing.

3/5