DC Cinematic Universe

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.

Suicide Squad (2016)

Due to the overconsumption of films from the war waged between the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Cinematic Universe, I wasn’t that bothered when Suicide Squad was first announced. Less bothered when Will Smith was heading the charge. Then the temptation grew with cast photos of Jared Leto’s Joker and Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress.

Villainous characters have always been my favourite when it comes to cinema, as they have to more interesting story rather then the standard framework of the typical ‘hero’. A film about Anti-Heroes banding together to save the day? Fantastic. Sounds right up my street. What could possibly go wrong?

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Suicide Squad plot takes place shortly after the events of the Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice as Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) begins to formulate her plan to bring together the baddest of the bad in the war against the ‘metahumans’. Each character is then introduced including their rap sheets with little background, other than Will Smith’s Deadshot and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. 

It’s clear who the studio wanted to run with.

Deadshot and Harley Quinn are made to team up with Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Killer Croc (Adewake Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) as an expendable task-force. Although it’s not that basic, there is an intertwined hatred of The Batman (Ben Affleck cameos) and the Harley Quinn/Joker love story happening. Amanda Waller’s grand scheme goes a bit pear shaped when the Enchantress (Dr. June Moore played by Cara Delevingne) escapes from the clutches of the watchful bodyguard and lover Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and starts to reek havoc on Midway City. Hence the expendable crew.

Jared Leto’s Joker was probably the most intriguing character throughout the film. Decked head to toe in the finest clothes and flashiest jewellery, his shrill laughter striking the very soul. His relationship with Harley ventured on an intriguing backstory and teased just enough of it to keep the hope alive that Suicide Squad’s narrative may get interestingbut unfortunately it wasn’t to be.

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For me, the problems really lay with the narrative and the characters trying to band together, only witnessing chemistry from the very dysfunctional relationship between Robbie and Leto. (I would really enjoy a spin-off exploring this) Suicide Squad’s narrative seemed to have an abundance of anticipation and build up, for a very meagre finale. Played out correctly, this could’ve been the best finale to date as it had the flashy sequence to go with it, just not the narrative, as the villains plan is only brief shown and discussed for a matter of seconds.

One noticeable difference between the two franchises (Marvel & DC) is the comedic value that is taken away from the two films. Marvel is miles ahead in the comic relief, but DC makes up for the lack of comedy with the grittiness shown in it’s film, most noticeably as the grizzled Batfleck is very rough around the edges. However, Jai Courtney provides that comic relief as he doesn’t offer much else than a boomerang, a pink unicorn and a drinking problem.

Careful now, there may be spoilers up ahead. 

Although it sounds like I’m slating the narrative, parts of it worked for me. The Witch or Enchantress worked for me as a character, including her background and her relationship with Dr. June Moore, but I feel it wasn’t used to it’s full potential, much like the rest of Suicide Squad. El Diablo didn’t have nearly enough hype surrounding his character considering he probably was more impactful than the rest of the team. I really would’ve being interested in a narrative involving his character more.

As the film ran it’s course, it occurred to me that I did not care for any of these characters and their fates. Whether this was due to how the narrative played out and how the Anti-Heroes fitted in, I couldn’t tell you, but I simply could not care less regarding their outcomes. (Maybe except for the Joker)

End of spoilers.

I was left feeling largely underwhelmed by Suicide Squad. The direction the film was poorly thought out and seemed a jumble of narratives happening at once. There are enjoyable parts to the film, including the adrenaline-fuelled action sequences which are entertaining and Margot Robbie’s performance as Harley. However, Will Smith’s ‘Poor Old Me’ routine became really tiring, very quickly. The characterisations were interesting from afar, but for me, it seemed as though Deadshot and Harley Quinn led the charge leaving the rest in the dust.

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There are some enjoyable parts to Suicide Squad but unfortunately the joyous sections are vastly outweighed by the frustrating narrative, annoying characters and confusing message the squad are trying to convey.

Unfortunately for Suicide Squad, I feel that films of this calibre and containing an ensemble of heroes (anti or super, whichever) are always going to be compared with Guardians of the Galaxy due to the how enjoyable the Chris Pratt-led Marvel film turned out to be after little expectations.