Blindspotting

Blindspotting is powerful. It does an amazing job of balancing a high wire act of presenting a very real world but breaking from that at moments to add to the effect of the movie’s most powerful moments. It might not work for everyone, but I found it to be one of the most enthralling movies I’ve seen this year.

Blindspotting stars Daveed Diggs as Colling and Rafael Casal as Miles, two best friends living in Oakland. Collin was previously convicted of a felony and is nearing the end of his probation. He is trying to avoid any trouble. Meanwhile, Miles is a magnet for trouble, buying an unlicensed gun near the start of the movie and waving it around everywhere. They work together for a moving company. Collin’s former girlfriend works at the counter for that moving company. Miles lives with his girlfriend and their young son. With three days left on his probation, Collin witnesses a cop murder a man. The movie follows him for the next three days as he continues to try to keep his head down and stay out of trouble, despite Miles insistence on drawing as much trouble to himself as possible.

The movie deals deftly with so many issues. There are class issues, with the area where Collin and Miles grew up steadily gentrifying, with the lower class settings of their youth being replaced with more well to do facsimiles. There are now vegan burgers at the fast food place and expensive green juice at the convenience store. The two movers are always seen moving people out, never in. Often they are dealing with the remains of a family home with many affects left abandoned inside. These problems also touch on the movies racial musings. Collin fits in, visually, with the old Oakland because he is a big black guy. Miles works overtime to show that he is ‘street’ because as a white guy he is frequently mistaken for one of new hipsters in town. It is an advantage to him, since he can move in both worlds, but he considers it an insult. That also plays into how Collin ended up in jail; the idea that the world treats these two friends differently based on their race. Blindspotting plays it smart by mostly leaving the cop shooting in the background. It is always there and just like Collin the viewer is always aware of it, but he just has to go about his life regardless of what he saw. It builds, though, throughout until the movie gives viewers one of the most tense scenes I have ever seen.

Where the movie does some of its best work is in showing why the fairly mild Collin sticks with the erratic Miles. The bond between these two childhood friends is something that nearly everyone can relate to. Collin knows both that Miles is likely to get him into trouble and that despite his nonsense Miles is a good guy. Both things are true and while it seems pretty obvious that getting away from Miles is likely the best thing Collin could do, it is is easy to see why he won’t abandon a friend that never abandoned him.

Blindspotting is masterful. Wonderfully written and acted. Everyone should go see it.

*****

Sorry to Bother You Review

Sorry to Bother You is one of the best movies of the year. It is an incisive and funny satire that never let’s the viewer get comfortable in its world. That world is close enough to the real world to be recognizable, but far enough away to be disorienting, creating something that feels like a mix of Jonathan Swift and Robocop. Sorry to Bother You is an insightful social commentary that keeps its message front and center while not getting in the way of its humor.

LaKeith Stanfield stars as Cassius “Cash” Green, a down on his luck man who wants to make a difference in the world. He shares his troubles with his performance artist girlfriend Detroit, played by Tessa Thompson. Cash starts his journey to greatness when he gets a job at RegalView, a telemarketing company. While he initially struggles, after a coworker, played by Danny Glover, teaches him to use his “white voice” Cash excels. He also joins a group of coworkers who are organizing a union. Soon, his newfound success at work creates a conflict with his friends and Cash is forced to choose between his ideals and his newfound success.

That is the surface level story of the movie, but there is more going on. So much more and it gets so much weirder. From the fake TV show “I Got the S#*@ Kicked Out of Me” to the advertised corporate slavery of WorryFree living, the movie starts in a weird place and just keeps amping up the weirdness from there until it takes a turn into out and out scifi in the last third of the movie.

The satire of Sorry to Bother You is that of a hammer; it is blunt rather than subtle. This is not a mistake, subtlety can be misinterpreted and Sorry to Bother You does not leave itself open to misinterpretation. The system that Cash must join into to survive is built to keep keep people like him in their place.  From how he succeeds to what his success actually gets him, the movie makes it clear that Cash can’t truly win in this system.

The material is helped by almost uniformly excellent performances from the cast. Stanfield is great in the movie, being something of an everyman than never really feels comfortable in his role. Thompson is as good as she always is. Danny Glover and Terry Crews each show up for a couple of memorable scenes, especially Glover. Armie Hammer is perfect as Steve Lift, the “visionary” CEO of WorryFree. One of the more interesting choices the movie makes is dubbing over the voices of its black actors when they speak in “white voice,” with Stanfield done over by David Cross. It is strange, but like in most aspects of this movie the strangeness works for it.

Writing this review has been difficult because I am reluctant to spoil any part of the experience. Sorry to Bother You is a movie that deserves to be experienced with fresh eyes. The ride is so much more exciting when you don’t know where it is going. But it is a ride that you should definitely take.

*****

The Incredibles 2 Review

I have long felt that The Incredibles is Pixar’s best movie. It was also the Pixar movie most calling for a sequel. It didn’t need a sequel, no Pixar movie has needed a sequel, but The Incredibles seemed like the one that was tailor made for there to be continuing adventures. Now, more than a dozen years after the original’s release, a sequel is here. While Incredibles 2 doesn’t quite match the original, it is a more than worthy follow up.

Although more than a decade has passed since it was released, Incredibles 2 picks up right after the The Incredibles ends, with the Underminer attacking the city and only the Parrs there to stop him. After a somewhat botched fight with the Underminer, the movie moves on to its main point. Winston Deaver wants to bring supers back, and his plan involves getting some of the most popular ones, like Mr. Incredible, Frozone and Elastigirl, to go on something of a charm offensive. Primarily, he wants Elastigirl, since she tends to be the least destructive in her crime fighting. That leaves Mr. Incredible to take care of the kids on his own.

The movie proceeds along those two paths, Helen/Elastigirl’s adventures at her new job trying to make supers look good and Bob/Mr. Incredible having to be a stay at home dad. Helen’s adventures have her dealing with the mysterious new villain the Screenslaver and mostly put other superhero movie action scene to shame. Her on her motorcycle chasing down a runaway train is one of the best action scenes I’ve ever seen. Bob’s scenes are likewise a lot of fun, with Bob having to help Dash with his homework, to try to fix a breach he caused between Violet and her beau and to deal with the fact that Jack-Jack has started exhibiting superpowers.

Mostly, Incredibles 2 is a fun expansion of the world of the first movie. It introduces a half dozen new heroes with inventive powers. It works on solving the problem that drove all the heroes underground in the first movie. Where it falters, slightly, is how it doesn’t really move the characters along that much. It flips the relative roles of Bob and Helen from the first movie, but doesn’t do anything all that new with them. The kids, other than Jack-Jack, don’t really have much to do. They are the same characters they were the first time around and we don’t really learn anything more about them or see them grow. The movie does have a lot of fun with the baby and those scenes delightful.

There isn’t much about the movie that doesn’t work, but it lacks a little of the original spark of the first movie. Maybe it is just that the landscape for superhero movies is quite different now than it was in 2004. The Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it had not even started yet; its contemporaries were X2, Daredevil and Spider-Man 2. Now, instead of one or two superhero movies a year and maybe one of them is good, we see five or six, plus all the TV shows. It makes it harder for Incredibles 2 to stand out. Nothing, however, hides its excellent construction and marvelous adventure.

*****

Black Panther

While I wouldn’t call any of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies bad, I think the quality slipped in recent years. 2014 saw the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, two of the best movies they have released. Since then, though, Marvel has not exactly struggled, but I would call the next half dozen movies middle of the road output for them. There is a certain level of polish that all of their movies have that never left, but none of those movies really stuck with me. Last Falls Thor Ragnarok pushed things to a new level, finally giving Chris Hemsworth a movie fully worthy of his God of Thunder. With Black Panther, Marvel may be at the start of a trend. Black Panther stands with the very best superhero movies ever made.

The Thor movies are a good reference for Black Panther, because they are doing a lot of the same things. Black Panther does them successfully the first time. The Thor movies have a lot to do with the politics of a fantasy land, with a young prince having to determine how he will rule and dealing with a fractured family situation. Black Panther does all these things as well, only it does them better. The political situation of Wakanda is clearer than that of Asgard, as is T’Challa’s struggle compared to Thor’s. The Thor movies, though, focused almost solely on the ruling family and their close allies. Though I liked the first two Thor movies, Ragnarok was the first one that I completely effectively portrayed the family dynamics. Black Panther deals more with state of the nation of Wakanda, though family certainly comes into play.

Black Panther also displays amazing range. A lot of movies have trouble doing one thing well, Black Panther works in at least two modes at a very high level. In Wakanda, T’Challa is caught up in essentially a fantasy epic; the story there shares more with Lord of the Rings than with Iron Man. It is among the most effective fantasy epics ever put to film. But there is also a detour to South Korea to play out a mini-spy thriller; the movie turns into a James Bond movie for thirty minutes. What is most amazing that it manages to weld these two concepts together almost flawlessly. The various parts of the movie support each other. The Seoul sequence lets T’Challa see his policies in action, letting him be more sure or less, as the case may be, of his actions when he returns to Wakanda. It creates a movie that feels remarkable assured of itself.

That is not even going into the wealth of interesting characters the movie introduces. Somehow Coogler creates the best, most nuanced villain in a Marvel movie with a character named Killmonger. Another highlight is Shuri, T’Challa’s super-genius sister. Or M’Baku, leader of rival Wakandan tribe who challenges Black Panther. All of these characters come from the comics, but the movie does an amazing job of adapting the into a cohesive story.

There are other ways in which Black Panther is a complete triumph that I am not really capable of or inclined to weigh in on, though I do feel compelled to acknowledge their existence. Judging it solely on how successful it is compared to other Marvel movies, or other superhero movies in general, or among all blockbuster movies, Black Panther stands near the top. This is one of the best.

*****

Star Wars The Last Jedi Review

Honestly, when I first walked out of the theater after seeing The Last Jedi I was disappointed. It wasn’t at all what I expected or what I thought I wanted. As I thought about it on the drive home and over the next day, my opinion really changed. I was shocked at first because the movie is so different from it predecessor. The Force Awakens was desperate to please and easy to like, with constant, reverent references to the original trilogy. While it’s plot wasn’t much more than a point for point remake of A New Hope, it also took the time to set up numerous mysteries. Instead of being focused on living up to expectations, The Last Jedi revels in subverting them. It can feel confounding at first, but once digested it makes for one of the most fulfilling Star Wars experiences I’ve had.

I don’t want to just spoil the movie in my review, though I assume nearly everyone who is going to see it has done so at this point, so I am not going to walk through each of Rey’s, Luke’s, Finn’s and Poe’s stories. They each share key thematic points, though the movie keeps most of the heroes apart. Details are shared across three stories pretty evenly, but I think the strongest example of what the movie is doing is Poe’s storyline. The hotshot pilot gets a moment to show off to start the film with a solo bit of heroics that morphs into a suicide run on the film’s bigger, more dangerous take on the Star Destroyer, the Dreadnought. In any other Star Wars movie, the assault on the Dreadnought would be a grand, heroic moment. That is the sort of moment the series is built on. Here it is a bit of folly that gets Poe demoted. Still, throughout the movie Poe tries to be the action hero like Luke and Han and even Obi-Wan were in previous movies. While I say that isn’t like other Star Wars movies, it isn’t really unlike Empire Strikes Back, which saw the rebellion only as they fought a delaying battle before running away from an Imperial Fleet. The Last Jedi spells it out as a battle to save what you love, not destroy what you hate, a message that fits in with other Star Wars movies even as this one makes distinctions.

It is also a movie about failure and how to deal with it. Each of our heroes must deal with failure in this movie, and how they learn from it is important. That is why people who dislike the Finn and Rose story are missing the point. That part is called a waste of time only because they eventually fail in their mission, but the whole point of the movie, the final lesson that Yoda has to teach Luke, is that failure is among the greatest of teachers.

The best part of the movie is how it backs away from the idea of the destined hero. That flaw is largely confined to the prequels, which started Anakin out as this mythological figure before we even got to know him. This pulls that back. The heroes of Star Wars maybe do heroic things, but they are just people in this world, like Luke and Han were. It is deliberately lessening the emphasis on legacy that The Force Awakens focused on. People spent a couple of years speculating about who Rey’s parents were because of who Luke’s dad turned out to be, but Rey’s story isn’t Luke’s story. The revelation that her parents aren’t anybody is the best possible way to solve that mystery.

At first, I didn’t like that The Last Jedi withheld the comforting conclusions that I was expecting. I wanted to see Luke in his full glory, I wanted to see Finn and Poe go on adventures. Watching the movie, I didn’t get anything that I wanted, other than the wholly excellent throne room scene. But judging the movie not based on my preconceived notions about what I thought it would be, but on what it is and what is accomplished convinced me that this is the best Star Wars movie since the original trilogy ended.

As I said, I didn’t really like the movie when it first finished, but by the time I went for my second viewing a fews days later I was even more excited than I was before my first viewing. The Last Jedi is a thematically rich movie that upends a lot of what people expect Star Wars to be, while not really changing anything. It makes the galaxy far, far away feel larger than it has since it was revealed that Leia was Luke’s sister. It is a big galaxy, and anybody can be the hero. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I don’t know what is coming next with Star Wars and I couldn’t be more excited.

*****

Blade Runner 2049

I am not the biggest fan of the original Blade Runner. I like it just fine, but it always felt standoffish and cold to me. Maybe it is because I am most familiar with the theatrical cut. At least I think that is the cut that I watched occasionally on VHS decades ago.  I have seen at least two different versions of it.  It is stark and moody and beautiful, but I could never connect with it. While Blade Runner 2049 shares a lot of qualities with the original, I didn’t have that problem here.

Blade Runner 2049 eschews ambiguity about whether its protagonists is a replicant, and artificially created person, (I don’t think Deckard is) telling the viewer right at the start that Ryan Gosling’s K is one. After successfully hunting down an older model, he stumbles upon a discovery that has the potential to completely disrupt society. This sets off an investigation that largely plays out like a noir mystery. Trying not to spoil anything, K must deal with his boss with the police, his companion Joi, mysterious CEO Niander Wallace and his associate Luv and finally Deckard from the original movie as he tries to get to the bottom of things.  It is hard to really dig into this movie without spoiling everything. I am not usually a big stickler for spoilers, but this is a mystery.  SO there will be mild spoilers ahead, but I will endeavor to not ruin things outside the basic premise.

It does deal with the idea of what makes us human.  Our protagonist K is a replicant, and he believes he is not a person. He puts up a persona of being cold and emotionless.  A later revelation causes him to question that, and he becomes much more emotional and expressive.  By the end, he has shown his humanity no matter what he learns about his creation.  That is contrasted with Luv, another replicant who never seems to question her birth and purpose. No matter what she does or what she sees, she robotically follows her orders.  Then there is Joi, an AI program designed to tell its owner exactly what they want to hear.  She gives K exactly what he wants; turning his barren apartment into a home and telling him he is special, even giving him another name, Joe.  But is she doing anything more than what her programming tells her to do?  An encounter with another version maybe answers the question, but I don’t think that answer is definitive.  Then there is also the inhumanity of many of the human characters, like [boss] and Wallace, who coldly want to, or do, dispatch with replicants because they do not see them as human. It makes things a little more clear as to what each character is, and then muddies it up with how to look at them.

It is also an utterly gorgeous movie, taking place in a largely ugly setting.  The earth of 2049 is a dying place, with irradiated desert reclaiming Las Vegas and San Diego turned into a giant dump and Los Angeles managing to seem both overcrowded and empty.  The costuming is amazing; there are tons of memorable shots. The music is good, if a little modern blockbuster-y.  It is just a truly well-made film.

I’m not trying to hide the ball here, I loved Blade Runner 2049.  It isn’t a copy of the original; it takes its themes and builds on them.  I think it surpasses the original.  It is a little messy, there are plot threads that don’t really go anywhere and lots of questions left unanswered, but those mostly worked to make the movie feel alive for me.  This world is bigger than just the story of this movie, those story threads are not to be dealt with here.  Not really sequel hooks, just other events that are also happening.  Everything about this movie works for me.

*****

Dunkirk Review

Dunkirk is another of Christopher Nolan’s puzzle box movies. Taking what could have been a very straightforward war movie, he does things with the timeline to make it clearly his own.  Even without the differing timelines, it still would not have been a particularly traditional war movie.  Dunkirk is an intense, impossible to look away from movie that is unlike any I’ve ever seen.

Dunkirk is a war movie, chronicling the escape from the Nazis of the defeated allied army from the beach at Dunkirk. It does this without ever showing an enemy soldier, other than a few planes.  They shoot from off-screen and drop bombs from mostly unseen planes.  It is all about the the soldiers on the beach, the civilians coming over in their own boats to help evacuate and the pilots flying cover for them.

Each of those three segments is also somewhat oddly structured.  For one, the characters are barely named.  We get some names, but we learn almost nothing about the majority of the characters.  We know almost nothing about the soldiers on the beach other than they are soldiers on the beach who want to get off the beach.  We know nothing about the pilots other than that they are pilots.  We do learn a fraction more about the civilians on the boat, but only a fraction.  That is not to say it doesn’t create relatable characters, only that they are largely examined in the present rather than the past.

Then there is how it handles its three different timelines.  Events on the beach take place over the course of a week, while events on the boat take place over the course of one day and events in the plane take place over the course of an hour. So things happen in the planes before we see their effects on the boat or the beach.

I’m not sure the structure, other than being interesting in and of itself, helps the telling of the story.  The story being told is good enough to not need any embellishing.  Each of the three storylines would be enough to support an entire movie in their own right.  There is heroism to be found in each part.

That is where the movie truly succeeds.  Each scene is tense and enthralling.  Whether it is the soldiers trying to escape a sinking ship or the pilots in an intense dogfight, every scene has something to add.  It is too the movie’s credit that each even though it never lets up it also never feels overwhelming.  It manages to make the evacuation seem not like a victory, which it wasn’t, but an achievement.

Dunkirk is easily among the best movies I’ve seen this year.  Nolan is a master craftsman and this movie shows it.  And if I am being honest, when the movie nears its end with Churchill’s address to the nation I teared up a little bit.  Nolan has long since proven himself a master, and Dunkirk is another feather in his cap.

*****

Okja Review

I don’t know that Okja is first great Netflix movie, but it is easily their best offering since they started distributing movies. Much of the furor over this movie is from the reception of it, or really the reception of Netflix, at the Cannes film festival. There is much wailing and gnashing of teeth as to how Netflix is ruining itself by refusing to change its business model to get theatrical releases for its movies. Since I watch a lot more movies on Netflix than I do in theaters and only really wish Netflix would do a better job of letting people know that a new movie is coming. With Okja, though, it is a little disappointing, since this movie feels like one that would have benefited from being seen on the big screen.

Okja is a strange movie.  That is certainly not a bad thing, but it is impossible to ignore. It changes from what feels like a Spielberg movie before morphing into something like a Terry Gilliam movie. It is an odd mixture of tones that almost doesn’t work, and although they never really cohere into one tone, it does make for a uniquely entertaining movie watching experience.

After a prologue that sets up the Mirando Corporation, their insanely peppy CEO and their superpig experiment, it turns into something like E.T. One of the superpig’s that were distributed around the world to see who can raise them best ended up in the Korean mountains. It is named Okja by Mija and her grandfather.  Mija treats Okja like a pet, thinking her Grandfather had saved money to purchase the animal outright. That is disrupted when representatives from Mirando show up, declare Okja the best superpig and whisk it back to America. Mija sets out to get her friend back, teaming up somewhat incidentally with the Animal Liberation Front and eventually confronting the head of the Mirando Corporation.

The Korean stuff feels very Speilbergian.  Ahn Seo-hyun does a great job as Mija, giving a credible performance largely with a CGI monster.  It is much better than a similar performance in last year’s The Jungle Book. That contrasts with the big names, Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal, play the faces at Mirando as broad caricatures, a choice that worked for me but seems to be polarizing. They are odd and unlikeable, but the characters are supposed to be unlikeable. It makes the American characters feel like invaders in the movie.  The ALF, whose leader is played by Paul Dano, are somewhere in between, caring more about making points against Mirando than actually helping Mija rescue Okja.

The real triumph of this movie is how real Okja feels.  It isn’t any kind of step forward for special effects, but it is well done. The first act does great work establishing the relationship between Mija and Okja, which carries it through the attempted rescue in Seoul and the trip to America. It doesn’t all work, but the parts that work work incredibly well.

Those familiar with director Bong Joon-Ho’s other movies, like the excellent Snowpiercer, will not be surprised to hear that Okja gets dark. It is a stark look at factory farming. Other than the little girl, no one comes off looking well. It begs the viewer to laugh at at horrible things, because any other choice is too dark.  The movie leaves you somewhat heartbroken even as it suggests that there can be small victories.  Don’t miss it.

*****

Baby Driver Review

Baby Driver is the best movie I’ve seen this year. It might also be my least favorite Edgar Wright movie, though that is far from fair since at least two of his movies count among my all-time favorites. In what has been a rather dull summer so far, Baby Driver is an unmatched shot of adrenaline. It does everything right and is pure fun from start to finish. And while it never quite breaks out of genre conventions, it still contains a few of the most surprising moments I’ve seen in a movie in years.

Ansel Elgort stars as Baby – B A B Y Baby – a young man who has gotten entangled with some nasty dudes. He owes a debt to Doc, played by Kevin Spacey, who is forcing him to pay it back by being the getaway driver for the heists he masterminds with an ever rotating crew of thieves. Baby is constantly listening to his iPod and all of his driving is synchronized to specific songs. Once he has paid Doc back, Baby intends to go clean. His newly formed relationship with diner waitress Debora makes this an even more enticing proposition, but as tends to happen he is pulled back in for one more job and everything goes to hell.

The various bank robbers that join Doc’s crews are a lot of fun. Jon Hamm plays Buddy, whose friendliness hides barely contained menace. He is married to Eiza Gonzalez’s Darling, who is a little more playfully nuts than Buddy. The stand out other than Hamm is Jamie Foxx as Bats, who doesn’t even pretend to hide the menace like Buddy. He is a danger not just to those who get in his way, but also to his own partners. He is just straight up scary. Baby, meanwhile, is charming and quiet, either so cool nothing fazes him or doing his best to hide how scared he is of the crazy murderers he is forced to work with. The characters aren’t as layered as the ones from the Cornetto Trilogy, but they are still strong.

Wright’s usual perfect editing is on display in this movie, as each of its action set pieces are set to a particular song. It works perfectly, turning Baby Driver into essentially an action musical. The characters don’t sing, but all of their shooting and driving become highly choreographed dance numbers. The best one is likely the one that opens the movie, set to “Bellbottoms” by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. It is also filled with clever foreshadowing and call backs, making for a movie that will surely reward repeat viewings.

Baby Driver is an excellent movie. It is tense and buoyant and touching and the perfect antidote to a lot of the stale franchise movies clogged up theaters over the last few months. It is hard to get further into what makes it great without spoiling a turn about midway that was one of the most surprising things I’ve seen on a movie screen this year. I don’t know if Baby Driver is a perfect movie, but it is one that I am eager to revisit as much as possible.

*****

Wonder Woman Review

I hoped Wonder Woman would be good, but I almost expected it wouldn’t be.  It is hard for a superhero movie to really surprise almost 20 years into them showing up regularly. Wonder Woman, though, was shockingly good. It wasn’t perfect, but it was such an earnest and sincere take on the genre that it was hard not to be swept away in its enthusiasm.  It was likely the most I’ve enjoyed seeing a movie this year.

The plot isn’t anything special; it is mostly a standard superhero origin story. Diana was raised on Themyscira, a Mediterranean Island created by the Greek Gods as a home for the mythological Amazons.  Diana is the only child among them, the daughter of Queen Hippolyta, who is reluctant to have her trained for combat. So Diana trains in secret with her aunt, Antiope.  Her training ends when WW1 pilot and spy Steve Trevor washes up on their shores.  Against her mother’s protests, Diana returns to the modern world with Steve to fulfill the Amazons’ duty to fight Ares, the God of War and end the war.

From there is combines scenes of Diana dealing with the modern world and even just parts of life with which she is unfamiliar, like children or snow, with war scenes.  It all works together, with Diana learning about the world without ever losing her optimism.

The movie works without Warner Bros merely copying what has worked for Marvel.  While it does bare some superficial similarities to the first Captain America and Thor movies, Wonder Woman maintains its own tone. The tone of the MCU movies, for better or worse, has been set by the sardonic voice of Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. Recent DC movies have set their tone to Zack Snyder’s operatic earnestness.  Wonder Woman doesn’t abandon that, but it manages to find some levity with the sincerity, resulting in something that is wholly enjoyable.  Its tone is more like that of the original Superman or Spider-Man movies.  It revels in the emotion of its story instead of undercutting them for a laugh.

The movie works in large part thanks to the performances of Chris Pine and Gal Gadot.  Gadot is radiant as the lead, able to play both the character’s naivety and strength with equal skill.  She is truly believable as all facets of the character, helping to make Diana a rounded character and her growth believable. This is a star making performance.  Chris Pine also carries a heavy load, playing both the second lead, the love interest, and the comic relief.  He shines without ever taking the focus off of the title character.  Their chemistry together is great.  The rest of the cast is great as well, especially Robin Wright as Antiope.

There are flaws, especially at the end when it falls into the same sort of trap that many superhero movies, like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, do. For most of its runtime it is fresh and enjoyable, but its final battle descends into incoherence and pointless CGI.  It really isn’t any worse than the ends of similar movies, but the fall is further.

It is frankly ridiculous that it took this long in the modern superhero era to get one starring a woman.  (Yes, I know Supergirl exists, but it is far from modern, while Catwoman and Elektra are far from heroes) It is not like there haven’t been opportunities, with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow being the glue that holds together a lot of the MCU but never getting her own starring role.  It has also been positioned as the savior of the critically floundering DCUE.  That put a lot of pressure on Wonder Woman to succeed and I am glad to say it did. It is a very good movie without any knowledge of outside factors, knowing those factors only makes its success all the sweeter. Wonder Woman is likely not the best movie I am going to see this year, but it was very good.

*****