Wonder Woman Analysis

So this was a film.

It was a good film. I’d watch it again, probably. I’d probably suggest you watch it. It wasn’t bad, that’s for sure. I guess I kinda have mixed feelings about it.

I don’t know. Maybe it was too hyped for me, or I just didn’t notice all the really good parts. I did have quite a bit of criticism for the film, which I’ll get to (a lot of it deals with spoilers, but I’ll put up a tag when we get to that part). I really wanted to like this film, at least.

First, this was clearly made for 3D. I saw it in 2D, so I got a bunch of shots that were like “Isn’t this so awesome in three dimensions? Here, we’ll slow down the action for a shot so you can appreciate how awesome the shot is in three dimensions.” A lot of the action (particularly the action regarding Wonder Woman) felt very CG, a little in the uncanny valley.

Overall the plot felt a little cliche, very much like we’ve been here before. I kinda get this, we wanna start at the beginning when a new superhero shows up, but eventually doing a superhero origin story for every superhero gets a little tiring. (I’m looking forward to Spider-man: Homecoming, because that one promises to not be an origin story.) Diana / Wonder Woman herself had character development that oscillated from decent and fun to awkward and cliche, ultimately, unfortunately, ending on the latter.

The characters were a lot of fun, particularly Steve Taylor’s band of misfits (cause of course they’re a band of misfits, but hey, I loved them). The villains were also good, mostly. Most of the Amazons were cool too, though I have some issues with Hippolyta (Diana’s mother).

***Spoilers Begin***

Chronology

I was rather confused with what is supposed to have happened when, especially after the revelations at the end. So in the past, at some point, the gods fought one another, which ended in Ares being cast out and Zeus’s death/the conception of Diana. This is all implied to have happened at some point in the distant past, but by 1918 she’s only physically in her twenties (granted, none of the Amazons seem to age much past beyond that point either — which probably comes with their immortality thing).

So that seems to imply that Diana’s childhood lasted for thousands of years, which seems a little silly. Though I suppose the alternative is that the time between the official beginning training with Antiope and the big practice fight right before Steve shows up takes the vast majority of those millennia. That being said, Diana seems way too naive for someone presumably several thousand years old.

The other possibility is that Diana really is only about in her twenties or thirties, but then that would mean that the war of the gods only happened about 20-30 years ago, so in the 1890’s. Which doesn’t seem very likely, given Ares’s role as warbringer. And the whole Greek aesthetic of the gods and the Amazons.

Hippolyta

I had quite a few issues with this character. On the one hand, she seemed way overprotective of Diana; on the other hand, she was still permitting Diana to learn to fight and to do what she felt she needed to do.

But Hippolyta knew Diana was the god-killer, which makes her reluctance to get her daughter involved in training rather strange. More strange, however, would be the silence of the other Amazons at Hippolyta’s reluctance, since surely they would also know Diana’s origin and purpose. Antiope, at least, seems to be heavily pushing toward Diana’s training, but the others seem content to just follow Hippolyta’s lead.

I mean, I get that Hippolyta would be super wishy-washy on this: even if Diana is the god-killer, Diana’s also her daughter, and any parent wants to make sure their child is safe. So Hippolyta is trying to balance her duty as guardian of the Amazons (and Earth) and her duty as mother. But I guess I feel this internal debate could have been shown better. Perhaps if less focus had been on Diana at the beginning, but I don’t know how you’d balance all that.

I mean, you have ominous comments (which there were plenty of), but none of them hinted at this part of Diana’s nature.

Ares

Ohmigosh Ares.

I have to admit, I did not see that coming. And yet it was pretty brilliant: after all, we know the horrible armistice and the Treaty of Versailles basically directly lead to World War 2, which was even more horrible than the first World War. Though it still seems a little small-minded of him (indeed, for all his talk of bringing humanity to its destruction, Ares doesn’t seem to have really done that much). Perhaps the implication, though, is that WW2 would have been even worse with Ares’s influence.

I really liked Ares, particularly him talking about humanity’s faults. His initial arguments were pretty cool, but then they kinda devolved into “Weak weak weak!” which changed him from a villain I liked to super cartoony.

Diana’s retort “But love!” was also super cartoony, though. I really wanted to see them engage in actual debate, not this really bad cartoony stuff. I guess I wanted something more like this:

Diana: “But love!”

Ares: “Just a device to perpetuate their destruction across the world.”

D: “But dancing! And music!”

A: “Bonding exercises to convince themselves that their lives have any kind of good effect.”

And so on. Cause Ares at least seems to have his argument far better put together than Diana (though she has naive stubbornness on her side).

Linguistics and Isolationism

So as previously mentioned, the chronology of the Amazons seems a little unclear. Diana claims to speak hundreds of languages (okay, given, since she’s lived presumably a very long time), but among them modern Spanish and English.

Okay, but how does she know modern languages when she lives on an isolationist island hidden from the world?

I had the same issue with Atlantis: The Lost Empire, that after a few examples of speech, suddenly the Atlanteans are able to speak fluent English. Like, no, linguistics don’t work that way. I mean, you can get a good idea of how a language works from a small sample, but it’d have to be a very specific sample — not just any sample will do.

Does this mean there’s a squad of Amazons that keep tabs on the rest of the world? But as an isolationist culture, why would they find it necessary to learn so many languages? Or keep tabs on the world? (Perhaps to keep a watch for Ares?) But even then, why would they teach Diana so many languages? Surely she doesn’t need that many for fighting Ares? Unless Hippolyta and Antiope were expecting her to journey out into the world eventually. Or it was part of the standard education.

Further complicating this is that Diana’s read classical Greek texts, but doesn’t seem to have read anything more recent.

And then despite knowing modern languages, the Amazons don’t seem to have upgraded ever to modern weapons. Like, you know, guns. I mean, granted, they have crazy fighting skills and bullet-stopping armor (probably magic), but that doesn’t suddenly make guns obsolete or less useful than their bows and swords.

Anyway, those were my thoughts. Responses, things I missed?

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: An Analysis

You’ll note the title does NOT say REVIEW. I’ll begin with something along those lines, but then I’ll be breaking out the spoilers, though hopefully I’ll have gotten to the big bold letters that say “spoiler warning” before then.

First, the film was good. Very good. It adds many fascinating elements into the world of Harry Potter, and also manages to be very much its own. Perhaps it helps that it’s set in America.

It also helps that it stays out of the prequel/remake trap of trying to force in any and every reference it can to the original work. Only one or two of those exist here, one a very, very brief mention of Dumbledore (which is done without making too big a deal about it), the other, of course, Grindelwald. But Grindelwald was great, particularly since he was such a minor character in the last Harry Potter book and last two HP films.

I came in expecting the film to attempt to incurr a sense of wonder around all the magical creatures featured, and I was not disappointed on this. The film really sells a sense of joy and a sense of wonder and a general love of life.

Finally, if you like Doctor Who, you’ll love this. Newt Scamander is basically Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor as a wizard. They even have the same hair. Like, seriously, was Rowling just watching a lot of Doctor Who when she wrote the script? This is basically a Doctor Who story, but with wizards instead of aliens and time travel.

***SPOILER WARNING***

An now on to the analysis.

Grindelwald

Omigosh I loved Grindelwald in this. I only have two complaints about this, in that I wasn’t sure how I felt about Johnny Depp playing his true self, but also there wasn’t enough of Grindelwald being Grindelwald.

Depp certainly got the creepy factor down, but, I don’t know, on the one hand he seemed a little too round faced (though that might have been due to other factors) for my taste; in retrospect I think I also liked the sort of fascist charisma of Colin Farrell, in that it seemed more true to the character.

That being said, I loved all the fighting that Grindelwald was involved in, particularly at the end when he engaged like twenty aurors at once and was winning. I was hoping for a moment when Grindelwald either lost his wand or encountered a threat that he wasn’t entirely prepared for, only for him to pull out the Elder Wand and then commence the curbstomb, but alas. It probably would have had to have gotten really really bad for him to pull out a wand that would identify him so quickly — after all, not only is this the Elder Wand we’re talking about here, but wands work effectively as driver’s liscences or passports or ID for wizards — so using his own wand would have been an easy way to blow his cover.

As a last note on Grindelwald, I kept waiting and waiting for his accent to drop and him to revert to a more Slavic/Germanic accent — say, in a moment of frustration — but that didn’t even seem to happen even when he was captured that much. (At least he didn’t say enough to really show any kind of accent.)

America

First thing I’d like to note is that I loved the aesthetic in this film, at least of the wizards in trenchcoats and fedoras. Like, that would be my outfit as a wizard.

The way the wizarding community was far more integrated with other species was also an interesting contrast with Britain (even a Britain fifty plus years in the future relative to this film). Here we have goblins and elves and… giants I think? living more or less in harmony with each other. Perhaps that’s an effect of the strict segregation of wizard and muggle in America, so that those few cling more tightly together? Or perhaps it’s because America?

Regardless, I did enjoy seeing, if nothing else, a black female president of the American wizarding community.

But also the execution room and the pool of memories. When I first saw it I thought it was a giant pensieve, although I’m still not sure that’s what it’s supposed to be. But that’s my headcanon now, because a pensieve of all the wizards of America would be so cool.

The Obscurus/Obscurial

This is probably the most interesting new piece to fit into the canon. My immediate thoughts went to other characters that have suffered trauma in regards to their magical abilities: namely, Harry Potter and Ariana Dumbledore. So why does the Obscurus manifest for Credence, but not for either of these?

I think the main issue is that the negative emotions and the trauma must be self-inflicted; that is, that the wizard must come to hate and despise themselves and their own magic. This, I think, is the major difference between Harry and Credence: Harry, despite everything he puts up with from the Dursleys, never comes to really hate himself, nor, for that matter, despite their threats to try to “stamp the magic out of him,” do they ever go nearly as far as Mary Lou Barebone, the leader of the Second Salemers, and inflict any corporal punishment; furthermore, all while Harry is sort of punished for whenever he accidentally did magic, this was more or less inconsistent and about the equivalent of being grounded.

This isn’t to say Harry didn’t have a rough childhood; but it seems that an obscurus only manifests in the most extreme circumstances. Also, very likely, the magical community had gotten better at preventing obscuri manifestations between Scamander’s adventures and Harry’s.

The question of if Ariana Dumbledore ever manifested an obscurus is a much more interesting question to me, though. If how Scamander and the others try to deal with Credence is any sign, it seems perhaps the process has some hope of being reversed or controlled. Which I guess is to say that, I’m willing to bet that Ariana did indeed manifest an obscurus. And when Aberforth mentions her having “episodes” and the time Ariana killed their mother, it was because of the obscurus. Ariana may indeed have had intense self-hatred issues regarding her magic, which she could blame for all the bullying she received, her father being imprisoned, and her brother being held back from his dreams (not that she really was to blame, but perhaps that’s what her mind thought).

Which brings up an interesting question: Grindelwald is interested in finding the obscurus in New York in order to force wizards to reveal themselves: perhaps he was interested in the Dumbledores for similar reasons?

Newt Scamander

Am I the only one who read Scamander as having Asbergers? Because between the poor social skills, movement quirks, and seeming obsession with magical creatures, he definitely seemed to fit the bill.

Which is, granted, fantastic (if I might use the word here). I couldn’t help but think of The Imitation Game in conjunction with this — though Cumberbatch’s character in that was I think more obviously Asbergers — and I have to say I think I like the representation of at least implicit neurodivergeant protagonists.

Also, again, I think Matt Smith was secretly impersonating Eddie Redmayne through the entire production, because Matt Smith was all I could think of in his performance: the hair, the bow tie, the clothes, the quirky tics, the love of life but wariness of human selfishness, the bigger-on-the-inside object, and especially the way he’d hold conversations with each and every one of his…pets? fantastic creatures? particularly the bowtruckle.

The Lego Movie — Review and Personal Reflection

This was a great film – perhaps not as good as it’s hyped up to be, but good nonetheless.

The story is primarily about Emmett, a Lego construction worker living in a world ruled by the villainous Lord Business (who is voiced by Will Farrell, a fact which has a surprising amount of importance for the film). Emmett is completely ordinary; in fact, so ordinary that no one can remember him or distinguish him. Lord Business plans to end the world by gluing the entire world together with the Kragle (Krazy Glue), aided by his henchman, Bad Cop.

Inexplicably, Emmett comes upon the Piece of Resistance, the only thing that can foil the Kragle. He then must journey into the heart of Lord Business’s tower, with the aid of the Master Builders (Lego figures capable of great creative construction feats) Wyldstyle, Batman, Vitruvius, Unikitty, and that 80’s Space Guy.

First the bad: Wyldstyle and Emmett have a romantic arc that I’m really sure was there only cause every other story of this kind has that arc (though it only culminates in them holding hands). I really didn’t care for this arc, and it was quite cliché. On another point, there were a number of weird beneficial coincidences that occurred from time to time (such as the Millennium Falcon suddenly appearing). Sometimes these were justified, sometimes they were essential to the plot moving forward, other times they were so little I wondered why they were in there at all. It was as though they were concocted by a child…

…but that’s okay, for reasons I can’t say (spoilers!). On the good side of things, the gags were hilarious. Although the whole story followed the typical “you are the chosen one who must defeat evil” plot (complete with prophecy, delivered rather tongue-in-cheek by Vitruvius in the first moments of the film), the film subverts it in a number of ways. One of the more comical subversions: after Wyldstyle saves Emmett from Bad Cop and begins the typical history lesson exposition speech, Emmett totally fazes out of the conversation, hearing “blah blah blah, I’m so hot, blah blah blah….” Most importantly, at Emmett’s lowest point, the film completely shifts gears, changing how one perceives everything about the story.

This is a film for all ages. It’s action-packed and silly for the kids, but also deep and subversive for the adults.

But if there’s anything to make this a great film, it’s the film’s themes: anyone can be great, everyone can be creative, the world/Lego isn’t for keeping in strict, glued-together confines, but rather to be explored and played with.

 

This film made me want to play with Legos. It also made me consider my own play style: there was one scene in the film where several Master Builders are building together, and Batman says something like, “if you have any black pieces, I need them,” which reminded me of times when I would build Legos with my siblings; also, the entire idea of gluing together Lego pieces made me think.

I don’t like playing Legos with people much. I’m kinda a control freak when it comes to playing and building with Legos. But I’m not the kind to glue pieces – though I often do wish to immortalize my creations, often through photography – creating new things is something I enjoy a lot (as I suppose anyone who’s read this blog can tell). But I don’t interact well. I suppose I could if I and some partner planned what to build and what to do with it before we even started, and I didn’t have to worry about unexpected divergences from my plans, or any…silliness. By silliness I mean the sort of unbounded imagination pouring out of a small child’s mind, unrestrained and untrained in the art of the narrative, and the small child creates Mary Sue characters that beat up everyone and everything they “see.”

It makes me wonder what I’m going to do if I have small children of my own. I’ll have to deal with this…silliness, most likely, but my potential children will certainly play with Legos. I want them to discover, like Emmett, that everyone is creative, everyone can be special.

A Review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I have been waiting a long time to see this movie – ever since it was first announced that Peter Jackson would be doing it. I don’t think, however, that I ever expected it to turn out the way it did. Jules Bass did an animated version in only 80 minutes, so surely Jackson wouldn’t need more than two and a half hours. I was surprised, then, when Jackson announced he’d be making another film, and then a trilogy based around The Hobbit. I was also excited, because Jackson was promising that he would delve in into the Appendices for additional story.

Now, I’ve read most of Tolkien’s works, and the posthumous books published by Christopher Tolkien – including a small number of The History of Middle Earth 12-volume series and The Children of Hurin. So while I couldn’t carry a conversation in Elvish, I could discuss the history of Middle-Earth for some time. I could also talk about where Tolkien got many of his ideas, having read the Norse literature that Tolkien did. (That was a fun college class).

That being said, I think I’d need a second viewing in order to evaluate this film as its own entity. I firmly believe in judging how a film works on its own (though of course I’ll compare the strengths and weaknesses of various amendments), but the first viewing kept distracting me with canon.

Now, again, canon changes will only annoy me if I feel that they detracted from the story, or if they were unnecessary. For example, the addition of an evil orc champion pursing the company sets up a nice connection between the trilogy – though I didn’t like the identity of that orc champion, specifically because canon was consciously contradicted to include him.

Aside from canon, though, I felt that a lot in the film was determined by the fact that this trilogy is being treated as a prequel, rather than the original. This certainly affected the movie, largely in its tone. The professor who taught be about the works that influenced Tolkien stated that how Jackson treated the elves’ song as the dwarves came to Rivendell would be the ultimate signifier of the tone of the films. And he was right – because the song wasn’t included at all. In fact, out of the five songs included in The Hobbit (over the time covered by the film), only two are sung.

The dwarves are perhaps the most affected by this tone. Rather than the bumbling sidekicks who really complain about everything and who can’t handle anything except when they have Gandalf, Thorin, or Bilbo to lead them, they’re presented as a group of fearless warriors who would take on an army of orcs if they had to. (Despite my dislike for this aspect – in the book, I believe Thorin was the only dwarf who was actually armed – I did like the film for breaking the stereotype that dwarves only fight with axes). This change in character doesn’t do well for the story, since when the dwarves don’t need any help, why recruit Bilbo in the first place? They’re even confident that they don’t need Gandalf!

There were also a couple moments where it was very obvious that the writers were trying to insert a “Gandalfism”, or a “Samism”, where one of the main characters (usually Gandalf or a hobbit) says something that reveals a deep truth on life. Now, these moments by themselves aren’t bad – I’m calling them Gandalfisms and Samisms because of similar moments in The Lord of the Rings. The difference is in that in The Lord of the Rings, these moments aren’t forced, and flow naturally with the scene and the tone. Most of these Gandalfisms in The Hobbit are also not found in the book, which further worsens the message in that the quote may not line up with Tolkien’s purposes (in essence, though, they do).

The plot also takes advantage of a number of very convenient moments. Now, Bilbo was very, very lucky in The Hobbit, and Tolkien knew that one of the qualities of a hero is good luck, but several happenings in film go beyond luck to just lazy convenience.

The content from the Appendices is a different animal from the majority of the Hobbit, largely in that Tolkien never wrote what kind of conversations occurred around these subjects, like the Necromancer. Jackson tries to put the dwarves’ quest in the larger context of Middle-Earth and the power plays going on in case Sauron returns, but I didn’t feel he did it very adequately. Saruman and Elrond never give a good reason to discourage the dwarves from their quest, and Saruman drones on and on about nothing at all.

On the other hand, Radagast’s scenes in Mirkwood, and the scenes delving into Thorin’s past are great. It was nice to be reminded that Thorin, even if the others aren’t supposed to be, at least he is a mighty warrior and knows what he’s doing.

Once again, Gollum was a great character, and the riddle game was fun. And despite all the issues I have with this film, I did laugh at its jokes. While it’s tone is darker than the book, it is its own entity, and should be treated as such. And as its own film, I think it’s generally solid. The changes made to the canon were made for a reason, and it’s easy to see where all the plot points are leading for the rest of the trilogy. Again, as a canon snob, I saw largely flaws with the canon, and I would love to watch it again, not only to complete my analysis, but just because I did enjoy watching it.

The Amazing Spider-Man

Just saw the film, and decided to share my thoughts on it. The Twilight review will be posted on Monday, so stay tuned. Hope this review helps you decide whether this film would be worth watching.

The largest gripe the majority of people seem to have with this movie is its proximity to the last Spider-Man trilogy. The first Spider-Man was produced in 2002, and Spider-Man 3 in 2007. Had these movies not existed, I think there would have been a lot more positive reviews than there are. However, even with the existence of the Raimi trilogy, this film shines starkly above them.

Perhaps because of the recent films, the plot of Amazing Spider-Man was significantly altered from the one most of us (or at least, I) grew up with. Instead of the Green Goblin, Spider-Man’s primary adversary here is the Lizard, Curt Connors.

Additionally, the plot revolves around Peter Parker much more than in the first Raimi Spider-Man. In that one, the villain is his best friend’s father, who succumbs to the effects of a body-altering chemical, before going on a rampage across New York at the behest of an insane sub-personality.

Here, Curt Connors was Peter’s father’s scientist partner, seeking to find a way to regrow his lost arm and benefit humanity. As the Lizard, his primal instincts take over, and he becomes more maniacal. Peter feels some responsibility, having partially helped him to develop the serum that transformed Connors.

I think though, that what separates this film from the Raimi trilogy, is that it all feels much more natural. Peter Parker is a more natural teenager. The pacing is more natural. The plot is more natural.

After Uncle Ben is shot, Peter almost immediately begins systematically tracking down people with similar features to the killer. However, as time passes, he figures out that he needs a mask, and later, a full spandex costume, so that people don’t “see his face”, so that the audience sees a progression of masks before he dawns on the iconic costume.

Perhaps the thing that made the film for me was Peter Parker himself. In the Raimi trilogy, he was a shy, awkward, bottom-of-the-social-pole loser. And then he became a jerk in 3. In Amazing Spider-Man, in (almost) the very first scene, he stands up to a bully, and subsequently gets beat up. And he has a sweet mechanical lock on his bedroom door. He seems more of an outsider than a loser.

Furthermore, truer to the original comic book character, he develops the “web-shooter” devices himself, rather than being gifted with organic webbing from the spider bite.

He also comes across as a more natural teenager. He rides around on a skateboard prior to the bite, and is very awkward around his love interest, Gwen Stacy, and also while adapting to his new powers. (The day after he gets his powers, he makes quite a mess of the bathroom). When lying in wait in the sewers for the Lizard, he plays a game on his cell phone.

The look of the film was very modern. I would compare it to the difference between the 2008 Star Trek film and the original hexalogy. The gadgets are brighter and seem more streamlined, especially in Oscorp.

There was also an inherent darkness to the film. Not quite like The Dark Knight, since this is about a teenage superhero. However, Peter Parker gets rather beat up, especially after the final fight with the Lizard. Despite this, though, there were quite a few moments in the film when the theater erupted into laughter. (Because, honestly, Spider-Man is the most comedic superhero out there).

The only issue I had was with the animation of the Lizard’s face and speech. As a sort of reptile-human hybrid, the face was fine. However, reptiles don’t have lips, which made it unsettling when he spoke (especially for me, since I like to write about talking dragons). However, I think unsettling would be a desirable element of such a creature, even if it was unintentional.

All in all, it was an excellent film. I would suggest it to anyone, since it is a great way to spend 137 minutes. I might even say the film was…amazing.