Spiderman versus Wonder Woman

Spiderman Wonder Woman

Spiderman and Wonder Woman

Recently, two critically acclaimed superhero movies came out from competing studios.  I’m talking about Spiderman Homecoming and Wonder Woman. Both have iconic comic book heroes coming to life on the big screen, breathe new life into their cinematic universes, and have received great reviews. But is one better than the other?

Such a review is obviously subjective and they’re hard to compare. But let’s look at the categories where each shines. Spoilers ahead. And before you think I hate the whole DC universe and am a Marvel fan, take a look at this.

Heart

Both movies have something a lot of movies are lacking: heart. They’re earnest and want to share their message. In fact, I’d say this is what has been missing from the DC universe films until now (which admittedly only consists of Man of Steel, Batman Vs Superman, and Suicide Squad). Wonder Woman defies the anti-hero doom and gloom and makes you want to believe in her goodness and purity. She inspires instead of brooding, acts instead of whining. It’s completely different than Superman as portrayed in this universe but similar to how he is portrayed in the comics. 

Spiderman also has plenty of heart, more than most Marvel films. Peter Parker is enthusiastic, wants to help people out and make a difference. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out so well for him, but he doesn’t give up.

Which film has more heart? I’d say it’s a tie.

Humor

Wonder Woman also has something the other films in her universe don’t. Humor. I’m not sure there was a single joke in Batman vs Superman, unless you count the unintentional ‘Martha!’ But Wonder Woman uses Diana’s naiveté and Steve Trevor’s wit to inject plenty of humorous moments so the tone doesn’t get overly depressing. 

Spiderman, however, is probably one of the funniest Marvel movies, and that’s saying something. At times the humor can take away from the seriousness of the situation, but for the most part it is spot on.

While both are funny, Spiderman wins this category.

Profundity

Wonder Woman touches on a lot of themes, from inspiring others, going out and selflessly doing what’s right, and the nature of war. That last one is particularly interesting, as Diana is convinced Ares, the God of War, is behind World War 1, while Steve Trevor thinks it’s just because men are screwed up. Personally, the way it played out, though, wasn’t very satisfactory. It turns out that Ares did cause the war, basically, and then Wonder Woman defeats him, which begs the question: who caused World War 2? The Korean War? The Vietnam War? The War on Terror? History tells us Steve was right, while the movie takes the simpler approach. It felt like the studio forced the director to abandon her themes from before in order to have a big final battle. But I was literally trying to stay awake during that fight, whereas before, in the trenches, I was literally trying to hold back the tears. This video pretty much sums up my thoughts: 

Spiderman’s themes are about proving oneself and taking responsibility for your actions. Though it is never said in the movie, the phrase ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ weighs down on Peter Parker. While showing the consequences better than other Spiderman movies, it isn’t anything new.

Even though I feel Wonder Woman wasn’t quite true to the ideas brought to the table, it still brought up a lot of deep and interesting questions, so I’ll give this one to her movie. 

Relationships

Wonder Woman’s relationship with Steve Trevor is based on mutual respect, not passion or hormones. He’s no dude in distress, but has his own strengths that complements Wonder Woman’s superpowers. I feel this is a more mature approach to relationships than seen in superhero movies. 

Peter’s relationship with Liz is more tell than show. In fact, every chance he has to spend time with her he turns down to play Spiderman. So the reveal at the end, when he finds out that *SPOILER!* the vulture is her father could have been more powerful if we actually believed he loved her. And when she announces she’s moving away, he offers pity but doesn’t seem too affected. And she does play the obligatory damsel in distress once in the movie. I think Peter’s relationship with Karen, his suit, was more interesting. This is possibly one of the weakest aspects of the movie, especially compared to the earlier ones. Tobey Macguire and Kirsten Dunst were good, and Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were even better (the only saving grace of Amazing Spiderman 2). That being said, Peter has a nice bromance with his buddy Ned.

This one goes to Wonder Woman

Villain

Neither DC nor Marvel has done good villains up to this point, especially when compared to The Dark Knight’s (not in the DC universe) Joker. I’ve already mentioned my complaints about Ares. He would have made a better idea than a physical being, a phantasm that tempts men that Diana has to counteract with persuasion instead of brute force. And he looked silly with his mustache. The reveal was pretty good, though, with him in the glass. If only he’d stayed there.

Spiderman’s villain fares a bit better. The Vulture is more down to earth, running an underground criminal organization to support his family. And when we find out that he is Liz’s dad, that ramps up the tension. Now we wonder if Spiderman will kill his girlfriend’s dad. And there’s no magic moment he turns to evil, unlike the first two Spiderman films. I just feel they could have done more with Michael Keaton.

This one goes to Spiderman.

Formula

Wonder Woman defies the DC universe formula, mostly because it has heart and isn’t afraid to have a superhero who stands for something. It injects hope into the universe that was beginning to feel hopeless. Let’s see if any of that can continue and if Warner Brothers learned something from it. Speaking of formula, Wonder Woman breaks many of the bad Strong Female Character tropes that I’ve mentioned before.

Spiderman, on the other hand, had the Marvel formula applied to it. Marvel makes good films, but not great ones. They are fun and enjoyable escapism, where we know the heroes won’t die, but they don’t go deep enough to truly stand out. The closest ones were the Captain America ones, but Spiderman plays it pretty safe. It is made by Disney now, which has sanitized the Marvel and Star Wars universes, for better or for worse.

Wonder Woman wins because it breaks the formula.

Importance

Both are good movies, a step above the movies that came before. But I think Wonder Woman’s impact will stay longer than Spiderman’s. The first Spiderman was important because it showed that superhero movies could be good. Wonder Woman is important because it shows audiences will see female superheroes and because it basically negates the gritty, depressing feel the DC universe has followed up until now (trying to copy the superior Christopher Nolan Batman films but not getting it right).

Spiderman: Homecoming is a good, fun movie, but it won’t impact culture like Wonder Woman did. 

Conclusion

Both are good movies. Both have good things going, as well as a few flaws. Neither topples my current favorite superhero movie: The Dark Knight, but both were enjoyable. I think Wonder Woman, although it stumbles, reaches closest to greatness, while Spiderman was a very fun popcorn flick. 

 

Beauty and the Beast Review

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast – The New One

So I finally went to see Beauty and the Beast, despite some reluctance. I was having a hard time with Hermione, a know-it-all girl I saw growing up into a know-it-all woman, as Belle. Although the effect wasn’t as bad as I feared, I never quite got over that.  I was also having a hard time getting over the fact that Disney was telling the exact same story as the animated feature, instead of taking a deeper look at the source material like they did with The Jungle Book. Aside from a few forgettable song additions and a more robust backstory, this is almost scene for scene the same movie, just brought to “life” (even though half the movie is still animated, just with computer graphics). 

Still, I liked the original enough to give this one a try. For the most part, I liked this. There’s nothing revolutionary here, but it does a good job. But remaking a classic animation invites comparisons and I’m going to do just that.

Criticisms of the Original

If you’ve seen any film theory videos on the original Beauty and the Beast, you’ll find two main criticisms, both of which are nitpicky, in my opinion.

The first criticism is that Belle is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. That is where a kidnapped person identifies and sides with their captor. This new film doesn’t really address that issue, although Hermione did in interviews. But Belle voluntarily became a prisoner to free her father. The Beast didn’t kidnap her. And he eventually makes an effort to court her and treat her as a guest. So I don’t think this one holds.

This film directly addresses the second criticism, the muddled timeline. In the original, the Beast will remain cursed if he doesn’t find true love before his 21st birthday. Lumiere, in the song “Be Our Guest,” tells Belle that they have been rusting for 10 years now. So that implies the Beast received his curse when he was 11 years old. This would make his refusal of the enchantress more understandable, as he was just a bratty boy. But the original also had a painting of him as an adult human, so the curse couldn’t have taken place in his boyhood. In the end, it doesn’t make much sense either way.

This new one makes clear the enchantress cursed him as an adult. It also avoids any mention of a time span. Another thing this version does is mention how the nearby villagers forgot about the castle and its inhabitants. 

New Problems

While this new version of Beauty and the Beast addresses those issues, it introduces a few new ones. The biggest one, in my opinion, is a book that lets the two of them travel outside the castle. If the magic mirror wasn’t enough, the Beast has this new magic power. But its use is confusing.

Belle travels to her home in Paris. Spoiler alert: her mom is dead. She died from the plague. Belle goes to a home that appears recently abandoned, as there are still drawings of her as a baby there. So did she travel in time? The film also makes clear it is real, not just in their minds, as Belle takes a rose pen thing from the home and later shows it to her father. But in the flashback, Belle’s mother, sick with the plague, kisses it. So does Belle contract the plague as well? And if she can travel in time, could she save her mother? This device just adds new complications.

Technical issues

It is pretty clear they live in France (there is a song about people saying Bonjour). But Hermione has an English accent, while Obi Wan Kenobi hams up his French accent. It doesn’t make sense.

Speaking of Obi Wan Kenobi, who plays Lumiere, he steals the show, but I still think I prefer the original one. The singing worked better and I liked his animation better in the original Beauty and the Beast. Gandalf, playing Cogsworth, just sounds like an old man, not as fun as the original. The Hobbit’s Bard did a great job as manly man Gaston. And Olaf added depth to LeFou, while keeping the gay character controversy low key.

There were a few issues with the Beast. Although usually good, there were a few times the animation wasn’t smooth. And he looked more like a satyr than the buffalo hulk monster in the original Beauty and the Beast. His bad manners make no sense, since he was a prince before. And he tells Gaston in the end that he is no beast, while Belle calls him Beast just a moment later. 

One technical issue I saw was the scene transitions. Some scenes feel rushed. It is as if the director is saying, “You already saw this in the original and know what they’re thinking, so let’s just cut to the chase.” It was a bit jarring. The scenes didn’t flow into each other as well. Their falling in love scenes especially suffered from that, although I did enjoy seeing Hermione clocked in the face with a giant snowball. 

Overall

Overall, I enjoyed this Beauty and the Beast, but I don’t think it tops the original animated version, which was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. This one won’t get that. The original flowed better, the servants fit in an animated world better, and Belle didn’t annoy me like Hermione occasionally did. But it was nice to see things imagined realistically. 

 

The problem with Star Wars No One Talks About

Star Wars

There’s been a lot of talk about Star Wars lately, in case you haven’t noticed. Most people seemed to like it. I liked it. But anything this big will get plenty of inspection, and the movie has gotten plenty of criticism in several areas. “It’s way too similar to A New Hope.” “The plot relies on too many coincidences.” “Rey learned to use the force way too easily.” “Several characters didn’t get the chance to develop.” “It relied too much on cameos.” And all of these can be seen as legitimate issues, although for the most part, they didn’t bother me too much.

What does bother me, though, is a criticism that I haven’t seen as much. It’s something I’ve seen with other movies in series lately, with one of the most prominent examples being Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Now, I want you to think back. Which was more memorable, Avengers 1 or Avengers 2? Even though Age of Ultron arguably had a more sophisticated plot, for me at least, it wasn’t very memorable.

Now think back to the first time you saw Star Wars A New Hope. Which explosion was more satisfying? The Death Star, or the even bigger Star Killer Base? What destruction was more heart wrenching, Alderaan or the three or however many planets destroyed by Star Killer Base?

The Force Awakens had a lot of pressure on it to perform, especially after the critical reception of the prequels. J. J. Abrams went to a lot of effort to bring back the feel of the original trilogy, with worn down ships and sets, as well as the spirit, and he was successful with that. But this is part of the problem of Episode 7.

Star Wars The Force Awakens isn’t a movie.

In one sense, it is an homage to A New Hope. The plot is basically the same, with a youth taken from a poor desert home because of a droid with a secret and thrust into a battle between an evil galactic force and the underdog good rebels. The youth, with guidance from an old man and help from some friends, including a cocky pilot, learns about the force and awakens to their destiny. Along the way planets are destroyed because of a large battle station, they have to infiltrate said battle station, the helpful old man allows himself to die to a dark Sith with a lightsaber, and the rebels have to blow up the battle station before their base is destroyed.

J. J. took so much pain to wrest Star Wars away from the prequels that he basically copied the original, with updated graphics, language, and diversity roles. But like Han Solo said about Star Killer base, unfazed by its size, “How do we blow it up? There’s always a way to do that.”

In another sense, highlighting the problem of Age of Ultron, it is just a long trailer for Episodes 8 and 9. There’s a story and it comes to a close, but it seems like a half-hearted attempt, just copying Episode 4. It’s main purpose seems to be raising questions and hype for the next movies. One of Age of Ultron’s biggest failures was that it was just trying to set the scene for Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War, and who knows what other movies.

Other movies in these giant sequences are doing the same thing. I didn’t see the movie, but heard that Fantastic 4 was just to set up the story for the sequel. Batman V Superman seems to set the stage for the DC cinematic universe. So while in Star Wars Episode 7 they blow up Star Killer Base, it didn’t feel quite as satisfying as when Luke blew up the Death Star, nor did the movie feel as self contained.

It is good to think about the overall story, but each movie should be able to be its own movie, nor be forced to work just as a bridge between the old and the new, without getting to be new itself. Which is why it already seems to be fading from memory. Even though Empire Strikes Back was basically a bridge as well, it expanded the universe in so many ways that it is now many people’s favorite. Hopefully Disney and other studios can resolve this issue as they go forward.

As a side note, I don’t know what the title of the film refers to. The force didn’t seem to wake up. Maybe the force within Rey, but that didn’t seem to merit a title treatment. I kind of hope for something more mysterious. Oh well.