Wonder Woman (Spoiler Review)

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Before we all die I just want to say…

Let’s talk about Wonder Woman!

There are going to be a lot of spoiler free reviews and I will admit to you that this is not one of them.

I consider myself a bit of a comic book movie connoisseur of sorts. I generally tend to watch what new comic book movie come out with a few exceptions. I knew, just like most people, that Wonder Woman would be one of the most anticipated movies in a long time. I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong but I think is this the first woman lead superhero movie since Elektra in 2005, which means there was a need for this type of movie.

So right to it, Wonder Woman is the best movie DC has produced since The Dark Knight. I have this ranked #3 on my Comic Book movie list on IMDB right under Captain America: Winter Soldier.

Why so high? Here a few reasons why: Storyline makes sense, cinematography was incredible, casting was great (with one flaw), the fight scenes were awesome (her lasso though!), there was an emotional connection to the characters, and there is a high re-watchability factor.

The fact that this takes place mainly during WW1 is practically a new concept considering most golden age heroes all debuted during WW2. What makes sense is that the first world war was genuinely considered to be the war to end all wars. It was a horrible war with unspeakable horrors which makes it a perfect stomping ground for the God of War, Ares. (Spoiler time) What I enjoyed was the fact that they combined two of Wonder Woman’s origins in the end to explain who she really is. Hippolyta creating Diana from clay was an old story that (in the movie) we knew was lie since it was stated Zeus died from fighting Ares. I was happy to know that movie stuck to the origin of her being the actual daughter of Zeus which opens so many possibilities and makes her scenes in Batman v Superman even more legit.

I enjoyed the historical format. It’s a similar film to Captain America: The First Avenger with less fanfare and no Tesseract. She wasn’t fighting high tech solders but she was resisting patriarchy at every turn. As a nerd, I loved the depiction of trench warfare that made WW1 so horrible. Wonder Woman was able to bust through all enemy lines until she met Ares.

Let me stop here for a moment to also point out that what makes this movie better than the previous DC movies is the fact that there were light hearted scenes with Diana and Steve Trevor. Those moments provide the audience with a emotional connection that becomes important later in the movie. I think it’s also important that they let Diana be a woman with emotion and reason. She wasn’t just about kicking ass, she was about caring for the world around her.

I mentioned earlier that there was one casting flaw. Keep in mind that there are people of color in the movie (I loved Sameer and The Chief) including black Amazons. While some people wished that Nubia was in the film, I would like to think that there will be in opportunity to see her down the road. Anyway, so Ares (in my opinion) could have been casted better because I feel like he looked too much like Mike Mclintock (Veep) but I did love the fact that the God of War took the form of a politician. I think that is both poignant and ingenious.

This a must see film that I believe drops socially conscious hints through out the entire film. This does not mean I have new hope for The Justice League but at least we know there is now a gold standard with Wonder Woman.

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This is Life Right Now?

I can’t fully explain how the next 8 years will play out (yes, I said eight). I can barely get a full grasp how it will feel when January 20th rolls around. The only thing that I can compare all of this to are things I’ve seen in fictional universes.

Maybe its because things don’t feel quite right. Maybe things feel out of place or a tad bit disjointed because this can’t be right life right now, can it? Donald Trump is going to be president. I was kinda hoping we would get some sort of time traveler trying to stop this shit. Unless you consider the alternative that they actually did because Hilary won… but what does that even mean? (answer: ssǝןpɹɐbǝɹ pǝʞɔnɟ ǝɹɐ ǝʍ)

So, yes, this is real life and I can only compare it to a few things.

G.I. Joe: Worlds Without End (1985)

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On November 4th and 5th of 1985 these two episodes aired that depicted a few members of G.I. Joe traveling into an alternate universe (via transmutation device). They soon discovered that Cobra won and took over The United States (and the world). What followed was the discovery that everything had changed. The currency was different. The White House was made of gold. The Lincoln Memorial is now Cobra Commander Memorial (although he’s not dead).

This was a nightmare world where democracy died, where a lunatic and his cronies have taken over everything. Jobs don’t exist because it was replaced by slavery. I’ve always wondered how possible would it be for something like this to happen. How could a egotistical person like Cobra Commander win? How does that start? Hm.

Justice League: The Savage Time (2002)

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This story aired on November 9th of 2002 and its a time travel tale that involves WWII and Nazi Germany. The premise is more of, “what if the Nazis won?”  So how did this happen? Well, Vandal Savage managed to change the time stream. Green Lantern protected most of the Justice League from the temporal force that was unleashed (because they were in space doing what they do). When the JL returned to Earth they discovered that a tyrant had taken over everything.

Since most of the story revolved around going back in time to fix shit, the brief present was nothing short of an Orwellian depiction of how a government can be run by a tyrant. The only bright spot was Batman still existed but in “the resistance leader” sense. This is where I begin to think about how Nazis can run a modern day country. It doesn’t seem so far fetched now.

Star Wars (All of them)

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There are many things that fascinate me about Star Wars that go beyond Jedi, the religious undertones, the father/son dynamic, and the spaceships. At the end of the day, the majority of the story is about the rise of evil and xenophobia. Chancellor Palpatine, despite being a Senator, was considered an outsider of sorts when it came to the political realm of the Republic Senate. He was voted in because the people wanted change and he thus plunged the galaxy into war that lead to him ruling it with an iron fist. Aliens, in particular, were forced to the edge of a galaxy that was ultimately run by old white men.

I think the most fascinating thing is that Palpatine was a liar and the Jedi knew it. He played everyone with lies and when he was attacked he was able to play up a non existent weakness. At the end of the day, he turned a Republic into a an Empire. At one point I couldn’t even imagine what life would be like as a citizen of this galaxy until I read a great book called Bloodline by Claudia Gray which explains the birth of the First Order from the ashes of the Empire.

All it takes is a populist candidate with a group of politicians who want to turn government on it’s head.

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But you know what? This is all fiction right? This shit could never happen on a smaller scale. This could never happen to us. Right.

Ant-Man and the Hombre Pequeño

Ant-Man-Character-Poster-Michael-PenaThis is not a review of Ant-Man. Let’s get that out of the way so you know that very few thing in this article contains spoilers. However, I need for you to be on the same page with me so I’m going to assume you’ve either seen it or you don’t care about things being slightly spoiled for you.

I want to go on record by saying that Ant-Man gets a B+ because it has all the elements of a typical fun loving super hero movie that you can expect from Marvel. But again, this is not a review of Ant-Man. But what do we really come to expect from a Marvel movie? A fast paced movie, humor, poorly written women characters, mid credit scenes, black side kicks, end of credit scenes, and a Stan Lee appearance. Right?

So let’s add something to the list, Latino coonery. I mean let’s be real about this. People of color have been relegated to side kick roles in all of Marvel’s films thus far. We all know who they are: Nick Fury, Iron Patriot, Falcon, and Hiemdall. None of these are black women, in fact, are there any black women in the Marvel Cinematic universe? Don’t say Storm because that is not the same “universe” we are talking about. Before you wrack your brain and say Zoe Saldana (who is Afro-Latino) understand that she is not portrayed as a woman of color in Guardians of the Galaxy but as an Alien woman which is the a big difference (just like Lupita in Star Wars, who you wont really see) because Gamora is no Amanda Waller.

So now that you know what to expect and what’s been added to the list, lets talk about Ant-Man. Scott Lang is a former criminal looking to change his ways so I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that out of his three “friends”, one is Latino and the other is T.I.. Please understand that when I saw that Michael Peña was in this movie, it was sort of big deal because I love this guy. He’s one of those actors that I feel needs more roles especially after seeing his performance in Crash. His character, Luis (which is kinda messed up since that is the name of the protagonist in my book, Hanging Upside Down – shameless plug), is supposed be the muscle of the group from what I gather. But he comes across as a hipster like gang-banger that sounds like Joey from Friends in SAP.

There is no question that he plays this role well. He is indeed funny but, I believe the dotted line between being laughed with and laughed at was crossed. I call it Latino coonery because it was just too much yapping younahwatIissayin? Luis was so just so extra in his words and verbal expressions that I cringed at certain parts. The same exact jokes could have been done without the need to make the only prominent Latino person in the film seem so ridiculous. Yes, it is a good thing that he does have a prominent speaking role and is very useful in his relegated side kick role but he is no where near Cisco from The Flash who is intelligent, witty, in addition to being funny.

What is really strange is the very few people have mentioned this about the film. I know some pretty opinionated people who gloss over this fact and that is alarming to me. I’m hoping that we’re not getting so comfortable seeing these big superhero films that we forget to be socially aware when it comes to pandering, cultural appropriations, and coonish portrayals of people of color in mainstream film.

So if you do see Ant-Man for the first or second time, take notice to what I’m saying. We should expect better from films we freely give our money to. While it is great to see Luis in this film he ends being much smaller than the hero.

Order, Chaos, and Super Heroes

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The funny thing about nerds is that we tend to argue about the finer points of comic book logic that really has nothing to do with reality. This includes, but not limited to, things like the exact science of time travel or feminism in comic books. In the end, you would be surprised to see how many dudes actually believe that time travel is possible before believing that a female superhero can be legitimized. However, the point of order and chaos in the super hero genre is something that is highly debated.

Before we begin there are a few prerequisites that need to be met so you can understand why I’m taking you down this road (otherwise you’ll have to take my word for it) You need to be familiar with Justice League Unlimited, more importantly, the episode “Clash” which features a huge battle between Superman & Shazam. You will also need to have read Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross to understand the connection. Finally you should’ve seen the movies, Man of Steel and Captain America: Winter Soldier.

Let’s Begin.

There were two superheroes that I didn’t care for as a child: Superman & Captain America. As a young dark-skinned Latino, I found it hard to really connect with any of these larger than life white men. I lived in the Bronx and the ideals of Truth, Justice, & the American Way was something that didn’t resonate with me. However, I understood that both characters represented a set of ideals and no matter how corny I may have found it, these ideals defined the type of heroes they are. They’re both boy scouts created during a time when people needed something to believe in.

The comic book industry has changed over the last 25 years with superheroes being more present in our daily lives with movies and animation. Over that time, we have seen the evolution of how superheroes are written and marketed. Batman became darker and more violent which seemingly led DC Comics to go down that road because it makes more money. But how would this effect Superman?

In 1996, Kingdom Come addresses this issue. What if the line between order and chaos were blurred where people can’t tell the difference between hero and villain? It was Superman that lead the charge back to order. His “antiquated” ideals saves the world from its inevitable end because its all about finding another way to save innocent lives. It is this very idea that many people argue over when it comes to the Man of Steel. Do we want an updated version of an iconic hero that has been in our psyche for decades that blurs this line?

3727914-3353225879-CAPTAIn 2005, Justice League Unlimited was a wildly popular animated series on the Cartoon Network. It’s 30 minute episodes set the standard for current DC Animation. During that season, the viewers were witnessing a massive story arc where Lex Luthor (of course) was pulling all the strings. In the episode called, Clash (written by the late Dwayne Mcduffie) we see Shazam join the Justice League with much joy and adulation. He is touted as a boy scout much to Superman’s chagrin.

“I thought I was the boy scout” is the perfect line in this episode and when I re-watch it now, I realize that the changing of Superman began more than 10 years ago. While I try to stray away from interpreting someone else’s work, I really believe that McDuffie saw the writing on the wall and wrote a story where Superman was no longer the symbol of truth and justice. I would like to think that he had the question in his head, what if Superman’s line was blurred? Thus the fight between the two ensued that in the end it was Shazam quitting the JLU stating… “You don’t act like heroes anymore.”

Fast Forward to the age of the New DC 52 (which is soon ending) and the movie, The Man of Steel. We can talk all day about the science of this movie. We can debate on the massive amounts of damage during the battle of Superman & Zod. In my opinion, the ending is not debatable. Have we evolved Superman to the point where he no longer represents those ideals of the past? No matter your answer, we’re in a time where Superman had no choice but to kill.

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Then I think about Captain America, the last boy scout. He still represents what America should be and not what it is currently. This is something that I failed to see as a child. In Captain America: Winter Soldier there was point in which Steve Rogers had to choose what he wanted to do with his friend, fight to the death or leave his fate up to Bucky? Either way, he was with him to the end of the line. His faith in his friend and his ultimate ideals was the reason he survived that battle. He found another way.

So where does that leave us? Is it Batman that has the better set of ideals leading into Batman V Superman? Are we willing to subscribe to the thought that there’s a blurred line between order and chaos or should we adhere to the notions that a hero is more than just the sum of abilities, but rather the ideals the character upholds?

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