Wonder Woman and her Enduring Love (Potential Spoilers)

UPDATE: Looks like I have a shot at being right as Chris Pine’s return has been officially confirmed for ‘Wonder Woman 1984’

Would you look at that! ‘Wonder Woman‘ has done far better than anyone expected. After the DCEU’s preceding films ‘Batman v. Superman‘ and ‘Suicide Squad’ were such disappointments and widely derided as soon as the initial fervour waned, expectations for Diana’s solo opener were considerably lowered, something I felt the effect of. It’s weirdly pleasing then to see how it has broken records weekly, probably becoming the most successful film of the new DCEU and still going strong at the box office in many places, as well as being the highest-grossing film ever by a female director.

It’s no surprise then to see that ‘Wonder Woman 2’ has already been confirmed, potentially able to overtake the production of another ‘Man of Steel’ movie, likely the troubled ‘The Flash’ solo movie, maybe even ‘The Batman’ if that continues to have issues. One reason I and others want to see another film with this character and by the same creative team is the vastly-improved tone, as ‘Wonder Woman’ brings a sense of fun and joy to the DCEU that has been missing for years, including a romance that’s actually believable. For more extensive thoughts on this read my spoiler-free review here.

There will be spoilers for ‘Wonder Woman’ from this point on, so if you haven’t yet seen the film and don’t want key points spoilt maybe read the rest of this after you’ve seen it. 

As discussion began on the sequel, rumours surfaced that Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) may be set to return in the second movie. This may surprise you as 1) he ostensibly died at the end, you can’t have missed that, it was big! And 2) the second film is (possibly) being set in the 80’s so if living he would be pretty old. Not blessed with her magical genes, he won’t age as gracefully as Diana, so theoretically he would be a nonagenarian beset by all the human ails that go along with such advanced years.

So, how could his return work?

I have a few interesting thoughts that are not ‘spoilers’ per-se as I have not based them on any comic book basis (that I know of as I haven’t read any of them). Well, in my full review of the film I tried very hard to avoid drawing comparisons with ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ as many had already done, but I think there may be some ways the writers could resolve this issue by drawing upon (read ‘copying’) ways that franchise has kept characters alive despite all attempts to kill them and the large jump in time.

Firstly, the Wonder Woman TV show in the 70s had Steve Trevor Jr. so that’s a possible option to give Pine a way in. It would be weird, weirder than Captain America dating Peggy’s great-niece, yet completely possible. However, the film offered no real solid reason to think Steve had a child. There are a few comments about him never marrying (at least not successfully), maybe hinting he had a past love, though I’d say it’s a real stretch to take these few lines and see an underlying sub-text suggesting he has a son.

The second most likely way we might see Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor is with a flashback scene of some sort. I have no idea what this would be about or how it would fit into the story, maybe something to explain the existence of a son so that Jr. can be introduced.

For me, there’s a more interesting option, one that the film does leave just enough room for in the narrative and editing of Steve’s death (we don’t see him engulfed in flames up close, possibly as it would change the rating). Dr Moreau and Ludendorff filled that plane (we believe) with their deadly gas, though we know she also had another concoction, the strength-enhancing vials she gives her mentor. What if, the plane had the deadly gas and/or that completely different substance?

Imagine these scenarios for a moment. If Steve had even just some of the good stuff and made use of it before being engulfed in a fireball, maybe it would be just enough to give him the resilience to survive the flames and fall. True, that would then raise the question why he didn’t make his way back to Diana by the end of the historical part of the film, or the actual end of the film (which is decades later and plenty time even on foot to find her).

However, let’s go even more into the ‘Captain America’ comparison with an unlikely extensive ripping off of the ‘Winter Soldier’. Imagine the plane was being filled with the strength-enhancer instead of the deadly gas. In which case, when it exploded, Steve would have been engulfed in an intense extreme overdose, in comic book and superhero tropes (just think of any heroes created by a chemical spillage) enough to make him invincible, near immortal, likely even slowing the effects of ageing. However, I’ve learnt in my extensive study of the genre that these powers can take a little time to have an effect, sometimes making their recipient unwell or even unconscious for a time. Therefore it would incapacitate Steve, making him vulnerable to amnesia, capture, brainwashing, all the usual features that allow for massive plot twists many years in the future.

Surely they won’t do this with ‘Wonder Woman 2’, after the many and clear similarities to ‘Captain America’ it would just be asking for more unfavourable comparisons, and pretty unoriginal. Though we must remember, in this world of comics almost anything is possible and beloved characters almost never truly die. If they want to repeat the much-prasied chemistry, the writers will find a way!

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Mid-Week Musings: Krypton? It’ll be Kryptonite!

Promotion is beginning to ramp up for what’s being touted as a Superman prequel show, ‘Krypton’ on SyFy. Though, unlike other prequel shows such as ‘Gotham’, this won’t be depicting the earliest years of the child that will grow up to be Superman, or even the story of his parents, it’s set a generation before that, 200 years before Kal-El is born. I wonder what enticement that era might hold for fans such as myself.

Clearly, writer David S. Goyer thought that after the scenes on Krypton in ‘Man of Steel’ that were generally liked, there would be an audience for a whole show set on the doomed planet, he definitely had more of that he wanted to explore. I enjoyed some things in those scenes, they definitely fleshed out the planet in a way that other live-action adaptations had only ever briefly touched on before and with the high-budget it looked detailed and great, it worked well with the strengths of director Zack Snyder. This television show will have a fraction of the budget, actors less magnetic than Russell Crowe and Michael Shannon and even the best directors they have are unlikely to have the visual flare of Snyder.

I’m a lifelong Superman fan, but even I can’t muster up any worthwhile amount of enthusiasm for this. I’m absolutely going to start watching it, I’m happy to give it a chance to win me over, though it’ll have to be effective on levels other than a tangential link to one of my favourite IPs to keep me interested beyond the first handful of episodes.

As a comparison, ‘Gotham’ was originally advertised as a look at the crazy crime-riddled city before the emergence of Batman, but it still features Bruce Wayne and is increasingly showing his progression toward becoming the caped crusader. That show also features, or at least teases, heaps of characters, especially villains and serving as an origin story for each of these well-known and pre-defined roles.

Krypton apparently won’t feature Superman even in baby-form as Kal-El. So then, will it feature his parents and their contemporaries? Jor-El and General Zod’s backstory would be really interesting especially after ‘Man of Steel’. Nope! It’s apparently focused on Kal-El’s grandfather in his 20s, likely pre-dating this far enough before the destruction of Krypton to near enough rule out the show building to that as its series finale (without using big time jumps).

So, it’s so far removed from the main Superman mythology, is there anything that will be of considerable interest to fans of the Man of Steel? Well, maybe, but they’re kinda cheating to do this. This show apparently will use time-travelling threats coming back from Superman’s era, which is their ‘clever’ way of bringing the mythos of the Man of Steel into a time long before he was even born. I fear this is a cheat and will get overused to the point of tedium.

Surely, when plotting out a prequel show like this, the producers and writers should look at what potential the bare-bones of the concept has, finding something that underpins the idea to make it compelling in its own right, before pulling in the use of twists and surprises to form a plot. ‘Supergirl’ regularly touches on the history of the planet and the Kryptonian race, yet for me, that show often struggles to stay compelling. There’s also apparently a ‘Metropolis’ show in the works for the DC streaming service which will focus on Lois Lane and Lex Luthor’s lives, a concept I can easier get behind. Let’s not forget that we also had ‘Smallville’, one of the most successful comic-adapted TV shows, which moved heavily into Kryptonian issues by the end seasons of its run and really struggled to keep up high standards as it did so.

Premiering on March 21st, I really hope to be surprised by ‘Krypton’ in good ways though I don’t hold a hold of hope for it. That being said, I have often predicted the short life of shows because I don’t think they will work well and find an audience, eventually being proven wrong about as often as I’m right.

Have a look at the trailer and see what you think, leave any thoughts and comments below.

Top 10: A look ahead at 2018

What I’m most looking forward to watching in 2018. I’m sure I have missed lots of great things off this list but these are just the 10 things that came to my mind when I stopped to think about it. This doesn’t include things that I’ll only get around to watching in 2018, that’s a whole different list including the Awards nominated films that are on release now but I won’t see in my local cinemas until mid-January.

1. Incredibles 2

When: June / July 2018

Why?: Whenever people ask me what’s my favourite film and they often do, I typically answer that I don’t have a favourite, it changes depending on what mood I’m in but the one film that would come out on top for most moods would be ‘The Incredibles’. It’s my favourite of all the Pixar films, my favourite superhero film, my favourite animated film, works for all ages, families, unfailingly uplifts my mood and is infinitely quotable. So, I’m beyond excited to see if Brad Bird can give it a worthy sequel, because this is the sequel I’ve been waiting over a decade for and all details released so far about when and how the story will be picked up are exactly what I was hoping for, so this should be ‘TOTALLY EPIC’. It’s the one film I know I’ll travel for the earliest available screening of on the opening day.

2. Avengers: Infinity War

When?: April / May 2018

Why?: Have you seen the trailer? ‘The Avengers’ films have been the culmination of each phase of films and they are awesome but this is the culmination of everything so far, it’s what the whole MCU has been building towards for over a decade and is the definition of epic (honestly, check the OED). There’s also a lot to be said for the Russo brothers direction in the MCU so far, ‘Winter Soldier‘ and ‘Civil War‘ are both excellent and bear repeat viewing very well indeed. It’ll be nice to see how their skills work with such an extensive cast and huge scale but ‘Civil War’ was not small and they do some wonderful things with that, including one of the most surprising and compelling antagonists.

3. Black Panther

When?: February 2018

Why?: One of the standouts from ‘Civil War‘ was Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, he got the two sides of the character perfectly right. The trailers look epic and it is building towards ‘Infinity War’ with a character we wanted more of in his homeland which stands out as distinctive. Director Ryan Coogler impressed me greatly with ‘Creed‘ so I have full confidence he will blow me away with this.

4. Ant-Man and the Wasp

When?: July 2018

Why?: I was surprised by how much I loved the first film, I think it got the tone exactly right and the humour was fantastic. Thanks in no small measure to Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas, the film that was worrying fans with production issues managed to win me over with ease. There haven’t (yet) been any issues with the production on this sequel so it’s on a safer footing, there’s also a key romance plot being teased which the MCU hasn’t really got prominently at the moment in other films so this could be great for many reasons.

5. Glass

When?: January 18th 2019 (I know, it looks like it’s a 2019 highlight but I have a sneaking suspicion it’ll get moved up, plus I’m looking forward to seeing the trailer enough for that alone to make it into my top ten things I’m excited about in 2018).

Why?: Without spoiling ‘Split’ this ties in to a larger concept that M. Night Shyamalan has explored before. Casting is also very strong and it could be a full return to form for the director as the modest budget may refocus him on making the narrative strong rather than mistaken overreliance on special effects.

6. Aquaman

When?: December 2018

Why?: Despite being massively sceptical of DC’s movies, ‘Wonder Woman‘ proved they can make a good film, then months later ‘Justice League’ proved they can still make a bad film while getting closer to the right tone and being somewhat less of a disappointment. With ‘Aquaman’ I’m looking forward to seeing if they can do better, if there’s a glimmer of hope that ‘Justice League’ while a huge flop for DC might be able to get downgraded to a blip with a few really brilliant follow-up films. I remain sceptical, but it’s nice to hold on to a little hope.

7. Solo: A Star Wars Story

When?: May 2018

Why?: I’ve really enjoyed the new episodes in the Star Wars saga, and I actually quite liked ‘Rogue One‘ although it’s the easiest of the new three to pick apart as being riddled with problems. I loved the idea of Lord and Miller directing and though they were fired in favour of Ron Howard, I hope that there’s still little hints of their work that will make this an exciting and enjoyable film. Many are expecting this to be a disappointment, however, I’m not a huge Star Wars fanboy, I just enjoy the sci-fi action elements over any concern for the larger franchise or character legacy, so if it meets my expectations for a science fiction adventure film it’ll be great.

8. Oceans 8

When?: June 2018

Why?: I really love a good heist movie, especially the first Clooney-led ‘Oceans 11’. Sandra Bullock leading this seems like a great choice, the rest of the casting is excellent, the trailer is fun, all good signs so far. As long as the heist part is nicely twisty and has a bit of genius I’ll be happy. Due to my high expectations, this also stands a huge chance of being the biggest disappointment, so it really could go either way, but I will give it the benefit of the doubt for now and hope to be really please when I see it in the summer.

9. American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace

When?: January 17th (onwards)

Why?: I was hooked by the first season that told the story of the O.J. Simpson trial. I binged the whole lot over about four or five days and it was some of the very best television I’ve seen in ages. This new season takes a different case, the murder of Versace, which I know even less about than I did with the Simpson case, so if it’s anywhere near as good as the first case I can imagine getting gripped again. It also stars Darren Criss (‘Glee’) who I’m a big fan of, so it’ll be nice to see him in a dramatic role.

10. X-Men: Dark Phoenix & New Mutants

When?: April and November 2018

Why?: I’ve merged these together as I don’t know which I’m liking the look of more and my reasons for being interested are largely the same for both films. I like the X-Men franchise and these are some of the last to be produced by Fox before being bought by Disney/Marvel. Because of that they could be considered the end of the franchise as it stands, or, if they are brilliant and do very well, they could potentially shape Disney’s way forward with these characters if these films are a foundation too good to do away with. Dark Phoenix has the chance to right some of the wrongs of the disappointing ‘Apocalypse’ and ‘New Mutants’ looks like it’s going to stand out as different from the rest of the franchise so may be a solid stand-alone ‘Hero Horror’ which could be incredible.

A few other honourable mentions:

The Meg (March): Jason Statham and a giant shark, that’s all I know, it’s all I need to know, though I did prefer the original title of just ‘Meg’ and I hope they go back to that. It should be somewhat ridiculous, hopefully in all the right ways, also it’s nice to see former professional diver Statham going back to the water.

Black Lightning (TV, January): The CW lineup of DC shows is already quite packed, I struggle to keep up with the four a week but this fifth show looks really good though apparently it won’t be tied into the ‘Arrowverse’ yet, I don’t know why other than it may be to see if audiences like it first, but the featurettes have already impressed me more than much of ‘Legends of Tomorrow’.

Venom (October): This should be out in October 2018 though it seems like the kind of film that could suffer delays. I’m reserving judgement because there are no firm details released about style or plot, it’ll be a while before we see a trailer. In its favour are Tom Hardy and Woody Harrelson, so that makes me think it could be superb.

Top 2017: Movies

The movies I most enjoyed in 2017 mainly consists of comic adaptations, funny that. I’ve looked back through my diary and considered what most stands out in my memory as the best new films I’ve seen this year. I’m not really including older films in this, even those that I saw early this year but were within the catchment area of the last awards season. Please note though that if I was including those, my number one without any doubt would be ‘Arrival’.

Again, I wanted a top 10, turns out that due to the above criteria, I have less, and a few things I’ll mention at the end. Unlike my Top TV of 2017 list, I have tried to rank these in an order though some are really close and some I’d need to see at least once more to be sure.

1. Baby Driver – It’s wonderful and completely my kind of thing, a slick heist movie with a cracking soundtrack and some beautifully choreographed stunt driving. I think it’s so good that ideally it should be getting considered for awards, though there’s a chance it’ll get largely overlooked if not completely. I’ve seen it at the cinema and at home, effective both times and I’m confident it’ll become one of my go-to films for when I want something that won’t fail to entertain me, as has long been the case with Edgar Wright’s ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’.

2. Thor: Ragnarok – Sadly I’ve only seen this once but I’m looking forward to seeing it again. A stand-out in both the Thor franchise and the larger MCU, it strikes a unique tone and takes the characters and story in ways that could’ve been risky but work so perfectly. Far more enjoyable than ‘The Dark World’ this may spell a new style for Marvel if Taika Waititi returns to direct again for them, if not, I think it’ll go unmatched for a long time.

3. Dunkirk – It’s about to be considered an awards frontrunner, there are many reasons why. I’ll be posting a full review very soon but I was waiting to see it again at home before putting all my thoughts together. Nolan is a masterful storyteller and here it’s done through the action and edition far more than the minimal dialogue. All the film elements are brought skillfully together to keep it concise but powerful, truly a film that will hold up under future scrutiny.

4. Spider-Man: Homecoming – Rebooting really closely to films that were of moderate success is not an easy proposition, and as a fan of Andrew Garfield in the role I was dubious. Marvel’s expert leadership was the key to success this time round, giving us a younger version of Peter Parker that the other films minimised to insignificance, with a deliberate John Hughes feel that it falls slightly short on but being in that ballpark is good enough to distinguish itself refreshingly.

5. Wonder Woman – I don’t love the film, but I do love the tone and what it represents for the DCEU, a brief glimmer of hope that they could do better, though it was all but extinguished with ‘Justice League’, a film that’s not close to making my list even if I went for 10. If the third act had been different this would have been higher on my list and I might have actually loved it but I think the final battle scene and how the film develops into that lets it down.

Honourable mentions: Many of these are films I need to see again to know better how I feel about it on repeat viewing. ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ really entertained me as a regular Sci-Fi fan, though I know many hardcore ‘Star Wars’ fans were less happy with it. ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ is a brilliant third act to the ‘Apes’ trilogy and I feel the fourth film is warranted though sadly unlikely. ‘Split’ has also stayed in my mind for months, not that I loved the majority of the film but the very end made it genius and I need to see it again in the new light of the twist. Also, I predicted months ago that ‘Blade Runner 2049’ would be excellent and in line for awards, though somehow it underperformed at the Box Office, those ‘flop’ hinting headlines really belie a film that’s incredibly shot (by the ever-nominated Roger Deakins) and the perfect balance between a respectful sequel and compelling original. All of these bear a second viewing and would likely round out my top 10 if I was sure enough to enumerate that far.