Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman

I went to see the new Wonder Woman movie on Friday night, and had an absolute blast! It was such a good movie, I can highly recommend it to you all!

The story is basically a very extended flashback, which begins with Diana Prince receiving a briefcase from Wayne Enterprises – inside is the photograph that is shown in Batman vs Superman of Wonder Woman during the First World War. Diana then basically goes on a reminiscence that lasts a little over two hours, of how she grew up on the paradise island of Themyscira, and shows us the Amazons in all their fighting glory. Paradise is shattered when Steve Trevor crash-lands a plane on the shores, leading to a group of German soldiers breaking through the magical barrier and battle the Amazons on the beach. While the warrior women are victorious, Diana’s aunt General Antiope is killed. Questioning Trevor, the Amazons refuse to aid in the war, fearing the involvement of Ares, the god of war. Diana, nevertheless, sails with Trevor back to the modern world of 1918, and arrives in London keen to get to the Front.

It turns out that Steve Trevor is working as a spy for GCHQ, and had managed to steal a notebook from the mad scientist Isabel Maru, known as Doctor Poison. While the British government fear it useless, Diana translates the text and discovers that Maru is working on a variant of mustard gas that uses hydrogen, meaning that gas masks would be futile against it. GCHQ refuses to sanction any further intervention, but Steve gathers a group of rogues to help him get Diana to the Western Front, and expedition that is granted an unexpected boon when Sir Patrick Morgan, a man propounding the need for an armistice to the War Cabinet, lends his covert support.

Trevor, Diana and their small band makes it across to Belgium, where the suffering of the common people affects Diana quite significantly. Refusing to wait any longer, she leaps over the top of the trenches in full Wonder Woman regalia and basically takes the German lines single-handed. Discovering that General Erich Ludendorff (who was actually a real-life figure during this time – the more you know!) is holding a gala reception nearby, and convinced that Ludendorff is Ares, Diana and the team infiltrate the party but Steve stops her from killing him. At the height of the gala, a gas canister is launched at the nearby village they had just liberated, and Diana rages at Steve for allowing it to happen. She rushes off to pursue Ludendorff, who has arrived at a military installation to oversee Maru’s new poison gas loaded onto an airplane to attack London. Diana kills Ludendorff, but is shocked to see that the soldiers have not stopped their work.

Ares now makes his appearance, he turns out to be none other than Sir Patrick! He and Diana fight among the compound, causing ridiculous amounts of damage, but Diana is still holding back. Steve manages to hijack the plane loaded with the poison gas, and flies it up into the atmosphere before blowing it up, sacrificing himself to prevent the attack. This sacrifice spurs Diana into resolving to protect humanity, and she finally destroys Ares.

Wonder Woman

This is a really great film! I’m not a big fan of period war movies like this, but it nevertheless managed to sweep me up for the ride! There were a lot of light touches peppered throughout, mainly through the comedy of manners style of juxtaposition with Diana and the rest of the world. Batman vs Superman came under such intense criticism for being so moody of course, so it seemed to be a big thing for the studio to attempt to recapture a lightness from the comics. Reports earlier in the year came in that predicted the movie would be a mess, but I think these are just symptomatic of the current trend to hate on anything that isn’t the MCU.

Wonder Woman does a great job of introducing us to a character that we’ve already met within the franchise of the DC extended universe, but also raises a fair few questions – like, what was she doing between this movie and her appearance in BvS? Gal Gadot is currently signed on for three movies, and this is her second. Will there be more Wonder Woman after the Justice League film? Should we get to see what Diana’s up to during the Cold War? The character could easily be taken for a trawl through time like the recent spate of X-Men movies, and if a sequel is anything like this first installment, I’m sold already!

Batman vs Superman

Almost a year since its release, I’ve finally gotten round to watching one of the controversial movies of 2016, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. My short review is, I liked it! True, it’s not a masterpiece of cinema, but it’s not the dog’s dinner that I’d been led to believe, I feel!

The Story
Following the events of Man of Steel, the world is beginning to question Superman and his motivations. Should one man have all that power and be allowed to run around unchecked? Highly controversial stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree! The government decides to step in and call him to account. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne is looking into a Russian weapons trafficker and discovers a link with LexCorp, so infiltrates their computers to get some intel. At a party there, he meets antiquities dealer Diana Prince, and once he manages to decrypt the data he steals from the corporation’s mainframe, discovers she is actually a metahuman warrior. Lex Luthor has been investigating a couple of these folks, and alongside this research has also been attempting to import some kryptonite found in the Indian Ocean to act as a deterrent against Superman and his ilk.

It turns out that Luthor is genuinely against these super-human types running around the planet, and determined to check them. Unfortunately, he’s also kinda crazy, and attempts to turn the world against Superman by blowing up the Congressional hearing, where only Superman survives the blast. Berating himself for not seeing the duplicity, Superman goes into exile. Meanwhile, Batman steals the kryptonite from LexCorp and turns it into a weapon to defeat Superman, and Lex obtains the corpse of General Zod and access to the Kryptonian scout ship held in isolation in Metropolis. He also kidnaps Martha Kent in order to bring Superman out of exile.

Superman returns to Metropolis, and Lex explains he wants the world to see that the alien is not all good; he must kill Batman in order to save his mother. Lois Lane, learning of the plan, follows Superman to Gotham. Batman and Superman start fighting, and the weaponised kryptonite gives Batman the upper hand. Just as he’s about to plunge a kryptonite spear into Superman, Superman gasps out that he needs to “save Martha” – which was also the name of Bruce Wayne’s mother. Lois arrives to explain, and Bruce promises to save her.

Batman manages to defeat Lex’s Russian terrorist allies and save Superman’s mum, while Superman confronts Lex at the scout ship. Lex has also been busy, however, and has created an abomination from both Zod’s body and his own blood: Doomsday. Superman and this abomination battle it out in Metropolis, but each time Superman defeats it with his heat-ray eyes, the mutant grows stronger. Superman flies it up into space, where the military decide it can safely be nuked with no collateral damage, and launch their missiles. Unfortunately, that just gives it more energy to grow stronger still.

Diana, about to leave Metropolis, sees the battle on the news and decides she needs to stay – when Batman manages to lure Doomsday to Gotham’s abandoned docks, he is almost killed before Diana, now in her Wonder Woman get-up, deflects the energy blast on her bullet-proof bracers. Superman recovers from the nuclear blast and also joins the fray, while Lois attempts to recover the kryptonite spear as the only way of killing the monster. Superman leaves the fight to go help her, though being in close proximity to the spear weakens him all the same. Wonder Woman manages to contain it with her lasso of truth, and Batman manages to use his last kryptonite gas canister to weaken Doomsday enough that Superman can fly in close enough to thrust the spear into the abomination, though as it dies it manages to stab him with a bone, causing a fatal wound.

At the memorial service for Superman, Bruce tells Diana that he plans to form a team of metahumans to help protect the world in Superman’s absence, starting with those he found in the LexCorp computer system…

Batman vs Superman

I really enjoyed this!
There’s a lot of story here, as you can see! There are elements from the comics brought in to support an otherwise original storyline, and I think it actually works out really great. I’m not about to write up some kind of apology for the movie, don’t get me wrong, but I thought overall it was a really good movie. There are some things that I kinda wish had been done differently, or could have been explained better, or whatever, but overall, I really don’t think this film deserves the amount of negativity it has gained.

First of all, Ben Affleck is a fantastic Batman, and I just loved Jeremy Irons as such a bitchy Alfred. There is definitely a movie in there that I want to see! Henry Cavill as Superman is perhaps a bit odd, he certainly seemed a lot more serious than I’d expected for Superman. But it’s a very serious movie, and I think he did as good a job as could be expected. A lot of folks have talked about how Superman is supposed to be such a bright character, but I think Cavill had a sense of bemusement as to why the world seemed to be so against him, when all he’s trying to do is help, and I thought it came across quite well. Wonder Woman was terribly under-used, unfortunately, but I suppose it’s just made me more excited for the upcoming movie this summer! Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor was simply annoying – a lot of people have complained about the fact that he has hair, but personally I don’t really mind the fact that he looks different. It was more the fact that he came across almost as a caricature of the cackling evil madman, and it just annoyed the hell out of me.

We get some tantalising glimpses of Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman in the movie, who are all set to be in the upcoming Justice League movie that is also due out later this year.

There is a lot of story here, and the movie does seem to jump around with a lot of exposition before we really know where we are. Part of me wonders whether that might be part of the problem with the film: it demands too much of our attention. You have to actually watch it to follow it, rather than just browsing your phone while it’s on in the background, and looking up whenever there’s a fight or whatever. Maybe I’m just being a snob when I say that, though. As I said before, it’s not like I’m trying to be an apologist for it, I just think it’s a lot better than people seem to want you to believe.

Sometimes, of course, the film does sag under its own weight of story, and I have to say, it was a little confusing at times as to why some characters were doing what they were doing. Why do Batman and Superman even fight? Sure, Lex explains he wants the world to see Superman kill Batman, but why is Batman so up for it? I get the impression we’re supposed to believe he thinks Superman is no better than the criminals he’s been fighting in Gotham all these years. But it’s never adequately explained, for my liking. There is actually a DC comics series of Batman vs Superman, and I never really managed to get into that either. To me, while Batman is usually the one to distrust everyone, I don’t ever see him actually fighting Superman, who should so clearly be a force for good in the world.

The film runs to a little over 2 hours 10 minutes, but I feel it could have done with perhaps an extra half hour of material to really flesh things out. We’re still in that tenuous sort of era where movies can’t always go much over 2 hours without being really tremendous, but I’d happily watch a longer feature if it meant a proper story. And I think this is a perfect example of a movie that needs that – we’ve got two absolute titans of the comic book world! They need to be fleshed out properly!

Anyway.

Comparisons with Marvel I suppose must be made, though I haven’t yet seen Civil War so can’t comment on that whole thing. While I would say that Marvel’s movies do tend to be much brighter and whatnot, and a lot of people have heavily criticised this film for taking such a dark stand, I think it fits with the story perfectly, and would say again that such reviews have been too harsh. It’s not a Marvel movie, correct – it was never meant to be, after all! DC are clearly doing their own thing, and lightness of tone are probably better kept for Flash and Green Lantern. I don’t think a comic book movie has to be comical, after all.

This is a movie that is definitely worth watching. I let other people put me off going to see it for far too long, now, and I think the lesson I’ve learnt here is, don’t listen to the popular opinion of DC movies! It’s worth watching to make up your own mind, and even if you don’t agree with me, I still think that’s a valuable lesson to take from all this.

Power Couple

Superman and Wonder Woman make a really cute couple, I just want to put this out there now.

A couple of days ago, I read my first Superman comic, having had the above pair waiting on my shelf for about a year now. What Price Tomorrow? is the first volume in the New 52 series for the Man of Steel, and I have to say, I felt a bit bored by it overall. We see Superman take on three separate threats to Metropolis, which coalesce into a Superman clone or something, and it takes this clone beating up Supergirl to bring him back to himself and defeat this evil alien clone. Something like that, anyway… However, that was probably the more interesting part of the story. A lot of this book is taken up with the inner workings at the Daily Planet, which has now been bought out by a bigger news corporation, and there is a bit of a tug of war over printed news versus the more visual media of television and the internet. It all seemed highly strange to see in a superhero comic book and, while I suppose it’s pretty on-point for the world at large, I’ve kinda been put off investigating any further Superman comics because of it.

It was with some trepidation, then, that I picked up Power Couple the same day. Superman and Wonder Woman have something of a budding romance in the Justice League books that I so enjoyed last year, so it was interesting to see these two characters come together. We start off with the power couple facing off against Doomsday off the Norwegian coast, before the big brute just weirdly disappears. Superman believes that this indicates the barriers around the Krytonian Phantom Zone are devolving, and when another Kryptonian, General Zod, shows up in the Sahara desert, this seems like proof. The Justice League of America (Martian Manhunter, et al) attempt to contain him, but Wonder Woman lassos the general and she and Superman manage to haul him off to the Fortress of Solitude. Zod flatters Superman into revealing he has a Phantom Zone lens, which Zod uses to bring his lover Faora into the world. Wonder Woman has commissioned Hephaestus to make some armour for her and Superman in order that they might fight Doomsday, and during their time in Mt Etna, Apollo shows up and insults Wonder Woman, causing Superman to launch him into orbit. In revenge, Apollo assists the Kryptonians in gaining the strength they need to fight Superman and Wonder Woman, before Zod puts his plan to open the world to the Phantom Zone, and usher in the armies of Warworld. In desperation, Superman and Wonder Woman manage to set of a nuclear explosion that destroys the portal before anything can come through, nearly killing themselves in the process. Of course, two such powerful beings won’t go down easy and, after some rest and recuperation, they’re back together and enjoying each others’ company while Doomsday awakens in the Mariana Trench…

I really liked this story. Maybe it was because it had a lot more of a superhero vibe to it than merely reporters chasing ratings, I don’t know. Wonder Woman is such a refreshingly direct character, though, I really like seeing her in these comics. The storyline was also pretty epic, though there were a couple of parts that I thought could have benefited from a little more explanation, as we seem to jump a little too much. But it’s not entirely detrimental to the storyline, and I’m willing to overlook them. The only serious bug for me was that Wonder Woman used her lasso to bind the gates of Tartaros in one issue, and then the writers made a point of saying she didn’t have it during the showdown with Zod and Faora, then the next issue it’s there, dangling from her hip again. But if that’s my one serious bug, then you can hopefully see that overall I really enjoyed this book! Even if it was designed to fit in with the Twilight audience, or somesuch!

The book is also pretty important as it sets up the Superman: Doomed crossover event, which will be featured in another blog soon…

Exciting times!

Hey everybody!
It feels like there is a lot of excitement in the air at the minute for anybody of a geeky disposition. We’re almost a month away from a new Star Wars movie, for starters, but the slide into December is always packed with so much awesome that I really should look to setting up a savings account specifically for the purpose…

I’ve been watching the second international trailer for Rogue One, which does subtly differ from the last official trailer released last month. It’s always cool to see new bits, and I’m certainly feeling pretty excited about this movie right now: I think, more than anything, it just looks fantastic. It has the Classic Trilogy sense of style but with today’s technology making more possible within that setting. Sure, I mentioned this in my musings on the first trailer, where I thought it would make the movie make the original films look shabby in comparison. However, I don’t think that will be the case any longer; maybe I’ve mellowed over the past few months!

While the story of the Death Star plans has been done to death in the old canon, I’m actually looking forward to this movie for giving us the definitive story around that. It’s a fascinating part of the Star Wars lore, and while some of the trailer seems to have some bits that look overly cheesy or cliche, I’m still looking forward to what promises to be an overall good film.

I’ve pre-ordered the lead-in novel, Catalyst, and I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on it as it’s by one of my favourite Star Wars authors, James Luceno. I’d been thinking I might keep the book to read closer to Christmas, but I might not be able to wait that long, so there may be a review coming in sooner than you think!

Speaking of trailers, I’m still super hyped for the upcoming Wonder Woman movie next year! I won’t deny, I was kinda speechless when it first dropped, as it looks like it should be everything we could ever want from such a movie. I still haven’t seen Batman vs Superman, so have nothing to really go on (though by all accounts, her role was somewhat limited in that movie). But these trailers look incredible, and I heartily cannot wait for it!

But let’s talk about some games for a minute.

I picked up the new Arkham Horror LCG the other day, and it does look kinda fantastic, I have to say. To date, all I’ve done is take the cards out of the airtight bags and quickly ruffle through them, but I’m hoping that, once I’m caught up with my degree, I’ll be able to try it out and see what all the fuss is about. I’ve been subscribed to the page on boardgamegeek since it had one, and have been astonished at the amount of new posts created for it, talking about the minutiae before it even landed. It was akin to the Rise of the Runelords Pathfinder ACG, and I’ve considered unsubscribing because of it! I’m sure it’ll die down in time, however.

Speaking of the Pathfinder ACG, the fourth box, The Mummy’s Mask, has apparently been released, though I have yet to see it for sale in the UK. Of course, I haven’t really been trying all that hard to find it, but even so! I’ve only recently made it to the end of the first adventure pack in the Rise of the Runelords game, of course, so I’m hardly chomping at the bit for the next box, but it does look amazing!

Android Netrunner Terminal Directive

Last night, FFG announced the next expansion for Android: Netrunner, Terminal Directive. The article doesn’t have a great deal of information for how exactly this expansion works, but it looks to be extremely similar to the Pandemic Legacy stuff that involves game components opened and used at specific points of the game/when specific conditions have been met. I’m not surprised that another company has used this idea, because it seems to be doing well for Z-Man Games, though I am surprised that it was used for a living card game rather than a boardgame.

The implementation aside, I think the idea of having a game of Netrunner where your actions have consequences for a campaign is really interesting, and I hope I can get in on this when it starts…

Along with the Arkham LCG, I also picked up the final packs for the latest Lord of the Rings cycle, as well as the final pack for Warhammer Conquest! I do feel kinda sad that the game is over now, but talking about it down at the local store, it sounds like the game isn’t quite dead yet, so I can still try out my Slaanesh demons deck now that we finally have a warlord for the Dark Prince!

I still haven’t played with any of the new Lord of the Rings cards, unfortunately – it doesn’t seem so long ago that I would eagerly be playing through the latest pack no sooner had I gotten my grubby little mits on it! I’ve mentioned it on this blog fairly recently how I want to get back into playing this game with more regularity, so I hope that I can make that a thing soon! All of my free time at the moment seems to be taken up with either working on my degree or painting up little plastic guys… I do feel like I need to get back into gaming though, that’s definitely been sliding of late…

The Throne of Atlantis

Hey everybody,
I read an awesome comic book crossover yesterday, and have been pretty much buzzing about it since. Back in 2012, the Justice League and Aquaman titles from DC’s fresh New 52 series crossed over in an epic five-part awesome storyline that featured Aquaman facing off against his bother Orm (Ocean Master) as the East Coast of the USA was almost submerged.

It was pretty incredible, let’s just say that from the off. both the Justice League and Aquaman books were written by Geoff Johns at this time, so I guess a crossover was pretty easy to facilitate. Both pick up¬†directly from where they left off, with some hints being dropped in Aquaman especially around the Trench in the previous arc, The Others. In fact, having read the second volume of Aquaman beforehand really helps here, as we see the evolution of the character into a team player, while also showing us Black Manta on the lookout for relics of Atlantis that will become important. His story in The Others echoes the opening of Justice League volume three, where Wonder Woman almost begrudgingly accepts the help of the League in hunting down the Cheetah.

Anyhow!

The story begins with the US Navy on exercises in the mid-Atlantic, and a missile test goes awry, targeting the submerged city of Atlantis. This causes Orm to bring his Atlantean warriors to the East Coast in retaliation – Aquaman guesses his brother is using the first King of Atlantis’ sceptre to cause one of the cities on the coast to sink beneath the waves. Metropolis and Gotham both see heavy casualties in the storms, but Boston is Orm’s true target.

Aquaman and Orm face off, Aquaman trying to show dominance over his brother in order to force the warriors to heed his commands. When Batman tries to intervene, Orm captures most of the League, leaving only Cyborg in the Watchtower to help. Cyborg goes to STAR labs to ask his father to perform an enhancement that will make him able to operate under water, at the cost of a little more of his humanity. Once he’s ready, he activates the JL reserve list of superheroes, including Hawkman and Green Arrow, to defend Boston against the Atlantean forces. Cyborg then travels to the deep waters to rescue his companions, whereupon they discover the Trench has opened, and the demon fish-people from the first Aquaman arc have returned to terrorise the coast as well!

Turns out that Orm was manipulated by a former Atlantis royal adviser called Vulko, who had hoped to engineer to the conflict to restore Aquaman to the throne of Atlantis. Aquaman goes ballistic, imprisons Orm and beats the crap out of Vulko, but ultimately decides he needs to take his place as the King of Atlantis to prevent any further conflict.

The story is just awesome in its scope and execution, and is very definitely worthwhile taking the time to read! The danger for big team stories like these is that some people will inevitably fall short in the course, and while this is certainly an Aquaman story as much as it is a Justice League story, the other members of the League have a lot to do here as well. Chief among them, Cyborg – I’ve always been vaguely interested in this guy, but he’s becoming a really cool character in this series, and it’s really interesting to see his story develop. We also continue the burgeoning romance between Superman and Wonder Woman that began in volume two. In the midst of all this, we still have time to see Black Manta offered a place on the Suicide Squad, and the book ends with Steve Trevor and Green Arrow discussing another of the Darkseid “mother boxes”.

In a storyline as packed to the gills (ha!) as this one, some things are bound to be left out. Green Lantern had already left the team as a pariah in the last book, so it’s no real surprise he’s not here, but we also don’t see Flash, as he’s explained to be dealing with a “primal problem” of his own – presumably, the Grodd storyline from the third volume of his series. Shame, that, as he’s my favourite DC hero, but some things have got to give.

We’re left with Aquaman leaving the surface world, and the final pages are a bit heart-rending as we see him part ways with Mera, but more problematic (for me) is the enlarged team. Another thing I often dislike in big team stories like these is how the make-up will often change; I loved the first volume¬†of Justice League because of the characters it used – since that book, we’ve now lost two of the principal seven players! I’m intrigued as to where we’ll see this go next, of course, but I’m also a little wary of having the team I came to love mixed up too much.

Anyway – Throne of Atlantis was an amazing read, and I think I may delve into the world of DC’s animated movies to see how the storyline fares there shortly! I can highly recommend this book – however, as an aside, both the Aquaman and Justice League collections have the same issues, so you don’t really need to get both books to get the story. I’d recommend getting the Aquaman collection if you had to only get one, because of the additional storyline from his book, but you won’t be totally lost if you pick up just the Justice League book instead!