Review of Wonder Woman

Preamble: I saw this weeks ago but I wanted to write this in light of reading some negative reviews that were so contrary to my own beliefs that I was stunned and confused. I wanted to make sure that there are some reasonable positive reviews out there too, regardless of how small my voice is.

When I was a kid in the late 80s (and early 90s), my dad introduced me to Gustav Holst. At the time, Mars: the Bringer of War was the most memorable one. It sounded like epic movie music! At the time I was unaware of the context of that piece, however. Later, when I understood the horror and tragedy of World War 1, Mars had a vastly different meaning.

I still remember when my dad told me the story of the Christmas Truce. It was not long after going to the War Museum here in Ottawa and walking through the recreation of the Somme trenches where I saw a human hand and face in the mud. Needless to say, I viewed the concept of war very differently. Not as a fun G.I. Joe game, but as something very, very sad. I learned of my Grandpa’s experiences on a Corvette escort ship / submarine hunter and watched The Cruel Sea. It wasn’t a fun thing at all and I might never have been born if Grandpa had been on an unlucky vessel.

When I first heard that Wonder Woman would occur during the Great War, I was impressed and excited (not in the usual way of anticipating super hero movies). I was hoping that they’d do the historical event honor without too much schlock. I wasn’t disappointed.

There is something incredibly touching and tragic about a noble-hearted demi-goddess super hero in golden armour charging across the Somme. She wants to end human suffering because of war and her desire to do so is pure and selfless. And ultimately a bit naive in a beautiful way.

Wonder Woman was a great film in my opinion: exciting action scenes (great battles that were easy to understand), characters who I cared about (Robin Wright’s warrior-instructor was surprisingly likeable despite not knowing her for long), strong emotions (I teared up at several scenes, especially when Diana first arrives at the front lines and sees the suffering first hand) and great casting (all very believable actors who took the subject matter seriously).

The movie also showcases a lot of diversity. Some folks complained but I loved it because it really emphasised that the Great War was a WORLD war and affected a lot of nations. It made the world feel larger.

I really liked Diana. Gal Godot was great and showed far more depth than I anticipated. Chris Pine was great as her co-protagonist. His final scene, despite following a few familiar tropes, still had an emotional impact for me.

The supporting characters were cool too. I genuinely felt touched that Ewen Bremner’s character displayed crippling PTSD which inversed the trope of the usual expert sniper. I felt that this film respected soldiers as human beings despite the super hero film genre. It wasn’t a recruitment/propaganda reel like Michael Bay’s Transformers massacres.

To me, the WW1 was really the ultimate victory of the God of War: it set the stage for a whole new world. Even though Diana defeats Mars in the end, it doesn’t really matter in the long run, which added to the bittersweet feelings of this movie.

However, it did make a difference. After the villain’s defeat, there is a scene akin to the Christmas truce as soldiers from both sides (pointedly young men, further revealing the tragedy of that war) seem to come out of a daze and find themselves showing compassion and camaraderie. Top notch.

Wonder Woman is another film that elevates the super hero genre. Most of the internet disagrees with me and is instead focusing on whether it has too strong of a “Feminist Agenda” or not enough of one. Those people are un-ironicaly waging a war of ideals that makes me sad: they don’t seem to care about the messages of the film itself. The tragedy continues, it seems.

Spiderman: Homecoming was totally boss.

Like most Marvel movies of late, this film was fun, funny, intense and exciting. In this review, I’ll keep any spoilers under one obvious heading.

Aside: These are just my opinions. My tastes in film are quite diverse (my favorites include The Holy Mountain, 2001, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Alien, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Baraka and the Empire Strikes Back). I can laugh at Billy Madison and fully appreciate the symbolism in the Last Temptation of Christ. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed everything the Marvel Cinematic Universe has thrown at us. Now that you have that perspective, let’s move on.

I also cared about the characters. I was invested in them. I even cared about the villain. Maybe I’m just a sap, but I feel more empathy from certain films than most, it seems. I teared up during Wonder Woman (the WWI stuff was heartbreaking), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 (Yondu’s scenes and that part with Drax and Mantis) and Logan (boy lots of melancholy in that one).

Tom Holland was great as Peter Parker and as the titular hero. He felt believably emotional and geeky. I’ll always have a soft spot for the Tobey Macguire films, but Holland really nailed it here.

The secondary characters (mostly Peter Parker’s school friends) were all interesting to me and I loved the casting. While I cringe at tokenism in general, I actually loved the diversity of the cast. New York, like most major Western cities, has a lot of racial diversity. That’s just a fact. Get the hell over it, Alt-Right crybabies.

Actual high school kids (at last). Great actors. I loved Michelle (second from right).

Also major props to the casting: the high school kids actually LOOK LIKE THEY’RE IN HIGH SCHOOL. That’s a nice change.

There are some genuinely heartwarming or heartbreaking scenes in this. Parts that made me want to cheer (and I would have but I didn’t want to embarrass my wife again). The comedy made me laugh out loud, the action was entertaining and the camera work and set design charmed me throughout.

Spidey’s new costume is great. The emotive eyes add SO much to the character.

Adds so much to the costume. Emotive Spidey eyes are great.

Any references to the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe made sense to me and didn’t feel forced. To me, anyway.

Spoilers

The reveal of the villain as the father of the love interest really, genuinely shocked me. A fantastic idea.

M-J’s reveal was also really cool. I hadn’t expected that. I’m glad that she gave Peter a lingering look at the end to hint that there’s something there. Very, very happy with this. Again, I don’t give a crap about M-J not being a white girl with red hair.

I also loved the twist about the usual “no one believes the kids” trope: Stark DID listen to him and took steps to deal with it. Again, a nice plot choice.

End of Spoilers

Vulture’s look is fantastic and threatening.

Again, I wholeheartedly recommend this movie. It’s wonderful and cheerful but also dramatic. It’s in my mind still. Good job Sony + Marvel. You’ve won me back into Spiderman as a movie franchise.

Review of Adventure Writing like a F’ing Boss

A brief but interesting take on the subject with some great advice.

I actually think of it as a companion piece, or addendum to How to Game Master like a F’ing Boss (link to my review of that work). Much of the advice is similar: try to entertain, don’t railroad, present situations not plot lines and keep a good balance between the three pillars of RPGs: Interaction, Exploration and Action (or Combat).

A lot of the information familiar to me, but it was helpful to read it in a structured way. Venger’s conversational tone makes it an easy, approachable read. There’s always a bit of humour which is always a bonus.

The actual PDF is well presented: the watermarks are mostly unobtrusive, and anyway, there’s a print-friendly version without them. I really appreciate this!

The artwork is done by familiar artists of Venger’s line of books. A mix of monsters, fantasy, sci fi, gonzo and cheesecake.

What was also interesting was to find out where Venger draws the line in terms of poor taste. He makes it explicit, in fact. I wonder how he feels about some of the more twisted modules by Lamentations of the Flame Princess…

In the back of my mind, I wondered about the handful of modules that I’ve been working on over the past four or five years. I can see a fresh way to approach them now, so there’s that.

For the price of a fancy coffee at Starbucks you get a decent little book with good advice on adventure module writing. I recommend it, but in all honesty I think that his book on Gamemastering is even more useful when it comes to explaining what makes a good game session.

You can buy this book here at DrivethruRPG.