A woman leaves behind everything she knows and is accosted by monsters at every turn all in the name of Love. I saw 50 Shades Darker, Alien Covenant, and Wonder Woman

I meant to write this sooner, but the motivation was simply not there for the previous two movies. Wonder Woman deserves to be talked about, however, one way or the other, and so I must bring the other movies up from the shadows and cast light on them, so I can scatter the horrors within.

First up is 50 Shades Darker. Now you might be wondering “Okay, but why though?” And I will tell you; I have a wife with a bad sense of humor who should feel bad about herself (you know what you did). I reviewed 50 Shades of Grey, and the short of it was “No, not like this.” I’m here to report, it got both better and worse. Better in pacing and character shaping, but more emphases on how much you can easily hate the characters. At every turn Anastasia Steel and Christian Grey are proving to us that they are fictional as no person acts like this. The movie constantly puts them in situations that are supposed to evoke emotions from us, where either of them can possibly be in danger, only to yank that threat away immediately with no real satisfying resolution. To put this in clearer terms, protagonist is met with conflict (either human or circumstance). Before the conflict can rise to a point of tension, it is diffused and handled with minimal effort, or simply off screen. We are never given the chance to care about what happens to either character. Secondary characters are introduced as only points of reference for how amazing these two other characters are (specifically Anastasia), and are thrown away the moment the script feels we get the point. The music is extremely on the nose, and feels like it was a soundtrack someone on Youtube put together titled “What Soundtrack Would I Give to Vanilla Ice cream and Plain Yogurt”? For a series that prides itself on be Trés Sexy, I felt myself missing the boldness and energy of “Emmanuel In Space”. 50 Shades Darker is a how-to-guide in how not to.

Alien: Covenant is a heart-breaker for me. Maybe I shouldn’t have bought the first class tickets to the hype train for this movie, and that’s on me. I enjoy horror and thriller movies, however, and I was signed up super hard for this. Following the continuity of Prometheus was a worrisome choice that should have been a warning sign to me. Acid-slime covered glasses and all that, though. Alien: Covenant is difficult to enjoy, and unfortunately, it’s not because of execution. Every element for this movie is handled with the utmost care and detail. The soundtrack was a hit out of the park, and gave me cold sweats at points. The actors all gave 100% every moment they were on the screen. They never committed to an action that seemed unreasonable and you could reconcile all of their choices, and you could feel their fear, both visceral and emotional. The sense of scale and beauty of the sets was knockout quality, and felt fully realized. The aliens themselves were beautiful to look at, and every reveal was amazing and blood chilling to behold. So how does the movie fall short? It’s predictable. I don’t just mean, seeing the finish line before the race predictable. It is flat-line predictable, to the point you knew who would die, when and how. The problem is Alien: Covenant lives in a universe populated by its own lore. This is a legit case of “if you seen one…” and the movie is too deep in its own skin to escape from that trap. I kept holding my breath hoping to jump at some point, but I realize I’m too used to the Alien™ brand of horror, that it did nothing to push my pulse. Even in other series, like Friday the 13th, Halloween, Predator, there is an element of anticipation on how the heroes will die; Covenant lacked this. It was a real story with real people, but it suffers from its own infamy.

Wonder Woman was something I was truly excited for, especially considering DC’s less than sterling track record. While it doesn’t blow me away, it does for a DC movie. While it wasn’t amazing, it was for a DC movie. However, I don’t want it’s standing as a DC movie to be the only reason I give it any credit. The greatest strength of this movie, is its raw charisma. Gal Gadot was a major concern for me when she was first announced, probably for the same reasons a lot of people had. But this was pre-Batman vs Superman Gal Gadot, when I saw her move and speak and breathe as the character, and my fears were allayed. But how would that carry over when she was the central focus the entire time. Not bad, I have to admit. There was a certain air of levity, even in the face of potentially horrible outcome, that this movie possessed that made it feel alive. A smart use of color to help tell the story, however, also hurt it at points, as the special effects didn’t always react well to hyper saturation. The CG for Wonder Woman’s super jumps and fast movement didn’t always translate and were jarring, but the action was intense and satisfying. Combat was easy to follow most of the time, even in the face of chaos, though slow motion was almost as liberal as a Bollywood film. The music fed into the scenes brilliantly and gave energy where it was needed. I enjoyed everyone’s moment on screen and the villains were both identifiably evil and proper comic villain camp. This is the movie I’ve been waiting for DC to make, and I’m thankful it came in this package.

So, at the end of the day, where is everything sitting. 50 Shades Darker tanks at 2/10. It’s literally a movie about the worst people who possess zero redeemable quality, the sex is boring. However, even though it’s almost identical to The Room, in many ways, its high production value makes it not nearly as fun. Alien: Covenant is a 5/10, saved and cursed by its attention to detail and strong lore. If the movie leaned harder on the terror and horror, it might have gone better, but it felt too paint by the numbers, and all the paint was red. Wonder Woman is probably a good 7/10, delighting me and giving me hope for future DC properties if they keep and refine this formula. It needs some work, but nothing that keeps it from being enjoyable and worth seeing in theaters.

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