Meewella | Critic

According to P

Tag: Gal Gadot

QuickView: Heart of Stone (2023)

“Chance of success just plummeted.”

Jack of Hearts

Heart of Stone opens strongly with a mountainous MI6 mission that subverts the trope of field agents versus the techies stuck in the van; then the script intervenes and it at all begins to unravel into Netflix’s trademark action movie recipe of big name stars and poor writing. The plot centres around worldwide agency “The Charter” which, beholden to no government, is able to tackle problems that national security services cannot. Everyone receives an alias based on a deck of cards which probably sounded cool on paper but is used inconsistently and seems a highly impractical limitation for a globe-spanning organisation. They operate using “The Heart”, an algorithmic predictive engine that guides their actions — the script plays on fears about ceding decision-making control to AI, yet it seems that following the AI’s direction would have saved a lot of lives. This makes Stone’s rebelliousness harder for the audience to cheer, an essential component of these movies. The action itself includes a pleasing range of practical effects, much of the CGI budget being used to create The Heart’s interactive digital projections as events are analysed in real time back at base. That blend of technology gives Heart of Stone a visual identity of its own, even if there are few memorable set pieces. The result is another competent but forgettable action flick in Netflix’s search for a franchise.


Disclosure: I know personally at least one person involved in the making of this film

QuickView: Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

“Nothing good is born from lies. And greatness is not what you think.”


2017’s Wonder Woman broke the DCEU‘s streak of weak movies and beat Marvel to the punch with a female-fronted superhero movie. With Patty Jenkins returning to direct the sequel, expectations were high. Sadly, WW84 slumps to the level of its DC stablemates, with nearly all of its issues stemming from an awful script that is not only set in the 1980s but seems like it could have been written then too. The themes of desire and there being no good shortcuts to success are interesting but it is hard to engage with a story where every development is handwaved away as the result of a wish. Invariably the time jump means that only a single character is carried forward and the previous film’s team dynamic is lost; things are somehow worse when Chris Pine’s character is shoehorned back in (and then inevitably discarded). The new characters are poorly introduced (particularly the villains whose motivations are never sketched beyond a desire for power) and hackneyed screenwriting abounds: we cut to multiple conversations with people already laughing at some unheard joke to indicate chemistry rather than having to write dialogue that actually demonstrates it. The film’s best action is in its opening scene ⁠— a flashback to Amazons competing in a multi-disciplinary race across Themyscira ⁠— after which it is just Diana lassoing around and hurling people into walls. Even in the context of the DCEU much of the film makes little sense, like Diana’s unexplained desire to conceal her identity (since she has no one to protect) or learning to fly only never to use this ability with the Justice League thirty years later. It may be functional as a big budget blockbuster but, particularly in the wake of its predecessor, WW84 is bloated and disappointing.


Disclosure: I know personally at least one person involved in the making of this film.

QuickView: Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

“Maybe a man who broods in a cave for a living isn’t cut out to be a recruiter.”


After the chore of Batman v Superman, I had no interest in seeing another grimdark Zack Snyder superhero movie, but — having avoided the 2017 theatrical version of Justice League — curiosity finally has the better of me. I will readily accept that this is a better version of the movie as there would simply have been no way to condense this material into the two-hour film mandated by the studio. The new cut runs to nearly four hours and, whilst that is certainly too long, much of this was needed to introduce three new heroes and a villain. The Flash is introduced effectively through a concise rescue sequence that showcases both his powers and personality, but the other hero introductions are fragmented and inefficient: we see more brooding than character, piecing things together from what others say. Steppenwolf is a generic hulking villain in spiky CG armour that is intricate but uninteresting; the character is little more than a vehicle to introduce Darkseid as a future antagonist (Snyder’s extended epilogue further telegraphs what he would like to have done with the DCEU but introducing yet more characters in a film already overcrowded with new faces is unhelpful). Most of the action is hollow and repetitive, predominantly characters punching or throwing each other into walls, interspersed with slow-motion hero poses and computer-generated particle effects. It occurs in locations that are intended to be vast and epic, but frequently feel like the empty backdrops of a fighting game rather than organic, connected spaces. Snyder’s use of a 4:3 aspect ratio has been derided and “preserving his vision” of IMAX framing does seem self-indulgent for a film that is only available on streaming services. In practice, it is easy to forget and little use is made of the additional frame height to actually warrant the unusual choice. When it comes to tone, there is something to be said for not falling into the MCU pattern of undercutting more serious moments with levity. Nolan’s Batman trilogy showed how well grittier realism can work but, when every moment becomes bleak and overbearing, the experience is turgid and exhausting. Ultimately, Zack Snyder’s Justice League will not change anyone’s mind about his take on the DC universe: Snyder fans will see this release as vindication, whilst others will consider it another incredibly expensive testament to style over substance. With his name in the title, this is plainly a very personal project for Snyder, showing brief flourishes of excellence but mostly feeling soulless, whilst making grand promises about theoretical future films that are unlikely ever to be realised.


Disclosure: I know personally at least one person involved in the making of this film.

QuickView: Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

Ralph Breaks the Internet poster

“Great, but can you make it a little more challenging this time?”


The problem with a sequel to a movie in which the main characters had substantial character arcs is that there is often nowhere left to go. At the end of the previous film, Ralph and Vanellope had both made peace with their roles in their respective game worlds. This time round, Ralph seeks only to maintain the status quo while Vanellope wants to explore the wider world of the Internet. The result is a story about friends growing apart and how friendships can still be maintained through tumultuous changes if people are honest and supportive of one another’s feelings. For children who have grown a few years since the first movie, this may be a useful message. Parents, however, are likely to find considerably less nostalgic humour in the film’s visual representation of the Internet than in Wreck-It Ralph‘s take on the heyday of arcade games. The strongest scenes still occur when John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman are able to bounce off one another (unusually they recorded their lines together) but their effectiveness is constrained as Ralph and Vanellope spend large portions of the sequel apart.


"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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