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Face-Off: Man of Steel vs. Wonder Woman

09.26.2017by: Matt Rooney

Entre, entre, you vicious souls you! Today we have a very special battle for you, as I'm sure it's one that will spark a lively debate for years to come. Today we are pitting two of the DCEU's origin tales, both of which star two of comic book lores most famous characters: MAN OF STEEL and WONDER WOMAN. Oh, this is truly a battle of the gods indeed.

The former was the first entry in the DCEU franchise, and was helmed by series architect Zack Snyder, who brought his visual flourishes and a grounded tone to the legendary Superman, setting the tone and stage for future DCEU flicks like BATMAN V. SUPERMAN and SUICIDE SQUAD. In the other corner stands WOMAN, directed by Patty Jenkins, which brought the Amazonian princess to the big screen for the first time to tremendous results. With MAN OF STEEL favoring a more dramatic approach, and WOMAN being brighter and more lively, both movies represent different spectrums of taste for fans of the DC films. Fans will always have their preffered style, but today we pick one champion to be our hero for all time. Who will it be?

Yes, there are spoilers for WONDER WOMAN ahead

THE ENSEMBLE
Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman
Amy Adams as Lois Lane
Russell Crowe as Jor-El
Michael Shannon as General Zod
Laurence Fishburne as Perry White
Diane Lane as Martha Kent
Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent
Antje Traue as Faora-Ul
Christopher Meloni as Colonel Nathan Hardy
Ayelet Zurer as Lara Lor-Van
Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman
Chris Pine as Steve Trevor
Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta
Danny Huston as General Ludendorff
Robin Wright as Antiope
David Thewlis as Sir Patrick Morgan
Lucy Davis as Etta Candy
Ewan Bremner as Charlie
Said Taghmaoui as Sameer
Eugene Brave Rock as The Chief
Elena Anaya as Isabel "Dr. Poison" Maru
LEADING PERFORMANCE
Trying to carve out your own Superman must be tough work when the shadow of Christopher Reeve looms so large. Brandon Routh as
failed to win over any hearts, which made Henry Cavill's job of giving us a great, modern Superman all the more stressful. With MAN OF STEEL, he gave us an iteration of the character that was far more dramatic and introspective than we had ever seen before. His character was rugged, nomadic and struggling to find a place in this world. Cavill is a complex Superman, but sadly the story does not give him room to have a lot of moments to explore that complexity in a compelling or engaging way. I hate to use the word "boring," but he does spend a lot of time looking confused, staring ominously at things or just looking flat-out sullen. Overall his character doesn't have that heroicness or charm we've seen in the comics or with Reeve (even though there are glimmers of humor here and there). This may be more the fault of the movie's tone, but in STEEL Cavill doesn't have a lot of opportunities to demonstrate why this is the Superman for the modern world.
Gal Gadot, on the other hand, IS Wonder Woman. Many were averse to her casting at first given her lack of bulkiness and surface-level toughness, but by the gods and goddesses, she has proven them all wrong. Her Diana is full of confidence, strength, courage, purity, spirit and completely uncompromising when it comes to her honor and integrity. On top of that, she posses just the right amount of naivety to make her struggle and origin all the more engaging, and enough quirkiness to make the fish-out-of-water angle work so well. Finally, she is the absolute warrior princess and her ferocity and commitment to the action scenes solidify her as the Wonder Woman of our dreams.
DIRECTION
Zack Snyder thought to take a cue from Christopher Nolan (who produced STEEL) and make his Superman more grounded and applicable to the real world, much like THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy did for Batman. That doesn't work as well here, as the overall tone and style are too gloomy and morose. I remember watching the trailers and thinking, "This is what it would look like if Terrence Malick did a SUPERMAN movie." There's just not a lot of joy to be had while watching the movie, and though I get what Snyder was trying to do, and would support a more dramatic SUPERMAN movie, Snyder doesn't give MAN OF STEEL the smarts to back it all up. Visually the movie has moments that are appropriately stupendous, as Snyder certainly knows how to compose an action sequence. The destruction becomes a little too much to handle, but it's Superman, and unless there's a global threat there's not a lot pose a serious threat. Snyder has gotten a bad wrap for STEEL and BATMAN V. SUPERMAN, and a lot of this has to do with his bleak style that's counter-intuitive to the kind of SUPERMAN movie people want to see.
Before WONDER WOMAN the DCEU was getting torn apart for being so dour and grim, but with this movie we got to witness Patty Jenkins' take on the superhero movie, and it's one filled with passion, love and intelligence. You really feel that Jenkins looks up to Diana as a character so much and puts the heroine and her needs front and center. This story is all about Diana discovering that the world is imperfect, and that if she is to overcome that she must fight back with love. This would be hard to sell if everything was so glum, so Jenkins keeps everything light, with sprinkles of humor and infused with an energetic pace. This also means focusing on the relationship between Diana and Steve, and her strong suit lies in character work, and she does an excellent job showcasing their chemistry. Her ability to shoot an action sequence doesn't always look tip-top from a CG standpoint, and she sometimes leans too much on Snyder-esque slo-mo. However, each action scene posses the necessary dramatic weight to not feel random, and are focused enough on the characters within the action to make us care about what's actually happening. Jenkins is an expert at putting her characters first, and WONDER WOMAN is an excellent example.
STORY/SCRIPT

After being sent to Earth by his parents before his home planet, Krypton, was destroyed, Clark Kent (real name Kal-El) has spent his life containing his god-like powers so that humankind does not lose their cool over the fact that aliens are among us. After some time working in a bar and fishing for crap, he soon discovers his destiny and dons the red and blue costume, and comes face to face with General Zod. Zod vows to destroy Earth in order to build a new Krypton on top of it, and Clark must soon fight for the only home he has ever known.

All around, a solid story from David S. Goyer and Nolan, and one that tries to examine Clark as an outcast from our society. Not a bad way to go at all. Goyer doesn't have the best track record, but he has done some good work in the superhero biz (minus BLADE: TRINITY). The script allows for plenty of moments for Clark to be the strong hero, even if in his adult years we never delve into any rich emotionality. This is probably because there's the story about Clark struggling to find his place, and then an hour of constant destruction and nothing else, with Clark simply hitting the beats until he becomes Superman. There's room here for a great SUPERMAN movie, and all the characters (no matter how one-dimensional) all have something to do. The idea is better than the script, which may have been better had the threat and story picked up earlier in the flick. Not that I don't mind the occasional, ethereal musings about the place of aliens in the world, or for that matter a nomadic Superman who probably keeps a diary but...

Diana is the only child on the island of Themiscyra, having been sculpted by clay by her mother Hippolyta and brought to live by Zeus. This makes her a precious gift to the Amazons, but soon it comes time for her to train to be the warrior princess she was meant to be. Soon, she must use that training to save the world after an American spy, Steve Trevor, crash-lands near the island and informs them of the Great War -- World War I. This can only be the work of the god of war, Ares, and Diana sets out with Trevor to find him, kill him and bring peace to the world. Her journey is one of self-discovery where she learns to be the hero we all need, no matter how imperfect mankind may be.

A traditional origin tale at its core, and writer Allan Heinberg gets into the meat of the story quickly. His script acknowledges that the heart and soul lie in Diana and her view of the world, which is tested and shapen by seeing war firsthand and via her romance with Steve. The WWI setting makes for a perfect scenario that allows for the story to unfold in an exciting way while giving Diana plenty of exposure to the horror of the world. From a pure dialogue standpoint, there are plenty of great interactions between Diana and Steve, with equal parts heart and humor. The script's main achievement is in making Diana a three-dimensional hero who grows throughout the film and has numerous layers to her personality. You know, the kinds of characters the DCEU has been kind of allergic to up to this point.

NOTABLE BITS & LINES

The Birth of Kal-El/The Destruction of Krypton


Lara: "They will kill him."

Jor: "How? He will be a god to them."


Sending Kal Away/Jor-El's Last Stand

Zod Sent to the Phantom Zone

Zod: "I WILL FIND HIM!"

Clark the Crab Catcher...

...Who Saves Everyone From the Burning Oil Rig

Young Clark the Outcast

Clark Back on the Run

Teen Clark Saves His School Mates

Teen Clark: "What was I supposed to do? Let them die?"

Jonathan: "Maybe."


Truck Driver Messes with the Wrong Kryptonian

Lois Lane on the Scene

Clark Finds the Ship

Lois and Clark Meet

Perry White

Clark Meets His Father

Superman Emerges

Jor: "You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."

Blast Off...Sort Of

Big Blast Off

Clark: "My father told me that if the world found out who I really was they'd reject me."

The Tornado/Goodbye, Jonathan.

Zod Returns

Superman Surrenders Himself

Lois: "What's the 'S' stand for?"

Superman: "It's not an 'S.' On my world it means 'hope.'"

Lois: "Well, here it's an 'S.' How about... Super-."


Zod's Plan

Aboard the Ship

Jor: "You can save them, Kal. You can save all of them."

Jesus Pose

Returning to Earth

The Battle Begins

Superman to Zod: "YOU THINK YOU CAN THREATEN MY MOTHER?!

Superman vs. Faora and Big Goon

The World Engine

The Destruction of Metropolis

Superman vs. The World Engine

Crashing the Plane into the World Engine

Superman vs. Zod

Superman Kills Zod

Superman: "I grew up in Kansas, General. I'm about as American as it gets."

Clark Kent of the Daily Planet

Lois: "Hi, Lois Lane. Welcome to The Planet."

Clark: "Glad to be here, Lois."

Diana in the Present/A Gift From Bruce Wayne


Meet Little Diana

The Warrior Women of Themiscyra

Young Diana: "Just a shield then; no sharp edges."

History of the Gods and the Amazons

Diana Begins Her Training

Princess Diana: Warrior Woman

Steve Trevor Crash-Lands

Diana to the Rescue

Diana: "You're a man."

Steve: "Yeah, I mean, don't I look like one?"


Battle on the Beach

Antipoe Brings the Pain

Goodbye, Antiope

Lasso of Truth

Meet Dr. Posion and General Ludendorff

Bath Time

Diana: "Would you say you are a typical example of your sex?"

Steve: "I am...above average."


Scaling the Building

Arming Up

Leaving Themiscyra

Diana: "I have no father. My mother sculpted me from clay and I was brought to life by Zeus."

Steve: "Well that's neat."


London

Steve: "Welcome to jolly ol' London."

Diana: "It's hideous."

Steve: "Yeah it's not for everyone."


Fish Out of Water

Meet Etta Candy

Etta: "Oh, well, I do everything. I go where he tells me to go, I do what he tells me to do."

Diana: "Well, where I'm from that's called slavery."

Etta: "I really like her."


Impractical Fashion

Alleyway Brawl

Squabbling Men

Diana Speaks Her Mind

Assembling Reinforcements

The Horrors of War

Steve: "No, we are doing something! We are! We just... we can't save everyone in this war. This is not what we came here to do. "

Diana: "No. But it's what I'm going to do."


No Man's Land!!

Diana Bursts Into the Room

Diana & Steve vs. The Germans in the Town Center

Crashing Through the Bell Tower

Dancing in the Snowfall

Diana & Steve Engage in the Pleasures of the Flesh

Lundendorrf and Maru Murder the German Officers

Infiltrating the Gala

Gas Attack

Diana Hunts Down Ludendorff

Ludendorff: "What are you?"

Diana: "You will soon find out."


Diana vs. Ludendorff

The Finishing Blow

The Ultimate Folly of Man

The Real Ares Appears

Diana vs. Ares

Saying Goodbye to Steve

Steve: "It has to be me. I can save today. You can save the world."

Steve's Sacrifice

Diana's Rampage

Diana Finds Her Power

Ares Defeated

Wonder Woman: Hero of Man
MUSICAL MASTERY
Hans Zimmer returned for more superhero scoring after THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy ended, and gave Superman a brand new sound. The overarching score highlights the dramatic tone of the movie while at the same time capitalizing on the general epicness. A great example is when Clark emerges from the Kryptonian ship, dressed in his super suit, all to a light piano composition. Then, the music blasts off as the character finally rockets into the air, with a fast-paced drum beat mixing with a booming string orchestration. Granted, this same general theme is used throughout the film to the point where I'm hearing tribal drums in my sleep. But what can I say? The music does have a certain scope to it, and if I ever were to attain the powers of flight this would most likely be my mid-air playlist.
The WONDER WOMAN theme, the one with the beating drums and guitar riff, for some reason does not sit well with everyone. I have no explanation for this. Frankly, it's pretty badass and all too befitting of a warrior princess like Diana. A bright spot in the movie's score for sure. Otherwise, the work from Rupert Gregson-Willaims (a.k.a. "Not Harry Gregson-Williams") does a serviceable job with the score. Like a lot of superhero movie music, it just sort of blends in. Aside from the "Wonder Woman's Wrath" track there's not much to get excited about.
VILLAIN
For most of the movie, Supes goes without much conflict, except for, perhaps, some sort of internal struggle. He certainly looks sad enough. When Zod does come down to mess shizz up Shannon does a solid job chewing up the scenery with unrelenting force. He's a pretty standard meat and potatoes baddie, one who comes to destroy the Earth in the catastrophic of ways, but Shannon puts his best alien foot forward. Zod forces Clark to choose between seeing his home planet reborn, or to fight for Earth. But there's not a large emotional thread to make this feel like a great existential threat, posing as only a physical one. Shannon does what he can, but aside from a physical threat, he doesn't have much to do.
Diana's villain here is interesting. No, I am not talking about Ludendorff, who stomps around being very angry and German and who snorts cocaine Lysol. Nor I am talking about Sir Patrick "Ares" Morgan, who vanishes to creeper-stare at Diana on the other side of the window. Ultimately Diana's biggest foe, the one who truly challenges her, is mankind itself. We are selfish, flawed, violent creatures and have the capacity to be truly evil without the help of greater gods. Diana confronts this throughout the film and has trouble coming to terms with the reality. She has a breakdown after Trevor dies, and you can see in her this inability to cope with man's destruction. Ares toys with this inner turmoil when he isn't hucking stuff at her during the climax, but Diana finds a way to see the beauty in man and finds her strength. It's an existential threat unlike any other superhero movie has attempted to have, and it makes up for the lack of a great, physical villain.
ORIGIN TALE
As I talked about in earlier sections, MAN OF STEEL has a solid story at it's back, and treating Clark like a man who doesn't feel at home anywhere on the planet is an interesting way to introduce the character. This would leave him room to grow and develop an emotional connection to the planet he's fighting for. The only problem is they spend so much time taking him from set piece to set piece, none of which have any sort of emotional resonance, that when he dons the suit it's just because that's yet another step in the plot. By the time it comes to see him fight the bad guys and save Earth I felt like it was because he just knows he could, not because he finally found a reason to become the man he's supposed to be and adopt Earth as his true home. Even the love story with him and Lane isn't very convincing. It's all about the lack of a pulsating, beating heart that the earlier Christopher Reeve movies and the Superman comic books have. There are great elements introduced here, but there's so much more to the character that feels missing.
I can see WONDER WOMAN ranking high with BATMAN BEGINS and IRON MAN as one of the best superhero origin movies ever, not just because the whole movie is killer, but because from moment one we know exactly who this character is, and then she grows and develops through the movie. We see her as a young girl training to become a warrior in the earliest stages of the film, and as soon as she becomes an adult Diana is a woman defined by her drive and compassion. Each beat in the movie is all about evolving said compassion and challenging her morals, and by the end, we've seen a complete character study that has laid out the blueprint for who Diana is in the modern world.
VFX
Including WONDER WOMAN, the DCEU has so far released four films, and MAN OF STEEL still reigns as the most visually magnificent of the bunch. A big chunk of change was spent on creating Krypton, and even though all we see of it is its destruction, the visual effects artists put immense detail into the alien planet. Vast landscapes, intricate structures, immense space crafts. There was a lot more work put into this than needed for a location that was only on screen for about 10 minutes, and of course, Snyder has a ball showing it all come crumbling down. The destruction of Metropolis is treated the same way, wherein the scope of the carnage is mind-boggling to behold, and its equal parts amazing and exhausting. Supes looks cool flying around, even if the first flying sequence keeps the camera too focused on him when they should've left some room to breathe to really make it look realistic. But Jesus is this movie so awesomely chaotic. I mean, I know they wanted a realitisc Superman movie, but they really lay it on thick that he causes SO MUCH in property damage.
WONDER WOMAN has some great period production design going for it, and the island of Themiscrya is an immaculate paradise - like if Rivendell was populated by badass warrior women and not a bunch of Elvish nerds. As for the heavy visual effects scenes, I caught myself grimacing a bit at some of the character effects. Sometimes, when the chaos is really heating up, people can't help but look detached from their environments (the beach battle; when Wonder Woman loses her cool in the end), and it can't help but diminish the often gorgeous practical effects and locations. Still, when the movie takes place in real locations and doesn't get too crazy the production design is gorgeous.
PRAISE & MONEY
Box Office
    $291 million ($668 million global)
Reviews:
Box Office
    $411 million ($819 million global)
Reviews:
WONDER WOMAN

I loved MAN OF STEEL when I first saw it, hailing it as a SUPERMAN movie the likes we've never seen. But as I watched it, again and again, the more I found wrong with it. But still, there is a lot to admire about the flick, and I get what Snyder was trying to do. But ultimately, the stylistic and tonal flaws stop it from being great, and at its core is a Superman who has some complex emotions but spends too much time being downtrodden, never really getting a chance to express himself. WONDER WOMAN, in a lot of ways, is the polar opposite. Bright, energetic, funny, and with a character who noticeably evolves throughout the film. Here is a superhero movie that embraces so fiercely the morals and ideals all superheroes ought to, and gives us a hero who fights for the moral high ground with such vigor and passion. And of course, we can't forget Gal Gadot who absolutely rocks it as Diana, delivering an iteration of the character who is so infectiously courageous and bold, while also having an abundance of charm and elegance. While the DCEU has spent a lot of time trying to be grounded and complex WONDER WOMAN proves you can do that without sacrificing entertainment, humor and romance. Yes, it's very progressive and will be seen as a landmark for portraying women in blockbuster films, but at its core WONDER WOMAN is an amazing comic book movie, plain and simple, that honors the character and gives her an almost perfectly crafted movie to shine in.

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