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Thread: WONDER WOMAN (2017/dir. Patty Jenkins)

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    WONDER WOMAN (2017/dir. Patty Jenkins)

    I'm seeing Wonder Woman tonight in 3-D. I'm a DC freak, so I have to be there on opening night.
    This is the first-ever feature film of Wonder Woman in 75 years! I'm a little stoked...
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    Gal Gatot and James Cosmo in Wonder Woman

    "Deep Focus" column on Wonder Woman by Michael Sragow in Film Comment out June 1, 2017 and I may reprint that below.

    My first look comment.

    I'm not sure I'll write a review myself because comic book movies are not my forte. But this one had a fresh feel. Beginning with characters out of Greek mythology and introducing a charming and hunky escapee from World War I (Chris Pine), then taking the Amazon Diana to WWI-era London, then to the Front, avoided anything I remember from previous comic blackbusters, and there was a light touch in the effects. Most importantly Gal Gadot's ease in the gymnastic action exploits of Diana, and Chris Pine's effortless commitment to the action. They really seemed like a couple of pals all through, and nothing felt forced. Having David Thewlis in an important and ultimately ambiguous role did not hurt. I would have to side with Sragow on the ending: it slides into noisy convention, and I skipped the last five minutes or so, knowing I'd had the most fun the movie had to offer an hour or so earlier. Seeing an Amazonian woman break through the French-German front was something new. So were the first intimate scenes between Diana and Trevor (Pine), telling her he's "above average." Or trying to get an Amazon in nearly-nude outfit and armor re-dressed in proper 1910 British outfit. Her looking at a big girdle in a show window: "Is this what you women wear for armor here?" Going back further: the girl Amazon trainees practicing martial arts and doing fly-through-the air Chinese wushu moves - I'd like to have seen more of those. But then again, nothing is overdone, and that's rare.

    Up till the last sequences, you really felt the filmmakers had avoided conventionality very nicely.

    And by the way: this was directed by a woman. Important in the wake of comments by women prominent at the Cannes Festival just ended, where Beguiled, dicrected and written by Sofia Coppola and starring three women, won the Best Director prize, while Nicole said she is going to make it a policy to work with a female director every 18 months.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-02-2017 at 06:21 PM.

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    "Deep Focus" column on Wonder Woman by Michael Sragow

    Reprinted from Film Comment of June 1, 2017.

    By Michael Sragow

    Wonder Woman is a spectacular delight, up till the obligatory and repetitive last-act combat of the gods. Sweet and funny but with a kick to it, this movie pulls off the rare pop culture feat of hitting the dead center of the Zeitgeist, without breaking a sweat. Though it rightly shuns topical references, it makes a tiara seem as revolutionary as a pussy hat, with the message "love trumps hate." For the next few months, the word "Amazon" will no longer immediately refer to an online retail giant but to the female warriors who inhabit an island kingdom. And "Princess Diana" will summon not only Britain’s tragic "people’s princess" but this film’s triumphant goddess (soulfully embodied by Gal Gadot), who leaves the Amazon'’ island with dashing American flyer turned Allied spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine, having the time of his young life). She aims to conquer Ares, the God of War. Along the way, she brings World War I to its bitter end.



    It might sound overly ambitious for a superhero film to transport The Great War into blockbuster American pop culture, but Wonder Woman does it deftly and movingly. (And, to our national shame, what other form of mass entertainment has marked this momentous centennial?) The original Wonder Woman fought the Nazis, but it’s surprisingly pungent to depict her fighting "the war to end all wars." Ending war is what she thinks she’s doing when she and Steve team up to stop the evil General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) from using a lethal gas devised by evil genius Dr. Maru aka "Dr. Poison" (Elena Anaya).

    Diana believes the general is Ares in disguise. Is she the one true heir of a special Olympian legacy? Does the God of War actually walk 20th-century Earth? Suspense and magic meld in Wonder Woman. Combining a superhero origin story with a combat film, an espionage caper, and an apocalyptic ultra-fighting championship (the weakest link), the director, Patty Jenkins, recaptures the scintillating looseness comic books once had, before they became "graphic novels." Jenkins and screenwriter Allan Heinberg generally keep the tone supple and the narrative nimble, even while erecting a modern-day frame and navigating myths within myths—the movie is mostly one headlong flashback.

    The filmmakers give us exactly what audiences want from a Wonder Woman movie—powerful women in classical armor training for breathtaking combat—then leaven it with the farcical sight of Diana as a tyke (Lilly Aspell) playing Amazon-see-Amazon-do with martial arts. They unveil their creation story in animation that resembles a pop art Sistine Chapel with 3-D figures and cartoon energy bolts. On her home island of Themyscira (known in older comic books as "Paradise Island"), Diana’s mom, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), tells her about Ares, who poisoned mankind and hates the Amazons; Zeus created the female warriors to redeem men via love. Ares killed off the rest of the gods. Zeus, himself critically wounded, severely weakened the God of War and, for the Amazons, created Themyscira as a haven, where they could prepare to defeat Ares if ever he were to rise again. Hippolyta tells Diana she sculpted her out of clay (she’s the only baby on the island), but early on Jenkins teases an alternate birth narrative. When Hippolyta releases Diana to train with General Antiope (Robin Wright), Hippolyta’s sister, she reveals matchless strengths and instincts and extraordinary super-powers, such as the ability to create convulsive force-fields when she slams two metallic cuffs together.

    Wonder Woman moves with sumptuous confidence even before Steve punches a hole through Themyscira’s invisible shield and crash-lands in glittering virgin waters. Jenkins lets each scene play out to the end. She gives you time to savor the fine-grained beauties of Matthew Jensen’s supernal cinematography (this movie exploits the depth and range of actual film). And Aline Bonetto’s swirling storybook production design, which includes harmonious Art Deco swirls and a woman-made rendition of Lake Powell’s Rainbow Arch, is in turn glorious, poignant, and inspiring. Everything seems fresh, not over-calculated or worried into emotional oblivion. It’s even kind of fun that Wright sounds more Scandinavian than Nielsen, who is Danish-born.

    The movie’s MacGuffin is Dr. Poison’s manual of evil, with her handwritten array of coded formulae for WMDs. Steve has stolen it and the German navy tails him for it. The ensuing shoreline battle between Hippolyta’s warriors and the Kaiser’s marines fulfills the comic-book fantasy in Hawkman comic books as well as Wonder Woman—using weapons of the past to defeat modern firepower. Jenkins and her team employ variable speeds to keep the action credible, dynamic, and involving. They imbue their big Amazon set piece with choreographic glee. It’s exhilarating to see Wright as General Antiope launch herself like a catapult off a shield or release three arrows at once to bring down a trio of enemy fighters simultaneously.



    Credit for Gadot and Pine’s instant sexy-humorous rapport goes to these performers and to the understated flirty comedy in Heinberg’s script. (Heinberg shares story credit with Zack Snyder and Jason Fuchs.) Diana speaks nothing but the truth. Trevor, a gung-ho espionage agent, can’t help twisting himself into verbal knots. She treats him partly as a novelty, partly as a sidekick and instructor. She can be devastating when she’s matter-of-fact. Espying him toweling off naked in an Amazonian hot tub, she asks whether he’s a typical man. Rattled, he replies he’s “above average.” Even when he gets comfortable with her, he never fully shakes his disbelief over how lucky he was that he found her—or, rather, that she found him. Playing a second banana who’s very close to the top banana liberates Pine’s gifts for irony, abashment, and romantic comedy. Pine builds his performance with cunning. He’s amiably mock-heroic, then stirringly heroic. He makes us see why Wonder Woman would fall in love with him.

    Gadot is mind-bendingly good—naturally supernatural. The key to her performance is playing Diana as the protagonist in a delayed coming-of-age story. On her island she’s constantly proving herself or discovering new and unexpected powers. In London, where she and Steve visit the War Office, or Belgium, where she blazes through the trenches and helps save a town from German terror, she keeps learning about human fashions, foibles, duplicities, and atrocities, without losing her belief in mankind’s potential redemption. Her tragic experiences strengthen her faith in the healing power of love. Gadot creates a Wonder Woman for all ages, infusing childlike earnestness and idealism with adolescent intensity and adult heft. She’s an acrobatic comedian when she tries on 1918 fashions and tests whether they allow her combat moves full sway. She’s an offhand drop-dead gorgeous model when she sports a modified Brit uniform with slouch hat and specs. And she’s a full-scale romantic heroine when she gives her all for love.

    At no point does Wonder Woman become a one-woman show. In London, Steve reconnects with his cheerful can-do secretary Etta Candy (the uproarious Lucy Davis) and enlists the support of two trusted special ops, the fast-talking French Moroccan con-man and ex-actor Sameer (the charming, effusive Saïd Taghmaoui) and the PTSD-afflicted Scottish sharpshooter Charlie (played by Ewen Bremner with his usual boisterous lyricism, especially when he sings Robert Burns’s “Green Grow the Rashes, O”). On the Continent, they join up with a Native American smuggler known as “Chief” (Eugene Brave Rock, a massive presence), while Steve reports back to his silent partner in the Imperial War Cabinet (the marvelously elusive David Thewlis).

    Along with Anaya’s Dr. Poison, who draws out her best lines with sardonic menace, each gets a moment to shine in Bonetto’s glittering showcase. The woman who designed one of my favorite movies of this millennium, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement, outdoes herself in Wonder Woman. Until the battering finale, she and Jenkins focus the action so that even in the ravages of no-man’s-land, the sound and fury signify something. When we respond to Wonder Woman drawing German fire with her shield, we’re reacting to the nobility behind the conception. When Steve and Diana dance in the snow at night outside a Belgian café, we feel their warmth slicing through the darkness.



    So it’s doubly deflating that the climactic confrontation between Wonder Woman and Ares plays like just one more cage match sadly plucked out of a cage. It’s a noisy synthesis of every head-pounding clash between Good and Evil we’ve seen in the past two decades. How often can we watch a super-antagonist mold asphalt and metal like Silly Putty and push the protagonist to the breaking point? It’s bizarre to think such a sight could be a bit ho-hum. After that gargantuan conflict, the denouement is blissfully quiet.

    Earlier, when Diana and Steve amble through the streets around Selfridge’s department store, they pass shop signs for "Bunbury of London." It must be a reference to Oscar Wilde’s notion of "Bunburying" in The Importance of Being Earnest—using a fictional excuse to get out of doing something humdrum. Whether Bonetto, Jenkins, or a set decorator planted that homage, it speaks to this entire production’s resistance to anything tedious—except, that is, for the last-god-standing climax.

    Wonder Woman puts many of the comic book’s gimmicks on full display, from her Lasso of Truth to her bullet-deflecting bracelets. Mostly, though, the movie’s freshness derives from the purity of feeling that emanates from the core of its star. It has taken nearly eight decades for "America’s guardian angel" to swoop onto the big screen. Who knew DC Comics fans were really waiting for Gadot?

    ______________________

    Michael Sragow is a contributing editor to Film Comment and writes its Deep Focus column. He is a member of the National Society of Film Critics and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. He also curates “The Moviegoer” at the Library of America website.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-02-2017 at 06:34 PM.

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    Great stuff. Thanks Chris.

    Yes, Ms. Jenkins avoided conventionality, and that's to be applauded. I loved the movie. It delivered.
    They didn't squander the first opportunity for Wonder Woman to have her own feature.
    Gal Gadot is a Beauty. She passes for an Amazonian Warrior. I loved her origins, which they maintained from the comics.
    Nice fantasy shots of Amazons training for combat, great sprawling vistas- I highly recommend seeing this in 3-D. The images were popping off the screen!

    This has your standard action sequences for SuperHero blockbusters, and these were all done well. David Thewlis as Ares, God of War was Awesome. They were talking about Ares so much, I was wondering if he'd ever show up. But he did, and it was Glorious. My favorite part was Wonder Woman fighting him full-Throttle, after that incredible scene where she leaves the Paths of Glory trenches and faces German machine gun nests...Huzzah. You Go Girl!

    Costumes are eye-grabbing, and all of the timeline-sensitive set pieces all passed muster by my reckoning. I wanted to watch it again as soon as it was over, it's that appealing. Wonder Woman comics will sell this summer, Boy!
    The CGI they used for her golden lasso lent it some nice mystical power. She can also deflect bullets with her gauntlets beautifully.
    She's a little naive about things, but this is her first movie, and she's getting her legs. And what legs they are...Ooh La La...
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    They really served up the villains in this one, Dr. Maru & the "German Menace" of poison gas...I was surprised they went back to WW1. WW2 is the TRUE origin...
    This is a Major movie, and I don't care that the ending was a slugfest with a predictable end. The movie had a purpose, had a lot riding on it. And they delivered. If they screwed up Wonder Woman, they'd never live it down. They'd have to scramble to make amends to a lot of fans. And if it sucked, I'm not sure I'd forgive them. This is one character that you'd better get right, right out of the gate, right out of the starting block.

    Many thanks to Zack Snyder and Patty Jenkins FOR NOT FUCKING THIS ONE UP!
    I hope it sells a billion tickets.
    Diana of Themyscira has Arrived.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    Was Lynda Carter not given a cameo?
    I never saw her..
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    Lynda Carter said she would like a bigger role, but just a walk-on she wouldn't; on the other hand Chris Pine hinted she might appear.

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    The Female Soul of a Superhero Action Movie is Missing

    I had to really spend some time re-watching Jennifer Garner in Elektra (2005) to realize why I wasn't as thrilled as I thought I would be having waited over six months to see Wonder Woman. Even though it is directed by a female, the male written script and plot itself doesn't quite achieve the potential of a new female superhero phenomenon and what such a blockbuster movie could really offer to film world. I hope the sequel will be able to do so.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tabuno View Post
    I had to really spend some time re-watching Jennifer Garner in Elektra (2005) to realize why I wasn't as thrilled as I thought I would be having waited over six months to see Wonder Woman. Even though it is directed by a female, the male written script and plot itself doesn't quite achieve the potential of a new female superhero phenomenon and what such a blockbuster movie could really offer to film world. I hope the sequel will be able to do so.
    Please say more about Elektra. It's not clear to me what you think about it.

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    Tabuno- Elektra doesn't come close to what Wonder Woman is. It's a good movie, but did Elektra make half a billion dollars in record time? And you can't say it was all because of name...
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    All about money?

    Yes, of course Wonder Woman has collected tons of money, yet when it comes to the more intimate and finely appreciated subtlety of natural versus supernatural powers, it is much more believable that Elektra might be much real that Wonder Woman. There is more focus on Elektra and both her personal turmoil of being cast out by her teacher and the lessons learned than Wonder Woman. Elektra's martial arts seem to be more acute and sharply presented than Wonder Woman with her magic bullet repelling bracelets. The more intimate story with the father and daughter offers up a stronger emotional connection with the audience than the larger than life epic of Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman is more dazzle and sizzle, what Elektra is more personally meaningful and emotional appealing. Wonder Woman is directed more as what male audiences members might seek in what they imagine their feminine side might be in search of, whereas Elektra taps much more poignantly into the female heart and human connectivity between mother and child.
    Last edited by tabuno; 08-06-2017 at 04:25 PM.

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    tabuno, you are comparing Wonder Woman with the 2005 movie Elektra directed by Rob Bowman, Metacritic rating 34. I have no memory of it and didn't see it. When a movie is universally panned I tend to save my time for other entertainments. Oscar asks you why you prefer Elektra. Johann is not just worshiping money, he's merely suggesting that major box office success usually means a movie has something to offer. Elektra cost $43 for production, and made $24 million in the US, about $56.7 million worldwide including US, so a much more modest success than Wonder Woman, but they did make their money back eventually. A look at the review excerpts on Metacritic for Elektra show it was deemed to have little to offer besides pretty images and a striking looking star.

    Here are the top comments quoted in Metacritic:

    50
    ReelViews James Berardinelli
    One of the least effective comic book-to-movie stories to have come along in the past few years. Without a viable screenplay, there's nowhere for the character to go, and no way to avoid making her look silly.
    50
    Variety

    Elektra proves no more than fitfully satisfying, a character-driven superhero yarn whose flurry of last-minute rewriting shows in a disjointed plot.
    50
    Charlotte Observer Lawrence Toppman

    Watching this is like sitting by a pinsetter at a bowling alley. That's too bad, because the picture had potential.

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    Tabuno- Elektra is entertainment, it was serviceable, Jenifer Garner is very pretty, but Wonder Woman is much more ambitious and Grand. It does have a lot more to offer, and I disagree about it being for male audience members. It's one of the strongest female movies you'll find, recent or otherwise. And it's not corny or campy, which Elektra slips into.
    I like Elektra, both as a comic book character and as a movie. But they could reboot Elektra and do a WAY better job. It was just a companion movie to Daredevil, which a lotta fans think is a dud.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    Chris has male critics to support his viewpoint

    It's interesting to observe that the two critics who Chris quoted appeared to have male names. Of course most adventure action movies are usually dominated by male audience members. What was great of Elektra was that it was more balance in its regard to both action and substantive emotional cerebral content. As I've noted with Wonder Woman, the movie was more about how an action movie might incorporate a female lead using a male perspective, thus Johann's description "the strongest female movies you'll find, recent or otherwise." For me, the necessity of having a "strong" female movie only supports my irritation with this movie. I prefer Elektra because its character was eventual shown to be sensitive, caring, and mindful while at the same time respectful of her deadly abilities. This was an essential lesson that Elektra was to learn - that humanity was more important than skillful strength.
    Last edited by tabuno; 08-06-2017 at 10:49 PM.

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    Tabuno- you are aware that Wonder Woman was directed by a woman, right?
    You are saying that a man (Rob Bowman) did more right by women than Patty Jenkins?
    Wonder Woman is a feminist Icon. Elektra is not.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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