WONDER WOMAN*** A Woman Worth the Wonder

WHEN IN THE dying months of the Great War, Diana (aka Wonder Woman) loosens her hair and, sword in hand, strides fearlessly into No Man’s Land, this just about OK movie, earned its price of admission. Israeli ex-soldier Gal Gadot (from some of the endless “Fast and Furious” moneymakers) is Diana, daughter of Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) queen of the Amazons…crafted in clay and brought alive by Zeus himself. She’s a statuesque beauty that exudes an on-screen presence that’s simply Wowza. More than that, she makes for a thoroughly convincing Amazon. Beauty meets badass like never before.

The movie was directed by Patty Jenkins (‘Monster”) and has, so far, proven to be the highest ever, grossing movie by a woman. To borrow from the old Virginia Slims slogan, “We’ve [OK, they’ve] come a long way babe!” Here’s a super-hero action movie that’s about a colony of warrior women who have chosen to do without men; and that features a fearless woman who doesn’t need the strong arm of a man to help her out as she does battle with the god of war (and most of the German army).

And one that’s had an opening weekend of +$180M.

“Wonder Woman” is both an origin myth (usually the strongest of the superhero tropes, which almost always trail off into repetition thereafter) and a coming of age story. We first meet Diana as a (rebellious) child, desperate to learn the pugilistic ways of her tribe of Amazons. They live in a sort of time-warp bubble in the paradisiacal island of Themiscyra… where they mainly seem to train in mixed martial arts (in a sort of Amazonian fitness centre); all in preparation for the possible return of Ares, the (defeated) god who brought war to the world. War comes to their paradise when Steve, an Allied fighter pilot (Chris Pine) somehow crashes through their invisibility shield. By now the child has morphed into a woman, well capable of plunging deep into the wine dark sea to rescue him. He speaks of a world at war; of terrible loss of life and human suffering. Perhaps the dread Ares (David Thewlis) has retuned. Diana feels she must leave her paradise and return with Steve to kill Ares and end the war. Or maybe she’s just motivated by the sight of her first naked man. He is, after all, above average he tells her, a piece of boasting she no doubt feels compellingly motivating.

And so it came to pass, Diana grew to experience both war and love.

Many battles ensued.

Director Jenkins stages some really impressive – often slo mo- battle scenes as Diana spins and somersaults her way to taking out legions of bad guys… with her sword, shield and Olympian lasso.

The weak link in the whole enterprise is its uninspired script. Alan Heinberg, whose main claim to fame is the ABC crime drama, “The Catch” is credited with the screenplay along with Zac Snyder (credited as story creator and director of the dreary Superman reboots and the turgid “300: Rise of an Empire”) and Jason Fuchs (who wrote “Rags: The Movie”, one of those movies seen only by his family). This trio never quite manage either to attempt at plausibility or even to give Diana’s character, character.

Thank the gods, Gal Gadot manages to pull it off despite them.
And now she’s off for lunch with Bruce Wayne. Those Amazons. They do get around


Wonder Woman. Dir: Patty Jenkins. With: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston. Writer: Allan Heinberg. Production Designer: Aline Bonetto (“Pan”). Cinematographer: Matthew Jensen (“Fantastic Four”)



BATMAN v SUPERMAN***Packs a Punch


DESPITE THE FACT Zack Snyder gave us one of the worst films of some time (300) and a dull as dishwater Superman (Man of Steel), his new DC Comics blockbuster (it’s that time of year), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is, if over-long and over-stuffed, a thrilling, operatic re- engagement with the Batman and Superman franchises.

DC Comics must have been suffering from Marvel envy. Marvel’s Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Avengers, Spiderman, multiple TV shows and, of late, Deadpool franchises have been raking in the money. For DC Comics, what with the Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale Batman trilogy long past, only a tepid Superman (nobody remembers Brandon Routh as Superman in Superman Returns) to count on, and with JJ Abrams tied up with Star Wars, it must have been a desperate board that turned to Zac once again.

This time, the producers paired Zack and his group of regulars (Larry Fong, the cinematographer and Patrick Tatopoulis, the production designer… 300 was rubbish, but it was lovely to look at) with a strong writing team (David Goyer who wrote the story of The Dark Knight Rises and Chris Terrio from Argo) and a tremendous ensemble cast. The result is that a potential gimmick (a la Alien v Predator) has been transformed into a delight.

The story centers around what Bruce Wayne (himself an unregulated vigilante) considers to be an existential threat to humanity: the rise in popularity of an equally unregulated vigilante who is also an immortal alien with a strong God complex: Superman.


To Bruce, this is a man who could, at a whim, destroy us all. We are ushered into the story via the concluding scenes of from the previous Superman movie (his battle against Zog): scenes of massive destruction and untold loss of human life. Zac makes a clear visual link to the fall of the twin towers, as an anguished, pissed off Bruce rushes into the engulfing cloud of debris. In his despair, a mission coalesces: rid the world of Superman. Man must kill off the God.

Into this drama of egos, enters the twitchy, crazy Lex Luthor, a man in possession of enough Kryptonite to destroy the man of steel, and bent on unleashing the forces of hell. Just to round things up, an avenging angel (Wonder Woman) joins this mythic battle of man v God v The devil.

Good Easter fare.

Zack plays the story without a trace of irony (though the writing is often laugh out loud witty) and his cast is uniformly excellent. batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-ben-affleck

Ben Affleck, much criticized when this casting was announced is a tremendous Batman. He’s sullen, driven and haunted by nightmares. He’s also the most ruthless Batman ever. Henry Cavil, whose performances as Superman and the man from U.N.C.L.E have been more wooden than a lumberyard full of ply-wood, actually exudes what passes for real emotion. His Superman is a man more of anguish than of steel. His powers weigh him down, and he’s burdened by responsibility. His love interest, Lois Lane is a feisty, fearless Amy Adams…a damsel in distress who refuses to be a damsel in distress. mgid-ao-image-mtv

Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is a treat. His Luthor (usually played as a comic buffoon) is part Mark Zukerman (charming, young man of the people) and part Keith Ledger’s Joker (wide-eyed, demented). It’s a frightening mix. images-3

And absolutely holding her own in this class of talent is a (relative) newcomer: the Israeli born Amazonian beauty, Gal Gadot (From The fast and Furious movies) as the fierce, badass Wonder Woman (who fortunately has shed her naff Stars and Stripes one piece bath suit for something more befitting a warrior princess). Even Jeremy Irons, in the smaller supporting role as Alfred adds gravitas to the ensemble.

So all is well in the blockbuster world. DC Comics is back in business (after all the name…Dawn of Justice is a nod to the, no doubt, soon to be released Justice League ensemble) to ensure Marvel isn’t the sole super-power around.
At least I think all is well…except for (spoiler alert) Clark Kent, who is dead.

And what of Superman?