Review – What A Woman! (“Wonder Woman”)

Finally! From her brief appearance in Batman v Superman last year, many a fanboy have been jonesing for a stand-alone Wonder Woman film, given the history of this DC comic book throughout the years. Did you know there almost a Wonder Woman TV series back in 2011 by David E. Kelley? True. But I digress…

Taking our heroine back to the beginning (a very good place to start), we have the ancient hidden island of Themyscira where young Diana (Emily Carey), daughter of Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), plays around and gets trained by her aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright). But little Diane is no ordinary Amazon girl like the others, she’s got a hidden secret that she doesn’t know about, but more on that later. Growing up, Diana (Gal Gadot) gets a shock after rescuing WWI downed pilot and American spy, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine).

Apparently the world’s at war and she’s hell bent on stopping it, especially because she believes, Ares (the god of war), is behind it all. Assimilating into a strange culture isn’t easy, but Steve tries to help her, even though she’s fully capable (she speaks any language and can kick major-ass). Y’see, Steve’s just discovered a terrible threat: even though the Germans are on the verge on signing an armistice to end the war, a dangerous and disfigured chemist called Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya) has developed a special mustard gas that is beyond lethal, and her very looney and equally dangerous general, Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) wants war, not peace.

Ignoring orders, Steve and Diana round up a motley crew to secretly infiltrate Belgium where Ludendorff is. They are: actor and agent Sameer (Said Taghmaoui), Scottish sharpshooter Charlie (Ewen Bremner), and scavenger Chief (Eugene Brave Rock). Coming to their 11th hour rescue with funds is British cabinet member, Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis). Also helping out is Steve’s comic-relief secretary, Etta Candy (Lucy Davis). So, off our heroes go, and Diana learns first-hand the horrors of war and, going into full action mode, takes on an entire German platoon. Nice!

Learning that Ludendorff will be at a gala at a nearby castle, Steve and gang infiltrate the party, but disaster strikes as a gas bomb kills the nearby village. Diana is devastated and goes after Ludendorff herself in a rage, but is stunned when she finds out that he wasn’t who she thought he was. But, surprise! Ares shows up and all hell breaks loose in a spectacular show-down that pits the god of war against Diana.

This is Allen Heinberg’s first screenplay, as he’s best known for mostly TV scripts (Sex and the City, Gilmore Girls), and what a terrific script it is! Borrowing elements from Captain America: The First Avenger, the entire story arc has a great flavor that isn’t rushed or pushed to extremes. Taken from the comic book, we get a true glimpse at Diana’s origins, the island, and her passion for doing good, just like Cappy. Really, these two outta meet some time. What I found enjoyable about the script was its women-empowered theme in Diana, without banging us over the head with a mallet to do so. A richly woven tapestry of the classic comic book superhero trope combined with the long-overdue female perspective.

Gal Gadot, who wowed audiences last year, doesn’t disappoint as lead here as the innocent abroad, learning the terrible truths that will shape her later on. Chris Pine is perfect as her love interest and the two are a matched set with great chemistry on screen. Although the villains were too reminiscent of Red Skull and Arnim Zola (see Captain America), as well as Trevor’s band of misfit recruits, the energy and excitement are all up there on the screen.

This is largely in part to director Patty Jenkins, who has never directed an action feature film before. Her TV credits (Arrested Development, Entourage) and her highly engaging movie, Monster, has led her to this and WOW! Who’da thought she’d deliver such a whiz-bang (complete with slo-mo and bullet-time shots) action film! Brava!

Although it hasn’t been inked (and you probably saw this coming, didn’t you?), sequel talk has already been spoken of and Jenkins is on board to do it again. But in case that doesn’t happen (and in Hollywood, anything can happen), look for Wonder Women to appear again in the upcoming Justice League movie this November 17th.       

               

Supergirl (1984)

*

It was inevitable that, back in 1984, given the popularity of the Superman movie franchise with Christopher Reeves, that a spin-off had to happen. So, this movie happened, but NOT by the same producers and movie company. Yeah, that would explain alot.

Noted for it’s multiple Golden Raspberry Awards, Supergirl had a stellar cast, but a terrible script written by David Odell who, oddly enough, wrote such wonderful films like Running Scared and The Dark Crystal. I guess everyone’s entitled to a few clunkers now and then, right? Anyway, this story has the the innocent Kara Zor-el (Helen Slater) of Argo City (a Kryptonian neighborhood) accidentally, thanks to Zaltar (Peter O’Toole), opening a pocket of trans-dimensional space with a powerful device called a  Omegahedron, where Kara is sucked through and sent to Earth.

On Earth, the Omegahedron is recovered by Selena (Faye Dunaway), a power-hungry witch who has a goofy assistant named Bianca (Brenda Vaccaro). Sound familiar, Superman fans? Meanwhile, a blonde Kara on Earth learns she has extraordinary powers and goes after the Omegahedron, but first she must disguise herself as a brunette Linda Lee, the cousin of Clark Kent. She enrolls at an all-girls school where she befriends Lucy Lane (Maureen Teefy), the younger sister of Lois Lane. Supergirl/Linda Lee also meets and becomes enamored with Ethan (Hart Bochner), who works as a groundskeeper at the school.

Ethan also catches the eye of Selena, who drugs him with a love potion, but it doesn’t work, so Selena uses her new-found powers to animate a construction vehicle to bring Ethan back to her, causing chaos in the streets. Supergirl rescues Ethan and he falls in love with her instead (while in the guise of Linda Lee). Supergirl and Selena repeatedly battle in various ways, until Selena uses her powers to zap Supergirl into the Phantom Zone. There, stripped of her powers, she wanders the bleak landscape and nearly drowns in an oily bog until Zaltar (he’s there, too) sacrifices his life to allow Supergirl to escape through a mirror.

Misusing the Omegahedron, Selena makes herself a “princess of Earth” with Ethan as her lover, and summons a gigantic shadow demon to defeat Supergirl… again. Supergirl begins flying in circles around Selena, trapping her in a whirlwind as she, Bianca, and the shadow demon are sucked back into the Phantom Zone mirror. Free from Selena’s spell, Ethan admits his love for Linda Lee, but Supergirl must save Argo City first, and returns the Omegahedron to Krypton at the end. What a dumb ending! Even with the appearance of Jimmy Olsen (Marc McClure) from the Superman movies and talk of Superman, this movie lacked the excitement or fun captured by the original.

This was Helen Slater’s film debut and you could tell she was nervous, and can you blame her? Filling in those iconic red boots and cape and working next to Academy Award actors O’Toole and Dunaway? Thankfully, she had a better career later on with much better films.

Needless to say, this movie bombed big time at the box office, which was a shame, given the fact that zero female superhero films had been previously made. Wonder Woman was a TV series from 1975-1979, but in the cinema there was this failure. Screenwriter Odell merely copycatted Superman’s Lex Luther/Otis — villain/silly henchman trope and added a lazy, ho-hum plot with out even trying to flesh-out Kara’s backstory or her personal turmoils. Sloppy, damn sloppy.

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