Wonder Woman: Patty Jenkins nails the directing, Gal Gadot nails the role

Last weekend I made the mistake of not reserving my movie tickets for Wonder Woman ahead of time and ended up having to decide whether I wanted to see a later showing or go home. I opted for an extra hour’s wait — and it was worth it.

Here is what I wrote **pseudo-spoilers ahead** for Conservative Book Club:

Director Patty Jenkins can make a strong case that she had one of the most pressure-packed Hollywood tasks in recent memory — making Wonder Woman a blockbuster for Warner Bros. She needed to please fans of a character with over 70 years of history while overcoming doubts about the direction of the DC Extended Universe and Gal Gadot’s acting.

Mission accomplished.

Wonder Woman, much like Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011, was the kind of job where studio executives pull one off to the side and say, “Good luck, but don’t you dare screw this up.” Ms. Jenkins, like her creative peer, responded by churning out an upbeat film of solid craftsmanship across the board. Gadot’s Princess Diana just so happened to make her debut during World War I instead of World War II (both ideal backdrops for films pitting good against evil).

As is the case with most quality superhero origins, Wonder Woman takes its time establishing the character’s backstory before fists start flying and guns go blazing. This fish-out-of-water tale required the women of Themyscira to meet military men like Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), and Ms. Jenkins wisely dictated slower pacing. The DC Universe is one where Greek mythology meets Judeo-Christian beliefs, but writer Allan Heinberg (story byJason Fuchs and Zack Snyder) made it work.

The plot is simple: The first World War literally breaks through a protective bubble put in place by Zeus to hide the Amazons from the god of war, Ares. Diana saves Captain Trevor when his plane crashes into the ocean, which serves as the impetus for her to leave utopia and save mankind. She believes that locating and defeating Ares on the field of battle will end all war. Steve humorously goes along for the ride as a means of getting home, although a romance between the two heroes eventually grows.

Perhaps what is most impressive about Wonder Woman — besides a memorable “No Man’s Land” scene and the iconic “lasso of truth” — is the way Diana’s improved understanding of love and free will allow her to fully realize her potential. The god of war eventually comes across as a Satan stand-in, and Wonder Woman adopts, for all intents and purposes, a Catholic definition of love (i.e., willing the good of the other as other).

Check out the rest of the review here.

 

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Star Trek Beyond: For better or worse, Pegg’s script brings mindless summer fun

James T Kirk

Stark Trek Beyond is a peculiar movie. A cursory glance of the screenplay by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung would seem to have all the makings of a great adventure for the Enterprise crew. The problem, however, is that it is missing a certain level of intellectual gravitas that long-time fans of Gene Roddenberry’s creation have come to expect.

J.J. Abrams successfully rebooted the Star Trek franchise in 2009 and then followed that up with the solid Star Trek Into Darkness in 2013. Both movies pushed the creative pendulum more towards an action-oriented audience, but Beyond seems to fully embrace the “mindless summer fun” designation. Director Justin Lin of Fast & Furious 6 fame is happy to oblige, which is either horrible or great news depending on your allegiance to Mr. Roddenberry’s original vision.

Here is what you need to know about Beyond:

  • Chris Pine as Captain Kirk; Zachary Quinto as Spock; Karl Urban as Bones; Simon Pegg as Scotty; John Cho as Sulu; Zoe Saldana as Lieutenant Uhura; and the late Anton Yelchin as Chekov all look comfortable in their roles. Everyone has at least a brief moment to shine, and most of the humor hits the mark. The crew is scattered across a planet far out of reach of the United Federation of Planets, which allows for character development between Bones and Spock that should pay off in future movies.
  • Sofia Boutella is convincing and entertaining as Jaylah, a warrior who lives alone on a deserted Starfleet ship. There is one problem: She seems in many ways like a knockoff of Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Simon Pegg may deny lifting aspects of Rey from J.J. Abrams while on set filming his role as junk parts dealer Unkar Plutt, but the similarities are a bit too convenient (i.e., young, fiercely independent woman who lost her parents is great with mechanical devices and a staff. She is also intelligent, witty, and quick on her feet.)
  •   Idris Elba does a fine job with the script he was given as the villain Krall, who is after an ancient artifact in Kirk’s possession for reasons unknown for most of the movie. Elba’s problem, however, is that the character is underdeveloped. For the most of the movie he remains an enigma, and by the time his true nature it is revealed the audience reaction isn’t shock and awe, but, “Sure. I guess. You could have disclosed all this in the first act and then spent the rest of the movie making him a better foil.”
  • The Beastie Boys. I say this as someone who grew up in the 90s and has nothing but love for the song Sabotage: “Why, Simon Pegg? Why?” I do not want to spoil anything in the main body of this review, but I will gladly talk about the song’s role in the comments section below.

Is Beyond worth seeing in the theater at full price? The short answer is yes. It is by no means a bad movie, but at the same time it will be a bit frustrating to fans who expect something a tad more cerebral from their Star Trek fare.

This third installment of the rebooted franchise is the weakest in terms of exploring philosophical conundrums, and as a result the movie suffers. It is an enjoyable film, but it is not something that would capture Spock’s interest for longer than five seconds. That seems like a significant failure to this blogger.

Jaylah

Did you see Star Trek Beyond? If so, let me know what you thought in the comments below. I’d love the hear what you have to say.

‘Wonder Woman’ trailer reaction exposes intellectual bankruptcy of Paul Feig on ‘Ghostbusters’ critics

The new Wonder Woman trailer came out on Saturday and the reaction has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Facebook feeds, Twitter streams, and YouTube videos exploded with excitement at the product. What has missing over the last 24 hours is someone who points out the obvious: Paul Feig’s “slime Ghostbusters critics as sexist” strategy only demonstrated his intellectually bankruptcy.

There are not armies of men (at least in western nations) who have a problem with seeing strong women on film. That was a lie meant to divide people for Sony’s benefit.

The Wonder Woman trailer wraps a giant “lasso of truth” around Mr. Feig’s desperate attempt to save his shoddy product. You cannot get any more “girl power” than Wonder Woman, and every time a shameless Hollywood producer tries play the sexist card in the future they should be punched in the face with the collective fist of fan-approval for Wonder Woman.