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Wonder Woman Sails Into Shiny Waters

So obviously a lot has been going on in recent months all about, but I did manage to go see the long awaited and much speculated about Wonder Woman movie, starring Gal Gadot. I enjoyed it overall and give it about a B+ grade, which, given the DC multiverse’s film record the last few years, is quite good. The action scenes were mostly great, very cleverly done, the cinematography and use of color and audio with homages to the comics themselves was interesting and nicely shaped by the director, Patty Jenkins. The special effects were sometimes a bit uneven – some of them were great but a few looked a bit too electronic game animation-like. That’s going to happen, though, and it’s pretty amazing at how extensive a range of things they can CGI create now. There were a few points of the plot that didn’t make a great deal of sense – par for the course in action movies – and the ending had some very good dramatic stuff but also a fair amount of hokey stuff that didn’t quite pull it together as well as it might have been done.

But that also is a bit of a Wonder Woman tradition and they managed to set up Wonder Woman’s role in the up-coming Justice League movie quite well. There were a lot of shout-outs to the Wonder Woman comics, although the story and action were moved to World War I, the war that greatly changed both war itself and the idea of empire. They managed to jigger together the character’s many re-booted back stories to give her a cohesive background origin that worked with the movie’s main arc.

Gadot herself gave a very strong performance. She brought easy physicality to the role and handled the tricky mix of naïvety and smarts that is Diana first leaving her island about as well as could be managed. The main costume was still too Xena-ish but the movie may have started a new fashion trend of swords down the back of evening dresses (and the use of the sword was explained in the film.) Chris Pine showed his all to the audience as American spy Steve Trevor (and I do mean literally all.) He also had a tricky balance between playing a man of the 1918 time period trying to explain it to Diana and one who accepts backing her plays as leader in a changing world, as well as an island of warrior women, and I think he did a good job. Their canon romance was a bit rushed for the movie’s sake, but that really couldn’t be helped and they had good chemistry. The movie did a good job on the difficult issues of war and humanity that both of them have to grapple with, (though again the ending could have been stronger.)

Non-white representation in the movie was not great, which was a bit of a disappointment. Two major black canon characters were cut from the Amazons and WOC were token among them (though they did beautifully in their action scenes.) The main Amazon roles went to white, not particularly Mediterranean  appearing actresses — Robin Wright was steely sharp as Diana’s “fun” aunt and Connie Nielsen had the rather thankless role of Diana’s worried queen mom, Hippolyta. Two major supporting characters were non-white men and both actors, Said Taghmaoui and Eugene Brave Rock, did really good performances with what they had. Problem is that what they had were awful stereotypes, which may have been partly because their characters were actually drawn from the DC Comics, but things definitely could have been improved in the script. The film seemed to acknowledge itself on the sad state of Hollywood in this area, including one very pointed line of dialogue delivered by Taghmaoui. So here’s hoping DC does better in the other movies.

Ewen Bremner also had to deal with some stereotypes – Scottish ones for his part – and managed to also give a nice performance nonetheless. Elena Anaya and the renowned Danny Huston made interesting villains. And Lucy Davis, who I particularly enjoyed in Shaun of the Dead, is a national treasure here as Trevor’s British assistant Etta, stealing every scene she’s in. The movie was not a laugh riot, given the subject matter, but it did use healthy doses of humor very effectively throughout, which is again a considerable improvement on the dour, muddled DC film universe so far. If you haven’t had a chance to catch the film yet, I’d say it’s well worth your time even if you’re not the biggest Wonder Woman fan, for the action visuals alone.

If the movie Wonder Woman had been a regular big action film in our ideal world, my little review above would be the only things needing to be talked about. But of course the movie in the sexist system we still have was made the flashpoint of “will woman superhero movies ruin us,” with an enormous amount of pressure, including the responsibility to prop up sagging enthusiasm for the entire DC franchise in preparation for the up-coming Justice League movie.

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Women in Film – Part 2 – 2017 Analysis

So if women built on momentum in 2016, what is happening this year? A fair amount, given that the “summer blockbuster” season for 2017 started in early March with Fox’s Marvel X-Men entry Logan and reboot film Kong: Skull Island. Women play principle roles in both those movies – young Dafne Keen playing a mutant girl with Wolverine-like abilities, and rising player Brie Larson is in the new Vietnam-era set Kong as an intrepid war photo-journalist, along with Tian Jing playing a biologist.

Some other action movies have already rolled out in the last two and a half months as well, as the former dumping ground of the new year has become a potentially fertile time period. The two reigning queens of the horror action films, Kate Beckinsale and Milla Jovovich, have returned with Underworld: Blood Wars (which was pushed forward from its original October 2016 release date,) and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Jovovich’s final film for the game tie-in franchise. The new Resident Evil racked in $307+ millions on only a $40 million budget and still going, for an all-time high for the franchise. Underworld: Blood Wars has had a slower start, but brought in over $81 million on an even smaller budget and still going globally. The two actresses together also got some extra press for their work in these successful but often dismissed franchises, since media has noticed that women are now taking point just a tiny bit more in hit action and SFF films.

On a slightly different spoke of the action wheel, Disney’s live action musical version of Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson, had a record-breaking opening weekend with over $170 million domestically and has earned over $392 million in world box office. That’s good since the budget for the film was quite huge with the motion capture effects, and they estimate it might reach the billion dollar mark. Disney doing live action alt versions of its animated princess classics has so far been nothing but extremely popular, so more transformation of the vault properties are planned, as well as things like the up-coming 2018 Mary Poppins sequel. That’s going to give quite a few up and coming actresses spotlight roles backed by Disney’s machine.

The horror franchise of The Ring finally got its new one out, Rings starring Matilda Lutz. Rings has brought in over $81 million on a $25 million budget. And on a smaller scale, Before I Fall, adapted from the hit YA novel, stars Zoey Deutch and a female-heavy cast with a story of a teenager who relives the day of her death over and over, trying to change things. It hasn’t brought much money in yet, but has had a limited release.

In addition to Fifty Shades Darker bringing in audiences for nearly $375 million on the psychodrama front, women have so far this year played key roles in hits xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, The Great Wall, The LEGO Batman Movie, horror thriller Split, John Wick: Chapter Two, sleeper horror hit Get Out, and kid-friendly adventure Monster Truck. There’s also been a cluster of high grossing global Asian films, such as Jackie Chan’s Kung Fu Yoga and the animated film Your Name, in which women are doing major leads.

But what are the big up-coming films for the rest of the year with women leads? Chief among these for 2017 is first off Wonder Woman, out in June, starring Gal Gadot — the movie we’d come to believe would never actually happen as nervous studio executives just weren’t sure about risking big budget girl cooties. But DC Comics is in a film franchise arms race with Marvel/Disney, with The Justice League of which Wonder Woman is an integral part to be its answer to The Avengers. And DC is getting to beat Marvel to the punch with having the first woman-led film in their franchise, since Marvel’s Captain Marvel movie got pushed back to make room for Spider-Man being incorporated into their schedule and the Black Widow movie isn’t yet on the timetable. So they’ve poured quite a lot into promoting the film, with appealing trailers, and expectations are high for the first live action film of the most famous female superhero. Which of course raises the specter of studios possibly again blaming all actresses if Wonder Woman isn’t a blockbuster, and using that to try and nix future woman-led superhero movies as too risky. At this point, however, the momentum seems unstoppable – the machines of these comics franchises are just too big to risk leaving out the women. So Wonder Woman gets her movie shot and that’s a high water-mark for actresses in action.

No, I don’t know why they went with her kneeling either.

 

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Women In Film, Part 2 — 2015 Analysis

In this Part 2 of Women in Film, we are moving on from 2014 to our new year 2015.

2015 is going to be the year of big returning franchises. Some of the biggest of the biggest are set to hit from now in April through December this year: James Bond dusts himself off, a re-booted Mad Max, a new Jurassic Park, an alternate timeline (reboot) Terminator, Mission: Impossible V, and the big daddy of them all, the return of Star Wars, the final chapters, now that Disney bought out George Lucas. All of them are male-centric, and added to them are the starting films in Marvel’s multi-studio plan for world domination: Avengers 2, Ant-Man and a reboot of the Fantastic Four in the ancillary Marvel mutant-based universe owned by 20th Century Fox. Marvel has plans for the ladies (see below,) but they don’t really start this year (unless you count the wonderful show Agent Carter on television.)

So it doesn’t look like an ideal year for women film stars and I’m not going to pretend it will be a female showcase, but it’s not going to be a down-tread either. It’s kind of interesting what they’re doing. The new Bond film, Spectre, has been playing up its women more than usual – Monica Bellucci especially, and Lea Seydoux and Stephanie Sigman; and Mad Max: Fury Road has gone to enormous trouble to market having Charlize Theron kicking ass as a one-armed cyborg commander, with a bevy of young actresses playing major roles: Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, and Megan Gale. The Terminator franchise knows a warrior Sarah Connor goes over better, so in their new alternate timeline restart, Terminator Genisys, that’s what we’re getting with Emilia Clarke, backed by a possible android-playing Sandrine Holt.

Jurassic World has thrown their marketing focus understandably on having red hot Chris Pratt star, but the film is also featuring Bryce Dallas Howard in the co-star role, along with Judy Greer, Katie McGrath, and Lauren Lapkus. Mission: Impossible V returns, having disappointedly dumped Paula Patton’s very interesting character from the last movie (she’s off doing a t.v. series now,) but has substituted in up and comer Rebecca Ferguson. Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been very closed-mouthed about their cast, but we do know that Carrie Fisher returns as Princess Leia and that Gwendoline Christie, Lupita Nyong’o and Maisie Richardson-Sellers have major roles. And Furious 7 also returns this week, with its multi-ethnic cast in which Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Elsa Pataky, Ronda Rousey, and Nathalie Emmanuel play central roles, an aspect that they always market.

Moving to the female-led action films, so far this year, in what is considered the “dead” period at the start of the season, we’ve had Jennifer Lopez produce and star in the soapy psychological thriller The Boy Next Door, with a tiny budget that produced a solid hit. Jupiter Ascending, starring Mila Kunis, from the Wachowski siblings, was yanked from the summer blockbuster roster last year and dumped into February. While the movie is a bit of a hot mess, it made more sense than Prometheus and was a lot of fun. Its big budget special effects meant it wasn’t likely to be a hit, given the circumstances, but it’s breaking even and still doing world box office.

The big female-led action movie of the year will again be Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, the last film in the hit franchise. As such, and coming out around Thanksgiving a month before Star Wars, it’s likely to do pretty big. Also just coming out now is the sequel to Divergent, called The Divergent Series: Insurgent, with Shailene Woodley, which has already shot past its production budget in a week and is well on its way to being another big hit for that series. Disney is continuing to monetize its park rides with Tomorrowland, a big budget special effects sci-fi movie for the summer, starring Britt Robertson, who gets helped by George Clooney in saving an alternate world from destruction.

Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig again team up in May to produce and McCarthy to star in Spy, a comic spy thriller in which McCarthy plays a pencil-pusher analyst who has to take on a field agent role, backed by Rose Byrne, Jason Stratham and Jude Law. If successful, it puts McCarthy on a three year winning streak. Reese Witherspoon is also doing more producing and starring with Sofia Vergara in a comic buddy action film, Hot Pursuit, in which Witherspoon plays a cop protecting Vergara’s witness in a drug case.

Natalie Portman stars in Jane Got a Gun, a western about a woman trying to save her outlaw husband. And we have a whole passel of women-led thrillers: Selma Hayak produces and stars in a quirky film about a woman staving off assassins in Everly. Halle Berry seeks her stolen son in the film Kidnap. Emily Blunt continues her upward moves by starring in Sicario, as an FBI agent working with the CIA to take down a cartel. Viola Davis produced and stars in with Jennifer Lopez again the revenge thriller, Lila & Eve, in which two mothers go after the killers of their children. Olivia Wilde, Hailee Steinfeld and Nicole Beharie play three women surviving attacks by soldiers in The Keeping Room. Sanaa Lathan stars in the psychological stalker thriller The Perfect Guy, and Margot Robbie returns in the sci-fi post-apocalyptic movie Z for Zachariah, only very loosely based on the 1970’s novel.

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Wonder Woman and the Costume

Getting back in the saddle again, and one of the funnier things that happened when I was on hiatus was the release of photos from the supremely weird DC Comics movie venture, Batman v. Superman.

I have not had occasion to write about Wonder Woman for several years, largely because nothing much was happening with Wonder Woman. The television series was scrapped, the new look and new story version of Wonder Woman in the comics (the comfy pajamas look,) went bye-bye at the conclusion of that alternate universe idea, and she returned to an outfit that was a variation of the older version that also is in the animated stories, and got another slightly changed origin story. And of course, there was no Wonder Woman film on the horizon because it was “too hard” for them to do apparently.

Then came word that Wonder Woman might be in the possibly going to get made Justice League movie, DC’s attempt to build a Marvel-style multi-franchise. And then it was announced that she would have some sort of bit part in Batman vs. Superman, and be played by actress Gal Gadot. Shortly before and at the San Diego ComicCon, DC released some promotional stills that included the new movie Wonder Woman in her new costume.

What were they going to do? Would they go with the classic signature stars bathing suit, (which originally had a skirt that got shorter and shorter and then removed,) like they did in the t.v. show of the 1970’s? Would they put her in pants, like the comics attempted and they’d planned for the t.v. show? Would she have a full out unitard like Batman and Superman? Here’s what they went with:

gal-gadot-wonder-woman-news-sdcc1

That might seem a tad familiar:

2

Yep, they made Wonder Woman into Xena: Warrior Princess. This is not entirely unfair, as the look and some parts of the character of Xena were loosely modeled after Wonder Woman (ancient Greco-Roman don’t you know,) but the similarities are quite striking. Wonder Woman now has, like Xena, a sword, over the knee boots, bracers on her arms instead of bracelets, a leather doublet, a skirt of leather strap panels, all turned a dark wine red color akin to Xena’s reddish brown outfit.

In other words, their solution to the not really a problem costume problem was to go with yet another generic (and still impractical) style of costume — the fantasy lady quest warrior. Other than that she still has the lasso attached to her hip, you’d be very hard press to know that this picture of Gal Gadot was Wonder Woman unless you were told, and not instead a photo of some new character for the next 300 film sequel.

The irony of course is that in keeping their rebooted Superman, Henry Cavill, who is firmly rooted in the modern world, and having an aged version of Batman, played by Ben Affleck, DC/Warner actually had some grounds for giving Wonder Woman one of the more contemporary looks to match them. Instead, they went pseudo-ancient, so perhaps Wonder Woman is popping in from another dimension to borrow a cup of sugar. And when she does, she’ll be just another generic if kick-ass female, not distinctive, iconic, her own person. Not red and blue and gold — because Superman wears red and blue. Not immediately recognizable, like Batman in his unchanging black cowl. Just a female in red leather with a sword who could have been called anything.

Here’s hoping that they don’t decide to cut her out of the movie altogether in the end. Because for the last 75 years of Wonder Woman history, she is apparently very, very scary just as herself.

wonderwoman_large

 

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The Saga of Wonder Woman

I’ve apparently had some visitors from the DC Comics discussion boards re female action pictures from a conversation about the saga of Wonder Woman in media. So, since Wonder Woman has made a few appearances in this blog, I thought I’d throw those up for them in case they’re interested.

Here are my commentaries:

https://katgoodwin.wordpress.com/2010/08/29/the-costume-is-still-impractical/

https://katgoodwin.wordpress.com/2010/10/12/wonder-woman-is-haunting-me/

https://katgoodwin.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/wonder-woman-gets-her-look/

And here are News items that covered the saga of Wonder Woman getting rebooted to the screen:

https://katgoodwin.wordpress.com/2010/10/02/some-sff-news/

https://katgoodwin.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/sff-news/

https://katgoodwin.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/sffh-news-march-5th-2011/

https://katgoodwin.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/sff-news-7611/

 

The saga of Wonder Woman does continue. The latest news is that Warner/DC Comics is still planning a Justice League movie some time in the next few years and that this movie should include Wonder Woman in it, with a potential spin-off film if it goes well. That probably, oddly enough, depends on how the Green Lantern sequel movie does in relation to the first, pretty flawed Green Lantern movie starring Ryan Reynolds. That movie, while basically considered a dud, still managed to barely break even on its big budget. Now that they’ve dispensed with their version of an origin story, they can re-structure, I would assume the thinking is. So Wonder Woman may have her day, some time. Marvel, which has successfully so far launched the sort of platform Warner really wants to have, has hinted that they will do female superhero features in the future, but so far, no announcements have been forthcoming. It’s unlikely that Scarlet Johansen’s Black Widow character in Iron Man 2 and The Avengers will get her own film. So help us, Wonder Woman, you’re our only hope! (Well that, and many graphic novels about women characters that seem to be now in the works.)

 

 

 

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Wonder Woman Gets Her Look

Last year, I did a piece about how DC Comics had re-vamped female superhero extraordinaire Wonder Woman‘s costume, how the film people trying to make a Wonder Woman movie had worries about the old costume and so might use the new one, and how both costumes were impractical for superheroes:

https://katgoodwin.wordpress.com/2010/08/29/the-costume-is-still-impractical/

Since then, the Wonder Woman movie got nixed and the heroine got relegated back to television where David Kelly attempted to sell a new show about her, failed, then succeeded (leading us to wonder if Wonder Woman’s alter ego cover identity would be as a lawyer spending lots of time in a courtroom.) Actress Adrianne Palicki, previously from Friday Night Lights, was cast as the new Wonder Woman, and so the big first question was, how were they going to handle the costume in 2011. They went with the new one from the comics, right? Wrong! They combined the old traditional leotard costume with the new revamped Laura Croft style one in the comics. Behold:

It’s not horrible. There may be some screams from purists about turning the traditional red boots blue. And it’s still delightfully impractical. I said that the original costume was like a bathing suit with boots, the new comics one was like pajamas. This one: female pro wrestling! Which will be an interesting combination with David Kelly’s wordy dialogue. I don’t envy Palicki trying to go to the bathroom in those pants. But I’m giving it a thumbs up. At least it’s not generic and an Amazon princess should never be generic.

 

 

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SFFH News — March 5th, 2011

1) Colin Farrell has been cast to star in the new Total Recall remake for Sony Pictures. The new version of the film plans to hew even more closely to the story’s original Phillip K. Dick tale, “We Can Remember it for You Wholesale” than the 1990 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, but is keeping the first film’s title, and I’m guessing, some of the obscene body count.

2) Kyra Sedgwick, coming off her t.v. series The Closer, will star in the thriller Dibbuk Box with Jeffrey Dean Morgan, about a couple whose daughter becomes fixated on a dangerous, mysterious box.

3) Author and editor Peter Crowther has signed with Angry Robot for a series of apocalpytic science fiction novels, Forever Twilight. The series will have a blinding light engulf the planet and then fade to darkness, taking most of humanity with it. But then the survivors find that hordes of humans have returned, but they’re all changed, and not just their clothes. The first novel in the series will be called Darkness Falling.

4) Earlier, word came down that the Wonder Woman t.v. pilot from David E. Kelley had failed to find a buyer among the U.S. networks, who found it reportedly too pricey a risk. But NBC got bought by Comcast, changed its programming chairman and changed its mind. Kelley will be able to shoot the pilot and NBC will then decide whether to pick up the series in May. The show will now be set in Los Angeles in the modern day. Wonder Woman has been cast – actress Adrianne Palicki from Friday Night Lights. Lynda Carter, who played Wonder Woman on the iconic 1970’s series, has given Palicki her blessing and if Kelley doesn’t have Carter cameo on the show at some point, then he’s losing it. A feature film would have been nice, but at least Wonder Woman will have her resurrection too.

5) Also in comics news, a Black Panther movie is in the works, another long stalled project that may finally get rebooted. Black Panther, from the Marvel Comics universe, is possible the first African-American superhero in comics, first appearing in the mid-1960’s. Documentary filmmaker Mark Bailey is at work on the screenplay. It would be really nice if this gets off the ground. Wouldn’t mind him or another female character being in The Avengers either.

6) A titan of children’s fantasy, British author Brian Jacques, passed away in February at the age of 71 from a heart attack. Jacques’ long running Redwall series was translated into 29 languages and sold an estimated 20 million copies. Redwall involved a medieval world populated by animals and centered around an abbey. He also wrote the trilogy The Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, the Urso Brunov duology and two short story collections. Jacques was born in Liverpool and did a stint as a merchant sailor, a folk musician with the Liverpool Fishermen and a milkman. For twenty years, he had a radio show, Jakestown, on BBC Radio Merseyside. He received a honorary doctorate from the University of Liverpool. Among the awards he won were the American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults, the Carnegie Award, and the Western Australian Young Readers Award. An award in his name, the Brian Jacques Literary Award, is a yearly competition held in Liverpool. A last Redwall novel, The Rogue Crew, will be released this May. He will be missed.

7) When Inkheart, the first of Cornelia Funke’s much loved middle school kids fantasy trilogy, was adapted into a film starring Helen Mirren, Paul Bettany, Eliza Bennett, and Brendan Fraser, it was the victim of bad timing and didn’t do so well domestically. But globally and on video, the film earned money and so the sequel, Inkspell, has been greenlit as a film to be released in 2012 in 3-D. No word on how much of the cast may return. The Inkheart trilogy is about a family with the unusual gift of being able to read characters and things out of books.

8) Science fiction author Peter Watts had an unexpected near brush with death, or more specifically with necrotizing fasciitis, flesh-eating disease, which he apparently accidentally contracted during a skin biopsy. He is currently recovering in the hospital in Toronto, Ontario and has promised fans that he’ll post pictures of the giant hole in his leg. His next novel will be the game tie-in book Crysis: Legion, due out at the end of March.

9) Actor Jonah Hill is making his directorial debut with the comedy sci-fi film The Kitchen Sink for Sony Pictures. The screenplay was written by Orzen Uziel and is about everything including the kitchen sink – a group of high school kids is attacked by zombies, but then the zombies are attacked by vampires, and then aliens show up to invade the planet, and the high schoolers, zombies and vampires band together to fight off the aliens. In other words, cool! It’s tentatively scheduled for release in 2014, so that’s a bit of a wait

 

 

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