Tuesday, June 27, 2017

It Came From The Cineplex: It Comes At Night

It Comes At Night was written and directed by Trey Edward Shults. He previously wrote and directed the low budget indie film Krisha (?)

So what's the film about? Welp, despite the fact that it's being advertised as a horror film, It Come At Night is anything but. Contrary to its marketing, there are no monsters, zombies or cannibalistic mutants in this movie.

It's more of a bleak, hopeless, post apocalyptic family drama, along the lines of 2009's The Road, except not good. That's right, this is one of those, "The Real Monster Is MAN!" movies, in which we see characters placed in impossible situations, who'll do whatever unspeakable things it takes to survive.

That could have made for a compelling film, if the topic hadn't already been covered to death for the past seven years over on The Walking Dead. We get it already! Humans are assholes who are capable of horrific acts of violence and depravity. Next topic, please!

This is the perfect example of a "slow burn" film— one that moves along at a glacial rate, as it takes its sweet time telling its story. I'm not a huge fan of such movies, but I can tolerate a deliberate pace as long as it's leading toward an amazing ending. Unfortunately, It Comes At Night has no such payoff. In fact it doesn't end so much as it just stopsas if the director ran out of time, money, film or all three.

This is most definitely a character-driven film, as there's virtually no plot whatsoever. The closest it ever comes to a proper storyline is in the third act, when the chapters argue over whether someone left a door open or not. Seriously!

My dislike for the film comes from the highly deceptive trailer, which promised a completely different movie than the one we get. The trailer strongly implies there's some kind of titular "It" hiding in the woods, which comes out at night to prey. In reality there's no such thing anywhere in the movie, which was frustrating and disappointing to say the least. 

I honestly wish I'd never seen the trailer and had gone into the film blind. I'd have liked the movie much more, and wouldn't want to track down every existing copy and burn them all as I do now. Do yourself a favor— if you plan on seeing this movie, DO NOT watch the trailer before you go!

The film clocks in at a brief one hour and thirty seven minutes, but seemed more like four hours.

So far critics seem to universally love It Comes At Night, praising its bare-bones plot, raw-nerve tone and moody cinematography. Audiences are split pretty much right down the middle, with half loving it and half wondering what the hell they just watched. 

Supposedly this film had a budget of $5 million dollars, which I refuse to believe. That money certainly isn't up there on the screen, as the entire movie is filmed in a small home in a wooded area, lit mostly with battery-powered lanterns. I'm confident I could shoot a similar-looking film in my own house.

Against all reason and logic, the film is a modest hit, grossing $13 million against its $5 million budget. Due to marketing and other hidden costs, these days most films need to gross twice their production budget just to break even. I doubt this rule of thumb applies to It Comes At Night though, as I can't imagine them spending $5 million to advertise this thing. So I'm gonna guess that that $7 to $8 million of its gross was pure profit.


The Plot:
As the film opens, a virulent plague (I guess?) has wiped out most of the country (maybe?). Paul (played by Joel Edgerton), his wife Sarah, teenaged son Travis, father-in-law Bud and dog Stanley are holed up in a remote house in the woods, waiting out the disease. Sarah comforts Bud, who's contracted the plague and is covered with boils. She tells him it's OK to "let go."

Paul and Travis, wearing protective gloves and masks, take Bud deep into the woods in a wheelbarrow. Paul shoots Bud in the head to put him out of his misery, and burns his body in a shallow grave. This traumatic event causes Travis to start having horrific nightmares (most of which are shown in the incredibly misleading trailer).

A few days later, Paul hears someone in the house at night. He investigates and finds a man rooting around for food. He knocks him out, drags him outside and ties him to a tree, leaving him there overnight to see if he's suffering from the disease. The next day Paul interrogates the man, whose name is Will. He claims to have a wife and child, and they've been living in his brother's house (Plot Point!) some fifty miles away (!). Will says he was out searching for fresh water, not realizing Paul's house was occupied. He tells Paul he and his family have plenty of food, and offers to trade some for water.

Paul and Sarah discuss what to do with Will. Paul doesn't trust him, but Sarah says having more people around would make it easier to defend their home from others. Paul agrees to take Will back to his house to check out his story. Paul loads up his truck, and he and Will take off.

Everything goes fine until they're suddenly attacked by gun-toting woodsmen along the way. Paul crashes his truck into a tree, gets out and sees two men approaching. He shoots and kills one, while Will beats the other man to death. Paul suspects Will was in on the attack, but he swears he's never seen the men before. They push the truck back on the road and continue on their way.

Several days later Paul returns to his house with Will, his wife Kim and young son Andrew. Plus a goat and several chickens. Apparently Will convinced Paul they're not infected and pose no threat. Sarah and Travis welcome their new borders.

That night at dinner, Paul explains the rules of the house. He shows them the bright red door, saying it's the only way in or out of the house, and it's to remain locked and closed AT ALL TIMES (Another Plot Point!), and only Paul and Sarah have the key. They keep their weapons locked in a small armory, and always go out in groups of at least two. Lastly, and most importantly, they NEVER, EVER GO OUT AT NIGHT, unless it's an absolute emergency. Why this particular rule is in place is apparently none of our concern, as it's never addressed.

Days go by, as the two families get to know one another. After a while though, cracks begin to show in the happy facade. Will teaches Travis how to chop wood, which generates jealous looks in the stern and rigid Paul. Travis, being a horny teen, becomes attracted to Kim, going so far as to awkwardly flirt with her. His nightmares also continue.

One day while chopping firewood, Stanley begins barking at something in the woods. Paul tries to take Stanley inside, but he snaps at him and runs into the woods. Travis chases after him, but eventually loses sight of him. A furious Paul catches up with Travis, and yells at him for running off by himself. Will looks around briefly for Stanley, but doesn't see anything. Paul insists they return quickly, as Stanley knows the way home.

That night Paul and Will share a drink and get to know one another. Will mentions being an only child, which contradicts his earlier story that he was staying in his brother's home (told you it was a Plot Point!). Travis has another nightmare, and wanders through the house, unable to go back to sleep. He finds Andrew asleep on the floor in Bud's old room, tossing and turning. He wakes Andrew and takes him back to his parents' room.

Travis hears a noise downstairs, and thinks it may be Stanley returning. He goes down to investigate, and sees the red door's open. He runs back upstairs to wake his parents. Paul and Will go downstairs, and find a sick and bleeding Stanley lying on the floor. Fearing the dog is infected, Paul sends Travis upstairs. He then takes Stanley outside and shoots him.

There's then a family meeting, as Paul demands to know who let the dog out, er, I mean in. Travis says the door was ajar when he came downstairs, and suggests Andrew may have opened it while sleepwalking. Kim insists that Andrew doesn't do that, and says Travis must have opened it while half asleep and doesn't remember. Paul realizes they'll never get to the bottom of it, and suggests both families stay in their respective rooms for a couple of days. Mostly so they can all calm down, but also to make sure no one's infected.

The next morning, Travis eavesdrops on Will's family, as Andrew constantly cries and Kim says they need to leave. Travis tells his parents that Andrew's sick, and may have passed on the disease to him. Paul and Sarah don their protective gear and knock on the door of Will's room, demanding to see if Andrew's sick. Will tells them to get lost, but Paul insists. Will opens the door and points a gun at Paul, taking him captive.

Will says there's nothing wrong with them, but demands their fair share of supplies so they can leave. Paul agrees, and he and Will head downstairs. Sarah appears out of the shadows, surprising Will as Paul grabs his gun. Paul marches Will and his family outside. Will suddenly attacks Paul, hitting him over and over in the face with a rock, until Sarah shoots and kills him.

Kim grabs Andrew and runs into the woods. Despite Paul's savage beating, he's able to rise up and fire after Kim. He hits and kills Andrew, as Kim sobs uncontrollably. Having lost everything, she begs Paul to kill her. Paul grants her wish, shooting her in cold blood, while Travis looks on in disbelief. Travis runs back into the house, where he vomits blood into the sink.

Some time later, Sarah tells a visibly diseased Travis it's OK to "let go." Gosh, it's like poetry, ending the same way it started! Paul and Sarah, both infected, then sit at the dining room table, staring at one another. Roll end credits, as the audience groans and shuffles out of the theater.

• Whoever came up with the highly misleading marketing campaign for It Comes At Night is either a genius or an asshole
—  possibly both. I get the feeling they looked at the finished film, realized it didn't stand a chance at the box office, so they simply decided to promote it as a completely different movie. Kudos to their chutzpah, I guess.

Every piece of this film's advertising is a complete fabrication. Heck, even the title— "It Comes At Night" is a big fat lie. There's no "It," and nothing ever comes at any point during the film. Especially not at night. They no doubt decided that title sounded better than "Let's Argue About Who Left The Door Open While We Wait To Die."

Kudos to whoever came up with the film's poster as well. Design-wise it ain't much to look at, but the concept is amazing, as it demands the viewer's attention and draws the eye right into it. What's the dog looking at there in the inky blackness? Some kind of nocturnal monster? A shambling, animated corpse? Bigfoot? A bunny calmly nibbling on grass?

Apparently whatever he sees is none of the audience's business. In the film, Stanley the dog does run into the woods after something, but whatever he's chasing— and whatever injures him— is never addressed.

Too bad there're more scares in the poster than in the actual film.

The aforementioned trailer is just as deceptive and manipulative as the title and poster. It features quick flashes of disturbing images, in an effort to bamboozle the audience into thinking they're going to watch a standard zombie film.

Unfortunately NONE of these "scary" images appear in the "real" world of the film. Instead they're seen only during Travis' nightmares. I cannot emphasize this enough— anything that's remotely frightening in the trailer is "all just a dream."

• Paul's family has an unusual dynamic— he's while, while his wife Sarah and son Travis are black. This is never commented on or acknowledged in any way during the film, which I assume was supposed to be a progressive statement in itself. 

• Paul and his family are terrified of the mysterious plague, and rightly so. To keep from becoming infected, they wear gas masks and gloves whenever they go outside, and wash up with antibacterial soap when they come back in. 

Annnnnd then they let their dog Stanley tromp around outside and waltz right back into the house. Travis even lets him sleep in his bed! So much for all their precautions!

• Will tells Paul that he traveled a whopping fifty miles from his brother's home, looking for water. FIFTY MILES! That's a hell of a long way to go for a drink! Is potable water really that scarce in this world? Surely to Thor he had to have run across a few bottles of water before he got that far away. How long has this disease been around?

And did he really walk the whole fifty miles? He must have, as he never mentions a car or even a bike!

• After Will and his family arrive, Paul runs down the rules of the house for them. Their most important rule of all is "Never, Ever, EVER Go Out At Night."

Sounds pretty compelling and creepy, eh? This ironclad rule implies there's something horrible in the woods, something that only comes out under cover of darkness. Something Paul and his family have heard, and are terrified of. What could be lurking out there in the inky blackness?


Absolutely nothing.

As I said earlier, there are no monsters, zombies, or anything else even remotely interesting in this movie. Despite the film's title, there's no "It." Apparently the only thing lurking in the woods is the characters' fear of the unknown. How spectacularly disappointing.

• There's some really bad editing going on in the scene in which Paul and Will are attacked while driving though the woods. It looks for all the world like a lone man comes running out of the woods, as Paul shoots at him. We then see Will beating someone in the head with a rock, which I assumed was the lone attacker. 

A bit later we see him throwing two men into a shallow grave. I guess there were actually two men who attacked? Maybe if I watched the movie again this scene would make more sense, but that ain't happening.

• At one point Stanley the dog runs off into the woods after something. Later that night, he somehow gets back in the house, and lies dying on the floor, covered in blood. It looks like he's either sick with the plague or has been attacked— it's not clear which.

So many questions here. How'd Stanley get back in the house? Did Andrew hear him and let him in? If he didn't open the door, who did? Did Stanley get sick and come home to die? If not and he was attacked, what did it? Once again, it's apparently none of our business, as none of these questions are ever answered.

• So far I've been pretty hard on It Comes At Night (and rightly so). Are there any pluses?

Eh, a couple. The film isn't the least bit scary, but it does feature an oppressive and unsettling tone, that's similar to that of 2016's The VVItch. I didn't think much of The VVItch when I first saw it, but it's grown on me over the past year or so, and I have a newfound appreciation of it. So any similarity to it can only be a good thing.

There's also a bleak hopelessness to the film, as we see the characters simply going through the motions of their everyday lives. They're existing rather than actually living. It makes one question whether living in a post apocalyptic world would be worth it.

That's all I got!  

• The final scene, in which the infected Paul and Sarah sit at their kitchen table, silently staring at one another, is taken right out of John Carpenter's 1982 version of The Thing. Hey, if you're gonna steal, might as well steal from the best!

It Comes At Night is a low budget, slow-burn film that starts out promisingly, but sputters and comes to an abrupt stop in its third act. I wanted to like it, but unfortunately my enjoyment was tainted by the highly misleading marketing, which promised a horror film but instead delivered a survivalist family drama. Do yourself a favor and don't watch the trailer beforehand. I give it a C.

Monday, June 26, 2017

June Spawned A Monster

This week English actor Daniel Day-Lewis held a press conference, in which he officially announced his retirement from the acting profession. Day-Lewis, a three time Oscar™ winner, thanked his many fans, stating that he was "immensely grateful to all of his collaborators and audiences over the many years." 

The sixty year old star's final film will be Paul Thomas Anderson's drama Phantom Thread, which premieres this December. Day-Lewis and Anderson previously worked together on 2007's There Will Be Blood.

When asked about the reasons for his retirement, Day-Lewis said, "I feel I've accomplished everything I can in the world of cinema, playing a wide diversity of characters from Christy Brown (in 1989's My Left Foot) to Abraham Lincoln (in 2012's Lincoln). Therefore I feel it's time I put acting behind, so I can concentrate full-time on my musical career as my alter-ego, Morrissey"

Day-Lewis adopted the fictional persona of Morrissey in the early 1980s, and became the front man for British alternative rock band The Smiths from 1982 to 1987. He then split with the band and launched a successful solo career in 1988, recording such hits as Suedehead, Every Day Is Like Sunday, The Last Of The Famous International Playboys, Interesting Drug, Ouija Board, Oujia Board, November Spawned A Monster and We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful.

Day-Lewis refused to answer any questions from the assembled press, instead slipping into his "Morrissey" persona and launching into an impromptu, acapella rendition of his latest single, Kiss Me A Lot.

Friday, June 23, 2017

It Came From The Cineplex: Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman was written by Allan Heinberg, with "story by" credit from Allan Heinberg, David Fuchs and Zack Snyder. But don't let that scare you off. It was directed by Patty Jenkins.

Heinberg is primarily a TV writer, who previously worked on shows like Party Of Five, Sex And The City, The O.C., Gilmore Girls, Grey's Anatomy and Scandal. Wonder Woman is his first theatrical script. Fuchs is an actor and writer, who previously penned Ice Age: Continental Drift (yikes!) and the 2015 mega-flop Pan (double yikes!). And of course Zack Snyder needs no introduction. He's a terrible, terrible director who started out promisingly with the Dawn Of The Dead remake, but has become progressively worse with each successive film. He directed 300, Watchmen, Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga' Hoole, Sucker Punch, Man Of Steel and his crowing achievement, the detestable Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice.

Jenkins previously directed Monster, which was a pretty good film. After that she was apparently demoted to directing episodes of various TV series until now.

The film marks Wonder Woman's very first solo theatrical outing. This particular version of the character first appeared in last year's Batman V Superman, as part of DC's cinematic shared universe. And of course the character's first live action appearance was in the popular TV series starring Lynda Carter, that ran from 1975 to 1979. 

So what's the verdict? Has Warner Bros. pumped out another poorly written, dark and depressing DC murderfest, or have they at long, long last finally managed to make a decent superhero movie? Happily, Wonder Woman somehow managed to turn out pretty well. It's a solid origin story, it's very entertaining and I liked it quite a bit. I didn't love it though, as there are some glaring plotholes and it falls apart in the third act. 

It's definitely miles above any of the previous DCEU films though, which I will admit is a pretty low bar for it to overcome. It's nowhere near as good as Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, but compared to crapfests like Suicide Squad, it looks like freakin' Citizen Kane.

The internet agrees, as everyone seems to absolutely love this film. I dunno, I have to wonder (heh)... is the film really that good? Or is this a case of DC's prior awful output making Wonder Woman look brilliant by comparison? I have a feeling if this was a Marvel movie, most people would shrug and say it was just "OK."

Gal Gadot was born to play the role of Wonder Woman, and is the perfect successor to Lynda Carter. Gadot is surprisingly good in the film, which came as a shock to me, considering her wooden performance in Batman V Superman. Obviously Patty Jenkins is a much better director than Zack Snyder, and found a way to work with Gadot and expand her range, helping her turn in a powerful yet innocent performance.

I'm glad that little girls finally have a female DC superhero they can look up to and call their own. Too bad the movie's too dark and violent for most of them to be able to see it. Yep, as usual, Warner Bros. seems to forget the point of superhero movies, making a film that's filled with murder, death and destruction.

Once again, a simple little summer blockbuster generates a ton of internet controversy months before it ever premieres. From the moment Wonder Woman was announced, feminists heavily politicized the film, using it to promote their agenda. Men got into the act as well, denouncing it on the grounds that it was shamelessly misandrist. Fox News slammed the movie because this new version of Wonder Woman no longer wears a costume based on the American flag. Lebanon banned it over the fact that actress Gal Gadot is Israeli, and served in the Israel Defense Forces. And believe it or not, there was even a brouhaha over the fact that Wonder Woman apparently shaves her armpits, which many women somehow interpreted as oppression by the patriarchy (!).

The silliest controversy was the one caused by the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. They generated a huge stink when they scheduled several all-female showings of the film. This "girls only" edict even extended to the theater's employees, as the projectionist, the venue staff and the custodial crew were all female as well (!).

This apparently deeply offended many men in the area, who took to the internet to complain, and in a couple of cases even filed lawsuits against the theater. Jesus wept, people. It's just a goddamned movie. It's not like they banned men from EVERY showing all over the country.

For the record, I don't have a problem with the all-female screenings, but I'll admit that I honestly don't get it. I honestly don't understand how seeing Wonder Woman with a completely penisless audience and staff enhances the film-going experience, but whatever. Maybe as a man, it's something I'm just not able to understand.

Sigh... remember back when theaters used to show fun summer movies like Jaws or Star Wars, and we'd all watch 'em and enjoy the films for what they were? I miss those days.

If you're happy there's FINALLY a superhero film with a female lead, that's great. If you want to applaud the fact that it was directed by a woman, go for it. If you want to celebrate its box office success, by all means, have at it.

But please don't try to turn this movie into a feminist cause. I absolutely guarantee you that Warner Bros. doesn't give two sh*ts about women's rights or gender equality. They couldn't possibly care less about female directors either. The only reason they hired Patty Jenkins is because they thought she'd make a flop, and then they could tell everyone that "female superhero movies don't work." There's no way you can ever convince me otherwise, and I'll fight anyone who contradicts me.

C'mon, ladies! The ONLY reason Wonder Woman exists is to make money for the Warner Bros. shareholders. You're romanticizing and championing a soulless corporate product that's designed to sell lunch boxes and toys. You're smarter than that!

Fortunately all the politicizing doesn't permeate the film. Unlike the execrable Ghostbusters 2016, which had an unpleasant anti-male sentiment a mile wide, Wonder Woman is a gender-friendly film. It features a powerful, independent woman as its main character, but one with no overt male prejudices, who has no problem working alongside men. That can only be a good thing.

So far Wonder Woman's tearing it up at the box office, grossing $280 million here in the States (as of this review) against its $149 million budget. It's done about the same overseas, where it's racked up $298 million, for a worldwide total of $578 million. Impressive!

Unfortunately the horrible Suicide Squad somehow ended up grossing an astonishing $745 million last year. Let's hope Wonder Woman can surpass it, if for no other reason than to prove to Warner Bros. that audiences care about quality, and won't automatically go see anything they crap out.


The Plot:
In the present day, Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot) works as a curator in the Louvre. In the requisite "Let's Remind People This Movie Takes Place In The DC Cinematic Universe" scene, she receives a package from Bruce Wayne, aka Batman. Inside the package is the photo we saw in Batman V Superman, of Wonder Woman standing next to a group of WWI soldiers. She looks exactly the same in the photo, meaning she hasn't aged a day in the past hundred years. Attached to the photo is a note from Wayne, saying he'd like to hear the story behind it someday. You know what that means— Yep, this is a flashback movie!

Cut to sometime in the past, as young Diana's living on the mystical island of Themyscira, home of the Amazons. The Amazons were created by the Zeus to protect mankind against Ares, the God Of War. Diana's unusual among the Amazons, as her mother, Queen Hippolyta (played by Connie Nielsen) sculpted her out of clay and begged the god Zeus to bring her to life. Sure, why not? Diana wants to be a warrior woman like her aunt Antiope (played by Robin Wright), but Hippolyta forbids it. Antiope disagrees with her sister, and begins training Diana in secret.

One night, Diana asks her mom to infodump a bunch of exposition to her tell her a bedtime story. Amazingly, Hippolyta tells her about the time Ares jealously slew all the gods, even Zeus (!). Before Zeus died though, he gave the Amazons a "Godkiller" weapon to use against Ares. The End. Sweet dreams, Diana! Later Hippolyta takes Diana into a guarded tower, where she shows her a ceremonial sword, which the script strongly implies is the Godkiller.

Diana continues training with Antiope, but is eventually discovered by Hippolyta. She's angry with both of them, but Antiope says Diana needs to be ready to face Ares, who's still out there somewhere. Hippolyte eventually agrees, and allows Diana to practice openly. Through the power of a montage, we see Diana train over the years as she grows to adulthood and becomes the best warrior in all of Themyscira.

One day in 1918, Diana stands on a cliff and stares out at the ocean. She sees a small plane pierce the mystical barrier around the island and crash into the water. She instantly dives off the cliff to the rescue, pulling a pilot from the wreckage and bringing him to shore. She takes a good long leer at him, as she's never seen the male of the species before.

Suddenly a small army of German soldiers pierces the useless barrier around the island and heads for the couple on shore. The Germans land on the beach just as the Amazons arrive, and there's a huge battle between the two armies. The Germans are better armed, but are easily wiped out by the savage warrior women. One last German shoots at Diana, but Antiope leaps in front of her and is hit instead (good thing she somehow understood what a bullet is). Diana rushes to her her aunt's side. As Antiope dies, she tells Diana it's time to use the Godkiller.

The man Diana rescued is taken before Hippolyta and interrogated with the Lasso Of Truth, which prevents him from lying. He says his name is Steve Trevor, and he's a spy for the Allies. He tells the Amazons all about the horrors of The Great War (aka WWI), and how he infiltrated the German army, searching for intel that could end the conflict. 

Steve says he discovered that the evil General Ludendorff (played by Danny Huston) and his associate Dr. Isabel Maru, aka Dr. Poison, an expert in chemical warfare, are working on a deadly new bio-weapon that could wipe out the Allies. He stole Dr. Poison's notebook and was taking it back to London when his plane was shot down. He tells the Amazons they're in more danger than they know.

Diana believes Ares is responsible for causing WWI (I guess she never heard of Archduke Ferdinand), and wants to use the Godkiller to defeat him. Hippolyta forbids it, saying they shouldn't get involved. Steve asks to leave, but the Amazons forbid it, fearing he'll reveal their secret location to the world. Diana decides to fight Ares on her own. She climbs the guarded tower and takes the Godkiller sword, along with a shield, armor and the Lasso Of Truth. She tells Steve she'll help him return home if he takes her to Ares.

As they prepare to leave, Hippolyta appears and stops them. Diana defies her mother, saying their whole reason Zeus created them in the first place was to save the world from Ares. Hippolyta finally relents and lets them go. She tells her aide that Diana must never know the terrible secret about who and what she really is (Plot Point!).

Somehow, Steve and Diana take a tiny boat from wherever the hell Themyscira is and sail to London in one day. Diana's anxious to kill Ares, but Steve insists on delivering Dr. Poison's notebook first. They meet with Steve's secretary Etta Candy, and there's lots of fish out of water humor as she takes Diana shopping for suitable 1910s ladies' clothing.

Meanwhile in Germany, Dr. Poison develops a gas that gives Ludendorff super strength when inhaled. She's also inspired (by Ares) to perfect
 her new super-deadly mustard gas formula.

Back in London, Steve meets with Sir Patrick Morgan (played by David Thewlis). He tells Steve the war is going badly, and the Allies are planning to sign an Armistice with Germany. Steve gives him Poison's notebook, confident its contents could turn the tide of the war. Morgan can't read it though, as it's written in Sumerian (?). I guess Poison used that language as a code? Diana translates it for him, since for some reason everyone on Themyscira can speak and read hundreds of languages.

The notebook says Lundendorff and Poison are planning to use their gas on Allied soldiers at the Western Front. Morgan says this news changes nothing, as he doesn't want to do anything to jeopardize the Armistice. Diana believes Ludendorff is Ares in disguise, and wants to immediately go to the front and kill him. Morgan forbids Steve and Diana from interfering, but of course they do so anyway.

Steve (with Diana in tow) then travels around Europe, getting his old gang back together. His team consists of Sameer, a spy of Indian (I think?) descent, Charlie, a hard-drinking Scottish sharpshooter and The Chief, a Native American smuggler. Steve introduces this team to Diana, who's eager to get to the Front.

Ludendorff meets with a group of German generals to discuss Dr. Poison's new weapon. They're skeptical and dismissive of Poison's work (because she's a dumb ol' girl, dontcha know), so she demonstrates its effectiveness by lobbing a gas bomb into the conference room, killing the generals and leaving Ludendorff in charge.

Steve, Diana and the team finally make it to the Belgian Front. They see a town that's been devastated by the Germans, and a local woman begs Diana to help. As they walk through the trenches at the edge of No Man's Land, Diana's shocked and stunned by the horrors of "modern" warfare. In the film's signature setpiece scene, she leaps out of the trench and onto the battlefield. The German soldiers begin throwing everything they have at her, but she easily deflects their bullets and shells with her gauntlets and shield. As she slowly but deliberately progresses across the battlefield, Steve and the other soldiers are so inspired they follow in her wake, taking out all the Germans.

That night Steve and the others are honored by the Belgian townspeople they saved. A man takes a photo of Steve, Diana and the rest of the team— the very same photo, in fact, that starts off the movie. Steve learns that Ludendorff will be attending a gala the next day, and suggests he and Diana infiltrate it. As she's never been to a society event, he teaches her how to dance, and they share a kiss.

The next day the team disguises themselves and sneak into the gala. Steve spots Dr. Poison, and flirts with her for information. Before she can tell him anything, Steve is distracted by Diana, who's spotted Ludendorff in the crowd. He stops her right before she tries to kill the General in public. Ludendorff exits the party and gives the signal to launch a gas strike— against the very same Belgian town that Diana saved earlier. Diana rushes to the town, but arrives too late to save it. She's angry with Steve for not letting her kill Ludendorff when she had the chance.

Steve learns that Ludendorff plans on using a plane to drop his deadly new gas on London. Diana races to the airfield and battles her way through more German soldiers. She spots Ludendorff in a control tower, and leaps up to confront him. He inhales his super gas and powers up. The two of them have an epic battle, but Diana eventually stabs him through the chest with the Godkiller.

Steve catches up to Diana, who's confused as to why WWI hasn't instantly stopped now that Ludendorff, aka Ares, is dead. Steve tries to explain that wars aren't caused by evil gods, but by bad people. Steve and his team see the Germans still loading the gas onto the plane, and the two sides engage in a shootout. Meanwhile, Diana spots Sir Morgan in Ludendorff's office, and realizes HE'S actually Ares. She accuses him of starting the war, but he denies it, saying all he did was give certain people a small nudge, and the natural evil in all humanity took over.

Diana tries to slay Morgan/Ares with the Godkiller sword, but to her great surprise he easily dissolves it. He tells her the sword was never the Godkiller— it's actually HER (Plot Point Resolved!). He invites her to join him, showing her how wonderful the world could be if they rid it of all those pesky humans. Diana refuses, and they have a typical special effects-filled superhero movie battle.

Steve and his pals are pinned down by enemy fire as the gas-laden plane starts to take off. Steve makes a fateful decision and runs past Diana, whispering something to her as he hands her his father's pocket watch for safe keeping. He jumps onto the plane just before it takes off.

Inside the plane, he kills the pilots and takes control. When he's high enough, he shoots the gas canisters in the hold, detonating them in a fiery explosion. Diana screams in agony at his sacrifice. Enraged, she begins attacking the German soldiers as Ares looks on. Ares transforms himself into video game boss mode, complete with horned armor. He encourages Diana's anger, hoping it'll cause her to join the Dark Side of the Force. He brings out a helpless Dr. Poison, encouraging Diana to kill her. Poison's mask falls off, revealing her ravaged face, disfigured by her past experiments.

Diana lifts a tank over her head, determined to drop it on Poison. Then she remembers Steve's last whispered words to her that we didn't get to hear— he told her he can save the day, but she can save the world. Oh, and that he loved her. Diana tosses the tank aside, showing mercy toward Poison and letting her live so she can reappear in the sequel.

Diana tells Ares that she'll never join him, as she believes in the Power Of Love (this again?). He does his best Emperor Palpatine impression, hissing, "So be it!" and fires a giant energy blast at her. She absorbs it with her magic gauntlets and reflects it back at him, blowing up the God Of War real good.

Now that Ares is out of the picture, WWI ends (even though he said earlier that he didn't cause it). The world celebrates, as Diana is reunited with Steve's team. She spots a wall containing photos and mementos of fallen heroes, including one of Steve Trevor.

Back in the present day, Diana's still staring at the photo of her with Steve and his team. She emails Bruce Wayne, thanking him for sending it. In a voiceover, she tells the audience she'll keep fighting for justice forever, as she leaps into the air to battle evil as Wonder Woman.

• As a fan of the 1970s Wonder Woman TV series, I was disappointed that Lynda Carter didn't have a cameo appearance in this new film. Surely they could have found a place for her in the background as an Amazonian dignitary or something?

I have a feeling the director was trying her best to distance this solemn and more adult take on the material as much as she could from the admittedly campy TV show, lest the audience not take it seriously.

• I feel bad pointing this out, since it's something Fox News complained about, but here goes:

Every since she was created, Wonder Woman has been associated with America. Her original costume was basically the American flag, decorated with a golden eagle and festooned with white stars on a field of blue. She was associated with Steve Trevor, an officer in the U.S. Army Air Service in WWII, and assumed the secret identity of Diana Prince, his secretary/personal assistant.

The movie seems to do its best to strip Diana and Steve as well of any and all involvement with America. Wonder Woman's costume no longer contains any type of American branding or iconography. Steve Trevor is an American officer, but he works as a British spy to infiltrate the German military. Diana has a job as a curator in modern day Paris. Heck, the entire takes place completely in Europe!

Not necessarily a complaint, just an observation.

• At the beginning of the movie, Diana stares at a hundred year old photo of herself standing with Steve Trevor and his gang from WWI. It's the same photo Bruce Wayne found on Lex Luthor's hard drive in Batman V Superman.

Later in Wonder Woman, we see Diana and the gang as they pose for the iconic daguerreotype. If you look closely, you'll see their positions don't quite line up with those seen in the photo.

That's because there the photo and the scene were filmed several months apart. According to actor Ewen Bremner (who plays Charlie), the cast took the still photo in November 2015, before the Wonder Woman sets were even completed. The photo was then used in Batman V Superman.

When it came time to film the actual scene commemorated in the photo, several months had passed, the sets were completed and the actors had to do their best to recreate their earlier poses.

So the two images are pretty darned close, but not quite identical.

• Kudos to actress Lilly Aspell, who played Diana at age eight. She was absolutely perfect as the mischievous younger version of the character, and stole every scene she was in!

• This is some hardcore nitpicking, but whatever. If the Amazons truly are immortal, why do Hippolyte and Antiope look like they're in their late forties? And why are they played by actresses in their early fifties? Shouldn't they look the same age as Diana? Once they reach adulthood, why would they age if they're immortal?

• I can't say much for the magical forcefield Zeus placed around Paradise Island to "protect" it. Sure, it hides the place from the view of the outside world, but it doesn't prevent anyone from entering. It 
appears that anyone can just stroll right through it anytime they want.

• Diana tells Hippolyta she wants to leave Themyscira to find Ares and kill him. Hippolyta solemnly tells her, "If you leave, you may never return."

Um... that could be taken a couple of ways, and it's not clear just what she meant there. Was she saying "You may not return" as in "It's dangerous out there and you could be killed?" Or was she saying that once she leaves, the magical barrier around the island will physically prevent her from coming back?

If I had to bet, I'd say it's the former. This is an issue that'll likely be addressed in the inevitable sequel.

• According to Diana, the Amazons were created by Zeus to protect humanity from Ares. So how do they go about safeguarding us? By hiding out on a remote island, hidden behind a magic forcefield, with absolutely zero contact with the outside world, that's how! Heck, they're not even aware that WW's going on until Steve tells them about it. Great job, Amazons!

I guess we could chalk this up to Hippolyta wanting to keep a low profile to try and protect Diana. She knows her daughter is the Godkiller, and as such is destined to face Ares someday. Maybe she was afraid Ares would kill Diana, so she was willing to sacrifice the world to save her daughter?

• Some more hardcore nitpicking: Diana, like all Amazonians, can speak and read every language on Earth. Fine. But how is it she seems to know the modern versions of all these languages? Remember, this is a society that's closed itself off from the rest of humanity for thousands of years. Shouldn't her knowledge of language be hopelessly out of date? 

I know, I know. It's a comic book, and I'm not supposed to think that hard about it. The obvious answer here is "Zeus did it."

• So just where is Themyscira, aka Paradise Island, located? Welp, given the connection to the Greek Gods and all that, it makes sense it'd be somewhere in the Mediterranean Ocean.

Due to the events of the film though, that location seems unlikely. Steve and Diana take off from Themyscira in a small sailboat, and arrive in London a short time later— possibly less than twenty four hours. Looking at the above map, that's obviously impossible. Sailing from the center of the Mediterranean to London would be a journey of 2,200 miles, give or take a hundred, and would take weeks, if not months. Obviously the Mediterranean's out.

I don't think it's ever mentioned in the film, but online sources suggest Themyscira is somewhere in the North Sea— which makes it significantly closer to London. This makes absolutely no sense to me, as I don't see why a Greek God would place his secret island full of Amazons in such a spot, but there you go.

It's the most likely location within the world of the movie though. First of all, Steve Trevor escaped from Germany in a small plane, and crashed just off the coast of Themyscira. There's no way he'd have made it from Germany to the Mediterranean Sea without having to stop and refuel. Plus he was being pursued by a squad of Germans in boats, who arrived at Themyscira minutes after he did, and I doubt they sailed their boat through Austria and Italy, so...

Secondly, after Steve and Diana take off from Themyscira in their boat, she says she's going to get some sleep. When she wakes, they're approaching London. Note that Steve does say they were towed part of the way by a larger passing boat. But even with help, there's no way in hell they'd have made it from the Mediterranean to London while Diana was asleep. Unless she's a really deep sleeper, and was out for a couple of weeks!

So even though it seems downright bizarre that Themyscria would be located in the North Sea, it does fit with the facts of the movie.

• When Diana arrives in London, Steve has his secretary Etta Candy take her shopping to find more suitable clothes for her.

Etta picks out a suit, hat and glasses for Diana, that makes her look very much like a female Clark Kent. Why the glasses? She obviously doesn't need them to see, and at this point she hasn't yet adopted a secret identity that needs protecting. I'm assuming she's wearing them because the filmmakers wanted to throw in a little Superman joke.

They toss in a second gender-flipped Superman reference when Steve and Diana find themselves trapped in an alley, surrounded by thugs. One of them shoots at Steve, and Diana uses her Zeus-given strength and speed to catch the bullet and save him. Exactly the way Clark saved Lois in Superman The Movie!

• Dr. Poison actually appeared in early issues of the Wonder Woman comic.

Amazingly, the film version isn't too awfully different from those early comic appearances! About the only thing missing are the red gloves.

By the way, that partial mask that Dr. Poison wears to cover up her horrific facial injuries is very much like the ones worn by actual WWI veterans. Plastic surgery was in its infancy in the 1910s, and there was only so much doctors could do to repair ruined faces. That's where an artist named Francis Derwent Wood stepped in. She took plaster casts of her patients and created full or partial masks out of copper, painted to match their skin tones. They were often held on with a string around the head or attached to a pair of eyeglasses.

• Oddly enough, General Ludendorff was a real person! He was second-in-command of Germany's entire war effort, and made a name for himself fighting against Russia on the Eastern Front. 

In 1918 he came up with a plan to end the war, called the Spring Offensive. This plan sent Germany's best troops to attack the Western Front, in hope of winning the war before the Americans arrived.

Unfortunately the Spring Offensive was an extremely costly and bloody battle. Casualties were so high that the Germans had nothing left when the Allies eventually counterattacked.

The real Ludendorff reportedly became increasingly unhinged as WWI went on— not due to inhaling gas that gave him superpowers, as in the movie, but because of the massive stress he was under, plus the fact that he only got one hour of sleep per night.

• The movie desperately wants us to believe that Ares is responsible for all of humanity's wars. In fact the instant after Ares is killed, the German soldiers drop their weapons, milling about in confusion as if they've been under a spell the past four years.

So... what about WWII? The Korean War? Vietnam? The Gulf War? Iraq? All the hundreds of other smaller skirmishes taking place in virtually every country in the world? Ares didn't cause those. I guess humanity just likes war then?

On first examination it was a clever idea to imply Ares was responsible for WWI, but the idea falls apart with even the smallest scrutiny.

• So what did Wonder Woman do after this film? What'd she do during WWII? Did she sit it out, or fight the good fight against the Nazis? How about all the other conflicts since then? Given that we see her living in modern day Paris at the end of the film, I assume she didn't go back to Themyscira and has spent the years fighting the good fight.

• In the comics, Wonder Woman's lasso had one, and only one power— it compelled anyone who was bound by it to speak the truth.

It's used that way in the film of course, but Diana also uses it as a secondary weapon. She swings it around like an indestructible whip, and even uses it to wrap around bad guys and fling them across the room.

Diana also gains another new power in the film— now when she smashes her wrist gauntlets together, they emanate a powerful shockwave that knocks everyone in the vicinity on their collective asses. 

And you know what? I'm OK with these additions! I don't mind Wonder Woman having a few weapons in her arsenal besides her fists, as it keeps her from becoming just a female version of Superman.

• At one point Diana steals a blue dress and infiltrates the gala, looking for Ludendorff. She spots him in the crowd and reaches for her "Godkiller" sword, which she's hidden down the back of her dress.

Yow! Let's hope she somehow had the scabbard stuffed down her dress as well, so she doesn't slice her legs (and other parts) to ribbons!

• When it was first announced that the Wonder Woman film would be set during WWI, I was puzzled. Why change it from her traditional 1940s WWII setting? I think I know the answer
 to try and distance it a bit from Marvel's Captain America: The First Avenger.

Even with the change of setting, there are still a LOT of
 parallels between Wonder Woman and Captain America: The First Avenger.

Captain America: Takes place primarily in the past, during WWII.

Wonder Woman: Takes place primarily in the past, mostly during WWI.

Captain America: Ends with the hero living in the present day. 
Wonder Woman: Begins and ends with the hero living in the present day.

Captain America: Features an innocent, straight-laced superhero who was created to end the war. 
Wonder Woman: Features an innocent, straight-laced superhero who was created to end the war. 

Captain America: Features the hero battling the Red Skull, an insane Nazi scientist.
Wonder Woman: Features the hero battling General Ludendorff, an insane German officer, Dr. Poison, and insane German scientist, and Ares, an insane Greek god.

Captain America: Features a ragtag group of mercenaries— The Howling Commandos— who help out the hero.
Wonder Woman: Features a ragtag group of mercenaries, who help out the hero.

Captain America: Features Cap falling in love with Peggy Carter, but their relationship is cut short by his seeming death.
Wonder Woman: Features Steve Trevor falling in love with Diana, but their relationship is cut short by his actual death.

Captain America: Ends with the hero, Steve Rogers, sacrificing himself by stealing a bomb -filled plane and crashing it into the Arctic, saving humanity.
Wonder Woman: Ends with Steve Trevor sacrificing himself by stealing a mustard gas-filled plane and exploding it high in the atmosphere, saving humanity.

Wow. That's way too many similarities to be completely coincidental. Some of those had to be on purpose.

When Man Of Steel came out, many fans (including myself) gave Superman a ton of sh*t for almost singlehandedly destroying Metropolis, as well as needlessly executing Zod at the end of the film. That movie, plus its followup Batman V Superman, caused many fans to dub DC's shared cinematic world the DC Murderverse.

Sadly, Wonder Woman continues this violent trend. Diana cuts a wide and bloody swath through the Murderverse, killing dozens (maybe even hundreds) of German soldiers along the way before ultimately disintegrating Ares.

Worst of all, she straight up executes Ludendorff without the benefit of a trial. It wasn't self defense or lawful killing during wartime. It was pure, undiluted murder. Sure, he was an evil asshole who deserved to die, but that's for the courts to decide, not her. To make things even worse, she killed him for the wrong reason, as she mistakenly believed he was Ares!

Despite all that, I've not heard one single peep about Diana's massive body count in her debut film. Everyone's going out of their way to commend the movie for being "light" and "joyful," which is a load of bullsh*t. Why does Wonder Woman get a pass, but Man Of Steel doesn't? Are people afraid to criticize this movie, fearing it'll make 'em look anti-feminist?

I ain't afraid to go there! I'll say it plain and simple: Wonder Woman is every bit as dark and violent as Man Of Steel, Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad, if not more so, and a worthy addition to the DC Murderverse.

• Like ninety percent of all Marvel and DC movies in the past ten years or so, Wonder Woman features a criminally underwritten and uninteresting main villain. All through the movie, Ares is talked about and built up as a massive threat against all humanity. Then in a surprising "twist" that's supposed to be clever, when Ares finally shows up, he's not the man we thought, who appeared in numerous scenes all through the movie. He turns out to be the stuffy old mustachioed British bureaucrat who's had thirty seconds of screen time! Fail!

Even when Ares transforms into his armored video game boss mode, you can still see his mustache behind the slit in his helmet. Seriously? This is definitely one time an impossibly buff, all-CGI villain would have been appropriate.

Congratulations, Wonder Woman writers! Yellowjacket from the Ant-Man movie is no longer the lamest live action supervillain!

I think it would have worked better if Dr. Poison had turned out to be Ares. Then we could have had a knock-down, drag out fight between two lady characters, which would fit much better with the film's female aesthetic.

• I like the first two thirds of the movie quite a bit, but as I mentioned earlier, it kind of fell apart in the third act. The writing was smart and compelling up to that point, and then it turned into the typical Cliched Superhero Movie Ending, complete with a battle between the hero and villain, filled with CGI, energy beams and tons of explosions.

In fact the last act of Wonder Woman was VERY similar to the end of Batman V Superman, featuring the same tone, scope and most of all, destruction. That's something I definitely never want to see again.

• I was sad to see Steve Trevor die at the end of the film, but I understand the decision to kill him off. Storywise his sacrifice was necessary to prove to Diana that ALL humanity weren't evil dicks. Plus even if he hadn't died in this movie, he'd surely be dead by the time of the framing sequence, as he'd be around 130 years old in the present day!

Maybe Steve could reappear via flashback in the inevitable sequel? Or Chris Pine could show up in the present day, as the great-grandson of Steve Trevor (which is similar to what happened on the 1970s TV series).

Wonder Woman is a fun, action-packed superhero origin story, and the only DCEU movie that's worth watching so far. It's not perfect though, as it features an underwritten villain and falls apart in the third act, but it's still worth a look. Sadly it's likely too dark and violent for the young girls who're most likely to look up to the character. Try and ignore all the controversy surrounding the film and just enjoy it for what it is. I give it a solid B.

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Site Meter