Tag Archives: Zack Snyder

Wonder Woman (2017, Patty Jenkins)

Wonder Woman has one set of official, awkward bookends and one set of unofficial ones. The former does lead Gal Gadot no favors–after spending a moving building a character, it goes all tabula rosa and turns Gadot into little more than a licensing image. The latter does the film no favors. The latter is lousy CG composites. Wonder Woman is full of them, but none of them are worse than the first one and the last one. They jarringly destroy any verisimilitude director Jenkins and Gadot (in the case of the closing bookend) have been working towards. At least in the prologue–which comes after the first bookend (Allan Heinberg’s script is never plotted well)–there’s the rest of the film. But to close on being yanked out of the picture? It’s the final kick in Wonder Woman’s shins.

After the silly opening frame, bad composite or not, Wonder Woman gets off to a strong start. Connie Nielsen is queen of the Amazons, Robin Wright is general of the Amazons. Lilly Aspell and Emily Carey play the younger versions of Gadot but they’re not the point. Nielsen and Wright are the point. Nielsen’s solid, Wright’s awesome. The costumes are a little questionable, as they’re on an island paradise and Nielsen’s in furs? But it’s good.

Then it’s time for Gadot to take over the role and for Chris Pine to literally fall into her lap. Everything starts moving rather quickly–Pine’s arrival, a battle scene with the Amazons versus German soldiers, Gadot and Nielsen bickering, Gadot heading into the world of man. She can never return to her family, but it’s okay because she’s got a mission. It’s World War I and she’s got to save the world, based on bedtime stories Nielsen told Aspell. Turns out they’re the Amazon equivalents of Santa Claus, which should break some of the film’s logic but no one seems to care.

It’s unfortunate Gadot and Nielsen–and Gadot and Wright–never really get scenes together. It’s always plot perturbing scenes, nothing to build the relationships. Again, Heinburg’s script is never plotted well. Ever.

Anyway, Gadot and Pine have immediate chemistry and for a while Wonder Woman is able to coast. Sure, the CGI London is small and weak, but World War I is a great setting for human sadness. The film oscillates between introducing Gadot and Pine’s ragtag team of personable sidekicks–Lucy Davis, Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, David Thewlis–and showing Gadot all the horrors people inflict on other people. Ostensibly it should add to some character development for Gadot, but Heinburg and Jenkins don’t ever let it go towards character development.

I mean, they’re going to wipe the slate clean in the end, so why bother.

Tossed into this mix is Danny Huston and Elena Anaya as a German general and his pet scientist, respectively, who are trying to make a mustard gas variant to get through gas masks and kill everyone. And Gadot and Pine only have forty-eight hours to stop them.

Eventually, they get to the Front–where the film introduces Eugene Brave Rock as the last throwaway sidekick, an American Indian who’s a black market profiteer selling to both sides, even though the Germans are really, really, really, really bad guys in Wonder Woman. There Gadot gets to show off her superpowers for the first time, though only in one sequence–albeit an pretty awesome one, save the weak CG composites of course–before the film starts its downhill run into the third act.

Most of the action–including Gadot and Pine sailing from “Paradise Island” to England–takes place in four or five days. And the big battle finale, with its numerous revelations and plot twists, takes up maybe a quarter of the film. Then it’s time for the closing bookend, which echoes one of the weakest revelation sequences from the finale, and the movie’s over.

Gadot’s good, regardless of the film eschewing the idea she’s supposed to be developing a character. Pine’s good. Davis, Taghmaoui, Bremner, Thewlis, and Brave Rock are good. Everyone’s good. The acting isn’t an issue, it’s the writing and the pacing. And the film’s reliance on some shallow, manipulative (and not even good manipulative) radio show positive message philosophy to wrap things up nice and tidy. Except Wonder Woman is supposed to be, at least on some level, a war movie–seeing sweet little Aspell get wide-eyed and excited at the prospective of war is something else–and the tidy finish rings false.

Better special effects would’ve helped. Not setting the last battle sequence entirely at night and in confined spaces would’ve helped too. A lot of things–like a better screenwriter than Heinburg, a better cinematographer than Matthew “shooting through pea soup” Jensen, a better score than Rupert Gregson-Williams can deliver–would’ve helped. Jenkins does fine with what she’s got. And editor Martin Walsh is all right.

The Wonder Woman action guitar riff (which isn’t even original to this film) is dumb.

The film ends up completely wasting Huston and Anaya. Anaya, actually, twice gets to be a metaphor for the script’s utter lack of integrity.

Still, it could be much worse. The bookends are almost threats to how much worse it could’ve been. But it’s a complete disservice to Gadot, who more than proves herself a capable lead.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Patty Jenkins; screenplay by Allan Heinberg, based on a story by Zack Snyder, Heinberg, and Jason Fuchs, and characters created by William Moulton Marston; director of photography, Matthew Jensen; edited by Martin Walsh; music by Rupert Gregson-Williams; production designer, Aline Bonetto; produced by Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder, and Richard Suckle; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Gal Gadot (Princess Diana of Themyscira), Chris Pine (Steve Trevor), Danny Huston (General Ludendorff), Elena Anaya (Dr. Isabel Maru), Connie Nielsen (Queen Hippolyta), Robin Wright (General Antiope), Lucy Davis (Etta Candy), Saïd Taghmaoui (Sameer), Ewen Bremner (Charlie), Eugene Brave Rock (The Chief), and David Thewlis (Sir Patrick Morgan).


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Watchmen (2009, Zack Snyder), the director’s cut

This response will be double length. Well, double length minus ten words. Wait, twelve. No, fifteen. Well, you get the idea.

Watchmen doesn’t get a double post because it’s good. It gets a double post because it is, as far as I can tell, the first utterly pretentious film from a filmmaker–Zack Snyder–who seems to think an episode of “Gobots” is better than an episode of “Hill Street Blues.” I’m not sure even the premiere purveyor of crap–Stephen Sommers–would go so far. (This “Gobots” reference is made up, but it seems about right).

But Watchmen isn’t terrible in some ways. A friend of mine said it was a good case in point for the potential of superhero movies. Except, in this new wave of superhero movies, it doesn’t have a place. The comic book was a comment on the comic book industry–not to mention certain comic book creators’ political views (it’s not like Snyder’s commenting on Jon Favreau apparently being a rabidly anti-French dimwit)–and the film can’t possibly comment on any of the current wave of comic book films, because it’s an adaptation of the comic book. I read Snyder claim the film was his response, as the comic had been to comic books, to superhero movies. But it’s the stupidest thing I think I’ve heard since Walter Hill said he was going to improve on Kurosawa.

Watchmen has some good acting. Patrick Wilson is good, Jackie Earle Haley is good, Billy Crudup’s voice acting is decent, Jeffrey Dean Morgan isn’t terrible. With Haley and Wilson the ostensible leads, it works out all right. And the whole thing is such a spectacle, even the awful acting doesn’t ruin it. Matthew Goode is lousy. Carla Gugino’s performance as a sixty-seven year-old woman is hilariously awful and I probably would have been ejected from the theater for laughing at her hysterically. Malin Akerman gives one of the worst performances I can think of in a major studio film in the last twenty years. I have no evidence and I’m just guessing, but I think she got cast because she was willing to take her clothes off. Because it sure wasn’t because she had any acting ability. Her scenes with Wilson are awful.

The special effects aren’t terrible but the digital sets are lousy. The Vietnam scenes are without horizon lines, sort of pre-Renaissance. The soundtrack is atrocious. It might be the worst thing about Watchmen, besides Snyder’s slow motion effects and Ackerman’s non-acting. Snyder cheapens his scenes. It isn’t about how he adapted the comic book, it’s about how he turned it into an episode of the “Wonder Years” or something.

Worst might be how Snyder keeps showing the World Trade Center. It isn’t part of the 1985 New York cityscape, it’s an object he repeatedly focuses attention on. It’s pornographic. Especially in a story supposedly about a large number of people senselessly dying.

And it doesn’t feel like three hours.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Zack Snyder; screenplay by David Hayter and Alex Tse, based on the comic book by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons; director of photography, Larry Fong; edited by William Hoy; music by Tyler Bates; production designer, Alex McDowell; produced by Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin and Deborah Snyder; released by Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures.

Starring Malin Akerman (Laurie Jupiter / Silk Spectre II), Billy Crudup (Jon Osterman / Dr. Manhattan), Matthew Goode (Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias), Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach / Walter Kovacs), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Edward Blake / The Comedian), Patrick Wilson (Dan Dreiberg / Nite Owl II), Carla Gugino (Sally Jupiter / Silk Spectre), Matt Frewer (Edgar Jacobi / Moloch), Stephen McHattie (Hollis Mason / Old Nite Owl), Laura Mennell (Janey Slater) and Rob LaBelle (Wally Weaver).


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