By Vernor Rodgers
Find out where it's playing
"WONDER WOMAN 1984"
As I was walking out of the theater, feeling
lucky that I was able to view "Wonder Woman 1984" on a big screen
while others throughout the country were having to stream it, I
wondered if I was just getting grumpy in my old age. The
exhilaration I had felt after viewing "Wonder Woman" in 2017 was
noticeably missing after sitting through "1984." I wanted so much to
like it because Gal Gadot was so wonderful in the first movie and it
was everything a superhero fan would want in an action film. It was
being directed by Patty Jenkins, who helmed the original film that,
by the way, grossed $400 million in the U.S. and $800 million
Was there something wrong with me? Well, if the
reviews I read on IMDB are any indication, I was not the only one
disappointed. Overwhelmingly, viewers offered less that glowing
assessments of WW84, several noting this movie was symbolic of the
year 2020 -- a disaster.
The screenplay was a triple effort, co-written by
Jenkins, Geoff Johns and David Callahan, based on a story by Jenkins
The villain isn't so much a person(s) as it is
what certain desires drive these people to do. Pedro Pascal, the
Mandolorian himself from the TV series, is Maxwell Lord, a wannabe
oil executive who sells himself very well via media but in reality
is a disaster, burning up investor money and seeing his dreams wilt
away. Fate leads him to Diana Prince (Gadot), aka Wonder Woman, and
Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), who happens to have access to
antiquities, one of which is a mysterious stone. Turns out this
stone can make wishes come true, so naturally, Lord gets a hold of
it while flirting with Barbara and thinks he is super clever when
his wish is to replace the stone as the wish granter. Then once he
grants wishes his payoff is to take whatever he wants in exchange
for those wishes-come-true.
But Barbara, urged by Diana to research this
enigmatic stone, discovers that disaster befalls anyone who uses the
stone's powers -- the rule being that wishes come with a price. So
the urgency is to stop Lord before he seriously goofs things up.
This get-your-wish device is used to resurrect
Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), the late WWII fighter pilot with whom
Diana fell in love during that war but died. This offers some mildly
amusing moments, that have been seen many times before, about a
person discovering the marvels of a modern world he or she has never
experienced. And Steve offers some help as Diana battles people --
plus he is the one who makes a vital observation about Diana's
The conversion of Barbara to the villainess
Cheetah is decidedly flat, although her beating the crap out of a
potential rapist is satisfying although it seems to ignite some
dormant rage in Barbara.
The action scenes are OK, although there is a lot
of kicking and dodging and not much else -- and some slow moments
for plot development between the chaos. The opening sequence, a
flashback to when Diana as a child (Lily Aspell), competes with
other, older women of the Amazon Asteria in sort of an Olympic race
and skills contest, and learns the sobering lesson about taking
shortcuts, is a highlight and features Robin Wright (Antiope) and
Connie Nielsen (Hippolyta) briefly reprising their roles. The
report is that Aspell performed her stunts better than the stunt
people doubling for her, thus her work was left in the film.
Whether comic hero fans will be forgiving for
this movie remains to be seen. One hopes that Gadot as Diana /
Wonder Woman will get a chance to do some serious ass-kicking in
"Zack Snyder's Justice League" miniseries that is due out in 2021.
"WONDER WOMAN 1984"
"NEWS OF THE WORLD"
Another Christmas weekend release was this film
featuring Tom Hanks and a wonderful performance by 12-year-old
German actress Helena Zengal.
Co-written with Luke Davies by director Paul
Greengrass ("Captain Phillips," "United 93") and based upon a novel
by Paulette Giles, "News of the World" is a character study as well
as a grueling adventure that captures the beauty and danger of the
untamed West (brilliant cinematography by Daruisz Wolski).
A half-decade following the Civil War, Capt.
Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Hanks), a former printer, now makes a living
traveling around Texas, stopping in towns where news is scarce and
reading stories from newspapers, enlightening these people about
things going on not only in the U.S., but the world. Like many,
Kidd, having been cut loose from his military duties, has nothing to
go back to, thus he roams and seems to have found a niche in
offering information as well as entertainment to people as a relief
from their daily struggles to survive.
During his journey, he comes upon Johanna
(Zengal), a 10-year-old girl of German ancestry who was taken by a
Kiowa tribe at age 4 during an attack on her family. Now having been
raised by the Kiowa people she is taken from them and is supposed to
be returned to relatives who have settled in a south Texas
community. The man tasked with taking her to her family is killed
and she is found by Kidd hiding in an overturned wagon.
Kidd tries to turn Johanna over to military
officials, but these soldiers, still dealing with the underbelly of
post-war difficulties, have no time for the child. Thus Kidd takes
it upon himself to transport Johanna to her new family. With help
from friends Simon and Doris Boudlin (Ray Mckinnon and Mare
Winningham), who give him supplies, a battered wagon and a gun and
limited ammo, Kidd, with a baffled and wild Johanna in tow, head
This is a familiar story of people having to deal
with not only the brutal challenges of nature but the savagery of
humans. Post-war Texas was a mess with so much territory under
little or no government jurisdiction. At one point, Kidd and Johanna
encounter a settlement similar to those depicted in some
post-apocalyptic movies like the Mad Max films and "A Boy and His
Dog" -- communities that are ruled by dictator whose will is imposed
on everyone living there, with that person reaping rewards while
keeping the populace convinced he is their only means of survival.
Amidst the peril are the moments in the open
country, as Kidd and Johanna, bouncing around in that rickety wagon
that had to result in very sore butts, break down their
communication barriers and the girl learns to trust Kidd while he
finds she can be resourceful herself.
Hanks is in his element, playing the quiet,
honorable man, beset by tragedy but driven by dignity and courage.
Zengel's performance is certainly worthy of
awards, playing a basically feral girl, perplexed by her
circumstances but instilled with lessons given to her by the Kiowa.
Both take their beatings via Mother Nature and
human cruelty, although some kind souls cross their paths, like John
Calley (Fred Hechinger) and a group of destitute Native Americans
who let Kidd and Johanna have a desperately needed horse.
As expected, "New of the World" is a movie about
discovery -- for Johanna a new life of great experiences and for
Kidd a chance to reclaim meaningful purpose as he continues his