Wonder Woman (2017)

 Our associate reviewer Dr. Markus Watson offers a second look at this popular movie.

Rated PG-13. Running time: 2 hours 21 minutes.

Our content ratings (1-10): Violence 7; Sex/Nudity 2.

Our star rating (1-5): 5

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.  On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

1 Peter 3:9

Wonder Woman with Steve & friends in a French village they have liberated from the Germans. (c) Warner Bros.

Themyscira is a beautiful island whose existence has been hidden for centuries from the rest of the world.  It is inhabited by the mighty Amazons, an all-female tribe of gorgeous warrior women.

It is on this island that we meet Diana (Gal Gadot), the princess of Themyscira.  Diana wants to learn to fight, has a passion for doing what is right, and she wants to protect her island and the world from whatever evil may attack.

Then one day, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes his plane into the ocean just off the coast of Themyscira.  It is through him that Diana discovers the world is at war.  But not just any war.  It is World War I, the War to End all Wars.

Diana is ready to fight.  More specifically, she is ready to kill Ares, the god of war, who she believes is behind this Great War.   If only Ares can be destroyed, the war—Diana is convinced—will end.

So she follows Steve Trevor back to Europe where she finds a world unlike anything she could ever have imagined.  She sees pain.  She sees suffering.  She sees cruelty and cowardice.  The more darkness she sees, the more she is convinced that once Ares is dead, the world will be good and beautiful and whole once again.  When Ares is dead, there will be peace.

Diana, together with Steve and three mercenaries, embarks on a mission to destroy a chemical weapons factory.  When they arrive at the factory, Diana does finally face off with Ares (David Thewlis).  But as Diana does battle with Ares, Steve sacrifices himself to destroy the chemical weapons.  It is then that Diana recognizes what will truly bring an end to war and save the world—love.

It sounds cheesy, but Diana is right.  It is love that will save the world.  It is love that will bring an end to the darkness.  It is love that will make the world whole again.

This is, in fact, how God did save the world.  When the world was at its worst—or as the Apostle Paul puts it, “while we were still sinners”—God sent his Son to conquer the world’s evil through love.  Instead of judging people, Jesus embraced them.  Instead of excluding people, Jesus welcomed them.  Instead of hurting people, Jesus healed them.  Rather than taking from people, Jesus gave.  And when the authorities attacked, tortured, and executed him, Jesus absorbed their violence and forgave them.  Rather than making them (and us) suffer for our sin, Jesus endured torture and death for our sin.

In some mysterious way, Jesus broke the power of sin.  Not only did he demonstrate the only way evil can truly be conquered, Jesus really did conquer evil through his sacrifice.  And he made it possible for the world to be made whole once again.

Is this how Diana conquered evil in the movie?  Well, that’s the irony.  She says she understands now that “only love can save the world.”  But she still defeats evil through violence and force.  It’s the other character—the one who died while destroying the chemical weapons—who overcame evil through love.

At least Diana (aka, Wonder Woman) is on the right track.

This review with a set of questions will be in the July 2017 issue of VP.

 

Wonder Woman (2017)

Rated. Running time: 2 hours 21 min.

Our content ratings (1-10): Violence 4; Language 1; Sex/Nudity 3.

Our star rating (1-5): 4

Give justice to the weak and the orphan;
maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

Psalm 82:3-4

Diana’s bullet-repelling gauntlets enable her even to attack the German machine gun nests that have stopped the Allied troops so often.                    (c) Warner Brothers

Although I am not a keen fan of the superhero genre, I do welcome this new addition because it provides our daughters with a worthy role model, even though the film still embraces power and violence.

The film opens with a present-day prologue in which Diana Prince (Gal Gadot, aka Wonder Woman) is at her office in the Louvre when a Wayne Enterprises truck delivers a package to her. Opening it, she stares at a picture taken a hundred years ago. It shows Wonder Woman, sword in hand, standing during four armed men, a Turk, a handsome young man, a hatted Native American, and a kilt-clad Scotsman. In the background are buildings of a French village and a large WW 1 tank. It will be a while before we learn the men’s identities as the faithful and courageous companions of Wonder Woman.

The old photograph takes the viewers back in time to Diana’s youth on the island of Themyscira, shrouded by mist and some type of field shielding it from the scrutiny of the outside world. Here lives the race of Amazons, presided over by Diana’s mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), and the regent’s sister, Antiope (Robin Wright). The latter is trainer whom little Diana longs to join, but she is held back by her mother. The girl persists through the years, Hippolyta eventually giving in because her sister tells her they must be ready when and if they have to face outside forces threatening the peace of their island. She tells Antiope to press her harder than she has anyone else, which she does. Diana proves to be the best of the warriors, eventually able to stand up to the onslaughts of her mentor during their arduous training sessions.

The outside world does impinge on the Amazons when a WW 2 fighter plane crashes into the sea, and Diana swims out to rescue the unconscious pilot. Soon a boat load of armed Germans land on the beach. The ensuing battle is a fierce one. As skilled as they are with their bows and arrows and acrobatic flights, many of the Amazons are nonetheless cut down by the German guns, including Antiope. Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), recovering from his near-drowning, also fights along with the Amazons, and after the Germans are killed, explains that a World War is raging in the outside world. In Europe the Allies and Germans are about to sign an armistice, but there is a German general and a scientist who have developed a super weapon, a deadly gas, that they plan to release on the front lines. Millions of soldiers on both sides would be killed, but the plotters do not care if it would prevent the signing of the armistice so that they can continue the war, one which they could win with the new weapon.

Diana, of course, agrees to go into the world with Steve to use her skills and power for the triumph of right. Like young Arthur of the old legend, she goes to the shrine and extracts the marvelous sword awaiting her use and picks up the shield that will protect her body and a glowing lasso that forces anyone wrapped in it to tell the truth. She also possesses a pair of gauntlets with which she can deflect bullets. There follows lots of action-packed sequences in which our favorite Amazon lives up to the expectations of her deceased mentor and Queen Mother, her highly honed skills aided by her shield, lasso and bullet-repelling gauntlets. (Though her charge of the German trenches, during which she deflects what must have been thousands of bullets from the machine guns pointed at her from all along the line, is a bit beyond believable, but hey, this is basically an animated comic book.)

The script, mainly by Allan Heinberg, includes many humorous sequences, such as the one in the boat in which Diana and Steve set sail from. (And note that a woman, Patty Jenkins s the director!) The two exchange information about each other and are uncomfortable concerning sleeping arrangements. Steve asks, “Have you never met a man before? What about your father?” “I have no father. I was brought to life by Zeus.” Well that’s neat. Reaching London, Steve introduces his companion to Etta, who tells Diana, “I’m Steve Trevor’s secretary.” Diana asks, “What is a secretary?” and Etta replies, “I go where he tells me to go, I do what he tells me to do.” Diana comments, “Where we come from, that’s called slavery.” And Etta replies, “I like her!” (Actress Lucy Davis is a real scene stealer—let’s hope she signs on to the inevitable sequels!)

All the cast members are excellent, with Gal Gadot proving a worthy successor to the beloved Lynda Carter, star of the TV series in the 70s. Chris Pine makes us care for Diana’s companion and love-interest, so that when he sets out on his courageous mission to save the lives of others, we are truly moved by the result—especially because he has left Diana his watch, saying to her, “I wish we had more time together. I love you.”

My main criticism is that the script follows the Allied propaganda practice of WW 1 by depicting all of the German characters as brutish thugs willing to destroy villages and their civilians for their own ends, but then, this is a comic book adaptation, a genre known for painting its villains in the darkest of colors. The General is especially a cardboard character, but his cohort, the scientist Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya) is a bit more complex, she with her destroyed face partially covered by a mask. I would have liked to have learned a bit more of her past and motivations.

If the scripts of the sequels are as good as this one, we will be in for a real treat as we again watch a woman take the lead in saving the world. And who, despite her physical powers, has her heart in the right place when she says, “It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love. Only love will truly save the world.”

This review with a set of questions will be in the June 2017 issue of VP. Please help keep this site going by purchasing an issue of the journal or subscribing to it.

 

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 57 min.

Our advisories: Violence 5; Language 1; Sex/Nudity 1.

Star rating (1-5): 1

 In the beginning when God createdthe heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep…

Genesis 1:1-2

ThorDarkWrld

I had hoped to skip what I thought would be another overblown special effects fantasy, having had my fill of such nonsense with the first Thor. Darn it, the new one blew the top off the box office during its opening week, so I felt duty bound to see and report on it. But if you want a review from someone who really likes and understands it, then go on to one of the teen or fan magazines.

There’s a bunch of stuff at the beginning about a primordial race called Dark Elves who want to use a powerful energy source called Aether to bring back the ancient darkness, but they are defeated by warriors from Asgard and imprisoned, with the Aether buried so deep that it is thought unfindable. Of course, it isn’t, and Thor’s sweetheart astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) back on Earth somehow becomes infused with it when…well, there’s too much craziness to go into the details.

For a couple of years Jane has been waiting in London for Thor to return to her, but he’s been off saving other worlds, and his evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is locked up, and…Suffice it to say that to save Earth from the newly risen Dark Elves led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), a nasty villain surpassed in this category only by Hannibal Lector, our hero (Chris Hemsworth), needs more than his boomerang hammer. Fortunately he has the help of semi-mad scientist Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgärd) who seems to work best clad only in his underwear, and, of course, Jane and her two interns who run around England’s picturesque Greenwich trying to get a contraption the scientist has invented that can wipe out the invading hordes.

I will say that there are some nice touches of humor to all the ponderous fights and mythological mumbo jumbo (compare Marvel’s mythology about darkness to that of Genesis). In Jane’s apartment Thor hangs up his hammer on her coat rack as casually as if it were an umbrella, and shape shifter Loki in one sequence turns himself into Captain America. Also it was good to see Anthony Hopkins as one-eyed King Odin and Rene Russo as the very queenly Frigga, mother of both Thor and Loki.

Were I a 12 or 13 year-old, I probably would have enjoyed the spectacular special effects, the cool mixing of medieval swords and axes (and of course the Hammer) with laser guns and space ships, and a gorgeous armor clad babe bashing in the heads of evil warriors, but I’ve been going to the movies for too long and have seen this sort of thing over and over again to be able to enjoy it much—unless it is a story by Tolkien or C.S. Lewis. Within 5 minutes of the closing credits of this thing I was down the hall totally immersed in Robert Redford’s marvelous survival tale All Is Lost, probably made with a budget that might just cover the catering and limousine service of director Alan Taylor’s megamess. Now there is a film with a real hero in a believable situation!

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

            Rated PG. Our ratings: V-4; L -0; S/N -1. Running time: 1 hour 46 Min.

I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’
Joshua 1.9
 Do not seek your own advantage, but that of others.
1 Corinthians 10.24
Hroes2

(c) 2013 Fox Searchlight Films

This film version of Rick Riordan’s book, second in the Percy Jackson series, is much better than the critics would have us believe. True, the series is far beneath the quality of the revered Harry Potter, but there are plenty of neat touches that, as I walked out of the theater, made me feel good. There is plenty of action for children (mid school age I would recommend because some knowledge of Greek mythology is a must to understand the story and characters) and a lot of wit in the dialogue for adults. A good example of the latter is what the camp manager Mr. D. (Stanley Tucci) says. The D stands for Dionysus, Greek god of wine, who in a twist of irony was put under a curse by Zeus, king of gods, so that D’s wine turns into water when he drinks it. He says to a centaur, “You know the Christians have a guy who can do this in reverse.” You gotta like a film that includes such comments!

To go back to the beginning of the story, Percy and three other half bloods (as the children of a god and a mortal are called) were being chased through the forest as they attempted to make their way to the safety of Camp Half Blood. As their pursuers gain on them, Thalia stops, telling the others that she will hold off their enemies while they get away. Percy (Leven Rambin), son of the sea god Poseidon, and his two friends, Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), daughter of Athena, and Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), a satyr, reluctantly press on to the camp. Thalia is killed, but even in death she serves her friends by turning into a mighty tree that sheds a barrier around the camp, protecting it from intruders.

Seven years go by, and the self appointed leader among the young demigods is Clarisse La Rue (Leven Rambin) who enjoys taunting Percy, especially when unexpectedly his previously unknown half brother Tyson (Douglas Smith) shows up. It’s hard to tell whether Percy is more shocked by discovering he has a sibling or that Tyson is a Cyclops. In the outer world these one-eyed creatures are regarded as vicious monsters, so Clarisse and her friends ostracize and taunt Tyson whenever they can.

There are lots of adventures ahead for them all, including a quest for the famous Golden Fleece, to be found somewhere in the Sea of Monsters, a.k.a The Bermuda Triangle. This is reached by a long taxi ride with a stop over in Washington D.C. where the UPS store is really the Olympus Parcel Service run by the messenger god Hermes. He asks them to speak with his estranged son Luke who is on the opposing side of the Quest. It seems that with the Fleece Luke, angry that his father had always neglected him, can awaken from his tomb the Father of the Gods Kronos, and…well, it all gets complicated, but lots of excitement.

Going into the film I was not too keen on the idea of glorifying old pagan gods and their offspring, but when it became obvious early on that these demigods had values—beginning with Thalia’s sacrificing her life, and then Percy during a training game making a smaller but similar sacrifice for the sake of another–I was won over. The characters might be pagans, but their values and deeds are very much like those taught by Christ. With its emphasis upon teamwork and friendship, as well as toleration of those who are different, this is a good film for young and old.