June 7th, 2021

Wonder Woman 84: This is a sequel that misses the mark so badly that I think that it sets all sorts of nasty precedents. First there was the breakthrough directorial role for Patty Jenkins. There was a theory that a female director couldn’t manage a big budget super hero movie. The success of the original with Gal Gadot playing Wonder Woman (aka Diana Prince) was a quality member to the superhero genre. It tells a good origin story of the young girl on the female dominated island (Paradise Island) with Amazons. She meets in WWI, a young handsome pilot played by Chris Pine, and they go on to assist each other in dealing with a villian. One of the writers for this story was Zach Snyder, who decided not to direct it.

Sadly this sequel is a mess from the beginning. It sets the woman’s movement in the movie back half a century but also the continuing strides made by directors like Jenkins. She has a part in putting together this story. Wonder Woman in the beginning film was a confident, self assured, princess from a foreign land who doesn’t understand the male world that she gets brought into, but she takes it head on. Being on the front lines of the two fronts between the Germans and Allies, she boldly ascends the wall and charges single-handedly into the fray. Her efforts astound the surrounding onlooking soldiers and they take the battle. In the sequel set now almost 60 years later, she is unchanged (she hasn’t aged, she continues with her life and job in Washington DC). I don’t give too much away to say that the Chris (Steve Trevor) isn’t with her any longer, by his choice. The challenge is that Wonder Woman becomes a whiny teenager wanting to see her boyfriend. She openly admits that she is going through the motions in her life with the initially geeky co-worker played by Bridesmaids and SNL star Kristen Wiig. The Wiig character wishes to be more like the “together” Diana Prince. Together they come upon an amber stone antiquity which they ultimately learn is some kind of an Aladdin’s lamp.

But it gets better! There is a life loser, played by the Mandalorian, Pedro Pascal, who is disappointing his son, his customers and hasn’t really pulled his life together. He makes a wish that even The Genie wouldn’t allow to take place, but it happens anyway. He ends up having more power than one could ever anticipate and the story continues down its crash course downwards. There is a great part of me that thinks, how could ANY superhero movie ever decide to have the Villian involved be a lamp?! It boggles the mind where someone agreed to green light this. And may I say, poor Chris Pine. I actually felt pain for him in some of the lines that he had to deliver in this. I never fully understood why his presence was even required, and I finished with the same opinion. From the disconnected early sequence where very young Diana isn’t allowed to win a ridiculous competition because she “cheated” (one could argue that as she was showing creativity beyond her years but who cares?). In the end it really was much ado about nothing. Just when you thought that this movie was trending badly, it found new ways to get even more ridiculous. I cannot recommend, and would actively steer people away from watching this. It isn’t worth your time. If you really want to see a strong independent woman being a hero, then maybe look for Justice League (? maybe) or re-watch the initial film.

To finish off the movie, there is the introduction of the invisible jet in a sequence where Steve Trevor, a pilot from the early 1900s sits in a jet for the first time. Well, he shouldn’t be able to fly this jet. Why doesn’t Diana fly it? It is hers? Why does she take a back seat? Why does she remember all of a sudden that she has an ability to make things become invisible (like the cloak in Harry Potter)? I mean. What? Forget this and hope Gadot will have a better role to play in the future.

Mare of Eastown: I finished this series, and I was initially intrigued and it became better and better. It was a story set in a small Pennsylvania town. Kate Winslet plays a divorced detective in this small town, with her teenage daughter in high school, a grandson who was born to her deceased son, and her own Mom. There are many locals to keep track of who interact with her for varying degrees. A young girl is murdered and this follows from an unsolved case of a young woman who disappeared for over a year. Mare feels the pressure in a Three Billboards way of having this unsolved case where leads have gone cold. Then this young girl, with a young baby of her own ends up dead. There are plenty of suspects and the viewer has their own theories. It’s very complex and so one needs to pay attention. Things happen, unexpected things also happen and those who you may have initially were involved, suddenly are no longer as suspicious. The web weaves more, and the series continues. One of the strengths as I see it, are the twists that are unexpected but not completely off the wall that you wouldn’t have necessarily seen them coming. It is clever. Sometimes maybe too clever, but well worth the time. Winslet plays her character warts and all. She isn’t perfect. She is imperfect and still plugs along. She struggles, and she remains reticent to not have her past dictate her future by, for the most part, burying it deep inside. There are flawed people all over the place. It seems more real, and less contrived. Yes the final episode was perhaps a little more Hollywood, but for me was still effective. I recommend and think that this as a series would be a good binge.