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Wonder Woman

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Wonder Woman

The timing of the release of Wonder Woman is rare and perfect. Could anyone have foreseen that its arrival in theaters would coincide with both women’s frustration at their lack of power and their anger at war as a tool for settling arguments? A woman director and a fine actor have crafted some grand symbolism just when the world needs it most. A comic book hero speaking to the troubles of today? Let’s look.

Director Patty Jenkins has said that she wanted to tell a story “about a hero who believes in love, who is filled with love, who believes in change and the betterment of mankind.” She has done just that. By allowing only women on the set, she created an atmosphere that reflected the innocent essence of the Amazon nation. There would be no room for cynical thinking in this movie.

Gal Gadot, a former combat instructor in the Israeli Defense Force, creates Diana, daughter of Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), queen of the women on the Amazon Island. Diana rescues Steve (Chris Pine) when his plane crashes off-island, the first man anyone on the island has ever seen. With a craving to see the outside world, Diana leaves with him and steps into the tricky role of sticking to her principles during the carnage of World War I. This woman who has never seen war steps into the savage slaughter as young men erase an entire generation of their peers on both sides by orders of their elders.

Armed with golden bracelets, knives, and a terrific “lasso of truth,” Diana attacks brutality wherever she sees it on her way to eliminate Aries, the God of War. Like her fellow Amazons, Diana is innocent in all the ways of the prevailing world and brings to that a firm determination to end war. When, in that innocence, she makes it clear that she can’t understand why men would do this to each other in 1918, she hits the nerve that is rattling us with the same question nearly 100 years later. Same men, same thinking, worse weaponry.

Why does this projection work so well? Gal Gadot, with her dignity, her quietness, and her smile, is thoroughly credible as she makes choices from her heart. Her physical beauty is rooted in the expression of her feelings. When she dances with Steve, she asks, “Is this what people do when there are no wars?”

How often does a comic book hero trigger the contemporary emotions that are spreading through theaters now? And through me. I bought the first Superman comic book in 1938 for ten cents and love him still. How often does a peace message reach more than 150 million people in one weekend? If director Patty Jenkins hadn’t fallen in love with Superman when she was a little girl, this super hero movie wouldn’t resonate the way it does. But she did, and it does. Ask your kids to take you along.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Wonder Woman
Word Count : 497
Running time: 2:21
Rating : PG-13
Date : June 11, 2017

 

The Lost City of Z

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

The Lost City of Z

The Lost City of Z is an intriguing movie that ignores conventional story line structure in favor of deep character studies of its principals. We are invited to watch real growth as each of them struggles to follow passion instead of conforming to the rules of English propriety in the early 1900s. Don’t look for a dramatic arc here, just enjoy watching these people grow.

Just the facts: in the early 1900s, Army soldier Percy Fawcett ( Charlie Hunnam) is chosen by the Royal Geographical Society to explore the jungle in Eastern Bolivia. The cloud hanging over the mission carries the message that no one has ever returned alive from going “up river.” Several countries are planning to explore this region for its black gold/oil. Fawcett is looking instead for the ancient civilization he believes is there and to get there, he must fight the bigotry of British Conservatives and the Church. “We have been so arrogant for centuries,” he says of them.

Fawcett, stuck in Army mediocrity because of his father’s alcoholism (yes, this is 1906), says “My reputation as a man rests entirely on our success.” In a finely written scene that is beautifully acted by Charlie Hunnan as Fawcett and Sienna Miller as his wife Nina, we understand both their mutual love and the depth of his need to grow by taking on this mission. He will be gone for three years.

That short scene tells us these two people are smart, strong, and independent – traits at the gut of their behavior throughout the story. Director/scriptwriter James Gray sends Fawcett off with his friend Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson) to indulge those traits in three trips to the Amazon jungle against all odds. If his decision to go springs from who he is, that core also produces his ability to understand the natives he encounters.

What sets both Fawcett and Nina apart is a quality each has that lifts them above the stereotypical demands of their era that might have molded them differently. Even Fawcett couldn’t stamp out his wife’s need to explore the unknown. She does that in raising her children. He asks himself in the jungle, “What kind of a fool am I to leave my family for this place?” Nina understands her husband’s need to return three times to the unknown.

Director Gray has assembled a marvelous cast of military leaders to give us the flavor of acceptable behavior in early 1900s England. Against that background, the primary actors deliver the flavor of people motivated by an inner core. Robert Pattinson is superb as Fawcett’s quiet co-explorer who stays with Fawcett until he can’t. Angus Macfadyen creates the British villain who messes things up repeatedly.

We won’t forget the inner strength that led both Percy and Nina Fawcett to respect and understand the deep determination each would show throughout their lives as they made tough choices. And we might not see better acting for quite a while.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : The Lost City of Z
Word Count : 499
Running time: 2:21
Rating : PG-13
Date : 5 April 2017