MOVIE BUFF-ET: “Wonder Woman” up to the task of rescuing DC’s cinematic universe

Warner Bros. Pictures

What Warner Bros. Pictures failed to do with “Man of Steel,” “ Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and “Suicide Squad,” the studio finally accomplished with “Wonder Woman,” the fourth film in its DC Comics Extended Universe film series.

It’s an entertaining movie that is sure to please the masses as well as comic-book aficionados.

Thanks to director Patty Jenkins (“Monster”) and screenwriter Allan Heinberg, the studio delivered a strong, contemporary, big-screen translation of the venerable comic-book character without sacrificing the core traits that has made the Amazing Amazon popular since her creation in 1941 by writer William Moulton Marston and artist Harry G. Peter.

New In Local Theaters

  • Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (PG) 1 hr. 29 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle Hills)
    » Watch trailer
  • Wonder Woman (PG-13) 2 hr. 21 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle Hills)
    » Watch trailer

As an aside, perform a Google search for “Marston.” A biopic about him might be the stuff of an even more interesting movie than the adaptation of his character.

“Wonder Woman” might be a watershed accomplishment for the studio since Jenkins is the first female to direct a colossal summertime, tent-pole film, and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is the first actress to carry such a heavy weight in a super-hero film. If the movie is a hit, other female directors and actresses should have more opportunities to bring female characters of all sorts to the big screen.

Gadot debuted as Wonder Woman/Diana in last March’s “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” but the film did not explain who she was or from where she came. Her solo film unravel sthe mystery in fine fashion.

Though the film does change the setting from World War II in the comics to World War I for the big screen, the movie embraces the legend and lore of the character. The film details Wonder Woman’s origin on the Island of Themyscira. There Princess Diana is raised by a female race of Amazonian warriors, who are patrons of several Greek gods and enemies of others, particularly Ares.

Based on what is shown of Themyscira in this film, sign me up for a Amazons spinoff.

Diana rescues a wayward soldier Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) after his plane crashes in the ocean off Themyscira’s coast. Upon learning of the War to End All Wars from Trevor, Diana knows her destiny is in the dreaded Man’s World where she plans to do what she can to stop the war and its instigator Ares in his tracks.

Gadot, a former model and Israeli soldier, is a novice actor with only a few films under he belt, most notable three of the “Fast & Furious” sequels and the comedy “Keeping Up With the Joneses.” Without a doubt, Jenkins coaxes the best performance of Gadot’s career thus far.

Gadot shines as the super-powered heroine who not only epitomizes feminine grace and integrity but also power and righteous rage. Gadot’s Diana may be viewed as naïve but she is definitely not unintelligent. She has a way of cutting to the chase that leaves Pine’s Trevor exasperated yet captivated.

Gadot and Pine, who sparkles as her buff love interest, have excellent on-screen chemistry, making it a bit of a shame that he reportedly has not signed on for an almost certain sequel. But that makes sense with this film set nearly 100 years in the past.

Jenkins delivers a few nods to director Richard Donner’s “Superman: The Movie” from 1978. If you don’t catch the references in the scenes set in London, then your homework assignment to watch “Superman: The Movie” as quickly as you can.

The movie is not perfect. It suffers from the third-act sameness that weighs down most super-hero films with the inevitable clash between hero and villain at the climax. Some of the CGI effects are a bit too video game-ish.

However, the movie works in ways that the three earlier DC Extended Universe films failed to do. Gadot’s Wonder Woman is not only likable but also admirable. What a novel thought for a super-hero character?

The film is a solid course correction for WB’s super-hero cinematic efforts, and it offers hope for the “Justice League,” which is scheduled to open Nov. 17. Gadot’s Wonder Woman returns in it alongside Ben Affleck’s Batman, Henry Cavill’s Superman, Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman and Ezra Miller’s the Flash.

That film is currently undergoing planned reshoots with Joss Whedon, director of “The Avengers” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” at the helm. Zack Snider directed the film prior to the reshoots, but he left the production to be with his family following the suicide of his 20-year-old daughter, Autumn in March.

(PG-13) 2 hr. 21 min.
Grade: B+

Classic Corner

The Godfather
(R) 180 minutes

The Malco Razorback Theater in Fayetteville has an offer than you can’t refuse. Well, at least an offer you can’t refuse if you are huge fan of Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece “The God Father.”

In conjunction with Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies, the Malco Razorback Theater is holding two special showings of the classic mobster movie that stars Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Cann, and Robert Duvall at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 4, and 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 7 to celebrate the film’s 45th anniversary.

Can “The God Father” really be that old? Even worse, can I be old enough to remember TV commercials advertising the film? I guess so.

Paramount Pictures

I’m not sure how many times I’ve seen the family epic that chronicles the passing of power from the family patriarch Don Corleone (Brando) to his youngest son, Michael (Pacino), who initially wanted no part of the corrupt family business, but I do know that I have not seen it on the big screen and that I am excited about this opportunity.

As lush, powerful, and engaging as “The God Father” is on Blu-ray, it has to be even that much more stunning on the big screen where it was mean to be seen.

By nearly all accounts, the 1972 adaptation of Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name is one of the finest films ever made. The movie was a box-office smash. For a time, it was the highest-grossing film ever made, and it captured Oscars for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay (Puzo and Coppola), and Best Actor (Brando).

In all, it was nominated for seven Oscars, which included Pacino, Cann and Duval for Best Supporting Actor. No doubt, if only one of the three had received a nomination, a fourth Oscar would have gone its way, but winner Joel Grey was excellent in “Cabaret.”

Speaking of “Cabaret,” its director Bob Fosse won the Oscar for Best Director in 1972. On the surface, it’s hard to argue his victory, but when one considers which movie has had the most cultural impact over the last four decades, it’s clear “The God Father” is the more revered and influential movie.

“The Godfather” routinely finds its way onto critics’ all-time, top-10 movie lists, and the internet is rife with articles and opinions that the film is the best movie of all time.

The American Film Institute ranks it second to Orson Wells’ “Citizen Kane” on its list of the top 100 American movies. “Citizen Kane” is a great story masterfully told by Wells. As a novice but still genius filmmaker, Wells created a new way filming stories with his 1941 masterpiece.

The use of deep focus, layered sound mixing, method acting, montage, in-camera affects, low-angle shots, and a non-linear narrative revolutionized filmmaking. “Citizen Kane” may not seem like anything more than a good old movie to viewers today, but that’s because directors routinely use techniques that Wells’ developed or perfected.

Take the technical achievements away from “Citizen Kane,” and I’d argue, “The Godfather” is a more compelling story, certainly for a contemporary audience.

There are films that better suit my particular taste, and movies I prefer for sentimental or nostalgic reasons, but I’d be hard pressed to name a movie that is objectively better than “The Godfather,” unless it is The Godfather II.”

Watching those two films back-to-back trumps any binge-worthy series Netflix has to offer.