Diana Prince's Reagan-era world is shaken a wish-granting rock shows up in her museum.
Directed by Patty Jenkins
Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, and Pedro Pascal
Review by Jon Kissel
Big-budget moviemaking currently runs on superhero movies and the biggest of this disastrous cinematic year’s meager bunch had its debut on HBO Max, the recently announced vessel of movie theaters’ continued demise. If that preceding sentence sounds gloomy, it’s because I’m finding it increasingly difficult to be optimistic about the future of film. Call it age or plentiful distractions, but a shrinking attention span has made it more and more difficult to appreciate an at-home movie. I need the enforced focus of theaters to commune with my favorite medium. It’s no surprise that my favorite film of 2020 was one of the few I actually saw in theaters. What won’t be anywhere near my top ten or twenty is Wonder Woman 1984, a mess of oversimplified, ill-considered, sentimental, overlong pop drivel that doesn’t live up to its predecessor. I remember sitting in theaters during Ant Man and the Wasp, and again during Shazam, wondering what I was doing watching a genre that I increasingly felt aged out of. The cynical place I find myself in coupled with the overall quality of this film seals that feeling.
Ask me about Hong Kong action movies, and the first thing that comes to mind is John Woo’s doves and Miami Vice jackets, followed by Bruce Lee, followed by an admission that I’m not the right person to ask. I would need to be reminded of Jackie Chan much further down the list. It’s hard to shake the first impression of Chan from his Rush Hour movies, taking a backseat to Chris Tucker’s domineering personality when it’s apparent that Chan is the bigger talent in every respect. Chan’s martial arts films don’t fit in the same category as Woo’s operatic flash or Lee’s ostentatious physicality, but his choreographic mastery and fearlessness puts him alongside the all-timers like George Miller and what Tom Cruise is doing in the Mission: Impossible franchise. Steven Soderbergh’s one-sentence review of Fury Road was that he doesn’t understand how they aren’t still filming it and how dozens of people aren’t dead. The same can be said for Chan’s Police Story, a film that made me pause and rewind it several times, both to see yet another near-death experience from Chan and to calm myself down. The few Chinese-language films of Chan’s that I’d seen so far were fine to pretty good. Police Story is incredible and makes me revere Chan as a god of action filmmaking, though I’m admittedly decades late to the party.
Brian De Palma, one of 70’s cinema’s greatest pervs, goes oddly mainstream with The Untouchables. Doubly odd in how its script is written by David Mamet of all people, the film seems like two idiosyncratic creators reaching for popular success. They achieved it on the awards circuit and at the box office, but while this movie might have been thrilling in 1987, it’s now rote and almost boring in its predictability and its ridiculousness. The Untouchables has De Palma’s knack for composition and Mamet’s utility with a resonant line, and that’s about it.
Spike Lee’s been a professor at NYU for going on three decades and the boundaries between his teaching job and his directing job fully melt down in Da 5 Bloods. Lee treats his 24th film like it’s his first, greedily cramming it with endless references and ideas, both contemporary and historical, at the cost of realistic characters having human conversations. Uneven throughout its entirety and within individual scenes, this is one of my least favorite works from a director with a lot of greatness to his name. I just wish he’d get an apparent case of late-onset ADHD under control.
The action movies that dominated the mid-90’s occupy an interesting place in the culture. The Cold War’s over, so Communist villains are out, but it’s pre-9/11, so the next easy bad-guy shorthand hasn’t arrived yet, either. Hollywood’s still reveling in leftover masculinity from the 80’s, so there’s none of the introspection of something like the Bourne series. We’re all gung-ho with nowhere to go, so these movies frequently envision internal chaotic enemies i.e. your Castor Troys, your Cyrus the Viruses. Whatever it takes to keep the Department of Defense-sponsored glorification of war games going. Broken Arrow is an early example of the six-year period that would be dominated by Jerry Bruckheimer and his protégé Michael Bay, and no one would say it’s the best of breed. Hong Kong action staple director John Woo still hasn’t figured out how to marry his distinctive style to English-language film, a synchronization he would finally crack one year later with Face/Off. These absurd movies need to get as far from realism as possible, and Broken Arrow, while it’s no one’s idea of realistic, is still too close. I at least need magnet boots or their equivalent in my nonsense action.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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