The first act set the stage. Barbara has become the Cheetah, an extension of the Mayan god of cleansing, frost, and punishment. As the second act opens, we see a couple of guys walking down the street. Their heads are down, and they look like they’re up to no good. A woman walks by – we can see it’s Barbara by the slumped shoulders and the panicky gait to her walk. The guys take a second look at her as she passes by. They see her as prey…so they turn around and follow her.
She smiles when she sees she’s being followed. She takes a turn down a blind alley. She stops at the end and makes a point to look frightened of what will befall her. She makes deals, offers money, but it’s clear that the men only want one thing. One of them rushes her to rip off her coat. Barbara smiles as he gets a handful of fabric.
“Purge.” She says with a smile. “Cleanse.”
And boy, does she.
She moves like Diana, but while Wonder Woman’s goal is to neutralize a threat, Barbara’s is pure sadism. She breaks bones, lacerates, and does everything she can to make these guys hurt. When all is said and done, she surveys what she has done and grins. “Payback’s a bitch. Am I right, fellas?”
Diana watching a news briefing on her tablet about events happening in the Middle East, particularly a coup in the desert nation of Kahndaq. As she silences the tablet, she stops. Cue ominous music as she catches Barbara staring at her with displeasure. When she turns around to face her completely, the hateful mien is gone, replaced by the permanently ‘flustered-outside-her-comfort-zone’ Barbara Minerva.
Barbara says that the artifact that they’ve been working with was a temple stone – more than likely a meteorite gathered up and made an object of worship. The monetary value isn’t that much. The composition of the meteor is nickel, and not worth a whole lot…maybe a few hundred. The worth of the artifact, however, is so much more. The people robbing the pace would have no idea what they had in their possession. As Barbara is talking, she’s picking up the artifact and is holding it like she would her lover. Diana takes note of this – she understands completely that there are forces out there just beyond mortal comprehension.
“Barbara? Are you all right?”
Barbara blinks a couple of times, then gives Diana some shade. “I’m fine. Just the idea that those people would have just thrown this away because there was no gold. No fancy gems…just this citrine. People like that need to be gotten rid of. They’re just trash.”
Diana feels like there’s something else behind the voice. “Hey…let’s get lunch together. My treat.” Barbara agrees and they continue with their respective jobs.
At lunch, Diana gently feels out Barbara’s personality. She’s skittish at times. She says that when she was growing up, she was the last one picked for sports, the one who couldn’t handle public speaking…the one everyone teased and picked on and bullied. Diana listens with sympathy – even though she was popular, she never knew of the people around her were real friends or trying to cozy up to her mother. When Barbara asks what her mother did…Diana smoothly colors the truth and says her mother was the mayor of her hometown.
In one of the TVs, we see in the restaurant, we get an image of two men being carted into ambulances – the two guys from earlier – but Diana and Barbara don’t see this. We then get one of those moderated, triple split-screen with a moderator, a local politician…and the “vigilante expert” and police commissioner from Gotham.
Barbara happens to catch this and smile, commenting on how it looks like those two got what they deserve. Diana catches this but plays it down, saying that there was a line overstepped. Barbara disagrees, stating that those were the type of people who made her life miserable growing up. They got what they deserved and the rest of those sorts of people should be—
“Purged?” Diana asks.
“Yes. If a person can’t be nice, or at least civil…then they can expect to be treated harshly until they get their act together.”
“I disagree. While there is a need for some corrective procedures, punishment is not the be-all-end-all solution.” With Diana going through World Wars, she knows what she’s talking about.
Barbara’s disgust becomes overflowing. “Said the pretty woman.” She reaches into her purse and tosses down a couple of bills. With that, she gets up and leaves before Diana can say anything. As this scene ends, we hear the vigilante expert from Gotham say this: “It’s never going to get better. It’s just going to get worse.”
We cut to night. Wonder Woman is taking up a watch over a place that’s been noted for several attacks on women. She has no sword or shield with her, just the lasso. A small group of guys start hounding a woman – shoving her back and forth, trying to grab for her purse and pull off her coat. We hear her cries…and know it’s Barbara.
The other guys get a huge surprise. She rips into them – maiming limbs and breaking bones. Wonder Woman charges into the fray, not to save Barbara, but to save the hoods. AS they fight, Barbara lays into Wonder Woman, for sparing the lives of these animals, punctuating the last three words with broken limbs.
“They deserve a day in court, and a chance to learn from their mistakes.”
“THEY DESERVE TO DIE!” With that, she breaks the neck of one man. Diana stands shocked and frozen. She’s no stranger to death, but this was beyond anything she’s comfortable to stand by. Barbara starts to leave, but Wonder Woman stops her.
“You can’t just leave.”
“You think it’ll stop here? What’s going to happen? Two men cops are going to show up. Family who didn’t give a shit about them are going to come out of the woodwork suddenly saying they were just boys caught up in a bad situation, and I am going to rot in jail. Me! Who did the world a service by taking out the trash!”
“You’re not—” Wonder Woman doesn’t finish her statement, as Barbara headbutts her and tries to escape. A new fight breaks out, with Barbara’s training matching Barbara’s berserker frenzy. Finally, she manages to escape into the night. As the red and blue lights of the police draw close, Wonder Woman swings away.
Now – there is going to be more to this act, but I’m trying to get something thrown up for today. Last week completely escaped me as I was put into quarantine and I was dealing with that stress. I promise (stop me if you’ve heard this one) I will be back on track for the foreseeable future. I’ve also got somethings to say about WandaVision as I am now caught up with it.
As always, be careful and buy me coffee or buy one of my books to keep me off the streets. Thanks, and take care.
I should have been writing my treatment for the second act of Wonder Woman: Apex Predator, but I ended up falling asleep at work during lunch. I had a couple of low-sleep days, lack of caffeine and some grim anniversaries coming up have sidelined me for a while.
I am going to forge ahead and write the second act over the weekend and have it up for next Thursday. At the very least I’m maintaining a regular posting habit for every Thursday.
Sorry, everyone — I’ll try to be better.
I’m going to show everyone here what I would have done if I had been given total control over the Wonder Woman: 1984 script. Geoff Johns and Patty Jenkins sign off on everything that they need, Warner Brothers nod, hand me a wheelbarrow full of packs of hundred-dollar bills and tell me not to give away home world.
Okay – this will be broken up into three acts. What’s below is Act 1, where we’re setting up the conflict and the stakes. Now, I am not going to add characters, but the ones I will take away will have an explanation to why they’re not there. Next week will be Act 2, where we stir everything up and turn it to eleven and Act three will follow the week after that to see the final battle and aftermath. If you check out my previous entry, you’ll see the inspiration as to why I’m doing this. Questions? No. Excellent…
Welcome to Wonder Woman: Apex Predator
First off – that Hunger Games lite opening scene? Gone. Has nothing to do with this movie. Instead, we get a look at an Amazonian school as a microcosm of their culture and society. While they may say that they are equals, we can tell with some children’s clothing that’s a little threadbare and less shiny than the others, this is not the case. Themyscrya is a meritocracy at best. While there is no class – even the queen got her throne by working her ass off – there are people who have worked harder than others. Equality may exist in the law of the land; it is a far different set of rules in the streets.
We see a small pack of girls, dressed to look a little better than the others, picking on a girl a little more shabbily dressed. The abuse is harsh, even by our standards, and the girls are without mercy; but it never gets to being physical. The girls know that the punishment for such a thing is severe, so they know how close they can get before it gets too far.
One girl reaches out to spin the girl around so she can get her jibes in, but before anything happens a hand clamps hard down on her wrist. It’s a girl’s hand, a little small than the wrist she holds. We see its Young Diana’s hand. She has a look of anger in her eyes. The tormented girl takes this chance to scurry away.
Young Diana lays into them with a fury. Sure, every Amazon a warrior just like every Marine a rifleman, but none of these Amazons can claim to be trained in the arts by the Gods of Olympus. It’s over almost before it starts, with the girls crying and/or crumpled on the ground. Before she can gloat or reprimand, a larger adult hand reaches down and drags Young Diana away to…
…Her mother, Queen Hippolyta looks down at her young daughter from her lofty throne. The teacher states her case, saying that she saw Diana strike down the girls. Were the girls bullies? Yes. The teacher was going to intervene, but Diana came in and went to work. Diana starts to object, but she is coldly shut down by the Queen. The parents of the girls are called forward and answer the Queen honestly – yes, their girls are a little on the aggressive side, but this is Amazonia. They must be always ready to defend their island against the world of Man, and if a girl can’t take a little ribbing, what will war do to her?
“And if one of your girls can’t take a shot to the nose, what would war to do her?” The Queen retorts. She hands down punishment – everyone gets a month at the agoge. They’re going to get a civil sense of order P.T.’ed back into them…including Diana. Diana begins to object again. Why should she be punished with the others? She did nothing wrong.
“You broke our laws, Diana. No one is above the laws and customs of our people.” The woman who leads the agoge steps up, carrying staff of her office. “Time for you to remember that.”
The Queen stands up, dismissing everyone but Diana. Everyone leaves the pair. The Queen removes her crown and mantle, now just Hippolyta – concerned mother to a confused child.
“Why should I be punished? It’s not fair! It’s not my fault!” Diana says.
“I know. If it were me, I would commend you for your actions up to a certain point.” The Queen looks down at her daughter. “You were right in defending the girl, but you have to learn that there are other ways to do that. You have to learn diplomacy.”
Smash cut to…
The mall – we see the “Virginia is for Lovers” sign as a couple of men – the suspicious looking sort – walk in front of it. They’re not heading to a jewelry store, but to a knickknacks shop. One of them makes their way to the counter. The woman there looks up in time to see the other turn off the neon open light and lower the gate. The man at the counter flashes the butt of his pistol and says to her that if she doesn’t make a fuss, she can walk out alive. He demands that she take them to the back. Nervously, she heads to the back through a door, telling the man to follow her. The other guy stands guard at the gate. The man and woman head to the back, past shelves of knock-off Egyptian and other foreign looking artifacts. Past the final shelf, they come to a work bench where the real-deal stuff is. The man takes out a piece of paper and refers to it. On it is a drawing of a rather starling looking bird. The man looks from the page to the table.
He picks up a piece that looks like what’s on the drawing. As he holds it up, we hear sounds of combat – gunshots, grunts, and a thud. The guy grabs the woman and walks out with her has a shield.
We now see Wonder Woman, standing over the second gunman, who is clearly unconscious. She regards the man with contempt. “Guns and shields,” she says. “Not the makings of a warrior.”
The guy fires a few shots at her. With a bored expression, she blocks the bullets. One of them shatters a window close by. The man shoves the woman at Wonder Woman and rushes for the opening. Wonder Woman catches the woman but still moves fast enough to strike the man with her body and shove him into a wall hard enough to render him unconscious. In the distance, we hear the approaching footsteps of the cops out in the hall. Wonder Woman asks if there is another way out. The woman – numb over what’s just transpired – points to the back. Wonder Woman thanks her and heads out the back door. As she walks through the back, we hear a cop remark on how this woman took out the two guys. Wonder Woman grins and heads through the door…
…and walks into the Smithsonian as Diana, our humble antiquities and Classical historian and paleolingusitic expert. She heads to the back, greeting a lot of people in a friendly manner – a far cry from her cool, warrior demeanor. One of her friends guides her to a table where we see a clutch of artifacts…the ones from the back room of the shop. Standing next to the table are men in suits – one of them greets Diana warmly. He’s the head of the archaeology and antiquities department and the other seems a little aloof. Mr. Aloof is from the FBI. Apparently, these were taken from several tombs and they need to be identified, catalogued, and eventually returned to their country of origin. However, they’re waiting on someone who’s on loan from Harvard’s Mesoamerica Studies department…
In walks Barbara Minerva – looking timid and absolutely scared at her new surroundings. Diana comes in, taking her by the shoulder and asking her if she if alright. No – Barbara says sharply – she was accosted by some homeless person. She also looks a little disheveled. Diana expresses sympathy, but the FBI guy cuts it all short and tells Dr. Minerva that they need to know what these artifacts are and soon. As he’s talking, Minerva is attracted to the artifact the guy had picked up. As she picks it up and turns it over, we start hearing some native chants in the background. Minerva’s gaze becomes blank and the chanting increases until Diana’s hand comes on her shoulder. FBI guy mutters something about women and excuses himself. Diana invites her back to her office to get something to drink and calm down.
Back in Diana’s office – orderly and Spartan – she gets Barbara a bottle of water and she opens up at her first time in D.C. where people were begging for money…some a little forcefully than others. Barbara asks her what she did. Diana simply said she asserted herself and people then left her alone. Barbara nods and listens intently, voicing that she wished she could do that. Diana says she can do it, she just needs a little confidence. Barbara nods, takes a drink, and comments that she’s glad Diana didn’t give her anything harder than this water. She chuckles nervously – Barbara is clearly trying to fit into the scene and doing a poor job of it.
Diana looks at the artifact in her hand and points out that there’s some writing on it. Barbara looks at it, squinting despite her glasses. She can make out a single word – purge. It was the same word we heard when Barbara first picked it up. She offered to further examine it, and Diana agrees, admitting that Mesoamerica is a long way away from Hellenistic Greece. Barbara figuratively jumps up, either seeking to please Diana or solve a mystery, we don’t know, but she’s out the door before Diana can remind her to take her water with her.
Heading back to the lab, she’s subjected to the stares and the occasional catcall. Each look and whistle is building up in her, getting her closer and closer to just popping. We see it in her face, and we see it in how she’s holding herself – hunched over and muttering to herself that she wished she had to power to do away with those types. “Just to wash them away…just to…sweep…”
The gems in the figurine flash.
Back at the bench, she takes out her laptop and starts investigating the figurine itself. It’s a figurine of Itztlacoliuhqui-Ixquimilli – the Aztec god of frost, punishment, and misery. Barbara turns the figurine over in her hands. “I could use you. Punish some of these assholes out here.”
The word booms through her, driving her out of her chair and sending her tumbling to her knees: Done. Name your desire. How will you punish? How will you cleanse?
Baffled, she looks around and hanging on the wall is a poster for Honduran tourism, featuring a cheetah looking back at the camera. It hits her. “I want to be a predator…no…I want to be the predator. I want to be the apex predator of this city.”
She undergoes the transformation, and it looks painful. She writhes on the floor in silent agony for several minutes, until she’s done and drenched in sweat. Panting, she pulls herself up into her chair. She looks like she either ran a marathon or had a three-hour sexual experience. Barbara gets up on shaky legs and heads out.
Making it out of the Smithsonian, she passes by someone who eyes her with less than wholesome intent. Coming up to her, he reaches for her…
…and meek and mild Barbara Minerva is replaced by a whirling dervish of claws, fists, and feet. This guy is broken by the time Minerva’s done – he’s practically dead when he hits the sidewalk. She looks down at her blood hands at the claws retract into her regular fingernails.
That’s it for the first act of Wonder Woman: Apex Predator. Wow – I think this is the longest I’ve written for my blog. I hope you enjoy it, and I would love to hear some feedback.
As always – stay safe, buy me coffee, or buy my books! Have a great day!
This is to let you all know that I’m a really, truly both frothing at the mouth about how I would have done Wonder Woman: 1984 differently, and trying to work through a sudden, but not entirely unexpected issue that has arisen. I’m posting this to keep the habit going. I am getting a three-day weekend coming up, and I plan on taking one of those days to do all the blog posts and put them up on an automatic schedule. I’ve written about 750 words on just the first quarter of the first act. There are two more acts and that’s only one movie.
Yeah. I’ve got some work ahead of me.
I will please beg to indulge upon your patience, and I will reward it to the utmost of my meager talents.
Until then — kitten gif!
So…I’ve watched Wonder Woman 1984 and I’m finding that the film suffers from what a lot of superhero genre films have as of recently.
I’m calling it the Two-Villain Problem. The problem is that there are two villains and no focus. This is a bad problem with this movie given that these are two marquee villains, especially with Cheetah being the Joker to Wonder Woman’s Batman. There were a lot of places they could have gone with this if they only had one villain.
It’s hard to manage two villains. Each one must challenge the hero in different ways. The next blog, I’ll get into how I would have done it with either one villain or the other. Right now, I’m going to just discuss the main issue.
Like I said earlier, each villain has to challenge the hero in different ways. In Wonder Woman 1984, the villains try this: Cheetah (in her later phases) matches Wonder Woman as far as raw physicality. She can take and dish out the punishment in equal measure which is good. In this film, Diana has to use tactics and cunning to neutralize (not kill…) Cheetah.
Unless we can get a three-picture deal…
In the first film, Wonder Woman has little in the way of physical challenges. Keep that in mind, I am going to bring it up in depth in the next blog.
Maxwell Lord is more of a societal challenge for Diana. Remember, Diana’s role nowadays is as Ambassador to the World of Man. She has to exercise hard power (beating the Huns) and soft power (talking people down). She can beat the crap out of Maxwell, but would she cut through a swath of innocent people to do it? Amazonian pragmatism (more on the opening scene in the next blog) would say yes, but not taking a life because they’re not really in control of their selves. Diana’s innate sense of mercy would make her balk for the same reasons. They’re pawns and don’t deserve it. Now, she must exercise diplomacy to get to the center of the issue – that center being Maxwell Lord.
In the movie, she does do these things but there’s no real impact. We just shrug our shoulders and say ‘well, that’s that’. This is the crux of the issue. We lose the focus. We don’t feel at any point she’s in peril. We don’t get the hat-trick moment where victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat.
We could have had a decent post credit scene with Cheetah to introduce a seriously long-awaited DC villain – that scene I will discuss in the next blog.
I have to keep you coming back somehow.
Anyways, the first Wonder Woman film works because there was one villain working the picture. The second suffers for two. Shazam has one villain and it works. I’m not saying there are pictures with two villains that don’t work, but it’s a delicate balancing act. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one that works very well with two villains, even if one of the villains isn’t revealed until the third act.
I will return to the blog this coming Thursday to discuss episodes 2 and 3 of A Teacher and Wonder Woman: 1984.
Until then — stay safe.
It’s still Thursday here! I am still on time!
I know that I’ve harped on A Teacher, but this time I am going to talk about a show that I love and why you should be watching it.
Believe it or not…there are other shows out there.
Lovecraft Country is everything that I have looked for in cosmic horror. One of the things that I have lamented about as far as cosmic horror being on the T.V. is that there are key things in the way it’s presented that can’t really translate on the T.V. – on the movies, yes, you can get really, really close. Some of the best examples are from John Carpenter: In the Mouth of Madness, The Thing, They Live and Prince of Darkness.
Lovecraft Country, based on the novel of the same name by Matt Ruff, brings every little terror and point of dread to life. In just two episodes (I can’t binge series, sorry), the show puts insanity, monsters, old families, buried secrets and knowledge hidden from man and heaping on institutionalized Post-World War 2 racism for good measure.
And it doesn’t detract from the story. Here’s why.
One of the hallmarks of cosmic horror is The Other. The thing that exists outside our experience, and that we can not understand without breaking our foundational grip on reality. In Lovecraftian fiction specifically, madness comes at the price of understanding.
In Lovecraft Country, the main character is the Other – just by the virtue of being black in post-World War 2 America. We’re treated to an unblinking look of how the Other is treated: sundown towns, hostility, and segregation. This is only in the first episode and in the first 2/3rds of the show. We don’t hit “Lovecraft Country” until almost the end of the show. While there are numerous tips of the hat to Lovecraft and his circle of writers none of it is a distraction.
But back to the madness.
Madness is subtle here – suppressed memories, flashbacks, and PTSD, but it’s there. No screaming and gibbering about what man is not meant to know. Just the innocent ‘what happened?’ that can be explained away with the mind refusing to correlate its contents. When that happens in the second episode and the ensuing revelations, we get the screaming madness we are waiting for.
This book is on my short list to read in the New Year, right after Radium Girls is done, I will get to this book. If you have the opportunity, get this series, and watch it during Christmas. You will not be disappointed.
This is going to be the final post for 2020. I am happy to have survived it – looking at the beginning posts of this year will tell you how I started this year. I am going to face 2021 with optimism and success. I hope everyone will join me.
Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and enjoy the New Year.
… but I have nothing to say this week. I’m going to finish A Teacher and report on it tonight.
Things are a little…odd here.
Going to take a bit of a break. I’m a little swamped with housework.
Yes, I do a little housework. Don’t look so shocked.
I’m going to put up a blog entry tomorrow (technically, on time).
Until then — enjoy this program from one of my favorite channels.