Posts Tagged ‘Fast and the Furious’

Before we start, I’m telling you now that there will be spoilers for Mad Max: Fury Road. You’ve been warned. Proceed.

Like a massive amount of people this weekend, I saw Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller’s return to the Mad Max franchise thirty years after the last installment, Beyond Thunderdome (1985). How was it? So good, guys. So very good. You should all go see it so we can all incessantly talk about how perfect of an action movie it is and how George vhs-mad-max-fury-road1Miller should be given back the reigns to the scrapped Justice League movie from 2007. Tom Hardy does an admirable job taking over the role of Max from Mel Gibson, but what everyone’s been really talking about isn’t the titular character but the real hero of the movie, Furiosa, played fantastically by Charlize Theron. Though Max finds himself in the middle of a long drive down an endless, unforgiving road the movie is really about Furiosa and her search for redemption as she tries to smuggle the brides of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) back to the idyllic home from which she was stolen as a child. It would be very easy to launch into a review of the movie, but I think the phrase “GO SEE IT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD IT’S SO GOOD!!” is sufficient enough. Instead, I wanted to talk about Furiosa and her namesakes, the Furies – primordial deities of Ancient Greece who punished people for insolence, oath-breaking, unjustified murder, and anything else that might be construed as destruction of the natural order.

Descriptions of the Furies, or the Erinyes, often relegate them to a triptych of goddesses with interchangeable features like snakes for hair (not to be confused with the Gorgons), dog’s heads, bat’s wings, bloodshot eyes, and coal black bodies. It’s really more up to the author in question. Even the tri-goddess motif is subject to authorial whim since the Ancient Greeks didn’t exactly have a set number of cthonic revenge deities. We mostly have Virgil and Dante to thank for the three named Furies, Alecto (“unceasing”), Megaera (“grudging”), and Tisiphone (“vengeful destruction”). The triptych also works on a thematic level with other triple goddess groups such as the Fates, the erinyesCharities or Graces, and the Muses; there were originally only three Muses, but more were added. Still, nine muses fits with the “Power of Three” theme that’s carried over into modern day Pagan and Wicca practices and their pop culture equivalents like The Craft (1996) and Charmed (1998-2006). Fun fact: Charmed had an episode where the sisters were turned into the Furies (“Hell Hath No Fury”). But then again, they were turned into just about everything, so make of that what you will.

The Furies have actually made a fair number of appearances, and honorable mentions, in television, movies, and literature. As a trio, Xena: Warrior Princess used them in a handful of episodes, mainly as combatant figures sent by other gods to mete out punishment; they were also the main antagonists in the video game God of War: Ascension. As far as inspiration goes the Female Furies of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World were the ruthless bodyguards of the god-like despot Darkseid – and formerly led by one of my favorite heroines, Big Barda; and Barbara Stanwyck starred in the gripping Western, The Furies (1950), about a woman who cunningly gets hold of her family’s ranch after her father disowns her. The commonality of women in the position of protagonist and antagonist, sometimes Female_Furies_001concurrently, could be interpreted as harkening back to the idea that the Furies themselves were not necessarily malicious deities. Depending on your perspective they were either dispensing justice or executing unfair punishment. Or it’s just a happy accident.

The use of the word “fury” has had a long tradition of use in popular culture as well. Mad Max: Fury Road notwithstanding, we’ve also seen the rise, fall, and rise again of the Fast and the Furious franchise with the latest installment, Furious 7, giving the biggest finger to the laws of physics for the sake of pure entertainment that ever was given. If we go back a little further, William Faulkner’s 1929 novel The Sound and the Fury has been a staple of American literature classes for decades, the novel’s title coming from a soliloquy in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth wherein “the sound and the fury” is our need for significance in a meaningless existence. Indeed, the use of “furious” and “fury” in a modern day setting has been more closely associated with anger whereas the Furies depicted in the plays of Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles, and the poetry of Virgil and Dante were more concerned with “fury” as an extension of justice.

In Mad Max: Fury Road we get an amalgamation of these varied depictions. For starters, the second half of the title reveals not just where most of the action takes place, but it also indicates that Max isn’t the singular hero of the film. If anything, Max is just the means to an end for us so we can meet Theron’s Furiosa. It can’t just be coincidence that the leading woman is named Furiosa and she’s driving a war rig across Fury Road. If Miller and co-writers Brendan McCarthy and Nick Lathouris had wanted to be subtle (they didn’t), then there were better ways to go about it. FURY ROADFuriosa fits the duel role of protagonist and antagonist, a badass driver looking for redemption by saving a group of women and a foil for Max, in the beginning, who will do anything to survive. More to the point, Furiosa is the one to enact punishment and get revenge on Immortan Joe. As the supposed main character, Max has little to do with Joe’s demise. If he did, it wouldn’t make sense. After the brides, Furiosa has the most dramatic and narratively satisfying resolution in killing him and bringing down his tyrannical regime. If Max were the one to do so, then it wouldn’t ring true.

The culmination of Furiosa’s efforts to get the brides to her childhood home, however, unwittingly results in the creation of another form of the triple goddess motif, the maiden-mother-crone. Reunited with the remaining members of her people, all of whom are women, Furiosa becomes the “Mother” figure, the woman of middle age to the “Maiden” brides and the older “Crones” of her former home. Again, this may not have been the intention, but it sits there and whether you realize it or not you’re watching three generations of women fighting back in order to survive. Yes, Max is there and helps facilitate the plan to take on Joe and his army, but the heavy lifting is done as much, if not more so, by Furiosa, the brides, and the clans-women. Oh, and Nux (Nicholas Hoult) is there too.

There is so much to love about Mad Max: Fury Road. Charlize Theron’s Furiosa kicks all kinds of ass, even with one arm, and Tom Hardy looks like he’ll have no problems picking up the reins of the franchise. George Miller is so on point with a frenetic, fast paced, and gorgeously realized dystopian world gone mad but he also succeeds in giving us a cast of characters capable of meeting and exceeding that madness. It’s beneath the surface, however, that we see Fury Road‘s place in the long tradition of women looking for justice and my God is it glorious. Well done, Mad Max. Well done.

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Yesterday, Variety reported that Israeli actress Gal Gadot was officially cast as Wonder Woman/Diana of Themyscira/Diana Prince for the upcoming Superman/Batman movie. Gadot, best known for her role as Gisele Harabo in the Fast and the Furious franchise, will join Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent/Superman and Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne/Batman. It still remains unclear how big of a role Gadot’s Wonder Woman will play in the film since it was also confirmed that The Flash will make an appearance and rumors persist about Nightwing/Dick Grayson making a cameo as well as rumors of Lex Luthor and a possible second villain (perhaps Doomsday?) taking up screen time. Given the cast so far, we’re one Green Lantern short of a Justice League Begins movie.

Zack Snyder, director of Man of Steel and the aforementioned Superman/Batman movie/sequel/whatever issued this statement about Gadot’s casting:

“Wonder Woman is arguably one of the most powerful female characters of all time and a fan favorite in the DC Universe. Not only is Gal an amazing actress, but she also has that magical quality that makes her perfect for the role. We look forward to audiences discovering Gal in the first feature film incarnation of this beloved character.”

man-of-steel-castWith the announcement of Gadot as the most iconic female superhero, it was inevitable that comic book fans and non-comic fans alike would chime in on the casting. It’s about what you’d expect; there’s as much backlash as there is support. Personally, I know nothing about Gadot as an actress. It’s been a long time since I saw the first Fast and the Furious movie and I didn’t exactly stick with the franchise, so I have no idea if the movies really showcase her talent or if she has that “magical quality” Zack Snyder is talking about. If there’s one longstanding compliment I can give to Snyder it’s that he always casts his movies well. I may have my problems with Man of Steel, but the cast isn’t one of them.

Not surprising, though, one of the first things to come up was Gadot’s look and how she measured upWW to the image of Wonder Woman. The most prominent reactions were to her weight. Gadot is a thin woman, which doesn’t necessarily match up with the perception of Wonder Woman, by many fans, as the warrior princess blessed by the Greek Pantheon. In the comics, Diana is often depicted with the body of an athlete, svelte but muscled. It makes sense because, while she may have been given extraordinary gifts by the Gods – depending on the origin story – she’s still part of a warrior culture. Her blessings give her greater power, but at the end of the day she’s still a capable fighter. Diana has been training her entire life, so if one were to logically think about how she’d look, female athletes would be the best real-world examples. There’s a reason why a lot of people were looking at MMA fighter turned actress Gina Carano for the role. Cliff Chiang’s version of Wonder Woman in her current solo title brings those logical elements together, creating a Wonder Woman who has the look of a warrior but retains her femininity. Other artists like Alex Ross and George Perez have emphasized these qualities as well.

While I do agree that Gadot is skinny, she’ll more than likely be hitting the gym. If Zack Snyder’s smart, he’ll make sure that happens. Not that Gadot would need much motivation. During her two-year term of service in the Israeli Armed Forces, Gadot was a sports trainer, so she already has an athletic background. At the very least she just has to bulk up a bit. Think Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2. Besides, she’s not the only actor to change her body for a role.

Christian Bale - The Machinist to Batman Begins

Christian Bale – The Machinist to Batman Begins

Henry Cavil Transitions to Superman

Henry Cavill Transitions to Superman

Ben Affleck...I'm sorry, what were we talking about?

Ben Affleck…I’m sorry, what were we talking about?

So, yeah, I’m sure it’ll be covered. If not, and she remains as thin as she is, then we’re getting into the dangerous territory previously tread when Jennifer Lawrence was cast as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. In that case, Lawrence was criticized for being “too fat” to play Katniss. With Gadot as Wonder Woman, we’re looking at the reverse with an actress deemed “too skinny” to play a role that many believe requires a woman of larger proportions. Given the choice, I fall on the side of casting someone with an athletic body to match the Amazonian warrior in my head, but that doesn’t mean Gadot and her trainer won’t strike a happy balance. The point is, there is a level of believability surrounding Wonder Woman as a warrior that needs to be satisfied. Just saying she’s strong because the Gods gave her these abilities robs her of the years of actual training she received from her sister Amazons that would reflect in how her body has shaped over time.

There’s also the possibility, and worry, that Gadot may have been cast because she’d look good in the costume. Let’s be honest, Zack Snyder doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to portraying women in his movies and there’s the very real possibility that Gadot’s Wonder Woman may only serve as eye candy. To his credit, Snyder did right by Faora (Antje Traue) and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) in Man of Steel, so hopefully he’s learned from those mistakes. Wonder Woman, from the moment you see her, exudes power and femininity, which should come from the actress portraying her, not through the use of slow-motion or ass-shots.

The issue of her costume, however, factors into how she’s framed within the movie. There was a huge backlash against DC Comics for giving Wonder Woman pants in J. Michael Straczynski’s run on the title, which the New 52 rectified by putting her back in her most iconic costume that’s essentially a one-piece corset/swimsuit and knee-high boots. How her outfit translates to the big screen is a different beast entirely. What works in the comics, doesn’t necessarily make sense in the “realistic” world being built up in the nascent DC Cinematic Universe, so Snyder and his team are going to have to make a choice and I can’t say that I envy them in this regard. Personally, I’ve never had a problem with giving her pants. The iconic costume is iconic for a reason, but putting Gadot in that costume also presents more opportunities for sexualizing the character instead of relying on the actress to transcend the outfit. If Superman is essentially wearing Kryptionian mesh armor and Batman wears a segmented, armored suit, then why does Wonder Woman have to wear a corset and boots? She’s just as powerful wearing pants. If they chose this route, they just have to avoid the David E. Kelley Wonder Woman outfit.Darwyn-Cooke-Wonder-Woman

The other issue appears to be with Gadot’s height. Henry Cavill is six foot one while Ben Affleck is six foot four, putting Gadot at a disadvantage, height wise, at five foot nine. Again, this boils down to how we perceive Wonder Woman, as an Amazon, compared to Superman and Batman. Generally speaking, Wonder Woman is usually depicted being as tall or taller than both Superman and Batman, which is a way of visualizing her power and strength. It’s been used in a lot of comics when artists and writers want to emphasize that Superman isn’t the only powerful hero in the DC Universe. Darwyn Cooke’s Justice League: The New Frontier is one of my favorite reveals of how Diana measures up to Clark as well as Jeph Loeb’s reveal of Big Barda’s height compared to Superman’s in Superman/Batman: Supergirl. In terms of the movie we either have to trust that Gadot’s acting abilities are top-notch that we don’t notice or they’re gonna give her some boots that give her some extra height.

Strangely enough, the reactions to Gadot’s casting don’t necessarily reflect poorly on her as they do emphasize that the first appearance of Wonder Woman on the big screen is a huge deal and that fans of the character have very different ideas of who the character is and how she should look. It’s no different from when we nitpick the casting of any actor or actress portraying a character that’s been around for 70 years. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have gone through so many reboots and reimaginings that the likelihood of pleasing everyone is impossible. The only difference here is that this is Wonder Woman’s first time being featured in a movie whereas Superman and Batman have had multiple actors portraying them since George Reeves put on the cape in 1952. Actually, it goes even further back if you count the Batman and Robin serials of the 1940s. This is also the beginning of a shared cinematic universe for DC and Warner Bros., so the casting of Gadot and the choices they make in how she’s portrayed are going to be what sticks for the foreseeable future.

WonderWomanPictureFor my part, I’m always going to be more concerned with the story and where Wonder Woman falls into the plot. The role could range from cameo to supporting player and until WB puts out an official synopsis of the plot, we can only speculate how big of a role Wonder Woman will have in a movie that introduces her via her male peers with whom she’s supposed to stand alongside as an equal. I’m obviously not the only one who realizes this as many fans and articles have also commented on why Wonder Woman doesn’t just get her own movie before Justice League. And I’ve been on that side of the fence for a long time. I’ve written about it multiple times and I’ll continue to say that Wonder Woman doesn’t need to earn a movie of her own when every male character in the current comic book movie landscape got his movie without question. But we also don’t know WB’s long-term plan. We know Justice League is on the table, but how far out is still unconfirmed with the 2017 release date that came out of San Diego Comic-Con still a rumor. Like I said, the way things are shaping out in terms of the cast of Superman VS Batman, the proto-Justice League is already moving into place. I would love to see Wonder Woman get her own movie before Justice League because she’s Wonder Woman and she deserves it.

The reaction to those who continue to make the exact same statement has been one of, “Hey, we got Wonder Woman in a movie. We should be happy about this.” And, “I’m sure it means a Wonder Woman movie is on the way.” In regards to the first reply:  Yes, I’m happy Wonder Woman is going to be featured in a movie, but I will continue to question her purpose in it until I have some plot details and a better understanding of WB’s plans. Also, just being grateful that a character shows up in a movie is a double-edged sword. Until I see Gal Gadot in the costume and hear her speak, I can’t judge anything. The same goes for Affleck, but to imply that her just being in the movie is good enough sends a message to the filmmakers as well. What if it all goes wrong? What if Snyder falls back on what he’s done before regarding female characters in his previous movies? What if Goyer drops the ball and Wonder Woman is relegated to the background? Was I supposed to be happy about that the whole time? Obviously the reverse could happen and I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong. If this movie ends up being a fantastic superhero movie that gives Wonder Woman a fair shake along with Superman and Batman, I’ll be the first to admit it. But I’m not Mary Sunshine, so it’s great that others have such faith in what’s to come, but I’ll keep my skepticism and if I can respect your devotion, you can respect my reservations.wonder-woman

Concerning the second reply, it’s another show of faith in WB and the filmmakers that seems to be separating us. I hope to high Heaven that Wonder Woman gets a solo movie, but the constant assurances of it from others who know as much as I do about WB long-term plans for their movie franchises, which is nothing, that they’re certain it’ll happen doesn’t mean it actually will. We only really know that Justice League will happen, it’s just a matter of when and if they attempt to make another movie before then. So you can have you faith in the idea, but the fact of the matter is Wonder Woman has only ever popped up on the radar of WB in regards to movies in which she shares screen time with other heroes, never as a solo act. If, however, they announced a Wonder Woman movie would precede Justice League or that they were at least planning for one afterwards, then fine, your faith has been rewarded and I jumped the gun. Happy Happy Joy Joy to all of us! My concern will always remain with the hows and whens.

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So that’s all I got on the matter. This is, as always, one person’s opinion. But what do you think about the casting of Gal Gadot and Wonder Woman being part of Superman VS Batman? Should she get a movie before Justice League or are you content to wait?