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I’m going to be giving away most of the main plot points of Wonder Woman, so if you don’t want to know, don’t read this post. Go watch the movie, then come back and read this post.
Wonder Woman has been receiving numerous accolades and high ratings from both fans and critics. Everyone loves this movie. I, too, went to see Captain America: the First Avenger…uh…I mean Wonder Woman. I really enjoyed it, too. In fact, I never really liked Wonder Woman before, but now I’m totally ready to buy some Wonder Woman merch.
But let’s not pretend this movie is more than it is. It is not groundbreaking, mainly because it’s straight up copying the story line of Captain America: The First Avenger.
This isn’t meant to actually knock DC for copying Marvel. DC and Marvel copy each other constantly. That’s why they have so many characters that are basically copies of each other, like Deathstroke and Deadpool, Green Arrow and Hawkeye, Darkseid and Thanos, Black Cat and Catwoman, and, of course, the Justice League and the Avengers.
In Wonder Woman, the role of Captain America is split between Diana and Steve. In this analysis, Diana is sometimes the hero and sometimes the love interest. Nevertheless, the similarities are such that I’m amazed no one else seems to notice. Here is my point-by-point analysis of the similarities between Wonder Woman and Captain America: The First Avenger:
- The hero tries to join others in military training, but is stopped by an authority figure. The hero succeeds in being accepted for training with the help of a mentor figure.
- The mentor figure dies and the hero is unable to stop it.
- The hero wants to join the war effort, is denied by an authority figure, and finally joins the war effort by going rogue.
- The hero is idealistic, with the main goal of saving innocents and doing what is right no matter the circumstances, with emphasis on the high moral character of the hero.
- The hero’s worldview is depicted as simplistic, but is ultimately correct.
- The movie is a period world war piece.
- The hero must overcome a supernatural power.
- The hero is a captain named Steve.
- The hero’s first big success: charges in and single-handedly (or nearly so) saves those who are helpless (POWs/village) from the Germans.
- The hero assembles a rag-tag and multi-ethnic band for the mission.
- The Big Bad is a power-hungry German with a psychotic inventor sidekick.
- Psychotic inventor sidekick creates a super-weapon that the power-hungry German plans on using on the enemy.
- Power-hungry German uses the super-weapon on his own people for standing in his way.
- Great loss (Bucky/village they just saved) bolsters the hero’s determination to stop the Big Bad.
- Rag-tag band storms fortress to destroy the super-weapon.
- The super-weapon is loaded on a plane. The hero manages to get on the plane and subdue the pilot, and faces a dilemma: how to dispose of the super-weapon.
- The hero sacrifices himself to save innocents from the super-weapon, saving the day and leaving a mourning love interest.
- Fast-forward to modern times: the hero waits and is ready for the next Big Bad.
There you have it. Wonder Woman has the same story line as Captain America: The First Avenger. Though, it wasn’t until the plane that I was ready to accuse DC of outright plagiarism. Maybe we should just call Diana “Captain Amazon.”
And, just for fun:
Here I go again, wading into truly controversial territory. That’s me, fighting the good fight.
Eliza should have married Freddy.
Perhaps a little background is required, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the musical. My Fair Lady was written by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, based on the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. In it, Eliza Dolittle is a poor flower girl (meaning someone who sells flowers) with a thick Cockney accent, which in London means she’s little better than a beggar. Henry Higgins is a phoneticist who encounters Eliza in the street. On a dare from Colonel Pickering, Higgins decides to take on Eliza as a student, to transform her language and make her pass for a fine lady in London society.
He succeeds. Meanwhile, Freddy Eynsford-Hill, a young socialite, has fallen in love with Eliza, and has professed his love to her. In the end, however, Eliza decides to continue living with Henry Higgins. Eliza made a serious error. She should have married Freddy. I shall now present the reasons why.
First off, Freddy is devoted to Eliza. Granted, his song “On the Street Where You Live” is a bit of a stalker song, but Freddy seems much to innocent to really understand that. Freddy is unashamed to admit to Eliza herself that he loves her.
On the other hand, Henry Higgins won’t even admit to himself that he cares about Eliza. In his song “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” which he sings to himself, it is apparent that he does care about her, but he will only admit to being “accustomed” to her. Ah, yes, that’s what every woman dreams of in a relationship with a man: to be with someone who is used to her.
Secondly, Freddy is kind and respectful, even deferential, to Eliza. Henry Higgins, on the other hand, is rude, irascible, and tyrannical, and doesn’t appreciate the things she does for him. He doesn’t recognize her achievements, claiming all success for himself, as seen in “You Did It.” He excuses has appalling behavior by saying he treats all women that way. Ultimately, Eliza is going to be happier with someone who treats her well.
Additionally, as Freddy’s wife, Eliza will have a place and future in society. As a married woman, she will be respectable. Living with Henry Higgins, on the other hand, is a very ambiguous position. When he first introduced her to society, she was a charming novelty. As others get to know her and her situation, however, she will not be so welcomed. An unmarried woman, who is not a servant, living with an older man will not be a savory role in society. Furthermore, Eliza is going to tire of being a novelty and will want a life with meaning, such as she could have as a wife and mother with Freddy. I mean, Eliza isn’t going to sleep with Henry Higgins, is she?
You might say that Freddy will end up wasting his estate, and leave her for someone else. We also have no evidence for that except for Henry Higgins’ assertion, and he’s jealous, so we can’t really trust what he has to say on the matter.
Finally, what will happen to Eliza when she grows old? As Freddy’s wife, she would be entitled to an inheritance when he dies, and any sons she has would be obligated to care for her. With Henry Higgins, she would have no official status. Since she is an unmarried woman who is not part of his family, there is no assurance that she won’t be thrown out into the streets upon Henry Higgins’ death.
In summary, Freddy loves Eliza, treats her better, Eliza will have a better role in society with Freddy, and has more assurance of being taken care of in old age.
Also, Freddie is a much better singer.
If you are familiar with this blog, you know that I’m no stranger to controversy. Today, however, I venture into truly contested territory: ranking Disney musicals. Here, I rank them primarily based on the quality of their music as a whole, with story and animation considered only as tie-breakers.
These musicals were really hard for me to rank, because there are so many great Disney musicals, but if I’m going to make a top 10 list, then they have to be in some sort of order.
You may find I rank musicals lower or higher than you believe is warranted. You may find that your favorite Disney musical has been snubbed. You have been warned.
10. Tarzan – I put this one at the bottom since it’s not a proper musical, since the characters aren’t actually the ones doing the singing. But Phil Collins and his songs are amazing, aren’t they?
9. Hunchback of Notre Dame – This is a seriously under-rated musical, both as a musical and as a movie, perhaps because it doesn’t have a princess or because it’s pretty dark for a kids’ movie. If you want pathos, Hunchback has it in spades. Granted, the singers aren’t as good as those in some of the other Disney musicals, but what songs has Disney ever created that are more emotive than “God Bless the Outcasts” and “Out There”?
8. Pocahontas -Pocahontas herself is clearly the star of this score, though the white settlers have some interesting songs. This musical is also one of the few Disney musicals to get a memorable end credits song, “If I Never Knew You.”
7. Mulan – The songs are fresh and classic at the same time, with plenty of clever lyrics, as well. The score has a good blend of silly and serious. Plus, Donny Osmond.
6. The Little Mermaid – What teenager can’t relate to Ariel? “Part of Your World” was my anthem. Sebastian and his blues-y “Under The Sea” and “Kiss The Girl” are also crowd pleasers.
5. Frozen – Mind you, Frozen only made it onto this list on the strength of its music. This movie was so overrated, and there are plenty of potholes in the story. But you can’t deny that the music is really good, though fairly unoriginal. The score is in a decidedly Broadway style. Idina Menzel is always amazing, so Frozen was bound to sound good. (Tangled is still a better movie!)
4. Aladdin – The score of Aladdin is playful, fun, and jazzy. It has lots of clever wordplay, and is where I learned the phrase “nom do plume.” Aladdin will also always be remembered, of course, for the beloved Robin Williams, who brought a lot of the fun to this musical.
3. Moana – These songs just keep moving. You can’t help but be caught up in them. The melodies are catchy and singable for the layperson but still complex enough to be interesting
2. Beauty and the Beast – (The original, not the shameless money grab that is the live-action remake) This is the classic Disney musical. The songs are an integral part of the plot, both setting the scenes and showcasing character development. Every subsequent Disney musical gets compared to this one, and for good reason.
1. Hercules – Hercules has everything you could want from a musical. It has a stirring ballad, a sassy but poignant song from the leading lady, a funny character song, and an energetic and jazzy chorus.
What do you think the best Disney animated musicals are? Ready…Set…Debate!
Upon reviewing my list, this article could also be appropriately titled “Alan Menken writes most of the best movie musicals.”
On a side note, here’s an interesting article about how Disney Saved Musicals for a New Generation.
In the blockbuster animated movie Shrek, we are introduced to numerous fairy tale creatures. They come from a variety of sources, including classic fairy tales (ex. Snow White) and nursery rhymes (three blind mice). But Donkey’s origin remains a mystery. Unlike all the other donkeys in the world, he talks, thus clearly making him a fairy tale creature. But where did he come from?
You need wonder no more, for I have found the answer.
In the book of Numbers of the Old Testament, chapter 22 tells the story of a man named Balaam, a soothsayer. The Moabites wanted to defeat the Israelites in battle, so they offered Balaam a reward if he would curse the Israelites, thus enabling the Moabites to win. Instead of cursing them, Balaam blessed them. Obviously, this did not satisfy the Moabites, so they continued to pester him.
Balaam invited the Moabite messengers who had come to see him to stay the night. Balaam asked God if he could go with them, and God said Balaam could go with them, as long as he only said what God told him to say.
The next day, Balaam saddled his donkey to go with the Moabites. God sent an angel with a sword to block the path. Balaam couldn’t see the angel, but his donkey could, and she refused to go forward. Finally, Balaam in anger started to beat his donkey.
The donkey says in verse 28: “What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?”
Without skipping a beat, Balaam replies “Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill thee.”
The story continues after that, but what always struck me as odd, besides the donkey talking, is that Balaam doesn’t find it strange that his donkey is talking to him. However, it wouldn’t be strange in this instance if the donkey were are talking donkey. It would also explain why Balaam was so quick to beat the donkey: even though she’s perfectly capable of explaining why she’s being unruly, she doesn’t.
Balaam’s donkey is indeed a she, which must mean that Donkey from Shrek must be her son.
Now that I have solved this mystery for you, share your newfound knowledge (and this blog post) with your friends on social media!
Of course most book-lovers know that the book is better than the movie.
To be fair, there is only so much you can put into a movie. Movie-makers can show an entire scene in one amazing visual, but they can’t beat the amount of character development a book can have when the author can reveal all of a character’s innermost thoughts. An author can also withhold information for a dramatic reveal later, when a movie can’t.
Occasionally, though, I must admit, the movie is better. (Yes, blasphemy, I know.) The list below has four categories, which are pretty self-explanatory. I haven’t included any book for which I’ve only seen the movie or only read the book. I also haven’t included any books that were made into musicals, since I love musicals regardless of how accurate an interpretation it might be of the book. All are listed in no particular order, except for the order in which they occurred to me.
I may have missed some, so please point them out in the comments.
The Book Was Better
- Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams – It was simply magical to hear “So, long, and thanks for all the fish” set to music. The movie is funny and charming, and captures the spirit of Adams’ novel well. The book is still better, but I’m glad that in the movie Arthur got a happy ending.
- Battlefield Earth, by L. Ron Hubbard – The 2000 movie with John Travolta was absolutely panned, and I’ve seen it on lists of all-time bad movies. I liked it, but that’s just me. The movie actually only covers about the first third of the book, which is quite a saga, and, I think, very interesting.
- Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury – The 1966 movie was bland and lackluster, not doing justice to this excellent novel.
- The Maze Runner, by James Dashner – I’d say this one’s close. In both the movie and the novel, no one ever gives a straight answer, and information is given with an eye dropper, which is infuriating, but some things in the novel make more sense than they do in the movie.
- The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau – The movie was a bit disappointing. It didn’t capture the menace of the setting and the build up of excitement in the book.
- Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card – The book is brilliant and amazing. No movie could hope to live up to it. But the movie was all right.
- The Giver, by Lois Lowry – Thanks to the movie, I discovered that The Giver is actually the first of a series, which of course I purchased and devoured immediately upon seeing the display in a bookstore. The movie is a solid adaptation, making changes for the sake of the movie but staying true to the spirit of the original (mostly).
- The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien – Peter Jackson did not need to stretch this out into three movies. That was an unapologetic money grab. (I still went to all three of them, of course.)
- Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis – I get that movie makers want to create tension between the characters, but they went too far and didn’t remain true to the characters in the book.
- Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis – This movie did not stay true to the spirit of the book. The scriptwriters obviously need to work on reading comprehension, because they changed the Island Where Dreams Come True into a sea serpent.
- The Hunger Games, trilogy, by Suzanne Collins – All three books are solidly better than the movies, though I enjoyed both. My main complaints are that the first movie spent too much time on world-building and not enough time on character-building, and the third book did not need to be two movies.
- Harry Potter, series, by J.K. Rowling – The Harry Potter series was a phenomenon. I, too, was caught up in it, and would obsessively read each new installment as soon as I could get my hands on it.
- Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer – Yes, I’ve actually read this book. And seen all the movies. Honestly, the book really is better than the movie. It’s not great literature, but I genuinely enjoyed it.
- The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells – The book was 100,000% better than that bizarre travesty of a movie directed by Simon Wells (2002), whose last name didn’t help him make a better adaptation.
- Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen – I’ve only seen the movie with Keira Knightley, and not the other film adaptations. I actually like that movie, but, of course, the book is still better. This movie is charming, but didn’t capture all the nuances of the characters and their development.
- The DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown – Awesome movie, even better book.
- The Color of Magic and Hogfather, by Terry Pratchett- To be fair, these are made-for-t.v. movies, so we can’t hold them to the same standards. These movies are cute but just okay as adaptations of the brilliant works of Terry Pratchett.
The Movie Was On-Par With the Book
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis – I’ve loved this series since I was a kid, but, I will admit, the movie did a good job.
- The Princess Bride, by S. Morgenstern – er – William Goldman – You have to have a certain kind of sense of humor to enjoy the book. If you really like Douglas Adams and Monty Python, give this novel a shot.
- Insurgent, by Veronica Roth – The book and the movie are of about the same quality.
The Movie Was Better (sorry)
- The Fellowship of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien – I’m going to get a lot of crap for this one. But, honestly, Tolkien just takes so long to get anywhere. It’s kind of tedious. And, I have a confession to make that will probably have you demanding my nerd card: I only got about half-way through The Two Towers and I haven’t read Return of the King at all. In my defense, I’ve read The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales.
- Stardust, by Neil Gaiman – This one of of Gaiman’s weaker novels. It’s whimsical and charming, but the movie makes it into a much more powerful story.
- Divergent, by Veronica Roth – This one was close. The movie just barely edges out the book. The movie follows the book pretty closely, and the changes the movie made were for the better.
- Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown – There’s a reason this book didn’t become well known until after Da Vinci Code. It’s because this one kind of sucks. It has these awful recurring dream segments that that have nothing to do with the rest of the story thankfully were not in the movie, and, overall, the writing isn’t as good. The movie was better. By quite a bit.
Both Were Terrible
- Twilight series (everything after the first one) by Stephanie Meyer – okay, so I’ve only read through New Moon, but after that one I gave up and I can’t imagine it gets better.
- Eragon and Eldest by Christopher Paolini – I gave up after the second one. It’s a poorly-written rehashing of Star Wars with Anne Mccaffrey’s dragon riders instead of Jedi.
So what do you think? What’s better – the book or the movie?
One of my favorite things about working with kids is hearing the stuff they say. They tend to be blunt, are often funny, and even, on occasion, insightful. Sometimes, however, they are just plain weird. Here’s some of the weird stuff my students have said to me:
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When we went outside to walk to music, one of my boys said “Whenever I go outside and it’s really bright, my eyelashes go up.”
Him: “My eyelashes go up to my eyebrows!”
Um…sure kid…whatever that means.
* * *
When picking up my students from music on the same day, one of my girls randomly burst out “I’m a vampire!” This was in December, so there hadn’t been any discussions about vampires (at least that I heard) for a month and a half.
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While we were walking outside, it started to rain a little. “Don’t worry,” I called to my class, “you won’t melt.”
“Yes I will!” one of my girls called back to me, (the same one, incidentally, who told me she’s a vampire).
* * *
Okay, this was something my kids did, rather than said:
When I wear a skirt in the Winter, I wear tights or leggings underneath. Come Spring, leggings became shorts, leaving my lower legs bare. I had kindergarten students who liked to stroke my legs and feet. Can you say creepy? And one child decided to look up my skirt. (Wasn’t I glad I was wearing shorts underneath!)
Another one of said children said to me, “Your skin is really smooth.”
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This one wasn’t from a student, but from the young niece of one of my friends:
“You’re hurting my daddy!” (Her daddy wasn’t even there.)
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I taught science at summer camp for several years. One project we did was bottle rockets, pumped full of air using a bicycle pump. Those rockets sure went high! One 1st grade camper described it this way: “It went so high it went up to heaven, but it didn’t touch the dead people.”
* * *
There you have it, folks! Kids are funny, and sometimes just plain weird.
There are some stories that would simply make awesome movies, yet no one in Hollywood has made them. With these movies, I would want the full Hollywood multi-million dollar treatment. And I would want to direct them, of course, to make sure they were made right.
Here are the movies that Fiona Studios would make:
The Force Unleashed – Yes, based on the video game. Synopsis: Darth Vader has a secret apprentice, codenamed Starkiller, who hunts down the last Jedi following the Clone Wars and Order 66. This is the only life Starkiller has ever known. He is aided by a pilot, Juno Eclipse, and a droid, PROXY. After a few successful missions, Starkiller’s existence is discovered by Palpatine, who orders Vader to kill him. And he does. Starkiller miraculously survives, but remembers the dying words of a a Jedi master he killed: “The sith always betray one another…but you’ll find that out soon enough.” Shaken, Starkiller finds an unexpected ally, and a new path.
Why: Because there is nothing more epic in the Star Wars universe than Force Unleashed. There is no force user more epic than Starkiller. Let’s face it: what everyone really wants to see is a Jedi pull a starship out of the sky and crush it with the force.
The Thrawn Trilogy – Written by Timothy Zahn. Synopsis: Lord Palpatine and Darth Vader are dead. The Second Death Star is destroyed. The Empire is overthrown. But our heroes are not done. Grand Admiral Thrawn rallies the remains of the Empire’s fleets, defeating every enemy they face. No one can beat Thrawn, the only alien to achieve the rank of Grand Admiral, a rank that put him higher even than the Grand Moffs.
Why: This is why I am so sad that Disney threw out the Expanded Universe. Because that means Thrawn never happened. Thrawn is the greatest fictional villain. Ever. He knows exactly what his enemies will do, leaving them constantly second guessing themselves. Ever heard of Tony Stark? Ender Wiggin? Hari Seldon? Morons.
Captain Mad Jack Churchill – Synopsis: A true WWII story. Jack Churchill was a Brit born in Hong Kong, who graduated from the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, played the bagpipes, was proficient in archery, and reportedly said “…any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.” True to his words, Churchill went into battle with a Scottish broadsword. He seriously took on the Nazis with a broadsword and bow and arrow. In one engagement, with only the help of one compatriot, he took 42 prisoners. With a sword. During WWII.
Why: Because “Mad” Jack Churchill is seriously one of the most epic modern-day warriors to have actually existed. Remember the part about capturing Nazis with a broadsword?
The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare – Synopsis: Before Christopher Lee was a famous actor, playing everything from Dracula to Saruman, (including a role opposite Errol Flynn) he was a legendary war hero of WWII. The kind that inspired Ian Fleming’s James Bond. (To whom Christopher Lee was related to, by the way. Ian Fleming; not James Bond.) Lee wanted to be a pilot, but instead served in intelligences as part of the SOE, (nicknamed “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare”) fighting the Nazis Africa and later Italy, performing missions like sabotaging supply lines. (While there, he climbed Mt. Vesuvius three days before it erupted.) He also hunted down Nazi war criminals. Lee’s service records are still classified.
Why: Because Christopher Lee. No one will ever be as awesome as Christopher Lee. (By the way, he was also knew 6 languages and was both an opera singer and a heavy metal artist.)
Guards! Guards! – This is the first novel about the copper Sam Vimes, of Ankh-Morpork, in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. There are several Vimes novels, but you really need to start with the first one to establish the characters. Synopsis: Discworld is a flat land on the back of four elephants on the back of a turtle. Ankh-Morpork is a city state run by the benevolent tyrant Lord Vetinari, who also happens to be basically all-knowing. Vimes is the captain of the city watch, which, sadly, is mostly incompetent. Vimes must make them less incompetent, train their newest recruit, Carrot Ironfoundersson, and save the city from a dragon. Oh, and get the girl.
Why: I dearly love the Discworld series, the Vimes stories in particular. They are fantasy, but don’t read like high fantasy. These books feel very grounded in the real world. Ankh-Morpork feels like a real place, and the characters are delightfully complex. Pratchett is also the master of satire and humor. Discworld is an amazing blend of silly and serious, and the books are surprisingly thought-provoking, usually right after you can’t breathe because you’re laughing so hard. My favorite Vimes books, (besides the first one), which would be amazing as movies, are Men at Arms, The Fifth Elephant, Night Watch (my most favoritest of them all), and Thud. Other Discworld books that seriously need to be movies: Monstrous Regiment, and Mort. I pretty much love the entire series, but these are my favorites. I could actually list several more as my “favorites,” but I’ll stop now.
Since this post is quite long enough, I guess there will have to be a part two!
What stories do you think should be made into movies? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!