Coming Soon to a Cinema near You…

wonder-woman

The 2017 film that I am most looking forward to is, of course, Wonder Woman. In this movie the legendary heroine (daughter of Zeus) comes to the early twentieth century to sort out World War One.

There have been several trailers, and this YouTube video combines most of the meat of  them.

It will be interesting to see which of the usual WW1 tropes the film makes use of, and what it adds. The film still above has a nicely Paul Nash skyline for her to appear against, and the trailer promises a couple of ‘Over the Top’ sequences: one a general dawn attack, and one her very own one-woman show, letting bullets bounce off her bracelet and shield. I was glad to see a bit of a cavalry charge. We don’t have enough of them in most WW1 films.

The trailer hints at a reincarnation theme, which might mean that the film is going back to the tropes you get in Talbot Mundy’s 1916 adventure yarn  King of the Khyber Rifles (filmed by John Ford as The Black Watch).

What I’d really like to see is the reaction of Bairnsfather’s Old Bill to the appearance in the trenches of a lady as skimpily dressed as this.

Is a film like this a sign that the First World War is leaving the zone of Remembrance and piety, and becoming a piece of history that film directors can feel free to play around with?

It will be interesting to see which is more successful, this or the promised new version of Journey’s End, also scheduled to appear next year. The production company behind the Sherriff remake seem very keen to signal their virtue:

Fluidity Films is working with and supporting Combat Stress, the charity that cares for veterans suffering from PTSD – our hero Stanhope suffers from (undiagnosed) PTSD or ‘shell shock’.
We also have the patronage of royalty, Sir Anthony Seldon and many other individuals and organisations to create the totemic film for the Centenary from which will flow education, history, culture and, of course, remembrance.

Does Stanhope really have PTSD? Or is he a man placed in a position of huge responsibility, and trying to cope with it? Do we trivialise the character by making his plight a medical condition? Would I have more faith in a film whose publicity did not equate PTSD and ‘shell-shiock’?

Well, let’s see how the film turns out. As well as the play-script its writers seem to be making use of the novel of Journey’s End that Sherriff wrote with Vernon Bartlett, which explains more about the Stanhope/Raleigh pre-war relationship.

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7 Comments

  1. Alan Allport
    Posted December 25, 2016 at 1:58 am | Permalink

    Is a film like this a sign that the First World War is leaving the zone of Remembrance and piety, and becoming a piece of history that film directors can feel free to play around with?

    Video game designers too, perhaps. Battlefield 1 broke new ground this year with its WWI setting. Some of its episodes are quite imaginative, including events in the Dardanelles, the Italian front, and the Middle East.

    • Posted December 27, 2016 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      I agree. Balttlefield 1 is a best-seller, and will probably do as much to shape the next generation’s view of the Great War as any film, book or TV play.

      It’s graphically impressive, but essentially it’s a first-person shoot-’em-up, like Doom of happy memory (when I was a teacher the I.T. department put Doom on the school network, and we blazed away happily through many a lunch-hour, though I was fairly useless at it).
      You’re a soldier charging through No Man’s Land and beyond, carrying a fair selection of weaponry. You go through trenches, towns, woodland, chateaux, aiming for various objectives and splatting any enemy soldiers that pop up in your way.
      I can only judge it from play footage like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dPD22hChiQ . It seems an intense and exciting game.
      Is it anything like the experience of fighting in the Great War? I suspect not, for several reasons:
      The first-person shoot-’em-up genre is about one soldier rampaging on a solo attack. Such attacks would be rare in the 1914-18 war, so this game apparently gives you a squad, but there is little interaction between members.
      Judging by the footage I’ve seen, it’s all about short-range small-arms battles. Most casualties in WW1 came from long-range artillery fire.This is hard to integrate into this genre of game.
      This genre is all about movement, whereas WW1 was a very static war.
      As in most computer games, all hits seem fatal, and deaths are instantaneous. The protagonist does not seem to try to do much if one of his squad is hit.
      It seems easy in the game to flip from a standard view of the battle to an overhead view. Air reconnaissance provided some valuable information to advancing troops, but not instantaneously in mid-fight.
      In other words, it seems to me that the manufacturers have taken the standard tropes of the first-person war genre, and have applied them to WW1, making the graphics impressive and the gameplay exciting, but without really considering what made this war distinctive.

      • Alan Allport
        Posted December 27, 2016 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        I agree that the game teaches nothing about the reality of tactical combat in the war (indee, it’s quite misleading), but it is nice to see the designers not just restrict themselves to a conventional Western Front setting. There can’t be many video games depicting the Battles of the Isonzo, at least in the English-speaking world anyway. If nothing else, it might make some more intelligent young players better aware of the global scope of the war.

      • Steve Paradis
        Posted December 27, 2016 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

        Similarly, this is why accurate Great War flight sims are such a niche product. The YouTube footage of “Wings of Glory” does justice to the groundbound plotting out of “Dawn Patrol” and the visual style derived from “The Blue Max”, but gives no idea of the flight model. The planes are underpowered and stall without warming and they’re as fragile as kites; the guns jam after a few bursts and it’s almost impossible to hit anything unless you’re less than twenty yards away–just like the real thing.
        And that was 20 years ago. The ones now look better, but are just as hard.
        Yet movies like “Flyboys” and “The Red Baron” evoke derision in all forums for their laughable X-Wing physics.

  2. Jonathan Lighter
    Posted January 18, 2017 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Have you ever heard of the film “Deathwatch” (2002)?

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0286306/

    Not my cup of tea, but a very different take….

    • Posted January 18, 2017 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

      Not my cup of tea either, but I suppose interesting as a symptom of writers trying to do something different with WW1 material.
      On the IMDB Deathwatch page I like the collection of factual howlers that sharp-eyed pedants have noticed in the film.

      • Jonathan Lighter
        Posted January 19, 2017 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

        In my view, they were trying, rather, to do something different with horror material and realized the war could be a bonanza.

        That kind of exploitation disturbs me (pointlessly, of course), somewhat like the dreadful but beloved Auschwitz comedy, “Life is Beautiful.”

        Probably not the best way for film-goers to “remember.”


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