God Among Small Things

Parking Lot Notes #3 : Wonder Woman

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It is one of those ‘just-go-wow’ in the theater but nothing much afterwards film that Hollywood manufactures at a healthy rate, the operative keyword here is healthy because the success of these films totally depends on how much we are willing to forget similar films of the past. Since the superhero origin module (probably a template document stored in the vaults of Warner Bros and Marvel) involves ever useable intangibles such as love, hope and discovery,(very difficult to have a superhero movie without stressing on this) the core of an origin is a known one.

Frankly I’m a bit tired of this, also I don’t really follow comic books, hence I have lost the WooHoo! enthusiasm that the comic book t-shirt target audience display in the theaters (I was young once), because in every super hero movie there is difference in only specifics.

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Patty Jenkins- breaking the glass ceiling

Here in Wonder Woman, it is about preventing the wrath of Ares upon earth by the Amazonian goddess Diana. Of course it is the single point of view narration which means that we get to hear the story in her own voice is the differentiator and how well the film races back in time (WWI, but of course Germans are the villains) by just the show of a photograph. A moment framed in time could be a trigger for an entire lifetime, also striking was the use of oil paintings to tell the tale of Zeus and the creation the island of the Amazons.

The film then goes the ‘it’s the same thing mister Sivam’ after that, there is the training montage, the charming love interest (I pine for Chris Pine), the ragtag group, the need to fight their own battles, a loss of hope, a couple of mad villains, a death of a dear.

Yet, it’s all so wonderful to see things from the perspective of a God and Gal Gadot brings the innocence which is very difficult to fake on screen and I did buy the idea that even Gods can feel that we lesser beings are not deserving of their kindness and grace. Good to see that they have retained the uplifting Zimmer and Junkie XL’s Wonder Woman theme. Repetitions like these when done well, shows. It all comes together nicely.

But when the lights came back on and when I walked back home my old friend memory, returned.

Parking Lot Notes covers the thoughts that go about in our writers’ mind when they walk back from the movies, sometimes they take Ola Auto also, but that is not the point.

BORROWED MASK

Mugamoodi (2012)

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Sometime in the near past, I made up a character called Turkey Towel Man, a man with apparently no relevance to society but exists only to satisfy my need to be part of the things I was watching at the time on TV, the turkey towel of course was the cape; you could say he was my first indigenous hero of sorts; but he existed solely within the mind, without purpose other than to be part of creation.

The setting is a well lit and brimming indoor auditorium, the kind which makes you immediately think about how much money they spent in bringing these people together, it is a Kung Fu competition of some high order, the participants are wearing different colors. The crowd erupts when one of them falls, there is one man silent amidst all this; the archetypical wise but calm, poor idealist master; the man who predicted the fall from the beginning, just by looking at the stance of the fighter.

That is exactly how I felt while watching Mysskin’s Mugamoodi. But wait, everybody knows the story; not just this one but perhaps every super hero film, especially when the director is spitting into the promotional mikes saying “yes plans for sequels are on.” The matter of any story lies in the telling and Mysskin in his fifth film has achieved that to a considerable extent while managing to combine his usual visual style to the story of the super hero.

I know and I’m tired, there are already a score of them waiting for a Blue Ray release and few more to come to the theaters, but it is the way of the world, the roll of the wheel and the squeak of the mouse.

As it is the tradition these days, these films generally begin with the villain, carefully establishing the power of the character and dropping hints on what his great plan would be, Narein plays Dragon an exponent of Kung Fu and the leader of a meticulous band of thieves; his streak of madness visible only during the time he prepares himself for murder; mouthing child like rhymes scarily and giving the opponent enough time to come to the conclusion that death is perhaps the better option.

So we now have the mad villain, we must also have the hero played by Jiiva who finds his real purpose in life, this is handled much better than the stock villain; Mysskin effectively combines the typical wayward son from many Tamil films and the ‘other’ man characters from Hollywood superhero film to create a fresh Anand alias Bruce Lee; the noms de guerre assumed not only because he has a much worshipped poster on the wall, but his inspiration in the world of Kung Fu taught by his selfless master. In the same city inhabit the duty bound police officer Gaurav who is hot on the trails of the thieving gang and his daughter with whom our hero will eventually fall in love.

There are some great themes in the origins story like how Mugamoodi thankfully isn’t a film where the hero stands for the oppressed; but gets into the suit quite accidentally and the good thought of having both the main characters on an equal footing by making them both men of martial arts, with this come the slow running shots, the movement of people like clockwork and odd ball characters typical of Mysskin’s films

It is in the events that lead up to the climax that one wonders how much the film has borrowed from its Hollywood counterparts and from Mysskin’s own stable but sadly more than it can use; in these times it is the music of K that lifts the film; one of the finest soundtracks in recent years.

Although Mugamoodi’s claim that it is Tamil Cinema’s first superhero film can be debated, but it is certainly the first to achieve an atmosphere comparable to the current Hollywood trend viz. to make the superhero look more meaningful and that at a small percentage of the cost involved; but all that withers away in the end, still making Mysskin’s previous Yuddham Sei (wage war) his most evolved work.

 

Aside, the film also makes the weirdest reference to Sherlock Holmes; the borrowing of set pieces and characters do not bother me to the extent of condemning it to plagiarist hell as it is quite understandable as references for a Tamil super hero are minimal and this made me go back to my Turkey Towel Man, a character as stated before only to fill my fantasies, maybe Mugamoodi is Mysskin’s Turkey Towel Man. The relevance of the character and film can only be known at a later date, if any. But all this seems like I am defending the director for his ordinary work.