Friday, May 24, 2013


There's not much question that Queen Ravenna of SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN was the standout cinematic villainess for the year of 2012.  As I remarked in my review, Ravenna's character arc is a good deal stronger than anything given to the two heroes of the title.  As portrayed by Charlize Theron, Ravenna is essentially a "diva" role, one designed to spotlight the actress' beauty alongside the threat of its decline in the face of age-- a threat which exists both diegetically and non-diegetically.  The photographic pose above for me captures the brittle, sadly vulnerable quality of that beauty.

One curious question I didn't address in the review is the provenance of the queen's name, which most people know only as a city (and province) in Italy, and which would seem to have no ties with fairy tales in general or Snow White in particular.  It's possible the name was simply chosen on the basis of some personal association-- maybe one of the writers once lived in "Ravenna, Michigan."  But Wikipedia offers one interesting parallel, noting that Ravenna is the setting for a play entitled "The Witch," by Jacobean author Thomas Middleton.  Given the quasi-incestuous content of HUNTSMAN, Wiki's commentary points out one correspondence:

Middleton's Hecate has a son (and incestuous lover) called Firestone, who serves as the play's clown.

And just to cite an even less likely (and more comics-nerdy) assocation, a villainess named "Ravenne" appears in two Supergirl stories in ACTION COMICS #322-323 (1965).  As it happens, Ravenne, like Queen Ravenna, is something of a negative feminist icon, since Ravenna's scheme involves resuscitating such evil (and diva-like) women of history as Lady Macbeth, Mata Hari, and Lucretia Borgia.


More interesting for its potential than its execution was the 2011 film HANNA, reviewed here.

The character of Hanna Heller, an original film-creation by writer Seth Lochhead, is a young woman who from birth was genetically altered by the CIA to become superhuman.  Her surrogate father steals her from the organization and raises her in isolation, preparing Hanna for the day when she chooses to venture forth and take her chances in the modern world.  Hanna's perceptor warns her in particular about Marissa Wiegler, the head of the genetics operation that produced Hanna (and thus in a symbolic sense Hanna's "bad mother.")  Still, he does allow her to make the choice as to whether to leave her isolation, and though HANNA is often a dark film it does allow the heroine more freedom of action than one sees, for example, in Lady Snowblood, where the female protagonist is conceived to be the instrument of her mother's revenge.

The above scene shows Hanna demonstrating her atypical strength on a boy who might be described as her "first date."


By some reckonings the most outstanding aspect of IRON MAN 2 is not so much the confused plot pitting the titular hero against Mickey Rourke's "Whiplash," but rather the first live-action translation of Marvel's fan-favorite femme formidable.

That said, though Scarlet Johansen does a nice job with the visual presentation of Natasha Romanov, there's nothing particularly noteworthy about the character as presented here.  She's a supporting character whose role in IRON MAN 2 seems of less moment than the way her appearance sets up her particpation in the far superior film, the 2012 AVENGERS.

Not only does the script for THE AVENGERS pay much more attention to the Widow's capacity for badass action-- even in the company of "heavy-hitters" like Thor and the Hulk-- her abilities as a spy receive better exposure in that film as well.

As yet no solo project for the character has come to pass.  Johanssen's participation in the AVENGERS sequel has not yet been affirmed.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


I've done a fuller review of the 2009 direct-to-video WONDER WOMAN movie.

For the purposes of this blog, the main significance of this video is that it's the first effort by an audiovisual medium to emulate the "sexual politics" aspect of the original William Moulton Marston creation-- albeit in a very different, sometimes more superficial manner.

It is, however, a pretty gory affair for a DC Comics franchise, which may have kept it from enjoying the apparent success of the Superman DTV franchise.