Sunday, June 16, 2019

Eagle Butte
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Partly sunny

Movie releases entertain wide audiences over the holiday season, satisfying new & old fans


Director: James Wan

Writers: David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beal

Creators: Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris

Starring: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willen Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundengrem and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Mary Poppins

Director: Rob Marshall

Writers: David Magee, Rob Marshall and John DeLuca

Actors: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer and Pixie Davies

What I find most interesting about movies in an increasingly digitized world is that some of the films that pull the biggest crowds originate from the minds of people who lived and wrote in the 20th century.

Such is the case with the two holiday releases Aquaman and Mary Poppins Returns.

Aquaman is a film that blends the long history and various origin stories into a fresh start for the hero of the sea, who was created in the DC Universe by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris and first appeared in More Fun Comics, issue no. 73 in 1941.

In the comic versions of Aquman, and even in his reinvisioned versions in the 1950s and 1960s and again in the 1990s, Aquaman is a buff blond whose powers were for some reason not as grand as other superheroes in the DC or Marvel Universe.

The 2018 film starring Jason Momoa reinvision Aquaman again, this time giving him an even edgier look than his 1990 existence, and blending several of the origin stories laid out in the comics into one for a contemporary audience.

Aquaman is well-written, with a lot of clever lines, carefully placed back-story scenes, and punch-lines. It is filled with action and does well to introduce the world of Atlantis, its demise, and its evolution.

The heart of Aquaman’s storyline focuses on unifying the sea-dwellers with land-dwellers. Aquaman’s half brother wants the throne of Atlantis, and connives a way to unite the divided Atlantians under his rule to conquer the humans that are polluting the seas, and are unaware of the existence of the Atlantians.

It is a simple plot, and the character development follows suit, focusing on surface levels of abandonment, jealousy, betrayal, power hunger, conflicted loyalty and love.

Even though it is easy to distinguish CGI from the real thing, the movie is still a visual delight, and is worth seeing, if you have not seen it already, for the journey it takes you into the sea and Atlantis.

Mary Poppins Returns is not just for a younger audience. The theater audience in Pierre consisted of people ranging from three years old to perhaps 80 years old, and the older audience members reacted more often than the younger ones to various aspects of the film as remnants of the original Disney’s Mary Poppins seeped through the story line and into the characters.

The musical mirrored the original film, but incorporated new tunes with new actors.

Emily Blunt, reprising Julie Andrew’s role as Mary, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, playing Jack, Dick Van Dyke’s character Bert the chimney sweep, did well to follow in the footsteps of the original actors, but as several reviews have indicated, the film is a shadow of the original, no matter how well Blunt portrays Mary.

The story of Mary Poppins was actually written by P.L. Travers, born Helen Lundon Golf in 1899. She changed her name to Pamela Traverse during a brief acting career.

Born in Australia, with an Irish father, Travers moved to London and began her career as a journalist.

She wrote Mary Poppins in a series of short stories in 1926, and published the first book of Mary Poppins in 1934.

According to the Telegraph, Travers’s literary version of Mary Poppins was “stern, threatening, scornful, and cold.”

While Andrews played Mary as stern, she was a bit more playful, offering brief instances of wonder in her presentation of magic, mixed with a sense that all magic is normal and people are just unable to see it when they grow up.

Blunt gives Mary an even more playful aspect, saying that they are not entering a magic moment, but betraying a slight impish smile as she dives in with the kids on the next great adventure.

I am not sure what I expected from Mary Poppins Returns, which finds Jane and Michael Banks adults, and Michael, an artist, has had to take up a job in his father’s bank to pay the bills and raise his three kids in his father’s house after the death of his wife. What I did not expect was a mirror of the original adventures, with all original songs. While it works for the nostalgia of the crowd, and for first time audiences, may be an exciting delight, I can say that if you have not watched the original Mary Poppins, do that first. Then watch Mary Poppins Returns.

Both Mary Poppins films, while quite different from their literary origin, are well worth the fun trip through the delightful magic of a Nanny who saves the day with a spoon full of sugar and a dance on the ceiling.

Perhaps the best part of the new movie is when Dick Van Dyke, now in his 90s, dances and sings as the owner of the bank at the end of the movie – light as ever on his feet.