With Further Ado #128: That Comic Book Movie Starring That Statuesque Raven-Haired Beauty That Stumbled

So that statuesque, raven-haired beauty makes the leap from comics to a big time movie! And the leap, by most accounts, lands with a resounding thud.  How could it be? The actress was perfect for the part. The public adores her. The camera loves her too.  And there’s a real fondness for the comic/source material. But still fans are unhappy with it.

I’m talking, of course about the comic-to-cinema movie, Tamara Drewe. But don’t beat yourself up if you don’t remember this picture.

A decade ago, I wasn’t familiar with the UK strip, Tamara Drewe or the creator Posy Simmonds.   But Simmonds’ art looked engaging and I thought the movie might have a Love, Actually vibe to it all.  Meaning: both my wife, Kathe, and I might enjoy it. Inviting her to see a comic movie that is kind of like Love, Actually is easier than dragging her to…for example…Marvel’s Captain Marvel.  Although she’s patient and open-minded, I remember her eyes glazing over when I tried to explain, in preparation for Captain Marvel, about the Skrulls and the Kree.

Back in 2010, when the Tamara Drewe movie was released, it didn’t play at many domestic theaters. At least not in the metro New York area. We ended up going to a theater by Union Square in Manhattan and had a perfectly wonderful time.

Tamara Drewe creator Posy Simmonds is the real deal. She was voted Cartoonist of the Year 1981 by the British Press Awards.  She’s best known for Gemma Bovary and Tamara Drewe, both of which started out as serialized strips and then were collected in a more traditional graphic novel format.

The movie’s lead actress was Gemma Arterton.  I always found her enchanting, but I didn’t/don’t really follow her roles. You may remember her from Pirate Radio, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters or as “Bond girl” Strawberry Fields. Although recently she revealed in a Deadline article that she’s having second thoughts about her role in that 007 thriller, Quantum of Solace.

Tamara Drewe, the graphic novel and the movie, tells the story of a woman at a writers’ retreat. It’s a Brit Comedy, so some of it just doesn’t translate perfectly across this side of the pond. This cinematic foray was more about evoking wry grins than providing guffaws and belly laughs.  I enjoyed it but I think most fans, and presumably financial backers, were disappointed.

Which is more than I can say about Wonder Woman 1984Both fans and business folks seem so disappointed with the movie.  (On the other hand, it is a $100M movie in its second week.)

One more movie-going story: I remember in the early 80s, before going to superhero movies was respectable, I wanted to drag my girlfriend, at that time, to Superman III. I promised it would be great and she acquiesced. After all – Superman and Superman II were majestically wonderful on so many levels.

But like WW84, Superman III may have suffered from too many cooks in the kitchen. One of the hottest comedians of the day, Richard Prior, was the co-star.  This movie was a stinker. Despite the perfect lead, Cornellian Christopher Reeve we quickly realized it was a dud. It was goofy and yet self-consciously pretentious. We walked out the movie half way through.

HBOMax’s Wonder Woman 1984 gave me that same vibe.   We didn’t walk out this time because, of course, we live in our house.

Spoiler alert/good news : that girlfriend watching Superman III was Kathe, now my wife, with whom I also watched WW84. Come to think of it, we watch a lot of comic book movies together.

Regarding both WW84 (as well as Superman III), let me echo every fan’s confusion and also ask, “What were they thinking?”

“How could they have missed the mark by so much?”

“Why ignore Marvel’s established & successful template for these types of movies?”

WW84 was the holiday letdown that should have never been. I engaged in a lot of self-talk: not seeing my family and being hunkered down was fine, and besides the new Wonder Woman movie on the new Time Warner Streamer was going to be spectacular.  It didn’t quite seem to work out that way.

It’s a shame when our comics stumble on the big screen. But with more and more opportunities coming up, maybe it’s not so bad we suffer through a clunker once in a while.

* * *

And come to think of it, wouldn’t that Gemma Arterton have made a great Wonder Woman too? Or can we all now only see Gal Gadot in that role?