Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Wonder Woman

Year 9, Day 157 - 6/6/17 - Movie #2,652

BEFORE: If I've got an opportunity to see a summer comic-book blockbuster and the linking is there, I figure I should take it - so Gal Gadot carries over from "Triple 9".  At first I wasn't going to see this in the theater, because even though I had a way to link TO this film, it seemed there was no way to link out of it.  Except I have "Criminal" on the watch list, another film with Gadot, but that film is serving a different linking purpose later this month, and watching that film after "Wonder Woman" would break up that chain, in a way that I couldn't put back together.

Then I figured I could go and watch this film now, and post the review later, like I did last year with "Deadpool" and "Captain America: Civil War".  After all, they're still on track to release "Justice League" this November, and obviously Wonder Woman's going to be in that, so I could just save this film to link to "Justice League" quite easily.

But then I looked through some actors' filmographies on IMDB, and I landed on tomorrow's film, which helps me link back to my original Casey Affleck chain quite easily.  I'll have to watch it tomorrow on Amazon Prime, but that can be done.  It seems like getting access to Amazon Prime and Netflix, thanks to my wife, and a pile of Academy screeners, thanks to my boss, is making the linking easier.  All that doesn't decrease my watchlist, but it does give me more options, I don't have to wait for a film to appear on premium cable, and it seems that these days there are some films that never quite get there.  I waited like three years for that film "The Raven", about Edgar Allan Poe, and finally I had to break down and watch it online - and there are about a dozen other films like that.

THE PLOT: When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, Diana, princess of the Amazons, leaves home to fight a war to end all wars, discovering her full powers and true destiny.

AFTER:  There's a lot of great action and a lot of good stuff to like here, though I couldn't help noticing the similarities to "Captain America: The First Avenger".  The elevator pitch was probably that film, plus "Clash of the Titans", plus boobs, equals a winner.  I mean, that's probably why they moved the setting from World War II (as seen in comic books and the 1970's TV series with Lynda Carter) to World War I, so we wouldn't notice that most of this was done before.  You just change the gender of the hero, turn Peggy Carter into Steve Trevor, and the Red Skull into Gen. Ludendorff, Arnim Zola into Dr. Maru, and you're halfway there.

Yes, I realize that the two characters have different origins - but in many ways Wonder Woman is like the Captain America of the DC universe, even though she's Greek.  She wears a red, white and blue outfit - or at least she used to, even with white stars on her blue umm, lower part of her costume - so they're both dressed like the U.S. flag and they both use shields (although W.W. has a sword to boot) and they both fight the dirty Germans (Prussians or Nazis, depending).  And their solo films are both the precursors to their relative universe's big team-up movie.  (Plus, Captain America also likes to run around in a bustier and high-heeled boots, but only on the weekends...)

The setting of World War I, however, does allow for more contrast between the feminism that W.W. represents, and the now-outdated "world of men" where women aren't the decision-makers, and aren't even allowed in the room where it happens, and are expected to speak only when spoken to.  And don't think I didn't notice that even though she takes the lead on the fighting, she's got a ragtag support staff that's multi-cultural and minority friendly - there's a Scotsman, a Turk (?) and a Native American.  Very PC, even before there was such a thing.  (and yep, the first Captain America movie did pretty much the same thing with the Howling Commandos, making them a virtual United Nations of soldiers)

The image of a strikingly gorgeous woman, colorfully dressed, walking across the "No Man's Land" of a World War I battlefront, deflecting bullets and mortars and machine-gun fire.  Hell, there's your movie.  A woman lifting up a tank and flipping it over, that's action-movie gold.  And the stuff she does with her golden lasso, like grabbing enemy soldiers, pulling them through the air and then jumping up and kicking them when they get close - I've never seen anything like that.  I wish there had been more of that and less of the "But I don't understand humanity..." crap.

Overall, way too much mansplaining, as Steve Trevor has to tell Diana how the world works, only like a dozen times.  This doesn't really fit in with the character, because we were told that the Amazons had access to great literature, and Diana speaks over a dozen languages.  How is that possible, when it was well-established that Themyscira was cut off from society?  The internet didn't exist, so how and when did they get literature from the outside world?  And if that was hundreds of years ago, how can she speak modern English and French, wouldn't those languages have changed quite a bit over several hundred years?  For that matter, NITPICK POINT, she might not know what a wristwatch is, but wouldn't she know what a sundial is?  It's not that much of a leap from a sundial to a clock, they both work the same way, so why doesn't she get the concept?  Like, she's not called "Wonder Woman" because she wonders why the world works the way it does.

And possible NITPICK POINT, it's been 100 years since the end of World War I - and it turned out to not be the "war to end all wars", we all know that.  So where was Wonder Woman during WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf Wars?  Why doesn't anyone see her again until "Dawn of Justice", when Batman and Superman meet her for the first time?  Was she protesting the war in Vietnam and not getting involved?  Was she depressed and pining over the friends she lost in World War I?  Or was she imprisoned somewhere for 99 years?  There are obvious sequel possibilities, but it feels like DC would rather have us believe that she just hid all that time.  It must be tough, sure for an eternal goddess that doesn't age - did she just take some time off and backpack across Europe to find herself?

The timing of the release of this picture is great, just one year after the 75th Anniversary of the creation of the character, by William Moulton Marston in 1941.  (She got her own comic book in 1942, so we can celebrate the 75th anniversary of that.)  According to IMDB, there's a biographical drama that will be released this year about Marston, who led a fascinating life - in addition to creating Wonder Woman, he was a feminist who lived for a time in a three-way relationship with two women, one of whom was his former student.  He also invented the systolic blood-pressure test, which was incorporated into the development of the polygraph test - so he helped invent the lie detector, and Wonder Woman has the golden lasso that compels people to tell the truth.  And he was just really into depictions of bondage play - Wonder Woman is really a collection of male fantasies about fetish gear and being tied up, right?

Not to mention that the most recent incarnation of W.W. in the comic books (DC has rebooted their characters three times in the last 5 years, so things are constantly changing, it seems) she's been depicted as bisexual - which makes sense for a woman raised in an environment with no men.  But as forward-thinking as it is for LGBT readers, it's a complication for comic-book storytelling.  Even in the gay community, bisexual people are sometimes perceived as non-committal or indecisive, or even not truly "gay" by their definition.  None of that fits in with Diana's personality, which is forceful and direct, if occasionally naive.  Plus, what's she going to do, defeat Cheetah or Giganta by asking them out on dates?  How is that going to work?

Which brings me to the hokey ending of "Wonder Woman" the movie - don't worry, no spoilers here - with its depiction of how love triumphs over war.  Why, because it's nicer?  That just doesn't seem realistic.  Besides, even though she apparently derives some of her energy from love, she then turns it around and does something very violent with it - which doesn't seem on message at all.  Essentially saying "I'm going to use my power of love...to DESTROY YOU!" just doesn't work.

Also starring Chris Pine (last seen in "Star Trek Beyond"), Connie Nielsen (last seen in "The Great Raid"), Danny Huston (last seen in "Stolen"), Robin Wright (last seen in "Everest"), David Thewlis (last seen in "Legend"), Lucy Davis, Said Taghmaoui (last seen in "American Hustle"), Ewen Bremner (last seen in "Exodus: Gods and Kings"), Eugene Brave Rock, Elena Anaya, James Cosmo (last seen in "Emma"), Lisa Loven Kongsli, Mayling Ng, Florence Kasumba (last seen in "Captain America: Civil War"), Eleanor Matsuura (last seen in "MI-5"), Ann Wolfe, Ann Ogbomo, Josette Simon, Doutzen Kroes, Samantha Jo, Brooke Ence, Jacqui-Lee Pryce, Danielle Lewis.

RATING: 7 out of 10 gas masks

1 comment:

  1. Oh, boy…

    I saw WW today and I loved it. I've never put together a personal Top X Superhero Movies list but WW would unquestionably be on it for all values of (X < 6), would likely be in my top three and would be lose the #1 spot only at the hair-splitting stage of the judging.

    WW's deal in this movie is that she's 100% qualified and sure of herself as she enters the larger world for the first time, and her heroic idealism interferes with her mission. Her naïveté, as well: "all of the evils of mankind will end forever if I just do this one thing." Well, no, Diana: the cause of the problem is humanity's free will and the decisions that they choose to make.

    I don't think "the power of love" is as significant as you're making it out to be. I think she makes a personal decision. It's "love" in the broad, perhaps New Testament sense, in which we're meant to give the humans every chance possible before writing any one of them off.

    I also didn't see the "Steve Trevor mansplaining" with which you had a problem. Yes, of _course_ he has to explain some basics to Diana; she's a stranger here. But more often than not, the movie uses Diana to explain how bizarre human society must seem to someone who's lived apart from it for a thousand years. No, it's _ridiculous_ that women wear clothes that restrict their movement. Oh, we have to just pass through this village and let people suffer and die? Screw that! She's going over the top!

    I can't spoil the ending for people. But it upheld the streak of DC films (the ones I've seen) which believed that the baddie is just as important a character as the hero, and requires a compelling (even sympathetic) motivation. Compare and contrast with the Marvel movies I've seen, where Ultron is a baddie at birth because (who the hell knows) and wants to destroy humanity because (screw you, just buy the goddamn toys already). And Loki is a baddie because Thor is a good guy and they're fighting.

    (On that subject: I loved WW because they didn't sink to any self-indulgent Shawarma Scenes. Those are the places in all of the Marvel flicks I've seen where some screenwriter during a punch-up session must have said "Oh! You know what this character should say at this moment? It'll be HILARIOUS!" and another writer says "Maybe, but it'll totally destroy the tension we've been building up to this p…" and then the first writer shoots the second writer in the head and puts in the line.)

    I think many of your non-nitpicky points are…yeah, nit-picky. I mean, did WW stay underground for a hundred years, or was she not active? Or, has she simply not been doing the sort of things that happen in front of a live Internet streaming audience?

    I'm not suggesting that any one of these answers is more likely than the others. Just that a good movie is constructed to communicate that some details are important and others are just distractions.

    Have you ever read a magazine/online article that some archaeologist wrote about Dr. Indiana Jones? She pointed out that the golden Chachapoyan fertility idol he retrieved from the temple at the start of "Raiders" was, hands-down, the least-archaeologically-significant think about that site. "Seen one gold idol, seen 'em all," she said. "But that level of engineering at THAT stage of human development is absolutely unheard of. Discovering and documenting the temple security mechanisms would make any archaeologist's career."

    But that's not supposed to occur to you because the movie communicated, clearly, that this is an action sequence about getting out with the shiny thing, and then the movie moves us right along to the next thing.