Live-Action: Wonder Woman

June 13th, 2017

Wonder Woman 2017, directed by Patti Jenkins, starring Gal Gadot, was a very decent movie.

I will say that periodically, as a refrain, lest you get caught up in my comments about its imperfections and think it wasn’t good. It was good. It was – and I say this with no irony or sarcasm – the best superhero movie I have seen since Christopher Reeve’s Superman in 1978. In many ways, Wonder Woman is the retrofit superhero movies desperately needed, having been choked to an almost intolerable point by “gritty,” “dark,” “serious”and shitty writing. Despite grimness of the setting, Wonder Woman manages to be optimistic and hopeful, even despite some occasionally shitty writing.

I’ll do my best to have no spoilers in this review and will therefore speak of things in the abstract from worst to best, ending with the top notes.

The worst thing about the movie is…the shitty writing.

 

Lazy Writing

Even aside from sex jokes which just need to never be included ever again in any movie ever made, the writing occasionally lapses into a specific kind of laziness in which I imagine the Zach Snyders of the world think they are brilliant and the mes of the world think the Zach Snyders should get less creative work, they aren’t terribly bright.

Among the most egregious moments of lazy writing is Steve Trevor shushing and hushing Diana once they reach London. This is not sexism…this is a team of idiots who never once thought, “Diana’s obviously incredibly intelligent and, while stuck on a boat with him for hours would *obviously* ask Steve to explain the war and the world they were going to and what she needed to know before getting there.” But no. Instead we’re treated to tired sexist tropes meant to be seen as tired sexist tropes but is actually just plain old lazy writing.

I was not okay with the obligatory romance. Along with sex jokes, this needs to go away. Permanently. Forever. Just… stop, please. For pity’s sake, let me watch a stupid movie about people beating the crap out of things without a fucking romance shoved in there. Lazy ass writing, meet lazy ass thinking. Gawd.

Because I can, I blame all the shitty writing on Zach Snyder. ^_^

 

History, Part 1

No.  Do not assume your audience knows nothing more about World War I than what they saw on Downton Abbey. Luddendorf died in 1937, long after to movie takes place (thanks, Jon Mixon, for that fact.) If you’re going to use historical figures, get the history right. A number of the scenes I had to chalk up to a view of World War I as seen through the lens of the victor in which the Christmas Truce became adverts for soda and Sainsbury’s.  

 

History, Part 2

They tried so hard. They really did. SO many things got shoved into those visuals: The crappy conditions at the Front, trench warfare, the utter and complete destruction of the Belgian landscape, the gassing, the injuries, the remnants of 19th century warfare, as the officers rode up on horses, the plight of various peoples of various ethnicities, (I have a special little rant about Samir and the German HQ, but that will wait for another day. I will say only that they made a bad choice about his Fez. That is all. And, oh, Chief sending up smoke signals makes me rage. WTF white people? WTF is wrong with us dealing with Native Americans? We had him light a signal fire?!? That was so UGH. Niobe worked because she was just a great Amazonian warrior. The Chief did not work because he was still a bundle of stereotypes.) They tried to get it all across. And maybe some of it might have gotten across. But it’s hard to convince Americans who still think of all wars as World War II, in which we were the good guys and USA! USA!  – even the actual Nazis in America now think of themselves as the good guys in WWII. It’s amazing, but they actually do. So A for effort, C on execution.

Update: I am mistaken in the above rant about Chief. I have edited and want to be clear that I defer to Native American opinion on his character. and on the portrayal of his skills and language. (Thank you Caroline Small for the links.) I still found the writing to rely heavily on stereotyping, which bothered me, but it appears to have more to do with my lack of knowledge than anything else. Fair enough. 

Just as a reminder, Wonder Woman 2017, directed by Patti Jenkins, starring Gal Gadot, was a very decent movie.

 

Acting

The acting was excellent. I can’t think of the last time I said that about an American movie. Even the minor roles did their best. I want to particularly call attention to Elena Anaya’s outstanding performance as Doctor Poison. I could write a novel about how much she got out of that role. Her eyes had to do everything, and they did.

Which I guess means I should talk about Chris Pine. He was good as Steve Trevor, and he did his best with the role and I really think the role was not all that great. He could have been amazing with like three tweaks, but they left him sort of superficial. I was actually glad, but also sad, that they didn’t damsel him. I did like that he got that Diana was better at everything than everyone was and got out of her way.

 

The Mythology

Please Hollywood, keep your 2-dimensional Judeo-Christian good/evil dichotomies and saviors and Father Good make humans good, then Evil Deity make them bad, simplicity out of my nuanced and complicated mythologies. Megathanks. But, then as obvious as the Ares thing was (seriously obvious, like the moment he appeared on screen, wife and I were like, “Oh, it’s him.”) he added some of the nuance back. I really appreciated that.

While I’m at it, the other reveal in that scene – also the most obvious thing ever. Hollywood, you kind of stink at making things that have to be revealed later. Perhaps you should read about the Gun on the Wall before any more movies are made. I did like Ares’ armor and some of the dialogue in that scene, so I forgive you. But really.

I’m not going to bitch about the rewrite to Diana’s origin, because while I prefer Marston’s origin story, I won’t whine. It’s just a comic. Could have been worse. 

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Wonder Woman 2017, directed by Patti Jenkins, starring Gal Gadot, is still a very decent movie.

 

The Amazons

The Amazons were amazeballs and had the entire movie just been Amazons living and no conflict bigger than a disagreement about what to eat for dinner, I would have been happy. Antiope is my boom. You know the deal with her, right? She’s played by Robin Wright, who played Buttercup in Princess Bride. And yes, that made me grin like a loon as I watched her and the Amazons fight. 

The Amazons were populated with a ton of athletes and again, they sort of shoved that fact into the visuals. In this, it worked.

 

The Fighting

Yes, I said that the fight scenes are good. Me, the person who complains bitterly about fight scenes in movies. Even the big background training scenes, watch them fight – they are fighting multiple enemies and fighting like they are fighting multiple enemies! No Kung-fu flick one-opponent-at-a-time trope going on. I kvelled so hard at those women. I’d pay twice as much to watch “Amazons show you how to fucking randori” for 2 hours.

Best scene of the movie is the fight on the beach. Brilliant. Needed way more of that. But that really was the second-best thing about the movie.

 

Intermision

The movie needed less Zeus, some Athena and more Etta Candy. Etta’s line during Diana’s dress-up scene was one of two lines that actually made me laugh out loud. No one else in the theater noticed it. Needed some lesbianism on Themiscyra. It seemed to me that they kind of sort of implied it in one half-second thing that happened that would be a spoiler, but I also could be projecting.

 

Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot as Diana and Wonder Woman made this a movie I do not cringe at the idea of seeing again. She is physically strong and, as befits a smart, capable woman raised to be a leader, explains what has to be done and does it. There was power in her line, “What I do is not up to you.”

But at the heart of her role there is joy. It’s the kind of optimism and – dare I say it? – heroism – we have not seen in a long, long time in our superhero movies, which, like so much media right now, seem to be glorifying the selfish asshat without the bit where he becomes a good person and wants to help people for no other reason than power hath it’s responsibility. Diana can’t save the world, but she’ll be there to help us save ourselves. That is what I want from Wonder Woman. We don’t need more revenge scenarios for female leads. This Wonder Woman reminds us that can do what we know is right and do it because it’s the right thing to do. No other reason need apply.

 

Ratings:

Visual – 9 It was a nice-looking movie, and I could follow the fight scenes. That’s all I really care about
Characters – 8
Service – Some dress up with Diana in London, the futzing about her clothing is a sort of service, by calling attention to the lack of coverage. I would have liked the armor to look more hoplyte-ish, but no one asks me. I weep for the greaves we never got.
Yuri – 0 Needed some lesbians on Themiscyra.

Overall – I came in to this review at 7.5, but have talked myself up to an 8. ^_^

It was more good than bad, the bad was mostly throwaway shit you could ignore, but it gets points off for 1) forcing me to ignore it and 2) crappy stereotypes in a story so desperate to be cool with characters of color.

Would I suggest you go see it? Yes. you should go see it in the theater. If it gets a third weekend at #1, it’ll confuse DC and Warner Brothers. ^_^

Wonder Woman 2017, directed by Patti Jenkins, starring Gal Gadot, is a very decent movie.

 

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12 Responses

  1. Jenny says:

    Anxiety and fear of crowds have kept me from seeing it so far, but Mama and I have plans to go see it for the first showing Tuesday next. I’m quite keen.

    Only tangentially related: Since reading Ernst Jünger’s Storm of Steel memoir of the Belgian front in WWI, I have looked at Great War pictures through a lens of skepticism.

  2. dm00 says:

    You make me feel less guilty at planning to go to the $5 matinee next week, but still look forward to the film.

    Robin Wright was also in *The Futurological Congress*, which is a very interesting experiment in film, and worth seeing. A bit amazing that they could do the Lem novel justice.

  3. Stacy L says:

    Saw Wonder Woman today and rather enjoyed it. I totally agree that had the whole film stayed on Themyscira and been blissfully 100% female, I would have floated home from the theatre from levitating out of my seat. I’m still so eager to see women *doing* things in movies, especially ACTION, that no amount of stupid dented my enjoyment. When a Hollywood movie is even remotely watchable in the 21st century it feels like a miracle.

  4. Jen yoko says:

    I loved the movie. I saw it with my mom and we had a wonder woman day. The one thing that did drive me nuts was the romance. I think people are AFRAID to NOT WRITE a woman in a movie or story without a romance. It DRIVES. ME. NUTS. But I’ll be mean. Steve rogers is Dead in movie universe so I assume in the squeal their wont be another romance?

    I took the movie for what it was. Strong ladies kicking butt. Everything else didn’t really matter to me. I felt it was something we needed though. Because after going to a Wonder Woman I saw more kids and women actually seeing wonder woman for more then just a character to dress up as.

  5. Chad Edwards says:

    Hey, Erica! I’m going to see Wonder Women movie about few days later. Did the film was banned in Lebanon and Tunisian because its star, Gal Gadot from Israel. You should look it up on Wikipedia, Yahoo! News and other websites about why the film got banned in both aforementioned countries.

  6. dm00 says:

    Thanks much for the link to the Native American review of “the Chief’s” role. The reveal about his identity (spoken in Blackfoot) is especially good to know.

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