Archive for June 10th, 2017

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman was the lifeline DC needed to pull itself out of its overly-grim, emo-dark, humorless mess. DC had a distinct character problem; nobody cared about any of them. DC had a story and plot problem. The list of DC universe “issues” are, frankly, too numerous to name. Wonder Woman is what the DC universe needed. Desperately.

A quote: “To conquer others is to know power. To conquer yourself is to know the way.”

(That’s from a Xena episode, btw, google it.)

DC ham-fistedly tried to conquer its audience by hitting it over the head again and again with special effects, on-cue manipulative (and clumsy) flashback character-building, fight scene piled upon bigger stakes fight scenes. In the end, DC was getting in its own way. Wonder Woman takes one huge, important step toward flying right again.

**Minimal spoilers. If you saw BvS, you will know some small tidbits below**

Gal Gadot and Chris Pine

Gal Gadot is perfectly cast. She is a mixture of tough, vulnerable, passionate, naïve, and determined. Her ability to emote soundlessly made WW extremely accessible, which is strange given that one of the biggest problems with bringing WW to the screen is making a demi-god relatable. Her performance (and the writing) reaches into the parts of us all who want suffering and war to end with a voice that is clear as a bell.

Chris Pine is a perfect counterpart. The story risked the usual male pearl-clutching of, “Now, little lady, let the big man show you how it’s done. OH! My STARS! You just held your own in a fight and whooped ass! Why, heavens! I just don’t know what to do about a wimmins doing such things!”

Instead, it was: “Holy shit. You just deflected some bullets, saved my life, and proceeded to drop a gang of thugs trying to mug us. Hmmm! Well, what else ya got?” He saw her as an asset and he wasn’t the sexist dolt who ignored all she brought to the table.

The Film Itself

As far as the film itself. I felt like the first two acts were as close to perfect as a superhero/action movie could be. (Minus a few nitpicky minor cringey moments about the sword not “going with your outfit” which were completely unnecessary. Again, nitpicky.)

Act 1 with the Amazons set the tone: this is a fantasy. We’re in a world where Zeus and Aries and Amazons exist. You buy in and you do it quickly. See, that’s the key to WW. It’s where WW succeeded and most of the rest of the DC films failed. You bought into it all. You wanted to buy in, and, most importantly, you were rewarded for doing so. In Man of Steel, I went in wide-eyed and innocent. Superman was one of my favorite comic book characters. I grew up with Christopher Reeve. It was magic to me. And Man of Steel took my freely-given “buy in,” hurled it to the ground and stomped on it. That film punished me for wanting to buy in. That film was created from trusted source material—material I had given my whole heart to as a child—and doused in the hellfire of Zach Snyder’s suck-i-tude.

I don’t need to explain my thoughts on Batman versus Superman.

WW gave me hope again. I bought in to the film in small, careful steps:

  • Okay, the story of this island is interesting.
  • Hmmm, young Diana is fun.
  • Amazons training. Yeah, that’s …. Pretty remarkable.
  • First battle scene. Okay, that was… a…m…aaaa….z…ing….
  • Wow. I can do this. I can give my 10-year-old geek over to this film. I feel it. I can do it. Yes, YES!

And that’s how it went through act 2, where I watched what I assume was Somme in WW1 and felt tears on my cheeks. I know. Read into that what you will. I skimmed a few articles this week about why women were crying during these battle scenes and shrugged it off. Until I wasn’t shrugging anymore. Because holy shit. What did I just see her do? And not only that, but her reasons for doing so were there and they were believable and they spoke to the part of any human being who has simply….had…. enough. I bought into that moment too. Some will not buy into it, but I did. And, again, I was rewarded for doing so. Maybe it was that 10-year-old girl inside me who needed to cry. I’m glad she did.

Act three. In any other film, I might have said, “Hmmm, I’m not sure that ending was earned.” On its own, no, I don’t think it was. But, I do think the first two acts did enough stellar work to nudge that final act over the finish line. It’s hard to explain other than to say with the first two battles as outstanding as they were, the third and final battle sequence(s) seemed to suffer from needing to outdo itself. And outdo itself again. And bigger, faster, crazier effects. Add in a Marvel-flaw in that the villains weren’t exactly well-fleshed out or fully-realized, and, the info-dump’esque–“Here is my plan and what I have been doing all along, AND let me pile on some villain motivation for you . . . last minute of course!” deal. And it’s hard to wade through all of that. It was muddled. As I said, on its own? Not earned. 1st and 2nd acts taken into consideration? Yes. It’s like Russell Crowe winning an Oscar for Gladiator when he was overlooked in L.A. Confidential, passed over for The Insider, and the academy was like, “Oh! Gladiator… well, sure. Okay.”

Now, don’t get me wrong: Act 3 had amazing moments. Pay-offs. It had what BvS and Man of Steel did not have: a reason to invest as a viewer and a reason to give a shit.

Final Thoughts.

I’ve seen some mad whining by assholes on the internet that feel the film is only getting positive reviews because, “Affirmative action, YO!” or, that people are focusing hardcore on a female lead and female director and, “Who knows if it’s really good because the SJWs are all GURRRLL POWAHHH!” And to those people: politely go fuck yourselves.

Where this film rises in terms of feminism is in how it addresses a female superhero. Sure, you have the dumb-ass remarks about a sword not “going with that outfit,” because one of the writers probably thought it would make a cute/sassy catch-phrase. What surprised me was the lack of, “Oh my GOD THAT IS A WOMAN DOING STUFF” there was in the film.

The amazons kicked ass. It simply was. These women were everything I thought amazons should be. Robin Wright. Great hells. And women they hired who looked exactly like women who trained their entire lives to battle SHOULD look. And not a single comment about it. As I said: it simply was.

Perhaps it was that Amazon foundation that lent itself to the rest of the film. Gadot portrayed a woman who knew exactly what she was capable of. There was no debate. It made sense to her and, by default, to us. Looking back, I don’t recall thinking, “Wow, this female superhero is so awesome.” I remember thinking, “This is the best superhero ever.” The gender kind of fell off the radar in the best kind of way. I don’t imagine others will have had that same experience, but that’s what happened to me. It was just Diana and Diana will beat you down if you do wrong.

I will end with this: three Marvel films hold a special place in my heart: Guardians of the Galaxy (1 and 2), and the first Ironman. These three have massive re-watchability. Meaning, the moment I finished seeing all of those films the first time, I wanted to buy another ticket and go see them all again. Immediately! They are three films I will see on some crappy cable channel (with commercial interruptions) and stop to watch. Even though I own all three. You crave them. You watch them over and over because you love them. The first two acts in Wonder Woman had this same effect on me. The third act will be the extra layer of frosting on the cake that you don’t need, but you eat anyway.

Can’t wait to see it again. My nine-year-old daughter absolutely loved it.

10

06 2017