Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Wonder Woman: the Movie

Wonder Woman and her Howling Commandos:
Saïd Taghmadui as Sameer, Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Eugene Brave Rock as the Chief, and Ewen Bremner as Charlie. (Clay Enos / Warner Bros. Entertainment)

Needless to say, SPOILERS.

It’s about time Wondie got her own movie! Good for her: it broke some gender-related records, and lots and lots of people have said it was the BEST MOVIE EVAH! People stop me all the time to ask or even gush about the movie. Wondie is Queen of the Univerrrrrse! (I prefer to think of her as King of the Univerrrrrse! because of the reasons Patricia C. Wrede laid out so well in Dealing with Dragons: there is a conceptual difference people make between “queen” and “king,” and if you want to include respect, power, competence, etc, into a title, the word is “king.” Thus her book has a female king of dragons.)

DC has a terrible record for its modern movies. The Batman ones I can’t even watch (then again, I’ve never been a Bats fan.) The Superman movies portrayed a character I found hard to identify as Supes. It was all about power and special effects and, well, the need to be selfish. Superman = selfish? No. Not ever. As for BvS… You’re kidding, right? Oh man, I’d bet that in this movie they’d change Hippolyta’s name to “Martha.” Hippomartha = “Martha of the horse.”

The post-2010 WW comics have been, with some delightful exceptions, AWFUL. I cannot recognize Wonder Woman in them. They reek of patriarchal themes, something Wondie should NEVER allow. (It’s fine for other heroines. They operate in a patriarchal society, grew up there, have to smile and bear the worst which brings its own problems and ways of dealing with things, but we’re talking WONDER WOMAN, who arrives with a Different Idea.)

Let me just state right here that I LOVED 85% of this movie! Love, love, love. It was only when they got completely off-course with the Wondie mythos or with feminism, or brought in Undefined Magic, that they lost me. Completely. Needless to say, this review tends to linger on those defects instead of the good points. Sorry about that.

I tried to keep an open mind even as the first reviews were reported to be outstanding. My hopes began to rise but I tamped them down. If I went in neutrally, if the movie were good I’d be on a high for days, maybe years. Fingers crossed, though previews (and that awful BvS) showed Wondie wearing a Xena-esque outfit — no bright colors, no spangles — and wielding a sword and shield, the latter of which seemed to mirror that of Capt. America.

The real Wondie doesn’t use a sword and shield unless she’s in some kind of S&S storyline. Swords are for maiming and killing. Wonder Woman is not about maiming and killing. Hers is a story of nurturing, with fighting kept only for when all other solutions have been exhausted.

Oh well, previews can often be misleading, so I got my popcorn and took my seat. Eventually ten other people filed in. (At least two had brought their cells, which they utilized during the movie. One couple decided that they’d have a loud discussion at several points, which meant that I might have missed some plot explanations. Why don’t people have respect for others? [points at offenders] Ares: kill!)

I had problems with a slice at the beginning and from the climax onward. The climax also brought questions about that beginning, now that we could put things in context. Bear with me because I’ll crawl through all the holes that appeared upon viewing and looking back when that climax hit, before we get to the Good Part.

The Origin Sequence (the hero in the “ordinary world” where the world isn’t all that ordinary) was pretty cool. That little Diana actress did an excellent job, with facial expressions that could portray all kinds of mischief. We’ll be seeing more of her, I’m sure, but just not in WW movies. (Fans will clamor for her to play Hippolyta in Wonder Woman XXII.)

I’d have liked to have seen the “why” of the Amazons more, seen them helping each other instead of having endless war training. I wanted to see that the core of WW was founded on kindness, wisdom, maybe even some cultural growth (yin qualities) through the thousands of years they’ve been there, and not merely martial skills (yang qualities) which are outdated before the second reel begins. We saw that Amazons could outdo men at stereotypical male jobs, but where were the female ones? Why couldn’t they celebrate traditional female roles in society and expound upon them? Why couldn’t we see the Amazons caring for each other, building their community, engaging in the arts, expanding their technology, farming and herding, etc etc? Why didn’t Diana know what holding hands meant?

The goal of women is NOT to become men with boobs. The goal is to find a balance of yin and yang that pleases each individual. The goal is to celebrate each quality.

A quick background shot of Amazons working together to make a beautiful sculpture, perhaps with laser tools (or better), and of flying platforms, people hugging… Even on the practice field, people could have helped others after a violent clash, hugged, held hands… I didn’t notice such, not to serious extent. Did you? Why is the feminine side of women being shoved aside?

Amazons = Diana’s foundation. Let us see what the Amazons are, and we’ll know what Diana is as well. She is their mirror, though she still has a lot to learn.

But it’s a grim world out there, full of wars and war videogames. The only way to get the audience to respect the Amazons seems to be by making them primarily warriors. (What was their true excuse for devoting themselves almost exclusively to island defense for thousands of years?) We did get an extensive Training sequence, which was exciting indeed (unless you realize that people need to learn other things besides war). (I always worried about Harry Potter not taking British history courses or spelling, math, or philosophy.) However. I am no fan of speed ramping during action sequences. In my opinion it becomes more a “Hey! Look what we can do!” (HLWWCD) gimmick akin to lens flares and other substitutes for dangling jingling keys in front of children’s faces to keep them mesmerized. In this movie speed ramping was a constant element as was Shaky Camera (which means I can’t tell what’s going on). Yawn.

During these training sequences we not only had speed ramping, but weird, exaggerated action in which our Amazons didn’t merely do sword play, but leapt to do it, a la Brad Pitt’s once-unique Achilles (swoon) action in Troy. They not only leapt, but twirled and somersaulted before chopping away with their sword or letting off multiple arrows at once. (Why wasn’t there MORE BLOOD?) This after they’ve jumped off towering cliffs, somersaulting the entire time.

Puh-lease. Didn’t early movie rumors say that the movie Amazons would be Kryptonians? This made it seem like someone had held on to that idea.

So that was a bit of a sour note, but what had come before made it worse: the history of the Amazons given to young Diana. It seems that Ares had KILLED OFF ALL THE GODS except Zeus, and that Zeus eventually died from his hands. This was after Zeus created both humans and Amazons.

All hail Zeus.

(Does “all the gods” include just the Olympian Twelve, or every last mystical being in the Greek mythological realm? Are the Titans etc still around? How about Asgardians? The Shinto gods? The gods of Mars? Etc?)

There is NO version of Greek myth I can think of that has Zeus creating mankind. Many people back then, who had no access to libraries or Wiki, thought that humans originated from the earth, just as plants did. Eventually they became so evil that Zeus sent a great flood, from which only Pyrrha and her husband Deucalion were saved. They threw bones over their shoulders, from which grew a new race of men, which then populated the earth.

OR Hesiod’s poetry records that Prometheus sculpted the first man and Athena gave him life. Prometheus and his brother gave man all kinds of gifts (including fire), and Zeus didn’t like that. He didn’t like man in general. So he ordered Hephaestus to make what would be the first woman: Pandora.

(Note: in SvB Luthor cites the Prometheus origin with Diana listening in the audience. She doesn’t correct or even raise a dismissive eyebrow.)

When this movie sets up Zeus as not only the creator of mankind and the Amazons, then presents a War in Heaven/Olympus, from which only Zeus and the Bad God (Ares) remain, they are presenting a Christian view of the universe, not a Greek mythology one. Zeus = Yahweh (though he eventually died) and Ares = Satan. That leaves Diana to be…

Pardon me, I just lost my lunch.

Besides, I thought DC set up Superman to be New Jesus back in 1978 with the Chris Reeve Superman movie. I HATED that, you just know it. Superman might, possibly MIGHT be New Moses, but on the whole his dad (not his mom. He might as well not have had a mother) (which is funny, because in this movie as well as the nu52 and on, Diana might as well not have had a mother either) sent him to Earth because, duh, their world was exploding and this way the kid would live. There was no mission for Kal other than survival.

Gah. Writers who try to get all Biblical with their themes. Ugh. Ptui.

Why take the gods away from Wonder Woman? GREEK GODS ARE A HUGE PART OF THE FUN OF THE MYTHOS! Remember “fun”? In the comics we see Diana invoking them: “Great Hera!” “Athena guide my aim!” etc. We did hear that Hestia had created the Magic Lasso (no Gaea or Hephaestus here), but that was a side point.

And by that I DON’T (!!!!!! x infinity) mean that Diana should be a god!!! (x infinity)

I thought Wonder Woman was an all-female thing. One of the basics of her mythos is that she and her people had nothing to do with male anything.


Besides, if Zeus died thousands of years before but had fathered Diana, how was she in her twenties now? She is mentally QUITE young, so don’t tell me she’s thousands of years old, but ageless. Do we yet have an Osiris-kind of dead penis story to incorporate into Diana’s origin?

If the Amazons were immortal and youthful, why did so many have wrinkles? (I am all for using older actresses, but NOT in roles where they are supposed to be eternally youthful! I have the same complaint about Ares later.)

I didn’t understand why the Amazons spoke all languages ever. What was that about? Did I miss something? Why would this… I… What… ??? Uh…

If the sword were fake, why was it on display? How did they know what size to make Diana’s costume/armor? Why didn’t Diana say anything when an Amazon told her she wasn’t an Amazon? If someone is born with the purpose of killing a god, why doesn’t anyone tell her so she’s prepared not only physically but mentally? Why doesn’t Diana need a “training herself” sequence when she discovers her god powers? Oh, that’s right. Instant powers = instant expertise. It’s the stereotypical Millennial Thought Process at work. You don’t have to work to achieve your goals; they are handed to you on a silver platter. (cf: Capt. Kirk of nuStar Trek.)

I ground my teeth and let the first-reel Zeus origin pass. If they left it at this, though the setup made no sense in addition to being blatantly patriarchal, I could stomach it. Maybe.

Good thing that I did, for from that point on, THE MOVIE WAS TERRIFIC!!! (x a large number) Chris Pine drove all thoughts of faux Capt. Kirk (ptui on nuTrek!) from my mind. The script gave him a wide range to act, and he came through with flying colors. Oscar-worthy, even. Gal Gadot received less of a spectrum of emotions to sort through (she’ll have more movies in which to explore them), but the ones she had to work with, she worked fabulously. She does a great “determined” and “confused,” and flexes/poses in a superheroic way very well indeed.

The movie gets SUPER-GIANT BONUS POINTS for the Diana/Steve relationship. Over the decades, I have been driven mad by WW fans who just loooove that Diana set eyes on Steve for the first time and BOOM! that’s why she chose to become Wonder Woman and move to the Outside World. Squee!

Ugh. What a concept, that women are entirely ruled by their emotions. This movie had Diana being curious about Steve as a representative of Man and then as a person. They learn to respect each other, then like each other, then become comrades. And then lovers. But Diana is still Diana and not Steve’s love slave. (And she’d better not have gotten pregnant from that one night!) On the other side of the coin, Steve’s reaction to Diana was everything we could ask from a 21st century man, even though the story was set 100 years earlier. Theresa Jusino over at the Mary Sue gave an extraordinary review of the movie relationship. Bravo!

I didn’t understand how people could just fall asleep on a sailboat (no one steers or watches out in a war venue?) from the shores of Themyscira and then wake up in London. ??? I saw someone theorize that Steve’s plane had ditched in the English Channel, where Themyscira was. That’s a stretch. It needed to be explained. A simple: “We’ve been out here for days. England at last!” would have sufficed.

Ah, but London! I LOVED the costumes! I LOVED the sets! Heart, heart, heart! And Etta!!!! This movie had much too little Etta. Many people have pointed out that almost all her scenes were represented in the trailers. Someone somewhere realized this gem of a part, but no one in the actual movie seemed to. More Etta! More Etta! Shout it with me! Woo woo! And there was a quick mention of women’s suffrage, which I hope the next movie will address.

I loved Diana’s outfit. That hat! That hat!!!

The use of the Lasso was pretty great. I mean, it was never meant to be used as an offensive weapon but rather as a tool, so I winced when she used it to whip people. Darn you, Greg Rucka, for starting that business anyway. But as an effect it was super cool, all glowy and animated. I also liked the way the TV pilot/movie of a few years ago used it. There it had a “snap” sometimes, which added to its ambiance of power.

I had fully expected for WW not to have a sense of humor. You know, feminists don't. :-( But here she was, cracking a smile and even a joke on occasion. Hurray!

Dr. Poison’s facial mask/makeup was chilling. Kudos to the designer who made a very different look from the comics — a far superior one. It left enough of her face there to be startling. I didn’t understand why she didn’t get more airtime than the other villains. She deserved it. Creeeepy!

The “super energy” potion was a solid red herring that tied well into Poison’s MO, especially when the real bad guy turned out to be sweet, doomed Prof. Lupin. Wah! I hated that he had to die. Professor Lupin, your kid turned out just fine! Oh, but now he was Ares, a god who, because he was a god, could do ANYTHING. (Yawn.) (Except be young. Why is that? A makeup change at the Reveal would have solved this.) This is called Undefined Magic, and it is (imho) one of the all-time laziest ways to write. A MAJOR pet peeve of mine. Magic should be defined as any other element in a plot is, so the reader/watcher can “play along,” knowing the rules.

Undefined Magic has no rules. Undefined magic in modern movies means: time to blow the SFX budget! HLWWCD! Dazzle the audience so they don’t have time to think that it all makes no sense! Boo! Or worse: Zzz.

Dr. Strange can pull it off because (1) undefined magic is his ENTIRE thing, and (2) even he has a rule or two, and (3) his movie SFX were unique and uber-cool. Even so, I’ve never been a fan. Undefined magic, you know. And Clea was always such a wimp.

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. We had cute little “playing with the concept” Act II sequences in London, and then the “gathering of the allies,” though they looked more like the Howling Commandos. This movie had been set in WWI instead of WWII I thought to minimize resemblances to Captain America. Now here we were with a mix of ethnic types — not terribly stereotyped, thank goodness, but on the brink — with whom to form our little troupe. I was very disappointed that Etta didn’t tag along.

If I weren’t happily engrossed in all the goodness this movie offered, I might be able to parse it more and add a few dozen more pages to this review, but la la la, I was too busy enjoying.

There was that magnificent Trenches Scene that everyone loves and for good reason, as Wondie steps out in her Xena costume for the first time, to inspire others to follow. She was determined in a very yin way but through yang actions, to save the helpless and ignite the courage and ethics of the men around her. This is what Wonder Woman is about! The Empowerer. Yes! HLWWCD, but I could overlook that because of the emotional impact of the situation at hand.

OMG, that blue dress. If they’d just had a half hour of Gal walking around in that dress, I would have been satisfied that my money had been well-spent. It was stunning! Give the designer an Oscar, hands down.

Action sequences, action sequences, falling in love scene, (tastefully) falling into bed scene, action sequences… and that nice bit between Steve and Dr. Poison at the ball, very nuanced. All excellent stuff. Red herring… By this time, it was a little obvious that Prof. Lupin was Ares. Sword utilized and then destroyed. Big reveal:

Diana is a god.

NO!!!! I almost stood up and screamed some four-letter words at the screen.

DIANA IS NOT A GOD!!! That goes against every shred of how her character has been constructed. DIANA DOES NOT HAVE A FATHER!!!


No, no, an infinity of times NO!!!!!

I pretty much withdrew into myself at this point. The movie paled despite its attempts to amaze me with SFX. I mean, the movie HAD ME GOING and then they pulled the rug out from under me AND hit me on the head with a heavy skillet. No respect for me as a viewer or fan. No respect for Wonder Woman.

Damned, damned patriarchy.

There was no need for anyone’s brain to function now. Bright effects. Computers doing overtime on SFX. Wham! HLWWCD! Crash! Bzzap! Lightning! Diana has immediate and full use of her deus ex machina powers.


(This is me retching.)

Diana’s lightning is brighter and costs more than Ares’, so he dies. Steve dies (the movie gets some bonus points for this due to Stevie’s putrid history in my eyes, though the movie done him good).

Someone mentioned on teh Webz that the reason Ares was after the Armistice instead of prolonging the war, was because the Armistice was so indecent that it directly led to World War II, which was so much larger than WWI. Okay, I’ll take that even though during the movie I was really wondering about it. A line or two of explanation, please, Mr. Heinberg? While you’re at it, could you please sew up all these plot holes?

So we’re left with Diana staying in Man’s World for 100 years to help make things better. We next see her in the Present Day, where she works in the Louvre in some unnoticed but well-dressed position.

Let me get this straight: a GOD determined to HELP HUMANKIND has been with us in the flesh for ONE HUNDRED YEARS and… nothing has changed? Why can’t infinite god Diana snap her fingers and make things right? She could change the hearts of people. If not (and perhaps this movie suggests that’s the one thing a god cannot do), she can certainly snap her fingers and change everything else.

Why hasn’t she?

Why didn’t she just snap her fingers in BvS and solve everything?

Was DC so scared that a woman might outshine their Big Two, that they completely diminished her impact on the world?

During the course of the ENTIRE movie, no one ever uttered the words “Wonder Woman.” I think this is a part of the disrespect. History seems to have forgotten her or never noticed her to begin with. After all, she's just a woman. Less than that: she is merely a tool of the great Father Zeus. All hail Zeus.

Well. Well. Cut out the origin, give the Amazons more yin qualities so that we can see where Diana gets her heart from and truly salute the female spirit… then completely ignore the climax and all that came after that, and you’ve got a Great Movie.

As it is, I give it an 8.5 out of 10, and that’s being generous because the bad parts were VERY bad, though the good parts were the majority of the movie.

PS: Diana is NOT a god, nor does she have a father. Period.

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