Saturday, June 3, 2017

Wonder Woman



Before we get started the best way to approach this film is to think of it like a Greek play or story such as The Iliad. I’m sure when they did research for the film that was referenced quite frequently and it can also inform the viewer to think of it like that. It doesn’t really follow the traditional superhero movie plotline in that it’s almost totally cut off from the rest of the universe of other films. It also doesn’t really have an antagonist for most of it and they didn’t like equip the Germans with laser rifles yet still make them totally ineffectual a la the first Captain America (a dreadful film in comparison). This is just a battle of the gods while the humans help as best they can. Wonder Woman represents pseudo Athena and the Germans and their assistants are basically representing Ares, a classic duel. Sadly no Diomedes and the gods are far more willing to engage in direct combat (killing many) instead of only inspiring warriors to fight on their behalf.

Having said that the first hour and a half to hour and forty five minutes of the film only occasionally feature supernatural occurrences; instead we’re treated to a delightful origin story and how Wonder Woman discovers the world in its 1918 state. This leads to a lot of interesting humor based solely around how na├»ve she is since she basically grew up in a pseudo tribal society compared to the Otto von Bismarck/Hindenberg 1870-1918 european era. It’s like two simultaneous period pieces since the island of the Amazons is still more or less intact as a Greek paradise with swords and shields and so on, but at the same time you’ve got Chris Evans with his glorious trench gun (M1890 I believe?) and his usual bevy of racially diverse sidekicks. Though they at least picked interesting ethnic groups this time so that didn’t really seem too bad, always happy to see Native Americans in movies for instance.
The first major point where you run into the Greek play aspect is when they’re patrolling the trenches and then out of the blue Diana decides to just walk straight across No Man’s Land into a line of German Machinegun fire; when you first see it it looks like it’s going to be corny as hell but they do some really awesome shots and the audience comes to believe in her invincibility. I knew going In she was a daughter of Zeus since she says that all the time in Injustice 2; but like Hercules is not totally invincible so you figure she might have some weakpoint or something, but it’s possible she’s 75% god or 100% (Hippolyta, Diana’s mother, is a daughter of Ares in Greek Mythology). The really cool thing about this scene is that she’s not really doing the offensive work, she’s basically giving the Germans a huge target and then the soldiers eventually decide to charge and take the other line. It is Gaea protecting her children or something like that, a tactically offensive move but solely done in a defensive (i.e. non-masculine) fashion.

Of course the vast majority of the action in the film is of the masculine beat the shit out of people kind, but Wonder Woman’s ability to draw out a different set of emotions from the audience than almost any other superhero movie is incredible. There’s actually impactful scenes, her character development is super interesting, and her relationship with multiple other characters actually has some depth to it. The third act is probably where the film will get criticized the most, but I think it really works well; Diana’s speeches about Love and so on should be silly but since it’s that battle of Greek Gods context where basically everything is an absurdist clash of Masculine and Feminine values it pulls it off. The main “surprise” of the ending sequence is pretty predictable because of the psychological issues that arise if that doesn’t happen; but I still think it works tremendously well as an agency for Diana to further develop her powers.


There are a few minor issues with the film, the first is that the Germans in WWI were not particularly evil or villainous. The war was essentially started by terrorists (a convenient Casus Belli), not an aggressive invasion of Poland or anything; and while they did massacre millions of soldiers and civilians it was more or less indiscriminate with regard to race/ethnicity (and in this first world society where bombing third world countries is cool, that’s okay too I guess), and Kaiser Wilhelm was kind of just a figurehead and not a lunatic. At the start of the film I was really hoping the Germans would be who WW was helping or something, but alas; kind of just followed the generic WW2 arc in that regard (reminder the best war film ever All Quiet on the Western Front is told from the German perspective).  The other issue is with regard to the ending theoretically negating the need for another ridiculously massive war, but WWII still happened. This is also kind of a positive though because there Is no obvious sequel bait whatsoever, naturally this probably means the next one will be set in modern day and be far less interesting, but one can always hope they do a WWII movie and then a Korean War movie, Vietnam, Iraq (Body of Lies style), and Mexican Drug Cartel Wars (Sicario style). If they never make a sequel (yeah, right) this is probably the best standalone Superhero movie ever as far as needing no prior films to set it up at all and nothing afterward that demanded its existence.