On Wonder Woman: A Review
Let’s get the scoring out of the way first:
My complete score:
- Story: 6
- Plot & Pacing: 7
- Set design: 10
- Costuming: 10
- Casting: 9
- Direction: 10
- Music: 10
- Action: 10
- Villainy: 7
- Heroes: 10
- Awareness of genre: 9
- Overall social Awareness: 8
- Production: 9
- Using the character properly: 10
Final Score: 8.8 out of 10
Wonder Woman is, for me, the best Superhero movie since the first Iron Man with Downey.
It’s also the first Superhero movie to give me that wonderful frisson I felt since 1977’s Superman, with Chris Reeve.
I am fairly insistent on my whole thing about how Heroes need to be heroes, and that it is the fault of writers if they hve to twist a hero into something that “seems more realistic” or if they have (ahem) a need to take the Hero away so that they can come up with a story.
Superhero stories are not that complicated. There is a bad guy who has an evil plan, the hero goes out and smacks the bad guy, and everyone is saved and the Hero goes on.
But on those bones, you can hang any kind of mythic adventure you want, and as long as you remember that the hero is a hero and the villain is a villain, you will be ok.
Allan Heinberg is behind the story. That’s an interesting thing in and of itself, as as I am a movie fan girl (a distinct thing from being a film buff) I tend to pay attention to such things — though I have to admit I failed here as I was distracted enough that I missed when the woman who had been a writer on it at one time was pulled off.
He has both an understanding of the reach of the character, her qualities, and he did one hell of a great job in pulling together the various elements from her first origin, the readily derided 60’s break, the Perez reboot in the 80’s, and the more recent New 52 reboot, relying heavily on the last one but not so much that it was a problem.
We end up with a Princess movie that doesn’t belong to Disney and is less problematic and more widely appealing.
Diana’s costume has often been a source of contention, and while I tend to be more of a traditionalist there, the new version shows a much better take on it, and is not as “sexy” a some might have expected. Granted, a few years back when the first images of it were released, much of this ground had been covered. But to see it in action is amazing, and even more so given the highly acrobatic way in which it and it’s relatives are used.
As for tone, the film is earnest; at least one major critic lambasted it for this, and to that critic I say you missed the hole freaking point of comic book heroes. Like musicals used to be, they are that chance to have someone be earnest, and as a social science type, I love it because that is where we derive heroes from in our daily lives. So yes, she’s going to be earnest, and the film is going to be earnest, and the most successful superhero films have gone there — Iron Man, Superman, Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, even the 80’s Batman and 90’s Blade; all are earnest films that understand this. When they step beyond that point — the Man of Steel, for the best example, which strips him of that earnestness while pretending to build it within him only to shatter it, and the tie back scene to this problem in BvS, where he leaves with a “nothing unspoilt” line — they are being dishonest and hostile to the characters they represent.
Blame Watchmen and The Dark Knight if you must, with their emphasis on toxic hypermasculinitiy, but this film, Wonder Woman, is their exact opposite in that sense, despite also being as down to earth and grounded in the real world as possible — which is why it works so much better.
A lot of folks like that kind of anti-hero. I do not, and never will. I mean, hell, even freaking Deadpool is earnest. It’s just cocksure and snarky as all hell about everything around it. The recent Logan is earnest — though the far more bleak tone and nature of its story is more fitting to the kind of Hero that Wolverine has always been. He is far better suited to the nature of the Anti-hero storyline than Batman, Superman, Captain America, Wonder Woman,and the other mainline heroes.
“Cheesy is one of the words banned in my world,” Jenkins told The New York Times. “I’m tired of sincerity being something we have to be afraid of doing. It’s been like that for 20 years, that the entertainment and art world has shied away from sincerity, real sincerity, because they feel they have to wink at the audience because that’s what the kids like. We have to do the real stories now. The world is in crisis.”
There is no sex kitten badassery here, no magical pixies, none of any of the usual in any of the ways women are shown historically. You won’t get the sex kitten of a Harley (which is offensive but not for the obvious reasons, but again because it is not in keeping with her core character), or the James Bond style batman-ish stuff of the upcoming Atomic Blonde where half the import is on how sexy she looks to the male gaze. There is no “useful foible” of a Black Widow or a Pepper Potts, neither of whom has been treated with any kind of decency and who are so easily replaced that any pretty young thing in hollywood could have done the role.
Like others, I found her appearances in BvS to be the best thing about that film. The character and her presentation both in and out of costume was fantastic, and I felt like she was the only hero in the film, which may be why she stood out to me. From the angsty bullshit of Supes to the murderous lack of discipline and control displayed by Bats, the film was akin to a complete slap in the face regarding those characters, and yet here she comes and she’s all “well hell, let’s go kick this things ass”.
They build on that here, which may seem strange since the film takes place pretty close to a hundred years before that point. In doing so, they go in a direction the DCEU has not gone thus far.
There was some rumor that Suicide Squad, with it’s humor, would influence this film, but if so, it isn’t visible. The hand of Zack Snyder is, however, and it shows entirely in the final act to my eye (which is quite sharp because I am extremely critical of all his films, since they are derived from that same toxic masculinity model I mentioned earlier and then decorated with what I consider to be a light frosting of feminism to make them seem palatable).
But this is far and away the inimitable Patty Jenkin’s film. Her love for the subject is on full display and and a very much needed one, and given she’s known for only one other film — also an incredible work (Monster) — it might seems surprising to many.
It pays off in spades, though.
Gal Gadot is better known for her work in the fast and furious films among genre watchers, where she essentially plays a sex kitten archetype that did not lead one to think she could pull this off. Yet here, in a nuanced, visually emotional performance that belies her modeling roots, she manages to do it — bitch lines and all. (As a note, I have bitch lines, and I’m proud of them). She isn’t doing a Charlize Theron without makeup being all scraggly and rough around the edges, so don’t expect that much: she’s ding rather the opposite.
Some might wonder why I reference older films and other films while writing this, and the reason is that they apply — this is not merely one film, all alone. This is why it has so much damned importance and pressure on it.
This is what folks thought Supergirl would be — and it would be nice if Time Warner decides to bring her into the fold after JL. Had Catwoman gone a different route, maybe. As it is, these films are marked down as failures not on the writers and directors, but on the stars (Helen Slater and Halle Berry). In short, women took the fall for the failures of men.
This film is outstanding. In nearly every single measure. The major bump in it comes in the third act.
My thinking is that if the film — which is currently 2 hours and 21 minutes — had a running time of three hours plus credits, we would have seen a perfect superhero film, having given Jenkins and the writing team enough time to fully develop and play out the third act in a less abrupt fashion. It would have allowed for a stronger overall lead in, and given them a bit more time to make the moment that “makes her a hero” (essential for any origin story) work better than it does.
Then again, I love movies. In an age where folks binge watch over an entire weekend, a three hour film is no longer that big a deal. Unless you drink a lot of soda.
I strongly recommend this film. especially if you are a woman, if you value women and womanhood, and if you had to struggle to claim your womanhood, in any form.
Go see it. Especially the weekend of the 9th through 11th of June. Even if you have seen it already. Be a part of history.