Monday, June 5, 2017

Wonder Woman (2017)

* Spoilers *

Diana lives in Themyscira, an island isolated from the world of man. The Amazons of Ancient Greece live and train there, ready to combat Ares in his return after killing the complete pantheon of Greek gods except for Zeus. An American spy crashes near their shore and Diana saves him, leading the German troops to their hidden island. The Amazons suffer casualities and refuse to help him. Diana decides to help him, unable to stand by while millions of people die in the World War, and leads him to England where she vows to destroy Ares.

I've have been excitedly anticipating the movie adaptation of Wonder Woman for a long time. It's gratifying to see a kickass female superhero who has a similar powerset to god-like figures like Superman. She lifts and throws tanks, blocks bullets, tears through bad guys like paper, and generally kicks ass. Her breakout scene where she smashes into No Man's Land between foxholes is awe inspiring. It's the moment she truly becomes Wonder Woman. Her softer side has her enamored with babies and sympathetic towards the victims of war, who give her a more personal reason to fight against Ares than just her ancient legacy of obligation. She shows off her education and intelligence in translating a difficult hybrid text. At every turn, she proves those wrong who would underestimate her and push her into the gender roles of the time. She also experience the very best and the very worst of what the human world has to offer.

Her home Themyscira is a beautiful, colorful, bright place that I wish we could have stayed at the whole film. The society was fascinating and it showed strong female friendship, which is rare to see. Their society is completely separate from the world of man even though they are charged with protecting it. The others are happy to stay in their utopia while the rest of the world suffers because man is inherently flawed and prone to violence. It showed how Diana fought even as a child to become the warrior she knew she could be when her mother was satisfied with her state as a beautiful, ignorant, innocent child. Robin Wright has the best role here as General Antiope, the woman who trained Diana when it was forbidden. Although she is short lived, it was wonderful to see her as well as the rest of the diverse cast of Amazons running their own society and defending what is theirs.

Wonder Woman has numerous flaws including Diana's treatment by others, her romance, and her intelligence not matching her actions. Once Diana and Steve get to England, the film returns the typical DC monochrome and muted look. Most of the film has Diana follow him around being condescended to, commanded, and sexualized by others at every turn. It borders on a Born Yesterday plot and gives Steve way too much power over her. There a way too many remarks about her beauty and it's annoying and lazy writing when she's obviously capable. Lip service is paid to her bisexuality and then she's shoehorned into a hollow heterosexual relationship. Steve dies so Diana will have the emotional pain to tap into her true power. The romance wasn't well developed enough for that and it fell flat. It's also a crappy trope and only interesting because of the gender reversal of what usually happens. Also, Antiope's death had much more emotional weight even though she was only onscreen for a few minutes. Diana seems way too naive, especially in the ways of war. Despite being so well read, she refused to believe she couldn't save everyone. Her singleminded belief that all of man's evil is attributed to Ares got annoying because it didn't seem to fit with her character and made her more childlike than warranted.

Other problems with the film are the terrible villain, the portrayal of the human villains, the CGI, and the ending. Ares is the villain of the piece, but he disappoints when he appears. I was at least surprised by his identity. The Germans are the only human villains portrayed in this film set in World War I. It felt more like they wanted to portray Nazis, but set it in the wrong time. That aside, I felt the human villains were more interesting and compelling than Ares in every way. Dr. Maru, a female scientists dedicated to creating the most destructive weapons, and Ludendorff, the German general, had more excitement and passion for their work. It was also refreshing to see a woman villain playing a significant role. The CGI was terrible and very obvious in most instances. The fight scenes keep having this Matrix-esque moment of slow motion in between normal time in every single one. The ending is a huge mess of CGI ridiculousness.

Wonder Woman is the best DC movie by far, but it doesn't come close to most Marvel movies. I found it to be poorly written. Although the acting was decent, it doesn't change that story is predictable and the dialogue doesn't feel natural. I wanted to the film to be so much more feminist than it was. I honestly had incredibly high expectation going into it and I was pretty disappointed by the end. It has a lot of good going on in Gal Gadot and the Amazons. It was so universally lauded by critics and individuals that I don't think DC is going to learn from the mistakes made here. I'm glad of its success both critically and in the box office because of what it will mean for the future of superhero movies led by women. I will be seeing it multiple times to support it despite its flaws and I look forward to more Wonder Woman movies that will hopefully improve as time goes on.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

No comments: