owlmoose: (marvel - peggy hat)
KJ ([personal profile] owlmoose) wrote2017-06-04 05:44 pm
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Wonder Woman!

Ever since this movie was announced, I've been both excited and afraid. Excited, because of course I was excited. Even though I'm not super familiar with the Wonder Woman mythos (probably my strongest exposure was from the 1970s and '80s Super Friends Saturday morning cartoon), and I don't have the deep connection with the character that many of my friends share, I'm well aware of her stature in the mainstream superhero canon and her importance as a feminist icon. But precisely because of her iconic nature, and also the habit of Hollywood to use the failure of high-profile superhero films with female leads as an excuse not to make more, there was an awful lot of pressure to get it right. Not to mention the way that Hollywood blockbusters tend to misunderstand and objectify female characters. There were good signs -- a female director, promising previews, Diana being hands-down the best part of last year's Batman vs. Superman -- but I didn't want to get my hopes too far up, especially given the lack of high-profile marketing in comparison to other DCEU films (although ScreenRant presents an interesting counter-argument).

Then the buzz from pre-release reviews started building. Between rapturous comments from people who'd gotten an early look at the film and the sky-high Rotten Tomatoes rating (96% pre-release, which made it the highest-rated superhero movie in RT history; it has since settled at 93%, which puts it just behind Iron Man and The Dark Knight), it was impossible not to get at least a little hopeful. I saw the film yesterday, with T and three friends, and I am thrilled to report that my hope was warranted. Wonder Woman is a solid movie, one of the best examples of the mainstream comic book superhero genre so far. I had fun watching it, I walked out of the theater happy, and even after a day of reflection, I can't find much to complain about. (Not nothing, of course; it was by no means a perfect movie. But it doesn't need to be a perfect movie. Its average rating on Rotten Tomatoes is around 7.5 out of 10, a respectable score for an action blockbuster, and that feels about right to me.)

Some non-spoilery thoughts: Gal Gadot was fabulous, perfectly cast as Diana, able to pull off all the emotional beats as well as the action and a number of fish-out-of-water moments (some funny, some poignant) that hit all the right notes. The rest of the cast were also great; I particularly liked Robin Wright as Amazon war leader Antiope (and how fantastic was it to see a middle-aged lady in such a strong action role?) and Lucy Davis as Steve Trevor's secretary, Etta Candy. Both of these roles were fairly small, but they stuck with me in a good way. Chris Pine was a fine Steve, too, acting alternately as Diana's support and as her foil as circumstances dictated. The action sequences, mostly set pieces that could have been lifted from any modern superhero film, did get a little draggy in places. The film's action was at its best when it focused on Diana: her strength, her agility, her determination, and the high-quality fight choreography that showcased all of these things. Apparently Gal Gadot undertook extensive martial arts training for this role, and it shows. Maybe more than anything, though, is that Wonder Woman is a superhero movie that takes a solid point of view: on the horrors of war, on the twin pillars of goodness and evil that are innate in humanity, on finding a reason to fight the darkness without and within. I also appreciate how little Diana was sexualized, and for the most part neither were the Amazons. Instead, they were presented as images of female agency and power. I suspect Patty Jenkins, the film's director, should take credit for this achievement. What a difference it makes, not to have a male gaze behind the camera's lens.

Spoilers start here. The main spoilery things I want to talk about are the antagonists and the romance.

I went along with Diana's assumption that Ludendorff was Ares for most of the movie, until her final fight with him, which felt like it ended far too easily. At that point, I had two new candidates for that role. My first guess was Doctor Poison; my second guess was correct. Moulton was a little too eager to promote chaos, and on historical reflection it makes sense that the God of War would push for the Armistice, since the end conditions of the First World War perfectly set up the Second, and the Cold War to follow. I think that World War I was actually the perfect set up for this movie and its message about war; World War II can be boiled down into clear good guys vs. bad guys narrative, but WWI was much murkier. It's much easier for Ares to stand to the side and refuse to take the blame. (That said, I have to wonder what Diana was up to during WWII, since she has to have been around. The potential for crossovers with Captain America is boundless...)

As for the romance, I've heard some complaints that Diana and Steve were rushed to insta-love, and that it's frustrating to have so much of Diana's awakening at the end credited to her romantic feelings. Both of these crits are fair, but I also don't think it was any worse than any of a dozen other superhero films. And at least the dude is the one who got fridged for once. (Okay, not entirely fridged -- Steve chose to die, and it was in many ways the proper culmination of his arc as a person who defended the necessity of making sacrifices for the greater good. But there's no question that his death also served to fuel Diana's character growth.) And of course I ship it now, although not as much as I might if there were even the slightest chance that he survived. (My friend E made jokes about finding him alive, encased in ice; if Chris Pine were in the Justice League cast list I might even lend that some credence, but as it is... probably not. That said, this is a comic book movie, so if TPTB want to find a way to bring him back, I'm sure they will.) If anyone has good ideas for fix-it fic premises, I'd be thrilled to hear them.

In conclusion, it was awesome. Not perfect, but what film is? And it shouldn't need to be perfect -- Hollywood should also have room for mediocre superhero movies featuring female leads, and it sucks that Wonder Woman needed to be twice as good to get half the buzz. That said, the opening weekend has been strong (at $100.5 million domestic and $200 million worldwide, it shattered the record for opening day take for a female director), and between the finances and the solid reviews, I have to expect that a sequel is on the horizon. And maybe now we can start getting all the other female heroes we ever wanted. Give me Black Widow, give me Ms. Marvel, give me Oracle, give me Storm. Give me all of them, good and bad and everywhere on the spectrum in between. You can do it, Hollywood. I have faith.

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