REVIEW: Wonder Woman

(Spoilers etc)

Who Won The Movie:

Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot.

Not because this movie is especially well-directed or well-acted; it’s actually very much not.

But this isn’t a movie that you can hold up against a Marvel Captain America movie and think you are comparing apples to apples. This movie is encumbered by the weight and complications of it being not just a superhero movie, but a FEMALE-CENTRIC superhero movie. So they get the kudos because they were able to make this movie and have it make a ton of money despite living in a world that made this much, much more difficult than it should have been.

I should disclose that I’m not a fan of superhero movies in general. They tend to be very wooden, swollen with agenda-driven storytelling and replete with creaky characterizations and looming inevitabilities. I like none of these things. In fact, I pretty much hate them all.

“LEMME GUESS: the godlike being is going to misunderstand the nature of humanity and experience an emotional setback that takes them to their breaking point before seeing the good in humanity and summoning SUPER godlikeness to dispense with the BIG BAD of the movie.”

Another movie I saw recently, Thor: Raganarok, is the inverse of Wonder Woman in that it felt no obligation to be anything besides the kind of kooky, gonzo movie it wanted to be. This is why I loved it so; because it was committed to its own version of itself and was faithful to that effort. But that freedom is a luxury and a privilege that only a movie done by white men about white men can have.

Wonder Woman does not have that luxury though. It has to be faithful to the source material. It has to celebrate Diana’s femininity but only so much so that it can remain commercially feminist. It has to fit into the larger story and vibe of the Justice League which, lets be honest, is just a turd sandwich of franchise to be drafting off of. Making a movie is difficult enough as it is; much more so when you have all those hurdles complicating the process.

Even Diana’s specific characterization is a juxtaposition because the character herself seems to have been designed in a lab run exclusively by patriotic horndogs so Gadot and Jenkins have to downplay her inherent sexiness so that the viewer doesn’t become complicit in this objectificational voyeurism, and they do this MASTERFULLY. Why? Because they repeatedly show us how everyone is reacting to Diana instead of just showing us her body parts.

This seems simple but it’s actual quite an accomplishment because in a dude director’s hands, the depiction of Diana could fall into the territory of the male gaze, not necessarily because that dude director was necessarily a bad guy, but because guys just lack the inborn nuance and awareness of the female viewpoint and interpretation of a female character.

THIS IS PROGRESS! To this point, I felt like Jenkins really did well with Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor. Steve is a tricky character because he can’t become the lead, he can’t subvert Diana but he has to be heroic and noble enough that he and Diana falling in love doesn’t diminish her character and make her look like Liz Lemon every time she got with Dennis Duffy.

Luckily, Chris Pine’s natural charm and charisma helped this, but Jenkins’ depiction of his character made it sing.

Take for example the scene when Steve buys Diana ice cream.

In the hands of a dude director, I could totally see this scene playing out where Steve is lustily watching Diana as she almost pornographically consumes the ice cream cone. It would have been played for LOLs and then forgotten, but, as is, this scene serves to further inform each character.

For Diana, it emphasizes her innocence and fish-out-of-waterness.

For Steve, it emphasizes his nobility for not watching her eat it like a creepo-pervweirdo AND for not buying it and expecting to get something in return.

(To be clear, this is a sadly low bar to be clearing, but we live in a world where the guy who created Buzz and Woody just tested positive for P.E.R.V and the most beloved comedian of my generation openly masturbates in front of women. I ‘m saying that as men, we have a long way to go.)

There are very few movies that have this narrow a line, where one misstep would result in one side or the other weeping and gnashing their teeth, so I have a lot of grace and respect for the movie and how well it walked this line.

Who Lost The Movie?

Whoever was in charge of the Attention to Detail department.

All that being said, if you consider this movie as just a movie and not something overloaded with the burden of making it both appeal to and scold a culture that objectifies, marginalizes and systemically oppresses women (among other groups of people), then this movie is a BIG OLE MESS.

Primarily, the characterization is VERY flimsy.

I was most captivated when Claire Underwood was in the mix teaching Diana how to SCRAP. Outside of Chris Pine, she was the only varsity athlete on a field of middle school LARPers. Other than that, the Amazons seem like a race of people fixating on a fight that supposedly would never come until, JK, it’s here!

The Nazis, JK not yet, the Germans were out of BIG BAD GUY central casting. There was no weight or identity to their villainy only that Dr. Poison wore a mask and liked to poison people and the general guy shot that one dude in the face. Other than that, they exist to be plot devices, not characters.

That goes for all the guys in Steve’s crew as well. First, why does Steve have such a ragtag crew of misanthropes when he’s a spy? Secondly, they were aggressively diverse despite there being no real super obvious reason for all of them being that close to THE FRONT of World War 1. This is such a busy movie that it had no time for anything or anyone to feel realized or lived in. Once Diana and Steve left Themyscira, the movie began to feel like a giant run-on sentence.

Ares, beyond being just really, really sloppy mythological work is a nothing kind of bad guy. We’re told his motives but they don’t *mean* anything to us. And Ares being Professor Lupin felt like a vestigial twist that worked in an earlier draft of the movie but in the final one.

Also shouts to his agent for getting him cast as the Greek God of War. Of all the people in Harry Potter that should have been cast as the Greek God of War, Lupin would have fallen somewhere between Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom.

Additionally, I felt like the movie REALLY whiffed by setting the story around WW1 instead of WW2 and having Ares be the driving force behind the conflict. Primarily, this didn’t work because they were trying to appropriate Nazi-ness to the Germans without it actually being chronologically true yet. But it also didn’t work because we’re made to think that Diana godkilling Ares makes everyone want to be friends again, when we all know that WW2 is coming and it’s going to be WAY more tragic and evil.

And I want to really understand the plot mechanics of Steve being a British spy, who sounded American and went undercover in the German army. I’m sure I’m missing something there, but that felt like a very clunky choreography to make it so that Steve could get Dr. Poison’s book.

Most Overrated Element?

The special effects.

They were good on a large scale but if I saw one more Diana slow-mo kick stab combo, I was going to fast-mo kick stab combo my face. And that last FINAL BATTLE sequence? It was fine, I guess, but Diana winning felt inevitable and thus super anti-climactic.

If this movie was a meal, what would it be?

FUNNEL CAKES! Better in theory, weighted with a lot of expectation and leaves you sluggish afterwards.

Could Shia LaBeouf Have Been In This Movie?

OMG yes! He could have been a Nazi lieutenant. OR Steve’s secretary. I LIKE THAT ONE BETTER.

What would Paula Abdul say about this movie?

“You’re a good person. And you did a thing. And sometimes when you do a thing, it doesn’t be what you think. Other times, it does more than you are. In this specific instance, the thing is such a great thing that inspires me to be more and it should inspire every other else to dream big and be more than they think you should are. You look beautiful tonight and your should be extremely proud.”

Wheezy Laughs: 0.5 of 7 Wheezy Laughs

Final Grade: 75 – 100

3 Comments

  1. Melissa November 22, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    I think casting Professor Lupin as Ares was pure genius. Why? Because you implicitly trust a Hogwarts teacher and then BAM! He’s the bad guy. I sure didn’t see that coming a mile away like I usually do.

    Reply
  2. Corrie November 23, 2017 at 9:01 am

    Oh Knox. Thank YOU for making me wheezy laugh through this whole review. You’re take on this is perfection and now l have words to explain my frustration with the movie. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  3. Mary Carver November 25, 2017 at 12:05 am

    Hmm. Well, I loved this movie so much I did something I’ve never done iny life. I watched it three times in the theater! Then again, I like superhero movies and I’m a big fan of girl power stuff. So I really wanted to stick my fingers in my ears and yell, “Lalala,” instead of listening to your review.

    But you have some really good points. Dangit. And bonus points for all the Harry Potter talk. Well played, Knox. And, FINE, great review.

    Reply

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