Wonder Woman (2017): Kate's Review

I liked it.

Here's why:

First, the cast is excellent. The names are not top-billing; they are top-tier. Across the board, the acting is solid.

Gal Gadot is magnificent. She has more of the Lynda Carter look than any female superhero in the movies or the comics. She's beautiful but not so overwhelming, she seems unapproachable. And she has an extra dose of vulnerability, making her relatable as well as approachable. To me, surprisingly enough, the most heart-aching part of the movie is when she crosses No Man's Land alone. Maybe it's my increasing age (the theater included me, a younger woman, two younger women and their boyfriends, and about four older couples) but it tore at my heart to see her thinking she could fix the world and the town with this single noble act. Three-quarters of the way across the field, she kneels to take a barrage of bullets. She can handle it; she's a goddess; she's not going to die. And yet, she's so (temporarily) alone, I teared up.

Chris Pine is a more than decent Steve Trevor and not at all boring (Lyle Waggoner makes me so sleepy, my brain stops working). This Steve Trevor is self-effacing, passionate yet surprisingly non-argumentative. His passion doesn't stem from a need to force others to his view but from inward conviction. So he's confident in his masculinity without being condescending or demanding. (See below for comments on the ending.)

Most importantly, from a writer's point of view, there's an actual internal and external problem. The story-line is surprisingly tidy. Me, I don't think that frills are necessary. A decent arc is all a movie, novel, or short story needs.

Wonder Woman's internal arc is fairly mild, but it is established early on, built on throughout the movie, and paid-off exactly as required. The external problem is also paid-off (see below). There are no radical twists here, and there don't need to be. Tell me a story. Make it a good one. Don't try to make it something it isn't.

I admit to being initially a tad disappointed that the story was taking place in the past. But I got over that disappointment fairly quickly. And it prepared me for later outcomes.

The fight sequences are notable and fun to watch--very Matrix-y, and I thought the use of the lasso as both truth enforcer AND weapon was quite effective.

The movie resolves some of the issues Mike refers to in his critique. Since this is an origin story, Wonder Woman figuring out her motive--what do I care about and why?--becomes the plot. After the origin story is finished, of course, she will need to find additional and more concrete reasons.

Having a god be her main rival makes sense but does move the villainy way beyond someone even like the Joker. And in all honesty, I am the kind of person who likes to watch superheroes do things like rescue kittens out of trees and move people to safety when a dam breaks. However, Wonder Woman as pure goddess is a nice treat.

It's 2017! So Wonder Woman touting female power through a sexy costume is okay, and I appreciated that her look was part culture/part practicality/part comfort. I also appreciated the movie's initial point that although the Amazonians won on the beach, guns utterly change the equation when it comes to warfare (take that, stupid Ewoks!). Finally, the lasso as only capable of producing the truth so far as the villain understands it (see below) is a cool problem that I think should always have been part of the Wonder Woman package (it allows for some great conflicts).

I'm afraid that future romance and relatability may still be struggles for Wonder Woman. But this movie succeeded at providing (what I understand to be) the classic story without apology.

*Spoilers--I Mean It--I Give Away the Ending--You've Been Warned* 

(1) Steve Trevor

I sighed a bit when I realized that Steve Trevor was going to sacrifice himself. Elsewhere I've written about how death can be a writing cop-out. However, in this case, it was fairly inevitable. Supposing that Steve Trevor bailed from the airplane at the last minute? And was rescued by the Amazonians and nursed back to health? He might live as long as Steve Rogers' Peggy Carter--but there's no guarantee; Pine gives Trevor that Kirk-like joie de vivre even in his own death. The guy lives on the edge. He was always going to die young.

In fact, he was always going to die. No matter what. Diana is going to lose him. No matter what. That's part of her heartache. That's why ultimately, she and Superman become a couple. Their human lovers die. Death is what happens when a person isn't immortal.

So I accepted his death.

From Mike: And while his sacrifice could be seen as a bit cliché, and as the man making the sacrifice in place of the woman, I saw it as Steve doing what he did throughout the film: seeing what Diana was capable of, and letting her do it while handling the stuff he could do. Diana had a god to fight, so of course Steve is going to take out the plane. Obviously he couldn’t swap places with her. 

(2) David Thewlis as Ares actually took me by surprise. Keep in mind, I was surprised by the end of The Sixth Sense, so it doesn't take much. (I thought the writers were going to pull a real switcheroo and make Ares a woman, such as Dr. Poison.)

He is kind of a side-note. As Mike mentions, he doesn't have the clearest of motivations. However, I appreciated his Loki-like persona and arguments. The movie is not a philosophical one by any means. But his argument to Diana caps off both the external and internal conflicts. I was especially impressed that he makes his case while wrapped in the lasso: he believes what he is saying. The serpent always speaks in half-truths.

We don't hear Diana's inner rebuttal, but we've seen enough to understand why she rejects Ares. She truly enjoys people--their oddities, their funniness, their differences. She likes not only Steve Trevor but Etta Candy, Charlie, Sameer, The Chief, the townspeople, babies, the person she thinks Sir Patrick to be. She is honestly invested in their troubles and in their ordinary enjoyments. Rejecting Ares may be a no-brainer but it's a definite choice, and she makes it willingly.

As an origin story, I'm not sure that I'd place Wonder Woman with Christian Bale's Batman Begins. But it deserves to be placed within the origin-story pantheon.

Ha ha. A little Greek humor there at the end.

1 comment:

FreeLiveFree said...

Death can be a copy out, but it can also be a the most effective ending in stories ranging from Hamlet to Cowboy Bebop. Of course, it can be used badly. The vampire detective tv show Forever Knight just had few characters played by actors leaving the series blown up on airplane. It would have been better if they just gotten different jobs and had to move.

The thing about men sacrificing for women is that if you can repopulate a tribe/country/planet quicker if there's one man for five men than one woman for five men. That as much as anything is the reason men tend to do the dangerous jobs.