Wonder Woman (Here There Be Spoilers)
My family and I finally saw Wonder Woman today. (I made sure to do up the beard with the appropriate colors, of course!)
I liked it a lot. It wasn’t perfect, but it’s easily the best of the DC superhero films for me. Not necessarily a high bar to clear, but still…
Was it perfect? Nope. I saw the twists with Ares and the “godkiller” pretty much as soon as they were introduced. Elena Anaya’s Doctor Poison was sadly underutilized. The final battles were a little too CGI.
I still enjoyed it. I loved Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, and Chris Pine as Steve Trevor. Lucy Davis was a lot of fun as Etta Candy. Perhaps most importantly, the film gave us a Wonder Woman who had heart. Who loves and protects and smiles and cares and tries to help, and not just in battle. The moment when she tries to comfort Charlie after what appears to be a PTSD-type nightmare, or her unabashed joy in ice cream or seeing a baby for the first time…those moments made Wonder Woman as much as her big fight scenes.
I’ve seen people talking about how they cried during this movie at the sight of a woman taking center stage as a powerful, compassionate, world-saving superhero. I’ve seen criticism of the way the film quickly abandons Paradise Island and surrounds Wonder Woman with an almost entirely-male cast. I’ve seen love for the casting of an Israeli woman, and for a Native character who introduces himself in Blackfoot. I’ve seen pain and frustration at the way black women are portrayed or pushed into the background. (I loved watching Robin Wright kick ass, but why couldn’t the movie have kept Philippus as Diana’s trainer?)
I’ve also seen that amazingly clueless Guardian review, which complains:
Confusingly, Diana later explains that “men are essential for procreation but when it comes to pleasure, unnecessary.”
Anyone else completely unshocked to find that this review was written by a man?
I included the link, but I recommend reading more thoughtful commentary and responses like the following:
- Eugene Brave Rock Speaks Blackfoot to Wonder Woman in DC’s Best Film Ever
- “What I didn’t expect was to be overcome with emotion when Eugene Brave Rock’s character ‘Chief’ met Wonder Woman, who was spectacularly portrayed by Gal Gadot. Why? His first words to her were in Blackfoot.”
- “Brave Rock had told ICMN previously that he was permitted by director Patty Jenkins to choose what he wore, who fully respected the need for proper regalia and clothing.”
- Why Wonder Woman Is Bittersweet for Black Women
- “[T]he only Black women depicted are a handful of Amazons on Themyscira, the hidden island where Diana and her people live in peace without men. The first Black woman we’re introduced to is Diana’s caretaker, a representation which hits the Mammy trope on the head.”
- “I am so tired of being told that Wonder Woman only represents white women when for once, for ONCE, I have someone who represents me.” -Navah Wolfe
- “Wonder Woman is Jewish. We may not be POC, but we are a visible minority. Having a Jewish superhero is a big deal. Don’t take it from us.”
It’s hard to hear something you love is problematic. We saw The Princess Bride again last weekend. I love that movie. I think it’s brilliant…but it’s also almost exclusively male, and includes a scene of Westley threatening to strike his so-called love because he doesn’t like something she said. That’s messed-up. I still love it, but not because I delude myself into thinking it’s perfect.
Wonder Woman is extraordinary and powerful for a lot of people. It’s also flawed and frustrating or disappointing for others. This isn’t a contradiction. It’s the nature of art. Sure, certain criticism might be ridiculous — waves at that Guardian reviewer — but I don’t think we do ourselves any favors by pretending our faves are perfect, or by refusing to listen to people who point out genuine problems.
I liked the movie. I liked Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. I think this was a big step forward for DC films…but one step does not a journey make. I hope Hollywood learns and does even better in the future.
I’ll end with Stylist UK’s 25 life-giving photos of little girls dressed as Wonder Woman.
June 11, 2017 @ 10:37 pm
I finally saw it today as well. I thought Doctor Poison was underutilized because they were setting her up as a major character in another film. They certainly seemed to give us enough to make us curious about her and then left her dangling as a loose thread, ripe for either redemption or further mischief.
June 12, 2017 @ 8:51 am
I agree whole heartedly on Dr Poison being underused. I have to admit to half hoping SHE would turn out to be the incarnation of Ares. That could have been a whole lot of fun.
June 12, 2017 @ 11:26 am
It bothered me that the Amazons are defined specifically as created (by a male god) to oppose war, with no suggestion they were created to fight against women’s oppression. Still loved the movie though.
Contrary to the Harper’s Bazaar article, Nubia was hardly a significant presence in Wonder Woman — two issues, then crickets (plus a later Super-Friends appearance). I’d have loved it if they’d done more with her, but that’s not the comics we got.
June 12, 2017 @ 11:32 am
I say it yesterday, too. I loved it. I agree with athersgeo that it would have been a fun twist for Dr. Poison to have been the incarnation of Ares. I had it in the back of my mind, though, that she might have been a “lost” Amazon. One of my very favorite, completely unremarked, things was that it took a woman to cross “No Man’s Land.” Epic.
June 12, 2017 @ 1:13 pm
I’d have liked to see more concerning Dr. Poison as well. She’s a very intriguing character and I hope we’re going to see her again because I agree there wasn’t enough of her in this film. (I’m coming at this as someone with very little familiarity with the comics.)
I’ve been reflecting on the Harpers Bazaar article for a day or so. It reminds me that art doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and the people experiencing it are necessarily bringing their own experiences and history to it. So regardless of whether the filmmakers *meant* to play into stereotypes concerning black women, they did, and I noticed.
June 12, 2017 @ 1:46 pm
I enjoyed the hell out of Gadot’s performance. Her wide-eyed wonder was so delightful — such a contrast to the grimdark tone of DC’s movies generally. And apparently the studio tried to pressure Jenkins into cutting the No Man’s Land scene because she wasn’t fighting a supervillain and therefore it was “irrelevant;” they clearly have less understanding of Wonder Woman than a friend’s five-year-old daughter, who started yelling at the screen when the characters tried to stop Diana from going out there, because “she’s Wonder Woman and that’s what she DOES.”
The ending did get a bit tedious though, yeah, with smashy-smashy CGI. Ares was much more interesting when he was talking to her through the windows, disappearing and reappearing. And to be honest, I couldn’t really take David Thewlis seriously as the god of war once he armored up.
When it comes to abandoning Paradise Island too quickly — I had the opposite reaction, in that I was pleased the film spent so much time there. Unless the story was going to be about the island itself coming under siege (which I think works better as a later story than an introductory one), that was always going to be just the first act, and it could easily have been reduced to a ten-minute prologue instead. But they took the time to actually show us the place and the characters, to show Diana in her element before she got out of it.
Jim C. Hines
June 12, 2017 @ 2:12 pm
Marie – I think part of my frustration with not getting more of the island was that it was so much more interesting than the rest of the movie’s settings.
And I had the same problem with armored-up Ares. With Ares in general, really. I never got a sense of genuine menace from the man.
June 13, 2017 @ 6:59 pm
RE: David Thewlis as Ares…having seen the actor in other roles as the villain, most notably as Cyrus Crabb in the Dinotopia mini-series (yeah, yeah, it’s pretty old, but it’s currently on Netflix), I liked the contrast. Most of us, I think, remember him best as kindly Professor Lupin, so seeing him and thinking he’s the good guy here was, for me, a bit of twist.
Brian E Ledford
June 15, 2017 @ 1:21 pm
The island was also the only bit set during the day when it was sunny. And I guess there were thematic reasons for themiscera to be sunny and idyllic and the rest of the world to be gloomy and overcast, but it would have been nice to be able to see better during the rest of the movie.
June 15, 2017 @ 1:31 pm
I loved Wonder Woman, a lot. And I’m really glad we’re finally getting more women headlining films, and strong female characters in general. I didn’t really have problems with the film itself (I tend to just enjoy a film at first watch and read about flaws later and decide whether I agree and/or notice flaws on subsequent viewings), but I have some irritation with the hype surrounding the film as the “first” female superhero on the big screen. I have this irritation because when I was a child I was completely obsessed with the movie Supergirl with Helen Slater. I had the poster on my wall, I dressed as Supergirl for Halloween, and I read the comic book version of the movie until it fell apart. Now certainly, that was over 20 years ago. The movie may not hold up, it may be problematic in lots of ways I don’t remember, and it’s obviously WAY past time we had more female superheroes on the big screen, but for the little girl that I was, Supergirl gave me a hero who looked like me, and NOT acknowledging that movie by calling Wonder Woman first feels like an erasure to me. And I don’t think it takes anything away from what Wonder Woman accomplishes to acknowledge Supergirl as a predecessor. Sorry, I guess that’s been weighing on me a bit. 🙂
June 15, 2017 @ 1:34 pm
I saw WW last night and enjoyed it, but it was definitely not a happy story and I thought a little too much time was spent on the wrong things.
Case in point, Paradise Island. There is a really long-feeling sequence when Antiope is telling the whole Zeus/Ares story (only leaving out that really important part that it might serve Diana well to know), in voiceover, which was a waste of Robin Wright. I didn’t buy this, for two reasons.
The Amazons, in this world, are apparently undying – though they can be killed in battle, if they are not injured beyond lasting long enough to get into the healing pools, they live forever. Because they have been on that island for thousands of years. It has taken Diana thousands of years to mature. Meanwhile, they have voluntarily segregated themselves from the world, and the story says that if one of the women leaves, she can never come back.
Two problems with this. 1). If no one can come back, how – just for starters – have they learned all the other world languages? And 2). If they have lived unchanging for thousands of years, they should be living as 2000 BC Greeks would have done, in a vibrant storytelling culture* in which the great legends and myths are constantly restated and reimagined. The Zeus/Ares story, in other words, would not have been something delivered in secret by someone going against the Queen’s direct order. It would have been recounted over and over again, with great drama and ceremony, AND it should have been accompanied by an explanation for *why the hell* if standing against Ares is so important, they have put themselves in lockdown for all this time.
*because okay, maybe they spend all day training and doing the work of daily life, but they have all night every night to stay occupied without children because no men. They would be gathered in firelight to sing and recite.
That was kind of a big oops for me.
The other disappointment was the framing device. By showing Diana in present day, you essentially lose all of her (and the audience’s) connection to the characters who are developed with some care throughout the main storyline – including Dr. Poison. “Here she is, folks, isn’t she gorgeous” (which she certainly is, the part was perfectly cast) meets “Sorry, folks, not only are Aunt Antiope and the courageous American dead, so is this adorable Englishwoman and the traumatized Scot and the canny Egyptian and the practical Blackfoot, because all this happened 100 years ago.”
By using the modern-day framing device, they ensured that if they want to pursue a story with Dr. Poison they have to do it as another flashback. WTF.
June 25, 2017 @ 1:06 am
Just saw it tonight and loved it. Being a woman in the sciences, one thing that thrilled the heck out of me was having the brilliant evil scientist be a woman! Maybe she was underused, but she was there! I’ve never seen a woman in that role before – my friends were amused at how excited I was about it.
August 13, 2017 @ 10:35 am
So you don’t find the part about men being necessary for procreation transphobic? I read criticisms that stated that the protagonist not having seen a penis before was transphobic, so I am frankly a bit surprised you don’t mention that.