Friday, October 27, 2017

Wonder Woman

In the new superhero movie Wonder Woman, we are presented with perhaps the most interesting and thrilling character of the year. A woman who is tough, kind, compassionate. She's a warrior and yet also a passifist. It's just too bad that the movie she is in is subpar.

In Wonder Woman, the story is bland and the performances are a mixed bag. The title character is also known as Diana, an Amazonian princess on an island of only females. World War I reaches their shores, as an American spy named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes there and seeks their help. While the queen wants nothing to do with mankind's wars, Diana is convinced that this battle can truly end all wars. She disobeys, and runs away with Steve to end the war. The terrible convenience of a just war is that it's only in retrospect, it seems, when it becomes evident whether or not it truly was just. World War I was meant to be the "war to end all wars," and yet it of course led to another world war, as well as (indirectly) the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. Diana arguably goes through a similar realization.

The performances might be a mixed bag, but they work best when humor is involved. Pine is as charming here as he is when he's Captain Kirk or when he's singing in Into the Woods. Taghmaoui and Lucy Davis, as Steve's humorous secretary, provide satisfactory comic relief. Even Danny Huston as the villain and Elena Anaya (whom audiences might recognize in a somewhat similar performance in The Skin I Live In) as his poison doctor engage in a bit of morbid humor. Ludendorff poisons a group of exhausted German generals ready to give up the fight, and then he throws them a mask. "That mask won't help them!" Dr. Poison yells. He responds: "But they don't know that!" Then they let our a mischievous laugh. Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright, as Diana's mother and aunt respectively, deliver dismal (humorless) performances, with Wright's being possibly the worst of her career. (Both struggle to deliver those egregious lines in whatever accent they're aiming for.)

But the title role is played by Gal Gadot, and her performance is the only truly wonderful thing about this movie. She portrays Diana as perfectly complex. Feminists who have been praising the film might be a bit concerned about how Diana appears frequently wearing next to nothing in the same fetishistic outfit and whip (not to mention all the bondage imagery) that she had in the comics. (A biographical film about Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston and his relationship with his wife, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, and his mistress, Olive Byrne, both of whom lived with him simultaneously, is due out later this year.)

Still, it is refreshing to have a female character tougher than all the boys, and it's long overdue. In addition to the fact that young girls are being provided with a tremendous character to look up, so too do young bisexual people now have a hero; for too long, young bi people have had only cruel stereotypes of them in media. While Diana's bisexuality is not portrayed here, the character has been officially confirmed as being bisexual, and Gadot herself has said the character "can" be bisexual. (Catwoman has also been confirmed as being bisexual.) It's essential that the sequel confirm this.

Wonder Woman is not as boring as Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice or as stupid as Suicide Squad, but it is disappointing in its own right. I'd say it's time for DC Comics to throw the towel in, especially when one views any trailer for the upcoming Justice movie. Some, like Matthew Jacobs at the Huffington Post (typically), are speculating that it might win Best Picture. I sincerely hope it does not.

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