Sunday, June 4, 2017

Waiting for Gadot: Wonder Woman Arrives

Look out world, here comes Wonder Woman!

     Hello, DC, what kept you?  Wonder Woman is an awesome,  incredible movie finally breaking out of DC's terrible slump of repetitive boring movies.  
        We were introduced to Wonder Woman in the excruciating Batman versus Superman (my review of that pathetic film is linked here: Batman vs Superman review ), in which two plodding middle aged Superheros were upstaged by a Woman with 90% of Superman's abilities (glass ceiling you know), who swung a sword and grunted like a Pro Tennis player.  I guess they thought that was sexy.  I thought it was dopey and mainly showed that the creators had a fetish for tennis players.  
       I suspect that the last several DC movies have been overly dark and gloomy because the Joker was their best character, and he was a very dark, ominous figure. So DC decided "Gee, let's make everything dark and ominous!"  So we have had dark and ominous Batman, dark and ominous Superman, dark and ominous everyone.  Well, that doesn't work for everyone.  
       I'm happy to report that Director Patty Jenkins moved beyond that.  The backdrop of World War I provides a serious and grim tone for the film, but it is not limited to that.  
        The basic premise is that Wonder Woman comes from a race of Amazons who have been isolated from humanity for thousands of years.  But they learn about the Great War in the outside world, and conclude that humanity is being influenced by an evil cosmic power to descend into a state of perpetual warfare (I might add that 100 years hence, it is still not clear whether we ever made it out of that state).  Princess Diana must decide whether to intervene, and if so, how.  In a world at war, are there any good people left? 
        Wonder Woman avoids the stereotypic bad guys that have hitherto been characteristic of DC movies.   This movie explores the motives of evil at both the human level as well as the cosmic level.  Are the War Machines of Europe the source of evil in the world?  Or is there something beyond, and if so, how can it be discovered?
        Gal Gadot is magnificent as Wonder Woman. First of all, she looks the part, but more importantly she is totally believable.  On the one hand Wonder Woman is naive about humanity, but on the other hand she understands the mythological nature of the universe in a totally different way from her mortal contemporaries.  Gadot's Wonder Woman is sexy, but she is clearly a warrior and not a beauty pageant contestant.   
      I don't believe the movie industry has ever understood the value of the superhero franchises.   Batman vs Superman proved that people would see a movie based on its title alone, since it was one of the worst movies in its generation. Once word got out that it was a terrible movie, people stopped turning out for it, but it's opening weekend showed how intensely interested the public is. 
     Wonder Woman is the most compelling female character in the superhero universe, and yet no one realized that it would be worth making a movie about her until now. Fortunately this movie has much greater artistic merit, and so I predict it will continue to score at the box office rather than falling off a cliff like Batman vs Superman.  
     Now, some of the picayune details that I didn't understand.  First of all, it seems clear that Paradise Island is some kind of Greek Mediterranean island with perpetual warm weather.   But about 1/3 of the way through the movie I finally figured out that the movie actually places it in the North Sea, and it's actually rather easy to travel to Jolly Old England from Paradise Island.  Oh.  
         I mentioned previously my dissatisfaction with Wonder Woman's sword in Batman vs Superman, which was a throw-in because the creators had a thinly disguised fetish for the likes of Serena and Maria.  Well, ok, there is a role for the sword in this movie, but she may or may not need to use it again in the future.     
         Wonder Woman is also an ethnically bland film, with very few parts for persons who are not Caucasian.  I suppose you could blame that on World War I not being ethnically diverse, but they are going to have to do better in the future.  
        I'm also hoping that Wonder Woman will one day break through the glass ceiling imposed by comicdom, in which no female superheroine is allowed to be more than 90% as powerful as Superman.  No, a musclebound humanoid alien can not be more powerful than a Demi-Goddess.  Wonder Woman deserves to be the cleanup hitter in the DC movie universe.   Let her do some things that Superman can not.   WW is going to far out-gross Batman vs Supes, she's earned her spot. After the first billion dollars rolls in, the producers are going to ask, "duh.....why didn't we try this a bit earlier?"  


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