A Little Late To The Party

In two weeks, DARK SKY will be out in the US. Just two weeks. But I’m not going to write about that this evening. I’ll write about that in a few days, probably.

Tonight I’m going to write about Wonder Woman.

First off I should say that the thoughts I have on it cannot be properly explained (at least not by me) without going into spoiler territory. So if you have not seen Wonder Woman, I advise you not to read on yet. At least if you care about spoilers. And hey, go see it. It’s the first female-fronted mainstream superhero movie in however long, it probably deserves some support.

So apart from supporting it as a challenge to the massively male-dominated superhero movie scene, is it worth supporting? Is it a good movie? Ehhhh… no. Not in my view. It’s okay. There are certainly some good bits. But overall… well, let’s get into that.

First off, the good bits:
– Badass Amazons. Loads of female warriors of various different sizes and shapes kicking arse. Great.

– The chemistry between Diana and Steve was actually really good. Particularly in the sailboat.

– In fact, many of the performances were really good. The actors did excellently at portraying what they were told to portray. Can’t fault that.

– Diversity! Sikh British soldiers! A Native American guy! A North African guy (I’m assuming via the fez)! Something showing that it wasn’t just a whole bunch of white guys and some black Americans (if you’re lucky) on the side of the Allies was a really refreshing change. And there was racial diversity in the Amazons, too. Excellent stuff.

– I had no idea David Thewlis was in the movie, let alone what role he was playing, so that was a pleasant surprise. And he did it quite well, until it got a bit too CGI. But it was good to see him bring out the menace that lurked in Remus Lupin at the point in Prisoner Of Azkaban where you find out he’s in league with Sirius Black and you’re supposed to think that’s a bad thing. I also liked the bait and switch they did; I saw that coming, but not who the switch was going to be.
And now, the bad bits:

– Do the Amazons all wax, or something? Or are they all just born without body hair?

– Aaaaand basically, all of the plot. Lazy, lazy writing. See below.

– Hippolyta doesn’t want Diana trained. Then she does. Then she doesn’t want Diana to leave the island with Steve. Then she realises she can’t stop her. So with her daughter going out into the world, knowing full well what she is, does she send any help with her? Does she send an army of Amazons out to protect the world, their sacred duty and everything, and also maybe help keep Diana safer? NOPE. On your own, love. WHAT.

– Diana has a plan. She carries out the plan, or thinks she does. Then she finds out that the plan hasn’t worked, and her reaction isn’t “Oh well, let’s try to stop all the horrible deaths”, it’s “well, clearly if that doesn’t work everyone deserves to die.”

– And speaking of dying (and this is my main gripe)… most of this movie is one superhero knocking seven bells out of mortals. And yes, she’s using knees and the shield and throwing people into walls and stuff, but she *does* use the sword, and she *does* deflect bullets into other people, and she tips over tanks with people inside them and she collapses buildings on top of people. She kills a hell of a lot of German soldiers and, get this, she does so while believing that they are acting under the influence of Ares. So far as Diana is concerned these people aren’t in their right minds, and yet she kills them anyway.
And you know what… okay. We can have a conversation about that. We can talk about how she’s trying to get to Ares to bring the war as a whole to a close. We can talk about how she knows she can’t get there with these people in her way, and they’re not going to stop being in her way while they’re active combatants, so she has to take them out. We can talk about necessary collateral damage (you know, what she ranted at the British Colonel about). We can talk about the end justifying the means. BUT WE DON’T. We don’t have that conversation. We don’t have the bit in Captain America: Civil War where Tony and Steve (Rogers) argue over what is an acceptable use of their abilities, and who should get to decide how they’re deployed. She just goes ahead and does it.

– Getting into (and out of) the castle of the German High Command was ludicrous. A Native American guy just wanders up and steals a posh car, because there’d be no-one watching them. Then the guard lets in someone without an invitation because it’s all got a bit awkward at the gates (and lets remember he’s working for a General who likes to shoot captains in the head to keep the men on their toes). Then Diana just mugs a socialite woman and… what? Gets in the car and the driver doesn’t notice? Walks up with a sword sticking down the back of her dress and says she forgot her invitation? And then after Steve stops her from killing the General she just runs out again and he follows her and none of the guards think this is at all strange?

– We’ve found the general! He’s at an airfield that must be pretty much right next to the castle where the high command were! We’ll signal this using smoke signals, because we have a Native American with us (right…), and we’ve somehow managed to cut down a pile of trees as big as all of us put together and set them on fire and even though we’re right next to the airfield no one’s patrolling or has noticed this…

– The fact that Diana needs to “believe in love” to actually bother to save anyone is… awful? I mean, if you combined the endings of The Fifth Element and Captain America: The First Avenger, you basically have the ending of Wonder Woman. And don’t get me wrong, I liked both those movies, but come on.

– And so at the end, when Ares is defeated, the German soldiers and the (three) Allied soldiers are all happy and laughing or crying and they’re free from Ares’ control. Even though he told Diana under the Lasso of Truth that he wasn’t controlling them, he just gave them ideas. But if that’s the case, then why weren’t those Germans still trying to shoot  Samir, Charlie and the Chief (and Diana, although I guess I can understand not trying to shoot her when she’s just killed a god and also killed a whole bunch of your mates)? Which was it?
If it was that they were under his control (as is suggested by what actually happens), I find that really uncomfortable. Not only does it mean that, as mentioned above, Diana’s slaughtering her way through what are essentially people without mental capacity who also have no hope of matching her in combat, it also means that this film has completely removed human agency from the entire First World War. Think about that for a moment. This isn’t the Red Skull. This isn’t “Yeah, Hitler was a thing, this is just one of his goons who went even more rogue, that you haven’t heard about”. DC has gone “That massive global conflict that killed millions? That wasn’t the result of incredibly complex human politics. A god did that.”
A god did that.
We’re watching conflict spread over and around the Middle East on a terrifying scale, here, now, in this timeline. Daesh/Isis/Isil is butchering people and destroying cities and generally fucking over a few countries-worth of people, not to mention influencing people who may or may not be directly associated with them to commit acts of terrorism in the cities of the “Western World” too, and they are doing it (or they claim they’re doing it) in the name of a religion. In the name of a god.
I hope you will forgive me if I say that I find “A god did that” to be an unhelpful oversimplification for anything, given where we are at the moment.

So, that’s where I am with Wonder Woman. It looked fantastic and had very good acting, I’m just perplexed at what the actors were asked to do, and how little sense most of it made. I appreciate that it’s fantastic to finally have a superhero movie about a female superhero, but I’m somewhat appalled that she’s presented as a superpowered, naive child who’s incredibly intelligent in some ways but appears to lack much in the way of logical thought and whose personal ethics appear to be shaky at best and downright terrifying at worst. She really is basically Leeloo from The Fifth Element, but more powerful.

It’s so annoying. I wanted to like it. Loads of my friends love it. I wanted it to be the movie where DC knocked it out of the park instead of desperately trying to copy and play catch-up with Marvel. And yes, DC did a female superhero movie first, and that’s good. But I can’t say that it’s a good movie. It’s a movie which has good bits to it. And that’s a real shame.

However, at least it’s made loads of money, so maybe studios will at least realise that female superhero movies can be bankable, and they’ll keep making them.

2 thoughts on “A Little Late To The Party

  1. I agree with you re: “Ares really was controlling them, now they’re free!” thing at the end. It felt like a massive cop-out, and the implications are downright disturbing.

    And even if we don’t dig into the ethical/philosophical ramifications of it, how exactly does Diana reconcile “They only did these things because of Ares” with the *second* World War? Vietnam? Korea? The Middle East? And if the answer is “Well, Ares wasn’t REALLY dead,” then nothing that happens here is much of a victory. If the answer is “Mankind really is capable of cruelty and evil without the direct influence of a god,” then why involve the direct influence of a god to begin with?

    1. I think the Second World War would be much easier to blame on a god, really. That one was far more clear-cut in terms of culpability than the political mess that was the First. However, Captain America already bagsied the Second World War, so…

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