Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wonder Woman

As a child, I thought Marvel had cooler superheroes than did D.C.  So many diverse, creatively conceived and flawed misfits.  D.C. had the stalwarts like Batman and Superman.  Those guys had been around for decades and even by the time of my childhood felt a bit old hat.  They were square jawed and earnest.   I still loved 'em, and watched the Super Friends (based on The Justice League comics) cartoon every Saturday morning with fervor.  Wonder Woman was part of that bunch.  Most of my memories of her were of the lasso and the invisible jet.

The latter is not featured in this summer's WONDER WOMAN, the first solo big screen outing for the Amazon lady.  Maybe screenwriter Allan Heinberg and director Patty Jenkins thought the jet was incompatible with the serious story they were telling.  Maybe it will show up in the inevitable sequel or one of the crossover D.C. movies (one of which is indeed JUSTICE LEAGUE).  The lasso is there, and is used as a sort of lie detector test around its victims.  This proves handy on a downed airman named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) who crashes off the shores of Themyscira, Princess Diana's island home.  After the future Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) rescues him, a coderie of WWI German soldiers follow in their efforts to apprehend the American spy.  The Amazons handily defeat them (with Steve's help), but the soldier is an enigma that an island of women demand to know more about.  This includes Diana, who naturally begins to harbor feelings for him.  He is also the first ("above average") man she has ever laid eyes upon.

Once Diana learns of the atrocities of "the war to end all wars", far away from her tropical paradise, she yearns to go and help the weak, to stop who she believes is the cause - no less than the Greek god Ares.  There is quite a bit of mythology in the Wonder Woman story.  If you're not familiar, I don't want to spoil it for you. Once Steve and Diana enter the dark lands of London, WONDER WOMAN really kicks into high gear.  I was not aware of the storyline beforehand, and that it features a more human, terrestrial backdrop makes this saga far more effective than if it were another sci-fi/mass destruction superhero pic.  The genre has gotten predictable and boring.  While WONDER WOMAN sports super duper effects and action sequences (and some MATRIX-like fight scenes), it feels more immediate, almost realistic.

Heinberg and Jenkins create WONDER WOMAN as a potent story of sacrifice, steadfast belief, and a refusal to dismiss mankind as the selfish, violent creatures they most certainly are.  When a villain tempts WW into joining him in destroying the world, because surely they deserve it, she responds quite simply that "it's not about 'deserve'".  Sound like any other stories or belief systems? Christian imagery is part and parcel of many such movies these days, but WONDER WOMAN makes one of the best allegories of that type I've seen.   It could've been self conscious and preachy.  Few things are worse than a heavy handed super hero movie.  Cinematically speaking, of course.

Feminist? Sure, but never in a hateful, misandristic fashion.  Wonder Woman embodies the traits that define what many would associate with being an exemplary female: caring, nurturing, organized, protective, strong.  Fearless? Princess Diana marches right into battle without hesitation, but Gadot puts forth a very human side to her chracter.  Her eyes frequently slick over in grief, her face suggesting that even with wrist bands and shields that can defect hailstorms of  bullets,  a sense of vulnerability is within.   That helps us relate to her, to not view Wonder Woman as just another indestructible video game image.  But she does get to kick ass, and while she has a man by her side for much of the story, she does not need his hand to pull her along. 

This is the best D.C. movie since the DARK KNIGHT trilogy.  And far better than any Marvel adaptation I've seen.  More of this type, please.

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