I saw Wonder Woman yesterday and the above is what I posted to Facebook afterward.
I have a lot of thoughts on the film, most of them positive, and I’d like to talk about them and what I feel like the film means- because despite being ‘just a film’, it’s really tempting to point to it as being something more. In part because I want to see more of these strong leading ladies- and hopefully the film’s critical success will pave the way for that.
I’m going to be careful not to spoil this film in the following post (anything that is a spoiler will be blocked out- highlight it if you want to see the text) because I do recommend that people see it.
Before going into the film, I watched a lot of non-spoiler reviews, once the social media embargo was lifted. Because they were overwhelmingly positive, I felt like I wanted to see the film. From these reviewers, I learned that some women were leaving the theater crying, saying that they hadn’t known how much they needed this film.
Well, I thought that was very sweet and also didn’t think of it as having any relation to me or to my eventual response to the film (and you can see above how that played out).
I mean, obviously there have been strong female characters before (Leia, Hermione, Ripley… I’m running out). But I don’t think there’s ever been an action movie that rested squarely on a female performance. Maybe because it’s always felt like that’s not what women are supposed to be about. You could write Leia, Hermione, and Ripley out of their respective films. They wouldn’t be good, but they would still work. You couldn’t write Wonder Woman out of Wonder Woman.
Within the film, Wonder Woman had her own motivations and goals and priorities, her own moral compass and set of values. They’re not directed or swayed by a man- not a family member or romantic interest.
And speaking of romantic interests, the film is a fair watch for men too. What’s his name Trevor (Steve? Played by Chris Pine) is intelligent, funny, and overall a good person (while still being a conflicted moral with the attached flaws and failings).
A reviewer that I will not name (because I enjoy watching his/her reviews generally and don’t want to offend anyone, in the rare circumstance that said person somehow sees this) said that this wasn’t like Ghostbusters- which made said reviewer feel like trash for being a man.
Okay, well, you can probably guess that this reviewer is male. Ghostbusters wasn’t a good film, I couldn’t finish it. But I can’t remember it being… offensive… to men in any way. Sure, one of the movie Chrises played the part of ditzy but secretary. But if that portrayal is supposed to be seen as offensive women have a lot to be pissed at. Like… a century of cinema. My, how the turns have tabled.
But really, treating a man like eye candy, like an object, is seen as treating men like shit, making them feel bad, lowering men so that women feel more empowered? It’s so confusing to me- and this isn’t a straw man argument. These are actual statements I’ve heard. Is that what men are doing when female characters are treated as flimsy cardboard cutouts? I hadn’t realized the thought process behind it was so malicious. Or maybe it only is when women do it.
He also said that this is a movie for both genders. I agree. And that Superman and other comic book hero movies with heroes rather than heroines are movies for both genders.
I kind of disagree. Not being one myself, I can’t so much speak to this, but I know there are many women interested in comic books and comic book movies who are accused of being fake fans, only interested in guys seeing them as ‘cool’. I don’t really think we can pretend that comic community has welcome women with open arms. And pretending that the secondary female characters and romantic interests in male-led super hero films have half the depth and ability given to Giacomo Trevor in Wonder Woman is a laugh.
But the point that I’m not quite sure that his first name Steve is a good start.
On that point- I was trying to explain to Dad why the movie made me cry. And he didn’t really get it. Now, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know my Dad is a very lovely and understanding person, and that we have a close relationship.
But he asked why I felt like Wonder Woman was the only character like this. What about The Matrix?
- I don’t like The Matrix.
- There’s a female character in The Matrix? I had entirely forgotten.
And notice that he didn’t mention her name either.
Okay, I think that’s the more unpleasant ranting out of the way.
I had two favorite parts of this film- the beginning sequences on the island of the Amazons- where Diana was raised and which I’m not going to try to spell- and No Man’s Land- which was heavily featured in the trailers so it’s not a spoiler.
First talking about the island. Do you know how amazing it is to see muscular women training in combat?
I’ve never seen that before.
Do you know how many movies show men training for combat or confrontation? Fucking oodles.
Women in films can be strong like the women I actually know. the can look normal and healthy. They can be interested in being physical, strong, bad ass. Kicking ass. And I know that that’s kind of obvious but you would be surprised how you don’t realize you’ve been doubting it until you’re staring at it on a big screen and feeling kind of… thunderstruck.
Back to my Facebook post, it felt like something about myself- my capacity for strength- was being acknowledged. Society doesn’t do a lot to tell women that they can be physically strong. In fact it kind of does the exact opposite. But these women were being beautiful and strong and natural onscreen and… it was alright. Good, even.
Wow, how fucked up is it that I found this so startling? I thought I was better-adjusted than this.
[The earliest battle scene is easily my favorite- watching the Amazons fight the Germans who have landed on their shores. They win but sustain heavy losses- because guns, you know. Diana’s aunt- Antiope- may have been my favorite character throughout the entire film. The warriors were strong, working together, protecting each other. Mourning one another.]
The No Man’s Land scene: Keep in mind that I hadn’t cried yet. I started tearing up somewhere in the middle of one of the many battle scenes after No Man’s Land. But this was such a brave scene. In that Wonder Woman was very brave- brave and self-assured enough to lead and take charge and have confidence in following what she thought was right even when other people (men people) were telling her that she couldn’t do what she wanted to.
On to the more specific bits, still with no spoilers.
I’ve read and listened to some reviews saying that the use of slo mo in some of the battle scenes is excessive. I disagree. I think there is a good balance of slo mo and… regular mo. The fight scenes are so intricate and fast and well-choreographed that I appreciated the chance to see what exactly was going on.
I’m not going to get into Gal Gadot’s politics- because I am aware that some people are saying something is going on there, but I want to judge the film as a film and the character as a character. And the actress as an actress. I think she plays Wonder Woman very well. I know that she’s Israeli, and despite being solidly pro-Palestine I’m not going to weigh in on what her beliefs may or not be.
There were some cliches that I found a bit laughable: the sun rising after the ‘boss’ is vanquished. It’s like when something is sad so of course it’s raining in film land. Wonder Woman leaving her sword somewhere briefly. I hate when someone leaves their weapon down so that the villain can get hold of it. They didn’t even play it through with this one. She just goes back and gets her sword when the true villain appears. So they gave me heart palpitations for three minutes for no reason. Seriously, it makes me so anxious. I apologize to the people around me for hissing “Pick up your fucking sword!” repeatedly. Also all of the talk about love beating hate and all that. I get that that is the message but I don’t like being clubbed with moral themes. And it’s such a smarmy one you really do need to handle it delicately.
I liked the secondary characters fairly well. [The backup heroes were fun and silly. I liked Samir a lot. In fact, they were all three of them pleasant and amusing. Not fleshed out, but I don’t think they needed to be more fleshed out than they were. Caliban Trevor’s secretary was pretty excellent. I thought the sequence in which they’re buying Diana new 20th century clothes was quite funny- and she was a big part of that.]
Villains-wise: Lupin is the big bad, which was odd. It’s much too harmless a mustache for Ares. His long game was a little confusing. Indeed, some plot holes in him being the villain- like… why are you pro-armistice? But sure. And given that we’ve got a great well-known actor playing a pretty minor part, you could kind of predict the third act switch they pulled.
The big German guy was a bit much. As were the powder vials that he cracked and inhaled. It was a good misdirect in terms of, “Oh, maybe that’s how he gets his Ares powers back.” Also, so startled in the opening when it was explained that Ares had killed all of the other gods. Wha? I don’t remember that chapter of Greek mythology.
I’ve heard some reviewers saying that Madame Poison was too much. Disagree. I liked her a lot, but perhaps that’s because she’s a fellow chemist. Actually no it’s not. It’s a comic book movie. Complaining that a character is over the top in a film that has a GOLDEN LASSO OF TRUTH is immaterial. Complaint denied. Her porcelain mask is cool and I wish they had explored her motivations more. She seems lonely and sad and driven to be great. honestly she was much more interesting that Ludendorff.]
I liked the book ending of the film with the two short scenes that take place in the present day. And the connection to Batman. Also very jealous of Diana for her job in the Louvre. What a dream.
A final criticism. You may remember that I shared this pop culture study in a recent Friday Links post. It’s about the trope of impossibly naive women being taught the ropes by men. It’s pretty common in fantasy and sci fi. Think about it in relation to Wonder Woman.
That’s all! Oh wait, no I lied. Here’s an image to leave you with.