In the most recent “Wonder Woman” movie, the main character is never called “Wonder Woman.” She’s “Diana.” I hope that’s not a spoiler and if you’re worried about major plot points being spoiled, don’t read on.
- Feminist critics almost ruined this movie. Why does everything need to be analyzed through the lens of identity politics? Feminist critics were falling all over themselves about how affirming it was to finally have a female super hero movie. Some wrote about being emotional when they brought their daughters to a movie where could finally see themselves empowered, etc etc. This same kind of P.C. nonsense went on with the all-female remake of “Ghostbusters,” which turned out to be pretty mediocre despite the politically correct good reviews. To be honest, I don’t understand what these women are talking about. There was a Wonder Woman TV show in the 1970’s that taught an earlier generation of women that they too could have super powers. And didn’t we previously go through the excitement about female action heroes with Lara Croft? How many “firsts” do we need to have on the same topic? And yes, the director is a woman but the writers are men and Warner Bros. itself is run by men. In any event, there is nothing particularly feminist about the “Wonder Woman” story except that the main character happens to be a self-assertive female. So is Sarah Palin.
- Wow Gal Gadot is beautiful. (Am I being sexist to comment on the physical attractions of said feminist protagonist?) She’s a former Miss Israel and she has an ever-so-slightly exotic look that makes her stand out from run-of-the-mill movie stars. Hilariously, the Commentariat is so desperate to claim Wonder Woman as a feminist icon that they’re arguing that “Wonder Woman” does not invite the “male gaze.” One writer went so far as to claim that she is depicted as a real woman because her thighs “jiggled.” I kid you not. Read it here. I didn’t notice if her thighs jiggled but I did notice that every bit of hair below her eyebrows has been removed. She also completely transformed her body with an extensive exercise regime and crazy diet that no average woman could maintain. If they were trying to avoid my male gaze they failed.
- As a kid, I always thought the Amazons lived in the Brazilian rain forest; now I find out they live on some Mediterranean island paradise where the women spend all their time training in the arts of war — but the arts of war as they existed in 400 B.C. For some reason, technology has not advanced on Themyscira over the last 2500 years so the ladies are still training with bows and arrows, javelins, swords and shields. This leaves them at a bit of a disadvantage when World War I Germans show up with guns. Eventually all the Germans are massacred, but not before killing a few Amazons, who are apparently not as indestructible as they seem. (Historical note: by 1918 the German Navy was completely decimated so would not have been in position to send a destroyer to search for an escaped spy. Also by the way, Steve Trevor must be piloting the world’s slowest airplane if it can’t outrun a destroyer.)
- Just how old is Diana? When we first see her, she’s a little girl, supposedly created by Zeus before he died — for argument’s sake, let’s say that was in 400 B.C. We then see her grow up and trained by her aunt. Maybe she was ten years old at the beginning of the movie and then she was about 30 when Steve Trevor shows up? But somehow during those 20 years the timeline changes from 400 BC to 1918 AD. Apparently she stops aging at the moment of peak beauty because she looks the same in the movie’s prologue, set in 2017. So is she really 30 or 2300 years old? There’s no indication that time is moving in a different dimension. In fact, when the Germans arrive she has only that very day learned how to use her full powers — by crossing her wrists — so we don’t get the idea that she’s been training for centuries (and how boring would that be — even for a warrior princess?)
- Has there ever been more perfect casting than Robin Wright (aka Claire Underwood) in the role of Diana’s hard-ass, militaristic aunt (see photo below)? I’d like to see her use dress up like General Antiope on “House of Cards” and punch out a few weaselly Congressmen.
- If I were doing PR for the Germans I would scream bloody murder about this movie. They don’t call them Huns, but they might as well. No one today could get away with depicting an entire race of people (except for perhaps the Germans) as this malevolent. This is even more over-the-top than the propaganda of World War I. I fully expected them to twirl their mustaches as they went about killing innocent people and poisoning whole villages.
- By the way, the movie’s runner-up villain, General Ludendorff, was a real general (see photo below and read more about him here). By the end of the real war, he was essentially running the German war effort. He was kind of a bad guy but not the monster seen in the movie (for example, he never killed a room full of generals who were negotiating the Armistice.) He died of liver cancer in 1937, not from a sword to the gut in 1918.
- There are no sex scenes in the movie but plenty of funny innuendo. When Diana comes upon a naked Steve Trevor taking a bath she asks if he is average for a man and he hilariously replies, as would most men, that he is “above average.” When she then asks “what is THAT?” he’s nonplussed until he realizes she’s referring to his watch. When he tells her he uses it to tell time and organize his day she says, “You let that little thing tell you what to do?” Hah. Later when they’re in a boat headed to London she asks if they will sleep together, which leads to an amusing discussion in which he prudishly says that only married people should sleep together and then fumbles when she asks if he’s never slept with anyone. And all the time this was going on, the nerd inside me kept wondering who was going to steer the boat if they’re both sleeping.
- Poor doomed Steve Trevor. It’s not really a spoiler that he dies — the only question was when and how. After all, the movie begins in in the year 2017, with Diana looking at a photo of him from 1918. He’s mortal so would not be alive today unless she gave him some god-like DNA, which would defeat the whole point of her falling in love with a mortal. Speaking of which, Wonder Woman lives in Paris and works for Batman?
- I don’t know if the filmmakers were deliberately trying to introduce Christian themes into the movie but they seemed pretty obvious: a) Zeus/God creates man, gives him free will and he proceeds to sin; b) Diana, created through a form of immaculate conception, is given to mankind to defeat evil; c) she is tempted by the evil one, who shows her a vision of paradise in which the two of them will reign together; d) there is an explicit discussion of undeserved grace, in which the sinful humans are given an opportunity to redeem themselves; e) love is offered as the only power to defeat evil; f) There’s a measure of forgiveness (when Diana is encouraged to kill the evil chemist she does not); g) at the end of the battle Diana descends with her arms spread wide in an obvious crucifixion pose (see photo below). There’s too much violence in this movie for it to be a Christian movie, and Jesus obviously never used a sword to kill anyone, but you have to wonder what the writers were up to. (Here’s a longer discussion of the movie’s call-backs to the New Testament.)
- Having said all this, I think this might be the greatest superhero movie ever made. It avoids the worst aspects of the genre, which is consequence-free violence. In too many movies the good and bad guys fight it out in the middle of a city and destroy half of it, killing an untold number of by-standers. In “Wonder Woman,” the consequences of violence are evident and not fun — the injuries and loss are real. Plus the story does grapple with the complications of good and evil, including our own complicity as flawed beings. I also appreciate setting the film in World War I, which is the most consequential event in the last 500 years and the moment at which modern civilization came unhinged in a spasm of completely unnecessary war and violence. Millions of people killed for nothing after a century of European peace; and then after the war was over the seeds were sown for another even more destructive conflagration. So there’s a feeling of weightiness and real consequence to the setting. And finally, the story makes sense, which is not always the case with superhero movies. (And did I mention that Gal Gadot is gorgeous?)
- Here are my reservations about the movie: the climactic battle scene between Diana and Ares, with explosions and a lot of tossed-about machinery, is too long and too conventional, and it undercuts the care that has been taken to make her seem approachable and semi-human. Also, what’s the real take-away with Ares, the God of War? Zeus put him in the Phantom Zone or some other place, from which escaped to start World War I; and then once he dies the war ends. OK, but what about all the wars before and after World War I. I think we did just fine in the war department without him.
Bottom line: great movie, great heroine, doesn’t stretch reality too far, a few funky plot points.