June 8, 2017

Wonder Woman (2017)

Gal Gadot

Undoubtedly, one of the most irritating thing about being a woman is the fact that our experiences and feelings are constantly dismissed as overreactions. I need to preface this review with that statement because I'm going to attempt to explain why women all over the country have been losing their minds over seeing this movie. Because when all is said and done, it's a just a superhero movie. I'm going to dive into the specifics of what made it great, but it's still just a superhero movie. It's not going to win the Oscar for Best Picture. It is, however, going to be remembered as a turning point in superhero movies, and I hope, movie-making in general.

A lot has been made about how this is the first female-directed superhero movie. That it's the first female superhero movie in a decade. That it's the first movie ever about Wonder Woman. All of those things are amazing, yes. And they will assuredly continue to be talked about in the wake of Wonder Woman's $100M weekend debut.

But as I sat in the theater, watching the opening sequence of the movie, none of those things crossed my mind. Instead, I watched a team of awesome athletic women perform stunts I've never seen women perform, and certainly never en masse. I watched as a literal utopia of strong women took over the screen and I damn near cried. It may not seem like a big deal to many, but much like seeing your ethnicity represented positively for the first time, watching these women execute stunts that have always been shown onscreen by men was overwhelming. Seeing so many capable women at one time (some of them over fifty. gasp!), interacting with each other, without any references to men, was so groundbreaking and exciting I honestly still get teary-eyed thinking about it days later. It was a something I never knew I longed to see until I saw it.

It's not just the opening sequence, of course. The entire movie is being hailed as the embodiment of female empowerment, which is somehow both accurate and overstating it (which I'll get to later). I believe women are responding so positively to Wonder Woman not just because it's a female lead, but because it portrays an inspiring female lead. Our choices are generally limited to damaged sexy vixen, stone cold assassin, or strong-ish woman who still needs a man's help in the end. Wonder Woman is both someone we can look up to and someone we can already see ourselves in. [Side note: extra props for having a female villain as well. Not all women need to be virtuous heroes.]

Like other successful superhero films, Wonder Woman does an excellent job of balancing the action with moments of tenderness and a good dose of humor. In this case, much of the humor is derived from showing Diana's incredulous reactions to the sexist human world from which she has been shielded her entire life. Everything from standards of dress to voting rights are touched upon, and it so delicately highlights the inequalities women have been faced with for decades without having to get heavy-handed. And through it all, Diana's unshakable confidence beams through. It's fucking magical.

It is not, however, as one Twitter user proclaimed, "flawless." My complaints are minor, but in light of this film bearing the neon sign of FEMINISM, I feel compelled to address the areas in which I thought it fell slightly short.

First of all, the fucking high heels. Why, in God's name, would she wear wedge high heels? I felt so proud that her outfit was neither corseted into a ridiculous waistline nor so skimpy it would be completely unrealistic to fight in, but then they had to go and slap heels on her? No action hero would wear heels to run and fight people. Sorry, but that's not negotiable. I'm tired of seeing women forced to run and fight in heels.

Secondly, Chris Pine. For one thing, I find it slightly confusing that he is in the Star Trek franchise but then pops up here. I realize he's an actor and that actors are often in different movies, but there's something about crossing franchise universes that rubs me the wrong way. It just doesn't seem right that Captain Kirk would also be back in WWI with a DC Comics superhero. It also doesn't help that I mix him up with Chris Evans and thought he was Captain America at first, which would be even more unacceptable. (But seriously, what's with every male superhero being named Chris?)

I just sort of wish he hadn't been in the movie. Not just Pine specifically, but his character. I understand his reason for being there - bringing a love counterpoint to a plot based on war, and I appreciate that he was created to be a strong character alongside Wonder Woman and not just a throwaway love interest like so many women have been for men in their superhero movie. By no means am I suggesting that women can't be feminists if they fall in love, but I guess I just selfishly wanted another Moana moment where a man never even had to enter the equation. THIS WAS OUR MOMENT, and we had to share it with a man. It was just a little disappointing, even if he was actually a good guy.

Lastly, I thought the movie fell into a few easy stereotypes that could have easily been avoided. I was excited that Gadot was able to speak naturally in her accent instead of forcing her to use a contrived American accent (though wondered why Chris Pine had said American accent when he was supposedly British). But I did the Scottish guy have to wear the kilt? Or did the Moroccan guy have to wear a fez? And did the Native American guy have to use smoke signals and go by the name "Chief?" I mean, ffs. Like, I'm glad the characters got a hot second to discuss the obstacles of racism, genocide, and PTSD, but seriously. Chief.

As with any insanely popular movie, there has been some push back from people who feel the need to stand out by hating on anything popular (except in this case, it's not the hipsters). There is the strange argument that the movie is somehow less progressive because Wonder Woman is seen crushing armies of men and that we as women shouldn't be aiming for equality in such a violent world. To that, I say STFU. (Sorry for all the acronyms in this post, but I'm embracing my Millennial status.) The movie is set in the time of WWI. War is violent. And frankly, so are the comics. Despite all that, the movie didn't come off as overly violent, and we weren't subjected to decapitated heads or anything even remotely gory. Instead, I took the violence as a more of a sad commentary on our world and Wonder Woman's participation in it as a sign of strength and compassion, rather than depravity.  

Final word: I made the picture below my computer wallpaper so I could look at it every day and harness the feeling I had when I watched this movie. Take from that what you will.

1 comment:

  1. I am a 52 year old man who remembers the TV series and I was disappointed by the lack of boobilage. Yes, I went there.