“I was always “big”. Not really fat. Just tall and broad shouldered. Always. Always one of the biggest girls in class. Kids made fun of me. One kid called me an “amazon”. I looked it up. I found Wonder Woman. I stopped being ashamed of my build. I found strength in it, instead.”- Justine Marie Broderick
Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot & company delivered Wonder Woman to the World this weekend. Some moviegoers viewing the film in somehow controversial Women-Only Screenings. Some Dads taking their Daughters like I did.
I love this movie.
I love it even more that I witnessed my daughter, in gauntlets, headdress & cape, pantomime the action on screen in total rapturous delight through the theater lobby at the film’s end. She informed me in no uncertain terms her fondest desire is to emigrate to Themysciara. “You and Willam can visit me and Mommy, but you can’t stay.”
I was going to attempt a standard review of Wonder Woman. But after that exchange, I’m clearly in the tank.
As my good friend Sandy Roffey said, “Observations, I think, are the only thing you can do with this movie, because you can’t write a whole review saying FFFFFFUCKINGGGG WOWWW!”
She’s absolutely right.
You’ve read plenty of reviews, I’ll stick to observations. I’ve written about how representation matters in Geekdom a long time. I started All Things Geek in part because my daughter couldn’t find women & girls leading mixed gender superhero teams or featured solo that weren’t named after fruit, giggled inanely or featured fru-fru accessories in the girls isle “the pink gulag”. My baby girl wanted action figures, not dolls. Swords, guns and all the “cool” toys marketed to her older brother. I wanted a place to highlight companies and products that catered to underserved Geeks, LGTBQ, POC, Women.
The fact that no girl born after 2005 has seen a woman star in a comic book film highlights a representation problem.
Seeing my little girls face light up watching an entire army of women kick ass was priceless for me and empowering for her.
Something fanboys with their enormous pantheon of cis male square-jawed idols have taken for granted for decades.
In April 2014, I wrote a piece entitled “The Fierce Urgency of Wonder Woman“. Making the case for a Wonder Woman solo feature that can shatter Hollywoods Superhero glass ceiling. I’m pleased to say Wonder Woman (2017) shatters that ceiling and the lingering myth woman led films don’t earn (200 million global box office opening weekend) or women can’t direct comic book movies (Certified fresh 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, The Dark Knight (2008) territory).
Yes, I’m saying I told you so.
After my first viewing, I had jokingly posted on my Facebook page, “Wonder Woman was so good I started to watch Batman v Superman again just to see Gal Gadot.”
Someone asked me, “How much better than MOS & BVS?”
Being Facebook, I memed back, #SadAffleck surrounded by laughing characters.
It’s not that MOS or BVS were “bad”. I’m no hater. I never thought I’d see a Paradeamon in a live action film. As a long time DC Comic fan, I found much I appreciated in both efforts. (click on each to read my reviews) But not only was Director Jenkins Wonder Woman a truer vision of this 75 year old iconic character, Wonder Woman’s creative team didn’t forget that this stuff is supposed to be fun.
Director Patty Jenkins (Monster) and screenwriter Allan Heinberg wisely take their cues from Richard Donner’s Superman the Movie (1978) a film no other comic bock film can eclipse for me. Like Reeves Clark Kent, Gadot imbues her Diana of Themysciara a with an earnest naïveté and infectious purity of heart that resonates. Diana is a trained warrior spared the horrors of war. Amazons are ageless and she’s studied procreation, but her first infant thrills her. Theoretically savvy but with zero practical knowledge.
In the film makers capable hands, Diana questions her place in the world and at her lowest point, if mankind deserves saving, but she never questions her inherent identity. She’s at her core a unapologetically good, confident, martial woman, raised by good, confident, martial women. And that makes all the difference.
Sure Diana can hurl tanks, repel bullets and has all the requisite God-like powers, and the film’s fight & stunt teams deserve Oscar nods. But the most interesting thing I found was her wry smile, warm emotive eyes and quirky charm in the lighter pre and post ass kicking moments. Gal Gadot is extraordinarily well cast, as was The Late Christopher Reeve.
Loving DC Easter eggs abound, flipping the 78′ Superman bullet catching alley scene. Diana’s pure joy upon tasting her first ice cream cone proclaiming to the vendor “You should be VERY proud!” from WB Animated Wonder Woman film. Diana delights in discovering the outside world, so the audience shares her delight. Conversely, her heartfelt pain we share as well. At one point, she’s overwhelmed with rage and despair that echoed Reeves frantic, heartbroken Superman cradling Lois Lane’s body at that film’s “It is forbidden!” climax. We root for them not because they are “edgy” or “cool”, we care about them, empathize with them and are emotionally invested.
In both the Man Of Steel and Batman v Superman films, Zach Snyder who directed and shared some writing credits, attempted to redefine those iconic characters and misfired because the choices he made to contemporize and “darken” the characters left them nearly unrecognizable. A psychotic, killer Batman and a sullen, angst ridden Superman left little room for emotional investment or fun for that matter. Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins avoids this trap because she clearly took to heart the twin lessons Snyder & Warner Bros should have learned by now –
Stay true to who even a casual fan would agree Diana of Themyscara is, and while having her search for purpose and a place in the world, allow the audience to like her and have fun while she’s doing it.
Wonder Woman grew up a princess, and the only child on an island paradise surrounded by women who nurtured, adored, trained and protected her. She had role models like her auntie Robin Wright’s fierce General Antiope and her mother wise Queen Hyppolita (Connie Nilssen). Though trained as a warrior since childhood drawn to a marital life, Diana was spared both Bruce Wayne’s childhood trauma & Clark Kent’s near crippling self doubt. When the chips are down, faced with the utter futility of war, and stark loss, it’s the love she was surrounded with all her life and her strength of character that give her the power she needs. Uncool? Maybe. I like that message. Gadot’s Wonder Woman is by far the most emotionally well adjusted of DCEU’s new “Trinity”.
The narrative is beautifully shot and the supporting cast I found refreshingly diverse. The Amazons are an ethnic melange and speak hundreds of languages. They are a proud, powerful group of women. Not airbrushed supermodels, scarred, athletic, imperfect, beautiful and not shot for male gaze. Of note, there are far more Black Senators in their government than ours. Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) was another surprise. This is the best work I’ve seen from Pine. The right mix of scoundrel swagger and earnest good guy, he’s a mere mortal but no sidekick and their chemistry is believable.
Trevor’s squad, though are barely sketched out archetypes, bordering stereotypes. I nonetheless found their group dynamic interesting. In obligatory comrade-in-arms bonding with Diana, racism and colonialism are touched upon if even briefly. Diana, admonishing one of the group observes “For all his talk of shooting, he cannot shoot..” to which his friend replies, “In life, not everyone gets to be what they want to be all the time. Look at me. I never wanted to be a soldier. I’m an actor! I LOVE acting! but, I’m the wrong color…Everyone is fighting their own battles Diana. Just like you are fighting yours now.” Sammer (Saïd Taghmaoui) shares with her. Real talk for big budget Hollywood summer movie fare. Like most of this genre, CGI inevitably takes over, but I can forgive the bad guy monologging and kinetic third act pyrotechnics, this is after all a comic book movie. The non-stop action is well shot and mercifully easy to follow.
Wonder Woman is the best live action realization of a DC Comic Book Hero to date from Warner Bros new DCEU.
Gal Gadot, Patty Jenkins and company make it the most enjoyable and satisfying as well.
Wonder Woman proves you can deconstruct a superhero and still have fun doing it.
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All art – Author/WarnerBro.