Saturday, June 3, 2017

My Wonder Woman Review (Spoilers)


At 8 years old, I learned about a superhero who ultimately would change my life—entirely. Anyone who knows me knows this to be true. Just how she and I became acquainted is for another post, but, suffice it to say, for the past 42 years, I have read Wonder Woman comics, seen her in animation (SuperFriends, Justice League/Unlimited, Justice League movies, Brady Bunch), and live action (Cathy Lee Crosby, Ellie Wood Walker, Lynda Carter, and now, Gal Gadot). I have even cosplayed as my own "Captain Wonder" character at conventions.

She obviously holds importance to me more than some humans do.

Friday, June 2, the first live action Wonder Woman movie debuted in the United States. This groundbreaking event in her 76 year history would forever change the Amazing Amazon's world in ways beyond imagining. But, before I talk about the movie (which I have now seen twice), I want to talk about someone I call...

MY DIANA


Every Wonder Woman fan has his or her own "Diana." She embodies certain elements that speak to the individual's sensibilities, preferences, personal "spin" (pardon the pun), and all around idea of just who she should be. My Diana is physically like George Perez's version from the 1986 reboot. I like her armor, her hair, her facial structure, etc. When I saw her jump from the pages of Wonder Woman #1 in 1986, I cried real tears of joy. How we got a #1 for Wonder Woman in 1986 when she made her original debut in 1941 is another story, but she was back, and in full George Perez-ian force. This Diana, as like her predecessor, was sculpted from clay by her mother, Queen Hippolyte of the Amazons, and she was given life by the goddesses (as well as Hermes) of Mount Olympus.

In addition to her physical skills, her other gifts were her capacity to love, her compassion, her wisdom, and her strength of spirit. Her loving heart, to me, was perhaps her greatest tool against war, hatred, and deception. This Diana rarely, if ever, used a bladed weapon, relying largely on her bracelets and lasso of Hestia. While skilled in a myriad of combat styles, she would rather open her hand to someone in peace before striking him or her in battle.

TODAY'S DIANA


When Batman v. Superman came out in 2016, the biggest anticipation was the appearance of Wonder Woman—her first on the big screen in 75 years. The Amazon princess did not disappoint. In fact, many claim (like me) that she was the best part of the movie.

This Wonder Woman wears Greek-inspired armor that has elements of her iconic costume, but she also wields a sword and shield. More on that later.

This brings me to the highly-anticipated solo Wonder Woman film. With the moment of its announcement, the anticipation ran in all directions, with some worried that Patty Jenkins couldn't succeed in bringing Diana to the big screen while others felt electric with the possibilities of seeing her in all her red, gold, and blue glory.

As information became available, the buzz about the upcoming film ranged from the gentle one of a beehive to the that of an angry hornet's nest.

Some questions that arose were:
  1. Would she be the daughter of Zeus, as she was in the New 52 DC Comics version of Wonder Woman. (Brian Azzarello had re-invented her to be the love-child of Hippolyta and Zeus, the king of the gods.)
  2. Would she fly or have the invisible jet?
  3. Would she be a violent, killing machine or a gentle ambassador?
  4. What time period would this be set in? World War II or the modern day?
  5. Would she use a sword and shield?
Many, many, MANY more questions sprouted up around this film. Speculation grew, and teaser images as well as trailers hinted at many possibilities, frustrating those who yearned for answers.

So, let's get right to it, shall we?

WOMAN WOMAN — THE FILM • 9 out of 10


There is much more I can and will say on this movie in another post, but I want to give you what you came here to read—my review.

WHAT I ADORED


  • Diana—Gal Gadot WAS Wonder Woman. I can't see how people think she is a "wooden" actress. She emoted very well in many situations, and I bought her Princess Diana/Wonder Woman. Her facial expressions were on point, and her physical acting (fighting, when she was not using a stunt double) looked great. If the tiara is indeed passed from Lynda Carter to Gal, then it was passed on to a worthy princess.
  • The Amazons—Their depiction on Themyscira was awe-inspiring and empowering. Their diversity made my heart happy because it made clear that Diana grew up with a group of women who reflect the world, not just one corner of it. Whether or not these women were all the original Amazons or whether some had been taken in along the way of their past journeys is never made clear, but nevertheless, the Amazons and their life on the idyllic island they call home emulated strength, regality, and individuality. The history of the Amazons as Hippolyta tells it was gorgeous, and the nod to Perez's water-rebirth was stunning.
  • Themyscira—Also known as Paradise Island. Itself, breathtaking, its waterfalls (and water imagery) and unique buildings, as well as the heart-stopping beach and crystalline waters made this island assuredly a paradise. A mystical barrier (as well as heavy mist and rocks) protected the island from outsiders.
  • Queen Hippolyta—Regal in all ways, strong, protective of her daughter, and one of the finest warriors of her people. Her dismount/spin off her horse was extraordinary and unlike anything I had ever seen.
  • General Antiope—She did indeed live up to her reputation of the finest warrior in all of Themyscira. I found her to be understanding yet firm when it came to training the young Diana.
  • Amazon Credo—"We are the bridge to a greater understanding" is how Diana expresses who the Amazons are to Steve Trevor. That is merely a piece of it, and they have the unique position of protecting humanity, something quite admirable.
  • Clay Origin of Diana—I will discuss this further later on, but that this aspect was even mentioned made me smile. It's an important part of her origin and needed to be part of the movie.
  • Selflessness—While always a part of Diana's canon, her willingness to dive in to save Steve, not knowing anything about who he was or where he came from, speaks to her desire to put another life first and echoes that mission of protecting humanity. 
  • The Lasso of Hestia—This "magic lasso" was used brilliantly (pun intended). Wrapped in its coils, one cannot lie. That Diana used this quite a bit in the movie had me in tears (the good kind). While normally sporting a loop at one end, the lasso still managed to move as if alive, following the manipulation of its mistress. Seeing it used on Trevor on Themyscira was one of the best parts of the movie.
  • Bracers—In most versions of the character, Diana wears metal bracelets (one version being silver ones formed from the shards of Zeus' shield, the aegis), but in this version, she wears bracers strapped around her wrists that give her the same ability to deflect a barrage of bullets with a flick of the wrist. This and the lasso made me love this character (as an 8-year-old).
  • Compassion/Goodness—Diana's desire to go into Man's World with Steve Trevor, her willingness to help women and children, injured soldiers, among others, gave me the feeling that she wanted to make things better without hesitation. Even during perhaps the most emotion-filled scene in the movie (when she rises from the bunker), her motivation is to save innocent lives. While she seeks Ares, god of war, to stop him, she never stops thinking about those who need her help.
  • Sense of honor and purpose—Diana leaves Themyscira to do what's right. Also, when Etta Candy takes hold of the sword, God-Killer, Diana immediately charges Steve Trevor's secretary to guard it with her life—from one woman to another, she expects respect and understanding of her mission. She also sees the honor in others, especially the crew that Trevor hires to help.
  • Diana's naiveté—Diana believes that if she kills Ares with the sword that men will fall from the war god's control and be righteous men again. This simplistic idea, perhaps given to her by her mother as a child's tale, gets tested throughout the film, and I liked seeing her become less and less naïve as the story progressed. 
  • Diana's intelligence—While she is new to Man's World, she has been educated on Themyscira. In fact, she knows of Clio's 12 Treatises on Body and Pleasure, telling Steve that, while men are good for reproduction, they lack the ability to give women pleasure. She also tells Steve, and demonstrates in a few places in the film, that she speaks many languages. I enjoyed seeing this aspect of Diana.
  • Martial prowess—While not fully realized in the Amazonian sparring early in the film, Diana truly earns Antiope's tiara with her abilities. In every scene where she engages human adversaries, she outthinks each opponent, never being captured or in any way compromised. No man needs to save her.
  • No Man's Land—That this part of the battle field is not only traversed by Diana, but completely owned by her in this epic scene speaks to her confidence and ability. It's true: no MAN can cross this desolate landscape. It takes a woman to do it.
  • Love conquers War—Part of the last scenes in the film, Diana realizes that it is love, specifically her love for Steve Trevor, that will defeat Ares, not a sword or lasso.
  • Chemistry/Humor—You truly saw Steve and Diana's relationship blossom over the course of the film. It was organic and plausible. The humor in the film was natural and actually endearing. It didn't seem forced or out of placed.
  • Costume design—Spectacular images and iconography. The Amazon armor was designed with layers and color, not just a simple, skimpy dress.
  • Message—Diana is a hero. She learns, grows, and understands what's important as time moves on. This is a character who comes to understand the nuances of Man's World.
  • Diana's armor—I know some people love the Lynda Carter "satin tights," but (and I am a HUGE Lynda Carter/Wonder Woman fan) don't think it would translate as well in the film. With some modifications, it might work in a sequel, perhaps, but the armor had the "W" with the eagle, the red bodice, gold belt (with "W" logo), and the blue skirt/pteryges (timely for a Greek-inspired society). Her boots had the red with a white stripe, as well as knee protectors, something more accurate to the culture she comes from. It's a design decision.
  • Villains—I think Dr. Maru aka Dr. Poison and Gen. Ludendorff were excellent choices. Maru is a Wonder Woman villain from her early days in comics, and she definitely added in the "creepiness" factor, and while Ludendorff is based on a real man of the same name, he was a great character in his own right (especially since he gave the impression he might be Ares). Ares as the first BIG baddie was fantastic. Since he comes right from her own cultural background, it made sense that he show up. He might show up again (movies do funny things with death), but this now opens up sequel(s) for other villains like Cheetah, Circe, Dr. Cyber, etc.

THINGS I WISH WERE DIFFERENT


  • Amazons should have been born of the goddesses with more of a matriarchal focus. No Zeus.
  • Ares as the adversary works, but Diana should have used the lasso on him to help him see the truth of a world with the war that he wants (like George Perez). Or, a prison on Themyscira. Something less violent.
  • Some CGI issues. More of a nitpick than a complaint.
  • Diana should have competed in a tournament (in disguise) to be able to take Steve back, as in the comics.
  • David Thewlis was okay as Sir Patrick, but I am not entirely sold on him as Ares in full form, but again... more of a nitpick.
  • While I understand the placement in World War I, Diana's origin takes place during World War II. It worked fine in the movie, but it wasn't canon. Ah, well. 
  • Even though Diana DOES use her lasso and bracers more, I just wish there hadn't been a sword. The shield seems redundant to her bracers, but that's just me.

THINGS I DIDN'T LIKE


  • Diana's origin should be entirely matriarchal. Hippolyta sculpts a clay statue and it's brought to life by Aphrodite. No father.
  • She is never addressed as 'Wonder Woman' at all. Not even in a newspaper headline or in the voice over by Diana at the end in the modern day. Diana could have said, "and the world now knows me as Wonder Woman." The modern elements of the film are POST-Batman v. Superman, so it's very possible that the press has dubbed her a name. 
  • Themyscira is found by the Germans pretty easily which then brought about the killing of Amazons. Not needed. I feel this was meant to ramp up the tension and "action" early in the film.
  • All the teasing in trailers as to whether Diana flies or not. She rises in the sky when fighting Ares, but that's not really flying. I'd like to think at the very end she does, but it's not clear.  
  • Wonder Woman is the God-Killer. She shouldn't be an instrument of destruction.

OVERALL... I'm happy. It gave me the essence of the character I love, even if it's not MY Diana (see above), so I have to live with the changes made. Perhaps the sequel will change some things. I understand why people might not enjoy this film. I do get it, and I will not try to persuade anyone to like it. This generation has its own Wonder Woman, and I will enjoy watching a new audience embrace a version of the character I fell in love with 42 years ago.
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