Wonder Woman (USA, 2017)

Directed by: Patty Jenkins. Here we are again, and I feel the need to make a big song and dance to justify to myself why I went out of my way to see another superhero movie. I guess the stunted 14 year old in the back of my brain sees all of this fuel that modern culture is giving it, and it can’t help itself. But as far as taking the dumb-movie bait goes, I figured the first female-centered, female-directed superhero movie is a good excuse, especially one that has Robin Wright in a supporting role, and Ewan Bremner and David Thewlis in supporting roles, and some action in the trenches of WWI. I figured I should at least lower my standards as much as I would for all the testosterone-drowned sausage fest superhero movies I’ve  seen up to this point. So with that approach, I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t as dumb as I had gotten used to these movies being. The fact that the majority of the action takes place in a WWI context, although opening the way for a really dumb, cartoony, grotesque depiction of WWI Germans as basically proto-Nazis (not the most sophisticated reading of WWI politics, but okay, dumb superhero movie, fair enough), meant that the movie didn’t go off the deep end like every Avengers movie does, revelling in a CGI orgy of skyscrapers blowing up and crashing into other skyscrapers, or alien space ships, or CGI monsters, or etc. The big memorable, show-stealing charge over the top of the trenches and the re-taking of this small, inconsequential town, that stuff was the stuff that set this movie apart for me. Unfortunately, though, the whole thing climaxes in, you guessed it, a bloated CGI orgy of destruction, bombastic superhero-supervillain shit-talking, and general groanworthiness. And as much as I generally liked this, it did occur to me that, unfortunately for DC, even though this character is older than Thor and Captain America both, the approach that presented itself for a movie about this character comes off, at this point, as a re-treading of territory already worn out by Captain America and Thor movies. The lofty God from another land as humourous fish-out-of-water, and the old-timey patriotism of retro wars as the foundation point to springboard future films. And then there’s a question that was recently brought to my attention—how feminist is this movie anyway? There was some opinion that Wonder Woman was playing second fiddle to dopey Chris Pine, when she wasn’t being manhandled and pushed around and told how this world works because she’s a fish-out-of-water and, in this instance, needs a man, Chris Pine, to explain everything to her. This was something that didn’t occur to me when I saw it, and my blindness to it might just be a residue from my man-goggles that I view the world in, but I’m certainly not going to argue that this was in any way a feminist film. The bare basics—a female lead kicking ass, a female director—that’s the best we got. And maybe we should demand more—sure! why not?—but mainstream, multi-million dollar studio Hollywood franchise movies have not typically been very socially brave places, have not typically been the places we look to for major social change. And in Trumptown USA, I guess I’m just cynical enough to not expect too much, especially from superhero movies. And besides all that, you got lead actor Gal Gadot’s personal attitudes towards Palestine, and there’s plenty in this movie to rub people the wrong way. To all of it—fair enough! It’s just a dumb superhero movie—literally no reason for anyone to see it.

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