Oh Thank God, ‘Wonder Woman’ Is Good
My internal monologue as I sat down to see Wonder Woman was something like this:
Please don’t be shit please don’t be shit please don’t be shit please don’t be shit please don’t be shit.
That’s because… well, I never want a movie to be shit, of course. Despite what cavalcades of Twitter eggs may say, critics are not all #bias shills who delight in trashing movies they’ve already made their minds up to hate before seeing a single frame. I like movies, y’know? I’m a fan! I want them to be good! I wanted to like Batman v Superman and I wanted to like Suicide Squad, but I didn’t (Man of Steel fell squarely in the “meh” category for me), which made me concerned that WB would fumble Wonder Woman.
Which would be a big deal.
Because—number two reason for my pleasedon’tsuckpleasedon’tsuckpleasedon’tsuck litany/prayer to the eldritch Gods—Wonder Woman is Important. I think it’s become something of a cliché to pull out the capital-I word, but fuck it, this movie is. It’s the first solo outing of the most culturally impactful superheroine ever. Imagine if it took the movie industry until 2017 to decide “heyyyy, we should probably do one’a those Superdude movies.”
Wonder Woman is an important goddamned character and Wonder Woman is a big goddamn deal.
And it’s good.
And I am so happy.
Let’s get this out of the way first: Is Wonder Woman the best superhero movie ever made? No. Is it the best superhero movie of the year so far, even? No. That’s The Lego Batman Movie. Come at me, Logan fans. Wonder Woman is not the second coming of Mad Max: Fury Road, in that it is not some wonderfulsuperperfect extravaganza that will make you question whether all of your favorite action movies are really all that good. It is a very good, very entertaining, very solidly made if admittedly somewhat generic superhero film. (Unlike Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, which felt like their respective creative teams packed a whole bunch of disparate elements into a game of Boggle and prayed for the best. Wonder Woman feels like an actual movie.)
Wonder Woman might not be the greatest thing ever, but it is a damn fine film, and full admission: I spent a good chunk of it honest-to-God misty eyed. And I don’t usually cry during movies, except during A Dog’s Purpose, which brought out tears of pure, red hot rage. Wonder Woman is an origin story for Diana (Gal Gadot), Princess of Themyscira, and as such the opening act of the movie takes place in the Amazon-inhabited island utopia she calls home. We see women—a whole island of them! No men!—talking and bonding and teaching and fighting. And “a bunch of women in a scene together” shouldn’t be a particularly high bar, but I know from three decades of watching mostly male-dominated movies that it is, and seeing it presented here in such a casual, matter-of-fact, “well of fucking course these women are kick-ass warriors, why wouldn’t they be?” manner honestly got me a little overwhelmed.
Part of me being overwhelmed was Robin Wright as Antiope, the Amazon’s #1 general and Diana’s mentor, though.
I mean. God damn. Welcome to the Kate McKinnon, Gillian Anderson, and Sigourney Weaver school of fucking with your Kinsey scale placement.
From Diana’s introduction, Wonder Woman follows your typical origin story beats. Diana yearns for adventure in the great wide somewhere, but her overprotective mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) wants her to stay put where it’s safe. But then adventure comes to Diana’s doorstep in the form of soldier Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), who crash lands on her island and tells her about this Great War thing that’s going on. Well, of course Diana has to go and whup some German ass! We get your moments of doubt and your action setpieces and a villain who, in all honesty, isn’t that great—the dialogue’s so cut-and-paste that at one point the line “it is futile to imagine you can win” is uttered. (And “with our powers combined”—Captain Planet, is that you?) And, of course, there’s the requisite romance subplot, which is quite well handled. Wonder Woman may not be the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen, but it is the sexiest. Gal Gadot and Chris Pine are sexy apart, and they’re sexier together. The two of them have amazing chemistry.
Maybe Wonder Woman is a bit on the generic side. But you know what? I don’t give a good God damn. Because director Patty Jenkins isn’t trying to make a movie that will upset the superhero mold. She’s making the movie that should have been decades ago, before origin story fatigue set in and studios started taking the “but what if grimdark?” approach to superhero staples like Batman and Superman. (For the record, Wonder Woman has its dark moments—hi, it’s set during World War I—but it’s much lighter in tone than BvS.) If anyone deserves an epic, big-budget “This is how this awesome person got awesome. BASK IN IT.” spectacle, it’s Diana Prince. And Jenkins treats her with the goddamn respect she goddamn deserves.
That’s never so evident as in the scene where her outfit—the Wonder Woman outfit—is finally revealed. We’ve been teased with it up to that point, bits and pieces revealed as Diana now and again tries to strip off the restrictive outfit that she needs to pass as respectable in the outside world. No, she’s told. Please don’t do that. That’s not proper. Until, finally, she has to, because it is time for Wonder Woman to go into Beast Mode, and that ain’t happening in a full-length skirt. It’s Jenkins saying “I know you’ve been waiting for this moment for 75 years, and I’m going to bring it.” (Compare that to Batman v Superman, where we don’t even get to see Wonder Woman do a big dramatic unfurl of her lasso.)
No spoilers for the scene itself, but… God, I got verklempt. It’s earnest. It’s powerful. It’s Wonder Woman. Hear her roar.
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