Sunday, June 11, 2017

Movie: Wonder Woman

The new Wonder Woman movie, directed by Patty Jenkins is probably the best DC comic character movie to date. It has an amazing badass super-heroine, a reasonable storyline and is jam-packed with thrilling fight and action scenes to hook viewers.

Jenkins is a fan of the origin story and that's where her movie begins. A young Diana born to Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons is growing up on the Island of Themyscira which is hidden from the human world. Young Diana is determined to train like the other Amazon warriors but she is discouraged by her mother. Queen Hippolyta.

Her mother tells her that the god Zeus created mankind who lived happily and peacefully with one another. However, Zeus's brother Ares, the god of war, hated men. He stirred up discontent and anger among men which caused wars. Ares slew all of the other gods when they attempted to kill him. Zeus, using the last of his powers, attempted to stop Ares but only wounded him. Before he died, Zeus left mankind a secret weapon, the Godkiller, The Amazon's lived on the Island of Themyscira which was protected from the outside world by a special  believe the Godkiller is a sword. Queen Hippolyta will not allow her sister, General Antiope to train Diana, however, the two begin training in secret. When they are discovered Antiope convinces Queen Hippolyta to allow her training to continue.

One day when Diana is a young woman, she sees a plane crash into the sea. Realizing that there is someone drowning, she dives off the cliffs into the sea and rescues the pilot. That pilot is Steve Trevor. Trevor has almost no time to catch his breath before the island is attacked by the Germans who have been chasing him. The Amazon's rush to the beach and engage the Germans in a battle to the death. They slay all the Germans but General Antiope is killed saving Diana.

Trevor is taken by the Amazons and questioned using the Lasso of Truth. He reveals that he is an American spy working for British intelligence and that there is a horrible war happening in the outside world, the Great War, a "war to end all wars" that is never-ending. Trevor tells the Amazons that he has stolen the notebook of a scientist, Dr. Maru, who has created a terrible new poison gas. Maru is under the direction of General Ludendorff who believes this gas is the key to Germany winning the war. Maru and Ludendorff must be stopped as the Britain and Germany are in the process of negotiating an armistice. Trevor needs to get back to England so he can give the notebook to his superiors.

Diana believes that Ludendorff is Ares and she sets out with Trevor to return to England. At first she does not have Queen Hippolyta's permission but Diana stands up to her mother and tells her she cannot stand by while innocent people are being killed. She takes the sword and sails for England.

As Diana and Steve work to stop Ludendorff and Dr. Maru and end the war, the must face the dangers of No Mans Land and treachery from an unexpected traitor who is revealed to be the real Ares.

Discussion

Wonder Woman is by far the best DC Comics movie to date. There's a good storyline focusing on the origin of Wonder Woman, a solid cast and epic battle scenes. But more than that DC portrays a superhero who offers something more than just brute strength. Former Israeli soldier and Miss Israel, Gal Gadot shines as Diana who is Wonder Woman. The movie opens with the origin story of Wonder Woman and goes on to tell how a young, naive  Diana comes to be the greatest female warrior - Wonder Woman.  Patty Jenkins, the movie's director has unabashedly stated that she had a particular vision of what Wonder Woman would look like:
 “I, as a woman, want Wonder Woman to be hot as hell, fight badass, and look great at the same time — the same way men want Superman to have huge pecs and an impractically big body. That makes them feel like the hero they want to be. And my hero, in my head, has really long legs.”

Wonder Woman offers a different kind of female hero, one with a more authentic feminism that is aligned with the reality of woman. It is a feminism that is based on strength, independence, courage and compassion. Wonder Woman is a superhero who shows that women can offer the world something else besides physical strength and brute force; compassion, courage in the face of terrible odds and truth. When told why the land between the German and Allies front lines is called "No Man's Land" , Diana remains undeterred. She will attack and move the battle forward.  When advised to abandon the German-occupied village of Veld, Diana is moved by compassion and determined to free them. Ares attempts When goaded by Ares to view humans as corrupted and to help him destroy mankind Diana not only resists but destroys her half-brother. She refuses to kill the villainous Dr. Maru, remembering the words of Steve. She is the very opposite of Ares, offering mankind not war but peace. In this we have a very different kind of superhero. Patty Jenkins describes how Wonder Woman is different from the male superheroes:

"The thing about 'Wonder Woman,' which is very feminine and definitely different, is that her objective is to bring love and truth to mankind. It's not to stop any specific villain and it's not to fight and it's not to stop crime. She'll do all of those things in such a bad-ass way you can't believe it to defend you. And so it's an interesting other thing that brings that moral perspective into it."

The Wonder Woman character was created by William Moulton Marston in 1940. The comic book world at that time had only male superheros. This superhero was to be different because sh would conquer using love and truth. Marston who was a psychologist felt that women did not find their role in society as appealing because their feminine characteristics of love, compassion and truth were seen as weaknesses. So Marston set out to create a character who had these strengths but was also beautiful and powerful. Marston who lived in an open relationship with his wife Elizabeth and another woman Olive, based Wonder Woman mostly on Olive.

In a nod to Marston, the movie draws from his original 1940's comics but also the revised comics by George Perez published in the 1980s. It ties Wonder Woman into the overall DC universe in various ways. For example Diana receives a photograph of herself with Steve Trevor from Bruce Wayne, aka Batman. Several of the costumes, that of Ares and Dr. Maru are replicates of those from earlier editions of the Wonder Woman comics.

Wonder Woman is an enjoyable action movie, with epic battle and fight scenes, beautiful cinematography and solid performances by many of the cast. Chris Pine as Steve Trevor is a realistic love interest for Diana showing the young goddess superhero that humans have some redeemable qualities. He sacrifices his life to destroy Ludendorff's poison gas plane and demonstrates that humans are capable of doing good deeds. 

There is some sexual innuendo in the first third of the movie, demonstrating Diana's isolation from the world of men but not portraying her as ignorant, and likely more for comic relief. Overall though Jenkins has done a great job with a movie that has been too long delayed.


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