Enjoy this Monday with Mildred!
A lot of people have waited a long time for Wonder Woman, often without consciously knowing it. After seeing the new movie it has felt for many, many women like getting a first drink of water after walking in the desert. It’s delicious and feels wonderful, and now you want a lot more of it. CFR has already reviewed the film, but there’s so much more going on than just a film with butt kicking women warriors, or the fact that after decades of action comics movies starring only male heroes, it may be a chick flick that saves a major Hollywood brand – if they learn the lesson.
The movie is directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins, who had more movie directing experience than the guy who made Alien3, and still everyone was on the edge of their seats with apprehension. Hollywood just knows women can’t do action films, despite it having been done before, and will it make this movie different from the rest – which is horrifying in Hollywood? Turns out, it absolutely does make a difference in the look and attitude of the film. It’s still big and loud like all the rest of the superhero movies, especially evident in the climactic battle against the God of War, but we don’t have the annoying male gaze that would have wrecked the film and possibly caused a terrorist uprising. Instead of women watching themselves being looked at, everyone in the audience watched a thumping fun comic book story with a woman hero. Patty understands something you can’t beat into the Hollywood heads: everyone loves comic book movies and everyone wants to see themselves in the film, just like the pasty fanboys have always gotten. This woman director doesn’t linger on T&A (I’m still undecided on whether Chris Pine’s 99% Monty was sarcastic female gaze or something deeper), doesn’t give a wink and a nod about “letting” the “girl” be heroic for a moment, and doesn’t dash our hopes at the end by having the hero decide that being a woman is more important than being a hero.
It was fun to watch and I felt light on my feet leaving the theater, but then I read an article about a lot of women tearing up during the fight scenes. Fight scenes! I thought I was the only one. Fragile men jeered in the comment section, of course, but discovering my sororal connections from a major Hollywood film felt even more inspirational, though trying to describe why the fight scenes are so emotional is almost impossible. Telling a guy that it’s “cathartic” doesn’t convey the weight of a hundred years of being almost completely ignored as the hero. Of course, we’ve seen women fighters and stunt workers before (Xena, Haywire, Kill Bill, Death Proof). There’s even a nice documentary called Double Dare about Jeannie Epper, who stunted on the Wonder Woman tv series, and Zoe Bell, who stunted for Lucy Lawless and Uma Thurman. Maybe it’s because beyond the expected physicality, Diana Prince has some tough principles to uphold, and does so without the equivocation we’ve gotten so often with comics films. She also kept her power outside of battle, despite constant (though poorly depicted) sexist pushback.
One of the reasons the film works is that it very much looks like its originating comic and keeps historically important characters like Etta Candy and Doctor Poison, and Wonder Woman’s ancient love affair with bondage. Much like Whedon’s carefully staged scenes in Marvel’s Avengers. Wonder Woman is rife with hero shots (think the roundy-round of the Avengers gang) that aren’t stubbly, caped men glowering at each other in some dark place DC movies have tried to build their empire on. Her musical theme, first heard in Batman vs Superman is upbeat and somehow very stirring. Comics imagery is tattooed onto our brains and evoke deep feelings that you may never acknowledge, but are there. Why would they make so many superhero movies otherwise? We can only hope that Warner will learn a lesson from this movie that more resembles Marvel – comic book movies with obvious imagery – than the typical DC routine – just another melodrama using comics characters. Conversely, maybe Marvel will take a hint about women hero movies, duh. As an ominous sign that Hollywood won’t get it, go to Target or Walmart and look for the Wonder Woman merchandise. On-line is where it’s at (and I love that General Antiope gets a doll).
Not everyone loved the film, of course. There were the fragile men who complained before the film opened, and bad reviews like “not good enough”, “not bold enough”, “why get worked up over genre”, “ah HA – misandry!”. Near the beginning of the film there’s an animated explanation of How The Zeus Made Diana. I had wondered if the Christian viewers were insulted, but found the Christian reviews tend to be pro-movie and not terribly upset about the whole Greek Gods thing, though the one that reassured their readers it’s “not a chick flick” really ticked me off. First, what’s wrong with a chick flick, and two, who says great fight sequences make it NOT a chick flick? I also read a rant on a Jewish blog about Wonder Woman being a Zionist “cisgender, abled bodied, thin, white woman hero to worship”.
I had a few minor issues with the film. No one’s perfect. The camera lingered on dramatic images too long in some scenes, and they really needed to punch up the whole Broken Armistice Equals Bigger War angle over Plane Full Of Death Must Be Stopped, which would have made it more obvious why she really did need to go mano a demigod at the end. This is a summer blockbuster that I cannot recommend enough. It’s exciting and beautiful and empowering and a lot of other things that require a lot of discussion – and extra viewings – to fully appreciate.
CFR: In Addition. Ah Mildred has written an excellent review! I would just like to add:
- Thank you for so beautifully pointing out that yes, women have been directing action movies for years. 🙂
- Chris Pine rising from the healing pool is GREAT! Some of us like fair play. 😉
- I love Etta Candy and hope to see her use her “fisticuffs” one day.
- I love hero shots. Love ’em even more when women get to have them. 🙂
- I think both Mildred and I should get General Antiope dolls. (That’s a hint, dear readers.)
- Oh YES!! SEE THIS MOVIE!! Again and again. 🙂