Monday, June 12, 2017

Wonder Woman

I've been boycotting DC movies since the utter fiasco that was Man of Steel, which led me to the conclusion that Zack Snyder should not be allowed anywhere near Superman.

Watching Wonder Woman allowed me to come to an analysis as to why: Snyder thinks Superman is a warrior. Superman is not. That reluctance to fight, that struggle with responsibility and power is not there in Snyder's Superman.

Snyder did not direct Wonder Woman - but was involved in the script. And Wonder Woman shows a different side of the hero's conflict - the knowledge that in order for there to be peace some have to fight.

The movie was a period piece and an origin story - and a war movie. And to helm it the studio made a risky choice.

Patty Jenkins. She hadn't directed a movie since Monster in 2003, only a handful of TV episodes and TV movies. She's won awards, and Charlize Theron won an Oscar for her performance in Monster, but looking at her filmography makes one go "Why her?" A serial killer movie, an episode of Arrested Development, two episodes of Entourage (a series about Hollywood), two episodes of The Killing (crime/cop show), one episode of Betrayal (drama), a TV movie about a journalist.

There's been a criticism circling that has merit: Jenkins is not an action director.

And it made a huge difference. Because Jenkins is not an "action director" she was not caught up in the ways people film action. Her fight sequences were refreshingly clean, making it easy to keep track of what was going on (although there was some bullet time we could have done without). Her choices of camera angle were different and in this case different is good. Maybe we need a few less "action directors."

Moving on to the movie itself. The choice to cast primarily athletes as the non-speaking Amazon warriors was brilliant. They looked like fighting women, not supermodels. I also had no idea Chris Pine looked like Steve Trevor. Must have been the hair.

The language off between Diana and Sammy/Sameer was...well, I have never seen a language off before, and it was brilliant. Sameer, ably played by Moroccan Said Taghmaoui, was a well-designed character and used as an opportunity "I'm the wrong color" to subtly point out the racism of the time without hitting us over the head with it. Plus, more brown people in my superhero movies, please.

The Chief - omg, the Chief. The decision to include a version of Apache Chief in the movie could have been terrible. Given Hollywood's record, I would have expected it to be terrible, with some white guy cast and lots of hand signals.

Instead, they dropped the Apache and cast a Canadian Blackfoot, Eugene Brave Rock in the part. They let him use his own language, and although the smoke signals part was a little bit eye-rolly, they turned the character into a comment on colonialism, not the disgusting stereotype I was afraid we would be getting. (And spoiler: Ares is a suave Englishman. Because of course he is).

Lucy Davis was an awesome Etta Candy.

The bait and switch with the sword was also awesome. Loved 8 year old Diana - so cute.

And spoiler: Thanks for actually having Trevor die not be miraculously rescued, because this is a WAR MOVIE.

So, on to the bad parts...because although I thoroughly enjoyed this movie there were a couple of things that got in the way.

1. It would have made a much stronger comment on gender roles, patriarchy and, you know, all the things Wonder Woman is supposed to mean if they had stuck with the original and had the Amazons created by Hera. Instead, they were made by Zeus. Seriously? Why? What was the point of this change?

2. The opening. Sorry, writers, but ex-PO-sition. Stop it! The movie would have gone from good to great if it had started with Diana leaping off the cliff to rescue Steve Trevor (yes, we'd have lost baby Diana, but as awesome as she was, we did not need Hippolyte's dark idea of a bedtime story), and if the key information had been given to Steve, who would not be expected to know it, in dialogue. The weakness of the scriptwriters was soliloquys and speeches, so we needed fewer of them. They committed the Sin of Prologue (Prologues are not always bad, mind).