Saturday, June 3, 2017

Wonder Woman Is a Rarity: It's a Wonderful, Conflict-Driven, Character-Based Superhero Action Film Actually Worth Seeing


I'M NOT a fan of superhero movies. As a general rule, I can't stand them. You'd think that with modern computer technology I'd come around, but in fact computer tech ("CGI") has made me hate the genre even more.

Producers and directors have injected so much "CG porn" into these films that they are, to me, unwatchable. Apparently, however, the great bulging bell curve of humanity really loves all that digital porn, because the genre keeps popping these films out, and they generally make big bank.

I saw the trailer for the latest reboot of Wonder Woman last year and thought it mildly interesting. But like all movies of its type, I was convinced that it would be a waste of hard-earned cash.

We took a chance and caught it yesterday.

We're going back next week to watch it again.

In my view, this is one of the best films in the entire genre, and the very best since the advent of CGI. Unquestionably.

The reason why is that the story centers on Diana Prince--a.k.a. Wonder Woman--and not the action. This is a genuine rarity. It focuses on her moral confusion as she confronts a corrupted world. She believes that if she kills the God of War, Ares, that war everywhere will end. The story takes place during World War I, just before the Armistice, so she has plenty of opportunity to find out just how wrong, not to mention strong, she is.

Most if not all movies in this genre inevitably come to the conclusion that humankind is good and that there are only a few bad apples in the bunch. This film does not make that mistake, and that alone makes it worthy of seeing. The reality is, humankind isn't good, as aptly and correctly pointed out by Ares in the inevitable battle at the end, but is in many, probably most, cases irredeemably corrupt. He points out the reality of the very war that brought Diana to him, who has yet to fully understand her abilities and powers. It's a world war. The entire world is involved in the slaughter.

Diana wants to believe that human beings are good, and her answer to Ares is mature and considered. It does not whitewash humanity, as so many of these films do, but allows for forgiveness, growth, potential, faith, and opportunity for good.

This film also deals with gender politics with an incredibly deft and wise hand. The cliches aren't here. For that reason I'm certain that Trumpistas are very pissed off and offended by her character and the film in general. Fuck 'em.

As far as the computer-generated action and sets are concerned, they aren't overdone--that is, until the final battle at the end. The film does go a bit overboard at that point, but not so much that I had to turn my head and hope it all ended soon, as happens almost inevitably in other films in the genre. The first battle she faces with Germans, emerging from a trench, is in fact the finest superhero action sequence I have ever seen. It alone is worth the price of admission. Zach Snyder, who produced 300, and now this, is an artist in the highest sense of the word. He takes fight sequences and turns them into what they should be--visual poetry. He did that here, and the result was beautiful, moving, often jaw-dropping, and convincing.

Gal Gadot, whom he cast as Diana Prince, is positively gorgeous and, Jesus Christ, fit. I still have the image of her thighs in my head as she emerges from the trench! Chris Pine's character Steve Trevor does not take a back seat to her. He's a spy for the Allies, and is his own person through and through. That too is refreshing to see in the genre, which typically makes afterthoughts of everyone not the main characters or the super-whatevers that they use to do their super jobs. In fact, effort was made to make all her normal human helpers three-dimensional. Again, a rarity.

Too often people separate Germans during that terrible era from the rest of humanity, as though they were an aberration. They weren't. Trump's illegitimate election is proof, for the thousandth time, of that statement. The current fascistic, nationalistic fervor sweeping the world is proof of that--again, for the thousandth time. The withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement is proof. Defacing headstones, swastikas scribbled on buildings, hate crimes, prejudicial and cruel deportations, and, most of all, the cattle-like indifference of most to all these things proves Ares' statements about the human race, and deepens Diana's conflicts with helping. That makes the film unique with respect to the genre.

Good thing there isn't a god of indifference and inaction, I remember thinking near the film's end. And then I thought: Well, now, wait a minute....

Finally, it seems appropriate that my new favorite superhero flic was directed by a woman. That's noteworthy and relevant; and I hope her male peers learn a little--strike that, a lot--from her.

Go see Wonder Woman. If you aren't thoroughly entertained and elucidated, if you don't walk out of the theater singing its praises and seriously considering its central message, then ... well, you probably have far more in common with those she opposes than those who stand and help her.

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