Mac Review: Wonder Woman

To understand my thoughts on the 2017 Wonder Woman movie, you need to understand my journey through the DCEU.

I grew to hate Man Of Steel, mostly after reading a few reviews (specifically Mark Waid’s), so I refused to watch Batman Vs Superman in the theatre. When I did see it (on blu-ray), I loathed it so much I refused to watch Suicide Squad at all.

Of course, I refused to watch Wonder Woman. When I saw the trailer, I got sad. “This looks like a good trailer,” I said, “for a terrible movie.”

 

All this came with a caveat: I would’ve watched BvS in a theatre or Suicide Squad if I’d heard the right things from the right people.

When Wonder Woman came out, I quickly started hearing the right things from the wrong people. It didn’t make me want to go, but my ears pricked up. Then I started to hear the right things from the right people; and, well, I went.

 

I was amazed. I remembered watching The Wolverine and the twist (spoiler): Despite previous evidence, it was actually good!

This movie has the same twist.

It was fun. It was bright. It was colourful.

I’ve heard people say there are many colours in every scene – that’s not true, and there’s still a lot of the old orange-and-teal, especially in London, but this movie is several steps towards getting us out of that madness.

The DCEU have made a fun movie, one where the hero is heroic. She cares about people, she’s trying to save lives and help people. She’s actually likeable. I was beginning to despair of DC doing this.

This Diana doesn’t mind killing when she has to. Normally, I’m against superheroes doing this, but here she’s less a superhero and more a soldier fighting a war; killing comes with the territory.

I liked the supporting cast (Steve Trevor and Etta Candy especially; not so much Charlie, or ratboy as I call him). Etta even has her own fun little Marvel One-shot on the blu-ray.

It isn’t perfect; there are a few little plot holes, but they’re minor: little things like Dr Poison noticing her diary is missing. She looks up, points at a crowded factory and yells ‘Stop that man!’, implying not only that she knows which of the many men walking around the factory took it, but that everyone else knew exactly who she meant. Steve took said diary before she perfected her formula; and yet it contains the secrets of that formula.

How is Themyscira within so close to mainland Europe, yet has remained undiscovered for thousands of years?

These aren’t important things, but they do niggle at my mind.

 

Also: I can’t talk about this movie without talking about the weird relationship it has with Christianity. Because I’m me.

It is based in a worldview of many gods, which is off-putting to me.

At one point, there’s a long talk between Steve and Diana which comes across as a takedown of marriage – an institution many Christians hold dear. It actually doesn’t make sense, either; Steve describes it as ‘two people go before a judge’ (this is 1917; I can’t believe anybody would say ‘judge’ rather than ‘man of the cloth’). Diana doesn’t even know what marriage is, though she’s been reading books from outside Themyscira. Later on, she, who lives in an isolationist culture, knows what smuggling is – but not marriage? What books has she been reading? The only way that works is if there’s a deliberate move on the island to censor all mention of the topic. I don’t think the filmmakers were going for that.

At one point, Diana (she’s never actually called ‘Wonder Woman’ in the movie, btw) breaks into a building to take down a couple of soldiers. A few minutes later (screen time), she does the same thing at a church – only this time, she smashes up the steeple. I can’t believe that wasn’t a deliberate image; this symbol of paganism smashing a symbol of Christianity.

 

So now you’re expecting this to be a big whinge-fest all about how horrible this movie is for Christians.

Nope. I told you the relationship is weird; for a movie steeped in Greek mythology and “gods”, this movie seems to draw a lot of inspiration from the Christian faith. For one thing, they’re not shying away from the ‘our-hero-as-Jesus’ metaphor; Diana is effectively (symbolically) a virgin-born innocent who comes from a paradise to help the sinners of our world.

During the inevitable sacrifice scene, she does the crucifix pose, and even box art has a distinctly cruciform lens flare on it:

The movie tells the Judeo-Christian Creation story, with only the names changed to protect the innocent; God is played by Zeus, Satan is played by Ares (not Hades, who usually gets lumbered with that role in these things), Adam and Eve become all of humanity. (Which, of course, they were at the time, but in this version there are a lot more of them.) This is different to the mythological Greek story.

A major theme is the depravity of man, a Christian belief which is unusual to see in Hollywood. (Then they run into trouble; by taking out the Christianity, they don’t offer any real solution except some vague talk of ‘love’ (which isn’t particularly backed up by the movie).)

The movie also contains one of the best summaries of the Christian faith I’ve ever seen, although they’re talking about something else entirely: “It’s not about what you deserve; it’s about what you believe”.

 

That isn’t what this review is about though; it’s about whether it’s a good movie:

For me, whenever I watch a movie, I always have one question at the back of my mind: ‘Will I buy the DVD?’.

The blu-ray is sitting next to me as I type.

 

Likeable, relatable heroes, a good story, people saving people…

See, DC, you can make entertaining movies again!

I highly recommend this movie to people who remember when superheroes were meant to be fun.

31 Comments

  1. frasersherman

    “The DCEU have made a fun movie, one where the hero is heroic. She cares about people, she’s trying to save lives and help people. She’s actually likeable. I was beginning to despair of DC doing this.”
    A friend of mine had a great post on FB about this topic, and how she inspires the other characters to follow her across No Man’s Land and that yes, she is indeed heroic.
    I imagine they’re going with the Bermuda Triangle idea of Themiscyra or something equivalent—that it’s off in another dimension enough not to be seen (and it does appear so when Steve arrives).

    1. Le Messor

      A hero who inspires others – yes, I hadn’t even thought about how she does that.

      Themiscyra actually reminded me of Skull Island from the original King Kong, the way it was constantly shrouded in an unmoving mist.

      1. M-Wolverine

        Doesn’t the island have a camouflage field around it? No one sees it till they go through it, and it’s pretty close. The island doesn’t look huge. A big private island perhaps. Not like they had big population growth. If it was off normal shipping lanes, or surrounded by a lot of reefs that could ground ships, I could see it being hard to find. This was early 20th century. Not satellites around the earth. Heck we still can’t officially figure out where Amelia Earhart went.

        I would imagine their tech has gotten better by now. Or, you know, “Magic.” Zeus could have done them a solid.

        1. Le Messor

          Doesn’t the island have a camouflage field around it? No one sees it till they go through it, and it’s pretty close.

          … Maybe… It just seems like it’s rowing distance away from the shore of a very heavily-populated area. It’s hard to believe nobody’s run into it by accident before.

          1. M-Wolverine

            Well in the movie they definitely cross a field that goes from looking like nothing to “hey, an island” when the Germans come through. And they didn’t sail the whole way (they sailed, not rowed…they were sleeping on the boat, right?) They only sailed into a shipping lane and then got a tow the rest of the way from that other ship.

          2. Le Messor

            Well in the movie they definitely cross a field that goes from looking like nothing to “hey, an island” when the Germans come through. And they didn’t sail the whole way (they sailed, not rowed…they were sleeping on the boat, right?) They only sailed into a shipping lane and then got a tow the rest of the way from that other ship.

            That’s all true, but there were no barriers to crossing the actual field. They just reached through the fog. I’m not saying anybody would’ve gone to investigate this place (though again, see the original King Kong), but that somebody would’ve accidentally ended up there in the thousands of years it’s been there.

            My rowing comment referred not to Steve and Diana, but the Germans chasing Steve, whose rowboats (surrounded by motorised boats) kept up with his airplane.

          3. M-Wolverine

            It really depends on who and when someone got there. I think we live in a world where we can get anywhere hours, see most everything in live time, and are notified of things quickly. How far apart this world was when we got our news in papers out the next day, or traveling across country was even a dream, no more pre-motorized years.

            It’s probably safe to say there haven’t been many visitors in the time of Diana’s adulthood, because it seems new to her, but with their disdain of outsiders it’s not beyond the realm that they’ve encountered others from her early childhood and before.

            Depending on who comes, they could have been a lost fisherman guided away and never shown how they got there or how to get back, with a whopper of a fish tale of an island of only beautiful women, or if it’s a military or exploring vessel of not so good intentions, all killed to never tell the tale. They didn’t have TOO much problem with what would be the modern cutting edge military of man in the early 1900’s. I imagine almost all warring parties earlier would be quick work for the Amazons.

          4. Le Messor

            A friend of mine has just made me think further about that, and I’ve realised they probably lowered those boats after they saw Steve’s plane crash.
            That one’s my bad.

  2. Jeff Nettleton

    Pluto/Hades is not Lord of Hell and is not the equivalent of a Satan or a Set. He is not a figure of evil. He rules the Underworld, the domain of the dead. However, the Underworld has different sections: the Elysium Fields for the virtuous, Tartaras for the wicked. Ares isn’t a wicked figure, per se, either. He’s just a convenient symbol for military aggression. The problem with mythology and even religion is sorting out what is in the “holy texts” and what has entered the public conscious via literature and theater, from much later. Most of modern man’s ideas of Satan/Lucifer/Mephistopheles/Old Scratch/whatever come not from the Bible; but things like Milton’s Paradise Lost, Dante’s Inferno and similar works. People have been exposed to those ideas via various methods and assume they originated within the religious teaching, rather than someone later using such a figure for their own dramatic purposes

    1. Le Messor

      Pluto/Hades is not Lord of Hell and is not the equivalent of a Satan or a Set.

      Sorry, I should’ve been clearer. I do know that, I made the comment because usually he’s the one who takes the Satan role in these things, not Ares.

      (Also, why the Phantom Menace did I say Pluto up there, not Hades? I know my Roman from my Greek!)

      1. Jeff Nettleton

        Well, Wonder Woman will do that to you. Marston mostly used the Roman names, due to that being part of classical education in his generation (due mainly to British sources, which tended to the Roman names), though he also mixed in some of the Greek names. Marston actually started the idea of Ares as a WW villain, as Mars. In the 1940s stories he literally lives on Mars, where he gets up to all kinds of villainy, complete with a bevy of female slaves, in keeping with Marston’s peculiarities. That turns up with more than one villain, as an early Paul Von Gunther story has her own chained female slaves walking around. Mars even gives them striped bikini tops and skirts! It’s a particularly unique kink for the 1940s, visually.

          1. Jeff Nettleton

            Except Marston’s ladies never seem to emancipate themselves, apart from Wondy. I think he is given far too much credit for social statement and far less for being a rather kinky individual who used academic rhetoric to normalize it. He was no less fetishizing things than Bill Ward or Howard Chaykin, or even Eric Stanton.

        1. frasersherman

          I always regretted they played him as an outright bad guy because in his first appearance in Thor he’s more interesting, deciding he actually loves the underworld he’s created and doesn’t want to leave (let alone let Thor smash everything). After that he became Generic Evil God.

  3. M-Wolverine

    It’s one of those movies that history will probably only see it as good, but for the time and place it was great. It’s still the only event movie that has felt like an event to me. (Though Last Jedi still has to come out).

    I’d say you could nitpick a lot in any movie. Some deserve it, some don’t. I’d say the whole dialogue on marriage was an excuse for banter and set up even if it didn’t make sense. (Was Zeus not married to Hera, even if he was a dog?) The “judge” thing is the only one that seems intentional. It might fit Steve Trevor individually in a sense we never get because his back story serves no purpose, but it certainly doesn’t fit in a general sense. And I think the church tower thing is reading too much into it. A standard sniper set up for a war movie. And a reasonable placement into what was supposed to be a small village.

    I never get the uneasiness with pantheons in entertainment. They’re rarely portrayed as the “true” gods, and much more often the super powered aliens of the Thor movies. Does it bother you when there are demons? Aliens? Dinosaurs? Though I do get a kick out of depictions of the Hindu pantheon in comics and such, half because they’re so analogous to the Greek and Norse and do forth but people get upset about them, while completely showing the cluelessness of Americans in that people actually still worship these beings. (I’m sure someone worships Zeus still too. So it brings up an interesting discussion about validity being determined by numbers).

    1. Le Messor

      It’s one of those movies that history will probably only see it as good, but for the time and place it was great.

      There’s a trope called ’90s good’ that this comment reminds me of.

      The “judge” thing is the only one that seems intentional.

      In that conversation? Agreed.

      I never get the uneasiness with pantheons in entertainment. They’re rarely portrayed as the “true” gods, and much more often the super powered aliens of the Thor movies.

      I have seen people (you’re not doing this, but I’ve seen it in the past) say that; and then say ‘and I don’t understand how anybody can follow a monotheistic religion in a place like the Marvel Universe or the DC Universe which has all those gods running around’, and still can’t see the problem.

      Beyond that, it’s hard to explain. They’re rarely portrayed as the “true” gods to appease people like me, but that just leads to other problems – mainly, if you can dismiss them as aliens, why not to Jesus?
      Also, in a twisted, possibly hypocritical part of my mind – I prefer fantasy to sci-fi; so changing a fantasy concept into a sci-fi concept annoys me, even when it should do the opposite.
      Ultimately: I do understand that argument, but it’s unsatisfying to me.

      Portrayals of other things don’t bother me as much because there’s nothing in my beliefs to say they don’t exist.

      1. frasersherman

        While they’re small-g gods, I’d say they’re definitely not aliens. All the Marvel deities can take souls of their worshippers into the afterlife, which pretty much qualifies them as deities.
        Religion in the MU and DCU is a mess. Judaism, Islam and Christianity all work, all other pantheons work. You get into heaven by being a good person, hell by being a bad person and Purgatory if you’re a good person who did something bad. If you physically get out of Hell, then you have to be physically captured to get taken back there again (or if you’re a good person stuck there somehow, you just go up to heaven).
        That said I don’t see it’s that much a problem for monotheists to exist. Write off the Greek gods as metahumans. Assume Thor is just playing a role (there’s a comment in one Bronze Age story that his version of Asgard doesn’t match up at all with the legends, so there you are). Or that big-g God allows them to exist as some part of his own plan.
        There probably are people in the MU/DCU who think Jesus is an ET/metahuman too. In our world Von Daniken cited Jesus as one of his gods from outer space. Others have dismissed him as a loonie, a mortal prophet or an agent of the evil demiurge who traps our souls in the mortal world. But so far Christianity continues. I see no reason it wouldn’t go on in the MU/DCU too.

        1. M-Wolverine

          Answering both here.

          I think there’s a distinction between comics and movies, because they pretty much paint the movie ones as extra dimensional aliens. Though it seems like Odin might have had a say in creating some things, and had worshippers at one time, they don’t seem to get any human souls in their Hel, or elsewhere.

          Which is kind of a flip of the comics, where they are definitely deities, but they don’t get credited with creating anything except their own realms. Because then it gets down to who really did it? The Big Bang? (Galactus) or Odin, or Zeus, or who?

          It also gets confusing, because there are demons/devils. But most aren’t the big D Devil. Just pretend to be. Except when they’re supposed to be, then revealed not to be, like in Ghost Rider. So what is the relation to a fake Christian devil and a Norse God? DC sometimes goes further than this with the Vertigo stuff mixed in, and you get your Jesus in a story type thing.

          I think they’re easy to write off in these mediums, because unlike in mythology none are all powerful as a big G God. Sometimes they’re made out to be really powerful, but other times not so much. It’s what the story writer determines to be sure. Is the Odin power all powerful, or is he a guy who needs to build a Destroyer armor to fight his battles for him? They’re powerful to humans, and maybe even most super humans, but celestially (small c) how powerful are they? Eternity, Death, Galactus. (The latter of whom gets taken down by humans). The Celestials. The Beyonder before they turned him into a schmuck Cube.

          If God can create Superman (or his universe can create him) why can’t he create Thor? Heck, in the movie universe you practically get more people worshiping Superman than Thor. If there’s a God, and the comics seem to always leave enough wiggle to not offend/allow stories, he’d be truly all powerful, and all these guys who are powerful beyond understanding but still regularly get beat would fall under him, and be created by him.

          Some would see Thor as a God, and others would see him as just a guy with long hair and delusions of grandeur. I’m not sure in those universes Jesus would be any different. Or Superman, which is why we get bombarded by Superman Jesus moments.

          And the the universes only work as universes if you mix it all together. They started as Thor being a god and Hulk part of the atomic age, but they only get to punch each other if you mix it. And does that work really any less than Batman fighting Superman? Comic books. The MCU did a good job in letting people accept that all. It started out that magic is just science you don’t understand (which is still true in the comics, because often magic is something Reed Richards just can’t explain…yet, to him). But then we added alien aliens, the other side of the galaxy, Dr. Strange and magic is real, and now we have Loki and Dr. Strange arguing who has the bigger magic wand. People can accept a lot.

          1. Le Messor

            Well, like I said, the problem can be difficult to explain to non-Christians – and it’s my problem, not yours; I don’t expect you to take it aboard. As Fraser indicated, “Christianity will find a way”. 🙂

            Just understand, I do have a problem with it, but I can still enjoy the stories.

          2. M-Wolverine

            I don’t have a problem with you having a problem with it. I’m just thinking of ways that it could be justified without being blasphemous or anything.

            I like to think of them as richer environments if one can put their beliefs in that above all these man gods, and demigods, there could still be one true God above them. As well as the idea that one of the Beyonder’s fart’s created the universe. If someone is trying to write one possibility out over the other I think they’re putting their agenda over the agenda of the comic universe.

          3. Le Messor

            My best friend senior year in college had the same issues. She made an exception for Walt Simonson’s Thor though.

            And of course, a lot of Christians don’t have those issues at all.

            I haven’t read much of Simonson’s Thor myself, so I can only judge from a distance – but from that distance I say that exception is very understandable.

          4. frasersherman

            Oh yes. I remember picking up the Malekith issue (I’d missed the initial Beta Ray Bill arc) and realizing with a shock how really, really good it was. Which I hadn’t thought about Thor in a long while.

          5. frasersherman

            Back in the 1990s we got the “Godwave” which was John Byrne’s retcon that the energy from the Old Gods dying created all the gods of myth (and metahumans. And the speed force).
            There’s also the explanation a couple of comics have used that you find the afterlife you expect. So if you’re a Catholic you get Purgatory, if you’re Asutra you end up in Valhalla (assuming you die in battle, I guess) and so forth. Which I thought Phil Foglio’s Stanley and His Monster handled well.

Leave a Reply