WARNING: THIS BLOG CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS REGARDING THE FILM “WONDER WOMAN” (2017).
I’m not a fan of superheroes. After all, I’m 60 years old and what is a 60 year old doing in a fan-world made up (on the whole) of people much younger? I don’t deny they can be a lot of fun, and it’s not the genre itself, it’s the idea of the superhero I just don’t “get”.
But that has nothing to do with this blog. I’m not here to trash the superhero genre of fiction. I can see why many people love the concept, and that’s great.
So ordinarily, I wouldn’t watch a film like “Wonder Woman”. Just not my thing. But I did decide to watch it because I’d heard a lot of people saying great things about Gal Gadot’s performance in the title role and I also wanted to see what DC would make of a female superhero. (Or is that superheroine?)* I watched it on DVD, which I actually purchased over the counter, so I invested not only time but also money. I also knew the film was set during World War One and since I am fascinated by that historical event I also wanted to see how “real” the war would be slotted into a fantasy film.
Let me say I really enjoyed the film, probably more than I thought I would.
I thought Ms Gadot did a wonderful job. Her Diana was suitably regal, tough, naïve and just plain likable. She could do humour well and the character served as a great role-model for women. Her reaction to the historical era, which clashed so much with her own upbringing and world outlook, worked really well. I also found the supporting actors did a great job. I have no beef with the special effects, the production itself or the performances.
That’s not why I’m here now.
All that I just said above was the “yes.” The “no” comes at the end of the film, the last half hour or so. Actually it may be longer or shorter than that, I was so absorbed in the film I lost track of time.
Halfway through the movie there is a brilliant sequence where Wonder Woman steps out of the trench alone and walks into No-Man’s Land carrying nothing but a sword and shield and proceeds to remove the heavily-armed Germans occupying the village of Veld. I loved this sequence. It had excitement, action and danger. The moment when Diana is cowering (yes, cowering) behind her shield as it takes the full force of a machine gun aimed directly at it is superb. The look on her face shows the doubt that has started to creep in that she might not make it out alive. She is rescued by her merely mortal friends–this, too, is superb and shows even superheroes need help occasionally. It was a wonderfully “real” moment in the sequence. The silly gymnastics and slow-motion FX didn’t jar at all (as they usually would with me). The idea of a woman (almost) single-handedly taking on hundreds of enemy with nothing more than her own battle skills and lightning-fast reflexes was the highlight of the movie for me.
Another very effective moment came after the battle when Diana and the others were having their photograph taken by a villager. The exhausted look on Diana’s face shows the liberation of the village had a personal emotional cost for her. The overcoat thrown over her superhero outfit is a magnificent touch that demonstrates deep-down she is just another person, scarred by war and thankful she is still alive at the end.
And then there’s the battle at the end, when she’s fighting Ares. This is the “no”. This battle between a god and the daughter of a god (a demi-goddess) is far removed from the “real” and frightening combat we witnessed earlier. Here, the SFX take over, the immortality of the characters intrudes itself and I lost interest in the plot.
Until then, it all worked. Diana was fun, kick-ass and had a touch of humanity about her. Of course, the Amazons weren’t exactly human, they were specially created by the gods as superior warriors. They could, however, be killed by ordinary bullets, something I’ll get back to. In this last sequence between Diana and Ares, we sit back for a long info-dump by the bad guy who gives us some background as to his motivations and explains Diana’s origins. (Meanwhile all hell is breaking loose with the ordinary soldiers trying to destroy a gas laboratory before the rest of humanity is destroyed, but never mind that–this is important stuff and the gods are going to force us to listen.) And here’s the important thing: at this point in the movie Diana casts off her last traces of humanity and becomes a goddess in her own right.
And I lost interest.
Gods are hard to write. They are just so damn powerful. They start throwing tanks around, creating explosions, defying the laws of physics and proving even more than your usual superhero that we humans are utterly weak, worthless crap. Sure, Diana’s friends do succeed in destroying the gas laboratory and Steve Trevor (played admirably by Chris Pine) sacrifices himself for the cause, but that’s stuff any suitably brave and committed mortals could have handled. The battle between Diana and Ares is what disappointed me.
It’s those damn bullets, you see. Diana proves herself almost invulnerable in this sequence. So why was she worried about bullets earlier? Ares kicks her butt several times and she just stands up again and keeps fighting. Not a scratch. A goddess. Her fellow Amazons aren’t immune to bullets, and for the bulk of the film Diana spends a lot of time knocking them aside with her arm braces (and hiding behind her shield from a machine gun). So why now does she seem utterly impervious to any form of mistreatment?
In my opinion, the final battle between deities became “unrealistic”. I use that term not because I thought the rest of the film realistic, but in the sense that I lost my concern for Wonder Woman. I no longer feared she could be killed or even hurt. She absorbs the power of a god and redirects it back at him. At least, her arm braces do, which isn’t quite the same thing. We know, and she knows, they can do that sort of thing from a sequence early on in the film, but the realisation still doesn’t quite ring true.
Gods are hard to write. Gods fighting each other even harder. Had Diana remained “mortal” and still kicked Ares’ butt I would have stood up and cheered. But making her a goddess just levelled the playing field and suddenly I didn’t care anymore.
Still a great film. I’ll watch it again, but maybe skip over that last fight scene. The earlier one recapturing the village of Veld knocks the later one out of the ring. The Veld sequence belongs at the end of the film as the climactic battle, not half way through.
- A lot of occupations these days are gender-neutral. “Actress”, for instance, is not a word often used these days. Actors are “actors”, whatever sex. “Poetess,”, “Aviatrix” etc are out the door. They are poets and pilots. So I’m not sure if superheroines are legitimate anymore, or if they are all just superheroes.
Russell Proctor – www.russellproctor.com