The Wheel and Axle

The Wonder Woman, Part 1: Now The World Is Ready For You

by on Jun.07, 2017, under Film & TV, Geeky, Queer

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*** SPOILERS ***

As of this writing, I’ve watched Wonder Woman four times. I started on Day Zero, an IMAX midnight screening the night before it officially opened in Manila on June 1st. Then almost every day until Sunday, except for Friday where we took a break with Baywatch, I saw it again and again and again. And again.

It’s been almost a week since I first watched the movie, and it took me this long to start putting my thoughts into written words because I am still overwhelmed with my love for the film.

After a long long time of anticipation and excitement, Wonder Woman arrived, and it surpassed my expectations… and even more. The critics seem to think so, too, because even before its official release, it had already garnered a huge number of pre-screening positive reviews – rivaling several top-rated superhero movies, particularly Logan and the currently-unbeatable The Dark Knight.

In the movie, we see the key aspects of Diana’s origin – with many different interpretations across the decades interwoven to create a streamlined version for the film.

The princess of a hidden island paradise of women created by the Greek deities to guide mankind, Diana (Gal Gadot) yearns for a greater purpose beyond her sheltered shores. Her destiny arrives when man – in the form of the dashing pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) – crashes near her home and brings news of war in the outside world. Despite the protests of her mother Queen Hippolyte (Connie Nielsen) and inspired by her warrior aunt General Antiope (Robin Wright), Diana goes with Steve back to “Man’s World,” where she hopes to help stop the war.

Along the way, she meets a ragtag band of allies, including the charming Etta Candy (Lucy Davis), the con artist Sameer/Sammy (Saïd Taghmaoui), the PTSD-stricken sniper Charlie (Ewen Bremner), and the subtly wise Chief (Eugene Brave Rock). While British politician Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis) trie to broker an armistice to bring peace to end the war, Diana and her friends go across Europe to prevent General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) from unleashing a new gas weapon developed by the sadistic chemist Isabel Maru a.k.a. Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya) – a weapon that will kill thousands and which will end negotiations for peace. In the process, Diana faces off with her final target: the god of war himself, Ares, whom she holds responsible for all that was happening and whose death she believes would immediately stop the war.

Over-all, the film is well-made. Despite a little pacing issues in the first act – a necessity, given how the Amazons and their history needed to be established to give context to Diana’s motivations – it flowed seamlessly to the end. The straightforward plot belies a very complex web of themes and metaphors to provide a cerebral experience while providing sufficient action and adventure to satisfy the superhero fans. It is also beautifully shot with a lot of vibrant colors and scenic views in Themyscira that contrasted well with the darker tones of the actual war scenes. They managed to show us clearly just how horrific war was through the visceral visuals.

It is indeed feminist movie, and anyone who thinks otherwise has obviously seen a different movie. And by feminist, I do not mean the extremist “feminazi” man-hating kind that some outlier critics apparently wanted to see. This is feminist as feminism should be: a story about a woman who was the mistress of her own destiny, one who had agency and who did not let anyone – man or woman alike – make her choices for her.

And make no mistake: not all her choices are necessarily right – she is not perfect, she also has her flaws – but she makes her choices for herself and for what she believes to be right and true and just. This is what makes her a hero.

Also, her crossing of No Man’s Land – perhaps the most powerful sequence in any superhero movie in the last decade or so – tells you exactly who she is and what she represents. Beyond being Eowynesque, that is, a literal defiance of the phrase “no man” by a woman who can, it shows what Diana can and will do to help save innocent lives.

Gal Gadot shines in this movie, and anyone who thought she would be a bad actress (and thought she was miscast because she did not have enormous boobs) should eat their words right now. Although she is not as seasoned as Connie or Robin, she holds her own and is able to convey a wide variety of emotions you would expect from someone who starts off as somewhat naive, then sees the true horrors of war, and then has a crisis of faith as she feels disillusioned with mankind. Gal made you believe she is Wonder Woman.

Chris Pine is a delight, as always. He is indeed a fine actor, and his chemistry with Gal is just awesome. He brings the humor and grounding in their relationship, and like Gal’s Diana, he is able to show that despite his flaws Steve Trevor is a good and heroic man. Getting Chris Pine was an inspired choice, for he has that “every man” quality to him despite being (as Steve said) “above average.” He gives subtlety and depth to Steve all the way.

The rest of the cast is top-notch, but then it is a cast that has Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, and Danny Huston! These are first class performers who make being in a superhero movie real and believable.

I will however give extra props to two cast members in particular.

First is the woefully under-utilized Lucy Davis, whose Etta Candy brings great humor and gives a perspective on women of the time. Lucy, despite minimal screentime, makes you want to see more of what drives Etta. Her expressions and timing are also hilarious.

Then there is Elena Anaya’s Dr. Poison, who in lesser hands could easily have been a caricature. Instead, she became a surprisingly sympathetic broken woman with a lot of pathos. This was especially evident in her final wordless scenes with Diana; those eyes spoke a thousand things. This truly sold that pivotal moment where Diana decided that humanity deserved compassion despite the evil they are capable of. Had Elena not been able to convey that hint of vulnerability in Dr. Poison’s eyes, the scene could have felt hollow.

Patty Jenkins’ direction is also amazing, and she knows exactly what she’s doing. This is a woman who knows her Wonder Woman and who has, in her own way, written a love letter to the character through this film.

Writer Allan Heinberg redeems himself in my eyes (because he once wrote the comics but abandoned it within just a few issues after not being able to deliver it timely) with his script, and Zack Snyder cannot be ignored in this success because he also had a hand in the story – with the only sore spot for me being the insistence on using some annoying New 52 elements. But this I am able to overlook given the final product.

Over-all, Wonder Woman is a powerful movie that is a shining beacon of hope in a sea of dark and cynical superhero movies across different studios. It wears its heart on its sleeves, and in this case, it works very well.

It rightfully deserves all the praise it has gotten so far.

But then again, it’s not what it deserves that matters.

It’s what we believe.

And we believe in Wonder Woman.

Continued In:

The Wonder Woman, Part 2: Stop A War With Love

 

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