What does WONDER WOMAN mean to me?
I remember the Christmas that my Father gave my sister, WONDER WOMAN UNDEROOS – vintage mint in package. This was 1985. She was 4. She rain into the bathroom – came bounding back in full WONDER WOMAN underoos glory – I instantly became the bad guy threatening to kill her and her fantasy fueled battery of blows would, of course, destroy me. This would become fairly standard little sister fantasy world stuff. She took such crazy joy out of it. Our Mother, now gone for 25 years, loved Wonder Woman. As Comic / Pop Culture Dealers of the Seventies touring to conventions around the country and operating out of N.E. MERCANTILE Company here in Austin, my mother collected what was known as Good Girl Comics – a subgenre of comics that featured Good Girls, often in danger, tied up, in peril, saving the day, in the midst of something incredible – and these were of the Golden Age variety, she didn’t really care much for Silver Age comics. WONDER WOMAN was a character she loved, read about and professed as being an idol, so when my little sis took up the mantle as WONDER WOMAN, she became her Hippolyta. Mom was one of the Gloria Steinem Feminists of the Seventies. Read every issue of MS. Magazine, in the world of film – she admired films with strong female leads that owned their sexuality and were empowered on screen by not just their image, but especially their wit. She believed in role-models. On more than one occassion she told me that every woman has a Wonder Woman inside, it's the constraints of the world, their own self-doubts that hides their wonder. You have to believe in yourself to accomplish anything wonderful in this world.
Before my sister was born, Mom watched every episode of THE INCREDIBLE HULK TV show with me, (she was very much in love with Lou) and I watched every episode of Lynda Carter’s WONDER WOMAN show. I read all my mom’s Golden Age books, but then read WONDER WOMAN throughout the Silver Age through around 1977, which was when my parents closed the store and became full time artists. I let go of Wonder Woman as a character in comics with those that we already had, and with a seeming infinity of comics to read, I never picked it back up again.
When I saw WONDER WOMAN on May 30th, I took the whole family – and my sister lost her mind completely in love with it. I mean, singing the TV Show theme in its entirety repeatedly afterwards. My Nephew loved it, but wished Wonder Woman had been less dependent upon others in the film. Father Geek loved it without a single caveat.
Me, I have a caveat.
Those men in the alley. After they all get knocked out, save for one, he eats a cyanide pill and dies thus revealing nothing about who had sent them. Well, the other guys were just knocked out, not dead, tie one up in the lasso and then they might not of had to go to the front or have anyone in undue risk. Especially with how things turn out.
But then, it would have been too short of a movie – and frankly – I loved the movie. It’s just when what happens happens – and ya know, that bummer occurs, in my mind I reexamined everything that took place in the movie and the one point where it all could have gone perfect for the good guys – was that alley. And I know, they didn’t want to wait around – and these characters are very forward moving. Which is good, but had they took the time to just handle that alley situation better – no boating, no trenches, no No Man’s Land, no behind enemy lines… No bittersweetness. Just total sweetness!
Ok – I know I’m tiptoeing around a spoiler – and I’ll get into that later into the review, but for me. It’s kind of one of them sticking points for me. But it isn’t a fatal flaw at all… it’s a choice and I respect their right to choose – as you should too.
When Warner Brothers finally announced they were making this movie, I was mildly terrified – while being excited. As a comic fan and movie fan – I don’t root against a movie. Nobody would be happier if I love TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT, but history isn’t looking good for it. When Warners announced Patty Jenkins, I was elated. Her MONSTER was tremendous, the best role of Charlize Theron’s career, until possibly ATOMIC BLONDE – which is phenomenal. But MONSTER. Damn. If she could direct Charlize to that kind of performance, what could she get out of Gal Gadot.
For me, the question was Gal. I loved her brief parts in the FAST & FURIOUS franchise, that she was Han’s romantic interest was fairly awesome, because Han is both my wife and mine’s fave character in that whole franchise. But it’s not like she was given a ton to work with in those films. What I can say is, she seemed to be able to kick ass when she needed to and had very emotive eyes. BUT nothing in those films had me prepared for WONDER WOMAN.
Gal Gadot’s WONDER WOMAN doesn’t replace the love I have for Lynda Carter from the earliest ages of my memory, but instead claims that torch and soars into the future with it. There’s just shit they couldn’t do. Like Wonder Woman picking up a tank and tossing it in a bad guy’s direction. THAT IS SO SPECTACULAR. It ain’t juggling elephants cool, but it is awesome. Actually – let’s start at the beginning of the film.
We start with Gal Gadot arriving at the Louvre, where she seems to be employed as an artifacts expert. She gets a WAYNE INDUSTRIES package that contains a photograph on glass from WWI, that we saw scanned on Luthor’s hard drive. There’s a note from Batman saying, “Sometime maybe you’ll tell me your story” then… we get into Diana’s story.
That it begins with little Lilly Aspell as an 8 year old Diana – being a rascal on Paradise Island… mimicking the training moves as she watches. Her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) is unapproving, while the Queen’s sister, Antiope played with supreme awesomeness by Robin Wright (this and HOUSE OF CARDS Season 5 in the same week! Robin’s a WONDER WOMAN!) - anyway Antiope is all for training Diana – even disobeying her sister/Queen – you know, in family – I get that. Aunts and Uncles always teach a kid the essentials that their parents are too kid gloves about.
Just gotta say, I love the dynamic between Hippolyta and Antiope. I mean, serious love here. The scars on Antiope belie true pain and suffering. The battles she survived were most certainly hard fought.
A fave moment is when little Lilly Aspel’s lil Diana leaps for a 3 story drop on the way to another 3 stories to go and Hippolyta catches her by her tiny arm and she just looks up, “Hi mom!” – I looked over and my sis was already crying with a big toothy grin. AWESOME.
Then there’s 12 year old Diana, Emily Carey – also great. We see her training hard, but the story about the war that brought the Amazons to the paradise that is Themyscira… I loved. Love the stylized vision for it. But most of all I love all the training. All these strong powerful women warriors based upon legends from antiquity. Gal Gadot training with Robin Wright is just the best though! Pure LOVE. Patty Jenkins nailed all of this & the rest too.
When Chris Pine comes flying through the invisible shield surrounding Themyscira – and we begin the story to get Wonder Woman out into the world and to become Wonder Woman… The film hits a different gear and dynamic.
The dialogue between Gal Gadot’s Diana and Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor is snappy, snazzy and fun. Both in the innocence that is Diana at this point, oh – she has knowledge, but it is skewed knowledge – with truths that Man has forgotten… But then Captain Steve Trevor has knowledge of a modern world that – at least as this film portrays things – the Amazons upon this hidden jewel of… the Aegean Sea most likely. No magic mirror to see the outside world here.
Pine’s Trevor is a man of the early 1900s. He’s never seen women like this before. You have to remember the clothing of the era – and that’s ok if you don’t, when they get to London, you’ll get a refresher. But these were more restrictive times. If you watch ANNE WITH AN E on NETFLIX – you’ll get a sense of at least how things were on Prince Edward’s Island shortly before the actions of this movie – and women were just basically being allowed into some education systems. I like that Trevor is a gentleman spy and not all rogue. He isn’t ruled by his libido and desire, he’s more concerned with offense, he does seek to protect her as much as possible, but that would be how he was raised. Watching the Golden Lasso work on Trevor – and Pine’s goofy resistance to it felt like Don Knotts was trying to escape from the gorgeous man-suit that is Chris Pine. And it is played for laughs and giggles, successfully – through the film.
Once these two leave the island and sail to London, which we see a bit of the voyage – and it’s wonderful how Diana and him interact. It’s terrific. Her reaction to the sooty version of London that would’ve been there in that time – great. When Diana flips at the sight of a baby or a man and woman holding hands while walking… I’m just in love. True story – I could have seen a film that was 100% about Wonder Woman just discovering a modern world with no wars upon it. By the time we get introduced to Captain Steve Trevor’s secretary Etta Candy, played by the amazing Lucy Davis (SHAUN OF THE DEAD), this movie is in full world creation – and here’s the thing… Etta Candy was my mother’s fave character from WONDER WOMAN’s Golden Age adventures. A short big beautiful best friend – that often adventured with Wonder Woman… Etta was a large lady that was never cratered by it. She was vavavoom personified. Helping Wonder Woman navigate this “Man’s world” and Mom would refer to Etta Candy as being the tell it as it is friend she found only in the comics but wish she had. Cuz mom totally saw herself as Wonder Woman.
I have to say, as a young man reading Wonder Woman comics – I saw myself more as Steve Trevor… but the more I’ve thought upon it, I feel Etta Candy was a more profound influence upon me. Once I blossomed into the rotund Adonis you all know and love/loathe – I’ve had an insane amount of confidence in myself and while I can also point to a number of awesome large frame men that ruled – Etta Candy is definitely my alter-drag persona, that for the sake of the world, I keep in my mind whilst laughing at SnapChat feminizing features.
If there’s another gripe about the film – I’d say it would’ve been fantastic for Etta to have accompanied on the trip – totally unrealistic – but we’re in a FANTASY – but as set up here, Etta is Captain Steve Trevor’s secretary and not yet Wonder Woman’s best friend. I hope against all hope that in future WONDER WOMAN films – we do not just spring into the modern age, but instead visit WONDER WOMAN at all stages of her life in a Post-WW1 world to now. I also relish spending more time with a non-fish out of water version of WONDER WOMAN, who we got a glimpse of in BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, but not nearly enough. Hopefully that’ll change with JUSTICE LEAGUE.
Right now though I’m going to get into some more spoilerish plot stuff and that sticking point I referenced earlier. So after two posters and the countdown – prepare for SPOILERS…
OK – so I do dig that Trevor kind of feels Diana is an insane delusional woman. He doesn’t come out and says that, but… Let’s say you meet a beautiful woman on an island of all women, and you haven’t seen super powers, but that Rope thing was awfully weird. But until the alley scene, where she’s deflecting bullets, in his mind, she’s simply an out of touch woman. He humors her search for Ares – and it’s only as Diana demonstrates the fantastic that Trevor begins to wonder if she could possibly be right, but he has the prejudice of his own experience and lessons in reality – which do not embrace the notion of Ares, God of War. That ship sailed a long time before. Trevor’s beliefs are those of an American of WW1. So it’s an adjustment for both of them.
Ok – let’s get to the evil characters.
I’m gonna start with Elena Anaya’s Dr. Maru/ Doctor Poison – First off – the part mask of her face sort of reminded me of a great old French-Italian horror film called EYES WITHOUT A FACE – it isn’t a direct lift, but it is evocative of that film – which Criterion released – and I HIGHLY HIGHLY RECOMMEND. But just having Elena Anaya in WONDER WOMAN gives me an excuse to recommend one of my all time favorite films, SEX & LUCIA – where Elena plays Belen – and it’s one of my all time favorite roles in erotic cinema history. She’s just an amazing fleshed out character that I fell madly for and love it when she shows up in any movie. She’s great in TALK TO HER, THE BLUE ROOM, MESRINE Part 1 & 2, THE SKIN I LIVE IN. Here, she’s a deeply scarred woman creating monstrous concoctions of chemical death, along with performance enhancing drugs for the man that seems quite abusive and supportive of her madness. Really dig her.
Then there’s Danny Huston’s popper popping LUDENDORFF – he’s a great foil - and her fight with him at the end is pretty great, but is just the warm up, for what’s to come with David Thewlis.
The film does a bait & switch – which I highly approve of. Making the German the bad guy would be obvious, to instead point out that great evil can reside and influence the forces of good into mindless killing and savagery. Well, that’s the story of the 20th and 21st centuries. Industrialists in this country supported Hitler in the beginnings – Most of their children are prominent Republicans these days (LOOK IT UP) – and I support this film’s choice in embracing that.
That there’s the death airplane heading into the skies at the end is a bit to on the nose for imitating CAPTAIN AMERICA: FIRST ADVENTURE – but Wonder Woman has no Ice Cube in her future. This time, it’s Steve Trevor instead of Steve Trevor in lieu of Steve Rogers at the helm – and there’s no saving him – which as a reader of the comic made me a bit weepy. Kinda like when Tim Burton killed The Joker in BATMAN (1989). But – as I’ve been juggling that decision in my mind the past two days… And as I watched the animated WONDER WOMAN movie with my Sis for her Birthday yesterday – where they had Steve Trevor as libido driven douche – and Etta Candy as a rail thin blonde foil for Wonder Woman… The problem melted completely. I like the cartoon – and yeah it was filled with monsters and undead and all sorts of fantastical beasties for WONDER WOMAN to slay… but this isn’t a film about death porn.
WONDER WOMAN is about taking the savagery out of the world. To ween it from War. To allow a Wonder Woman empowered with love to save us all.
I try to think how this film will do. Had Hillary Clinton won, WONDER WOMAN would’ve been a true victory lap for the country. Because Trump is in office, WONDER WOMAN can be a rallying cry, an inspiration and just a real fucking good time at the movies.
When Diana is with Etta Candy and trying on modern clothes – and there’s great banter between the two – and Steve Trevor puts a pair of glasses on Diana’s face – Etta’s line, “Oh yes, that’ll do it, slap a pair glasses on her and that’ll disguise the fact she’s the most beautiful woman anyone has ever seen before” – or something along those lines. I DIED. It was one of those sledgehammer to the nose bits of awesome. I also love the Alley Sex Reversal of the SUPERMAN THE MOVIE Clark & Lois robbery – but when the slug hits a man hand, it smarts! Awesome call back.
So how did Patty Jenkins do? TREMENDOUS! There’s a clarity to the action that has been missing from the DC films of late. There’s heart and soul in WONDER WOMAN that we really haven’t seen this solid since Joe Johnston’s CAPTAIN AMERICA. Skinny Steve owns me.
I wish I could send this movie back in time so my Mom could’ve seen it, but even more – my sister. Lil 8 year old Diana is the clearest cinematic version of my wild baby sis back in the day! I know what my mom would’ve thought of this film though. She wanted this film so bad after SUPERMAN THE MOVIE, wanted Lynda Carter to do it. That would’ve been so different. This is the best time for a WONDER WOMAN movie – they not only can do it right, they have. That’s the greatest wonder of them all.
Maybe Warners can do this. This is the first of their films where the character on screen is note perfect. THAT is a huge leap forward. Three cheers for Patty Jenkins!!!
Oh... and one last thing.... The Lasso in action is unfuckingbelievably awesome! It's way cooler than the Laser Whips in that old Dolph Lundgren & Frank Langella MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE flick!