The Closet Conservative Critic
There was Superman : The Movie, with Christopher Reeve, in 1978, and then there was and have been dozens of comic book stories that have been developed into motion pictures. Superman (1978) set the modern standard and it has become a lofty goal to match. Some have come close. (Batman, The Dark Knight from 2008, or The Amazing Spiderman of 2012) Most have come up short or simply failed miserably. Wonder Woman has finally made it to the big screen, and I wish I could say it comes close. It doesn’t. The balancing act is difficult. Movies based on Comic books more often than not, want to remain as faithful as possible to their origins. Sometimes they remain close in spirit, and sometimes they take the story literally off the comic book pages. While Wonder Woman does follow closely a few of the comic book timelines (there have been a variety of iterations, and a few are quite different from earlier versions), what Wonder Woman lacks (that Superman 1978 had) are a series of events that enable the balance of comic book silliness to mesh with the straight face drama of crime and evil in a real world. There needs to be a moment where the hero (heroine) realizes he or she is something special to this world, and that reason for being takes on new meaning. The superhero’s powers become harnessed and utilized to protect the innocent. He or she must understand this uniqueness.
The one big scene where Wonder Woman/Diana Prince, played by Israeli actress, Gal Gadot, jumps out of a trench during World War 1, becomes her “here she is” moment. She dodges and fends off German bullets, and “takes out” the enemy. Most of the time it’s hard to determine how much harm she does to the enemy. Too often it’s a “Get Smart” type punch in the face, with the enemy collapsing and fainting. The moment is played well with swelling music, and a slow motion long shot of a beautiful, and scantly clad Wonder Woman charging in. It’s sexy and silly. It should have been the equivalent of Clark Kent walking out of the phone booth for the first time and peeling off his jacket to reveal the “S” on his chest as he fly’s into the air. For Wonder Woman, it’s a reluctant moment of, “Oh, I guess I’d better do something….” What is soon missing is the awe, wonder, and downright questioning of the bystanders who witness her superhuman strength and courage. There is some small banter later in the evening, but for what just happened, one would expect MUCH more and MANY more questions. (Who is she? Where did she come from? Why is she so strong?)
A movie of this scale, based on a comic book, yet written in the world as we know it, will have holes and inconsistencies. One expects that and must be prepared to suspend belief to a certain extent. Yet, when the movie is inconsistent with its own premise and own world, the viewer begins to ask too many questions, and be drawn out of the fun.
Some of the inconsistencies are due to the comic book original themes, which frankly are loaded with inconsistencies and silliness. (She’s basically a child of a Greek God, yet whether she is mortal or Goddess is kind of vague, and depends which story line is followed, from which comic book era).
Do yourself a favor . . . if you go see the movie, pre-read the Wikipedia explanation of WHO Wonder Woman is, and how she got to be the Wonder Woman of Earth. There are no spoilers, yet you’ll be less puzzled by things that happen in the movie that are never explained, or seem just plain old dumb.
Wonder Woman comes off as a comic book pacifist, who preaches love — yet knows she must take some sort of action to address the injustices she sees. It’s peculiar at times that her enemy (WWI German troops) is the pro-version of 20th century evil, the Nazis, yet her preaching seems to come off as modern day leftism that we need to love them more than hate them (and kill them).
With that criticism, the movie creates the typical opportunities to play the victim card for women and men of color. More than a few jokes are made, insinuating how sexist and moronic the men are, and there are two Indians (one from India, and one from the Southwest of America) and both take the opportunity to point out the wrongs made on them. (I don’t recall this sort of preaching happening in Superman, 1978.)
Wonder Woman as a movie? It’s okay. . . . But, if you compare it to the greatest comic book movie of all time, Superman, it’s a big letdown.