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Conservative, but not Entirely Unfun

17 September, 2017 (10:54) | Goggle-eyes | By: Ian Burdon

Always late to the party, I watched Wonder Woman. And… I enjoyed it but, on the basis of the reviews, expected to be overwhelmed. As it happens I was neither over- nor under- whelmed; I was merely whelmed.

You tell him Diana

The film is clearly important in breaking with the testosterone-fest aspects of the superhero genre, and the female leads are all excellent, as is Chris Pine. Gal Godot is an obvious talent who carries the whole 2 hour+ movie, seizing the chance to shine. The cinematography is excellent, though the way the tonal palette shifts with the setting–the events in the ‘human world’ are graded to a desaturated blue-shift after the sunshine of Themyscira and shifts to rich warm tones as our heroine comes into her inheritance–is getting a little formulaic with each passing movie.

Yet Wonder Woman seemed to me to fall short of the rhapsodic reception it received. To be sure, it is leagues ahead of the other Warner Bros./DC fare, and I am not blind to either the importance of the movie in breaking the male gaze or the feminist origins of the character (and message of the movie) but I’m not sure that’s enough.

My touchstone for superhero movies remains The Incredibles, which was pitch-perfect, although it benefits from being animated. The best of the live-action crop, for me, is Logan, which succeeds as a fine super-hero movie by dint of being a fine movie by any standard, rather in the way Jessica Jones was streets ahead of the TV equivalents. Logan also, and notably, largely avoids big set up CGI fests and concentrates on character and personal tragedy. The fight scenes in Wonder Woman worked well for me when it was Diana being badass, much less so when the CGI got involved to create spectacle (something I find off-putting in other movies too).

Oh-oh, shit’s getting real

There is a deeper problem with Wonder Woman, though, as an origin story, one that will have repercussions for the franchise, the same problem that underliesĀ Superman and the same problem Marvel had to deal with in the X-Men comics with Jean Grey/Phoenix/Dark Phoenix: once your lead is established to have God-like powers, or to be a God, you are boxed in because the stakes always have to be higher and the villains ever more powerful, with diminishing returns. Drama requires vulnerability, and that is undermined if the hero/heroine always wins because they are virtually all-powerful.

You might think it unfair of me to contrast Wonder Woman with Logan, as they are very different movies. But that is also my point. Wonder Woman is a good superhero movie; Logan dared to be something else.


Comment from Alex Mitchell
Time September 18, 2017 at 9:39 pm

Hi Ian; Couldn’t agree more with you about “Logan”. I’ve seen it twice now and it stands up to the scrutiny of repeated viewings. “Wonder Woman” will have to wait until some blizzard blighted night when there’s nothing else on.