Wonder Woman

I don’t usually brave the opening weekend crowds but decided this was worth it given the near universal praise Wonder Woman is getting.  Guardians of the Galaxy 2?  Pah, it’s  a Marvel movie, whatever I’ll see it the second week.  But WB puts out a good DC movie without Batman or Chris Nolan?  This I got to see.  And sure enough, Wonder Woman is a really good movie.  The acting was solid, the action scenes were well choreographed, and the story is good.

This could be a really short essay outside just summarizing the movie.  I would recommend paying money to see this now to tell Hollywood yes, this is the kind of stuff we want to see.  Give Patty Jenkins all the movies she wants to make.

 

All right, on to the spoiltastic summary of the movie.  This is your chance to stop reading.

 

Okay so this movie begins with Diana growing up on the magic hidden island, learning to fight, when Chris Pine the American Pilot crashes on their island.  This is all info from the trailer.  While this island is removed from time itself, on the outside world it’s the final days of World War I.  Chris Pine is an American spy who’s found some Germans and Ottomans developing advanced poison gas that could prolong the war which is otherwise going to end in an armistice soon.

Soldiers in pursuit of Chris Pine follow him to the island and a fight breaks out between them and the Amazons.  Super strength and bullet time abilities provide no protection against volleys of rifle fire making things even.  Diana was taught as a child that all human conflict stems from Ares, the God of War, who must be involved in this War to End All Wars.  So she goes with Chris Pine literally to find and kill Ares.  She believes the Evil German General is actually literally the Greek God of War Ares.  In her defense, I think his name was Evil German General so it’s hard to fault her.

We handwave them teleporting to London which basically serves as a comic relief scene.  There are a lot of monocles falling out of eyes as old guys in power stare at Diana going, “A woman? Here?  Diana tries on outfits and we laugh at the funny fish out of water jokes.  No one seems to take Chris Pine very seriously which struck me as odd.  I think the London bit is the weakest part of the movie.  Doesn’t Chris Pine have American generals he needs to reply to?  I mean, he was a spy for the Allied Powers in Turkey and no one seems terribly interested to take his report.  It was cool to see James Cosmo in there for a few seconds.  Here’s the point of these scenes.  Chris Pine believes this new poison gas will prolong the war.  The British aren’t buying it because the armistice is a done deal as far as they’re concerned.  Chris Pine decides he’s going to go Rogue One style blow up this advanced gas and kill the Evil German General because it’s the right thing to do.  And also he promised Diana who wants to head to the front of the war to kill Ares.  When not making fish out of water jokes she’s expressing disgust at the generals who aren’t concerned with a few thousand ordinary lives being spent unnecessarily blowing up gas since the war is going to end in their favor anyways.

Gal Gadot and Chris Pine get their Rogue One quest bankrolled by one of the British politicians, a lord played by David Thewlis aka Remus Lupin from Harry Potter.  They get together an ethnically diverse team of misfits including a con man who can talk his way through anything, a Scottish sniper, and once they hit mainland Europe, an American Indian smuggler who brings the soldiers at the front beer and tea and stuff.  These three guys were all way better more memorable characters than their obvious analogue, the commandos in Captain America I.  They have lines and performances that are memorable.  They’re good characters.  And they manage to insert the social injustices done to them into the script without seeming too heavy handed.  Sameer wanted to be an actor but he’s the wrong color.  Charlie the Scotsman has PTSD and he doesn’t suddenly just get over it one scene.  Chief (because they’ve gotta be racist as fuck) is here profiting off the war because Chris Pine’s government and the white Americans took everything from his people.  I’m sure someone out there wants to complain that the script didn’t need these lines from these characters.  But fuck that guy, I think they made the movie better.

Chris Pine tries to keep them moving and on mission but when Diana sees the plight of the innocents and soldiers she rushes across No Man’s Land to strike at the German soldiers.  And she doesn’t just do it all herself, everyone actually contributes.  This is the heart of the movie’s action scenes and it’s pretty damn well done.  It looked better than equivalent scenes in the Superman movies.  It seemed more natural than the Batman killing people scenes in BVS for reasons I’ll get into.  It was bloodless sure but I was enthralled.

After the battle this small town is saved and everyone takes a breath.  The next day they go to this party of the German High Command.  Chris infiltrates and prevents Diana from straight up executing the Evil German General on the dance floor.  Then they watch as the guy gasses the small town they saved before.  This was pretty shocking. I was thinking that Evil German General was going to blast the high command for trying to quit the war…because he did that in an earlier scene. Diana believes she could’ve prevented the town from being destroyed if she hadn’t held back and it’s hard to argue against that.  At least the operation might’ve been seriously impeded if there was a woman with a sword running amok through the castle.  Diana runs off to the German base where the rest of the gas is to kill Evil German General while Chris Pine and the landing party go to blow up the rest of the gas.

When Diana arrives she has a pretty good fight with Evil German General who can sort of put up a challenge because he gets high on Captain America Style Super Soldier Amyl Poppers.  Those don’t really get a lot of play in this movie, they could’ve done more with them but I’m glad they didn’t.  And when she defeats him, this was another surprise in the movie, she straight up executes him when he’s at her mercy.  You don’t see that in movies.  Zod was going to kill innocents so Superman breaks his neck.  Martha Kent was going to get set on fire so Batman Shot a Guy With a Gun.  But in Civil War when Zemo was going to kill himself, Black Panther stopped him and Zemo Went to Jail.  In the Incredible Hulk, the Abomination is down and Hulk doesn’t finish him off.  When there are innocents on the line sometimes heroes have to kill the bad guy.  But I can’t remember another movie where the hero kills the bad guy when he’s down.

Meanwhile, the Landing Party sets off a distraction so Chris Pine can steal this giant plane loaded with all the poison gas.  He flies off far above everything else and then gets killed by radiation while fixing the warp core to save the ship.  Sorry, I meant, he blows up the plane and himself far above the ground where no one will be hurt by the gas.  I’m not sure that’s how poison gas works but its a pretty emotional goddamn scene.

Meanwhile, a new challenger enters the arena.  David Thewlis teleports to Diana and reveals that he is actually literally Ares, the God of War.  He tells Diana to look around, that humanity did all these terrible things themselves.  All he does is give them a little push from time to time.  And obviously Diana should join him so they can Rule The Galaxy kill all the people and Make Earth Great Again Jesus I’m sorry I mean kill all the people and that’s…pretty much the whole idea.  It’s not much of a pitch beyond your standard villain monologue that humanity is its own worst enemy so let’s speed up the process of humanity killing themselves by just straight up killing them all.  I am going to hate on this sort of “Join me hero” trope but I will say David Thewlis chews the fucking scenery here.  He does a damn good job for a one note scene.  But of course Diana refuses and kills Ares.

London celebrates the end of the war, Diana mourns for Chris Pine, and we flash back to modern day where I guess Diana is fighting crime in Paris or something?  The end.

Wonder Woman was a good movie.  It’s a three act structure, the performances are all good, it had some genuine heart wrenching dark moments and outside of teleporting to London it didn’t really have any plot holes.  The people of Britain are probably wondering where that politician Ares was pretending to be went but whatever they can handle things.

I think one thing this movie solidified for me is that Into Darkness would’ve been a much better movie if Kirk stayed dead.  I loved Star Trek Beyond but Kirk should have stayed dead in Into Darkness.

I wondered beforehand if one thing in this movie’s favor (aside from being…you know…good) was that I don’t know the first thing about Wonder Woman.  @runwithskizzers on Twitter told me that they saw the movie with a diverse crowd of Wonder Woman fans and newbies and they all had a good time.  I think this is less something that benefited Wonder Woman than something that damaged Man of Steel.  Among all the other issues people had with Man of Steel was an idea that Zack Snyder either didn’t get or didn’t like the character of Superman.  You would say “in this scene Superman is conflicted about what to do” and their reply would be “Superman’s never conflicted.  That’s not Superman.”  Or you watch Batman in that piece of horseshit Batman versus Superman and I’d say, “Batman is the best part of this piece of horseshit but he is straight up murdering a ton of people in this movie and that doesn’t seem very much like Batman, entertaining as it is.”  I have no idea if this is a good portrayal of Wonder Woman The Character but the audience seems to like it so does it really matter?  Maybe it would if the movie wasn’t good it would be an issue, like it was with Man of Steel and BVS which had way way WAY bigger issues other than their take on the title characters.

I also think I’m going to put “The Villain Tries to Recruit the Hero” on the list of tropes I’m getting sick of right next to Infinity Stones.  Guardians of the Galaxy 2 did it poorly, X-Men First Class did it well.  Writers, if you’re not going to do it well don’t bother.  It didn’t work here because Ares didn’t have a sales pitch beyond “Fuck ’em” and Diana just watched Chris Pine heroically sacrifice himself to save countless innocents.  It didn’t work in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 because Kurt Russell really should not have told Peter Quill that he killed Quill’s mom.  It worked in First Class because Magneto agreed with Shaw, that mutants could only prosper without humanity, but like Ego, Shaw killed Magneto’s mom and in movies about Earth characters that means you get killed back.  It can work but it shouldn’t be so goddamn painfully obvious that the hero is going to refuse the offer.

This movie I think more than anything else was refreshing.  It didn’t feel like a Marvel movie or some franchise setting up other scripts and characters.  I was really expecting Ares to turn out to be Darkseid as a setup for Justice League but it didn’t go that route. The movie told one story and then ended.  There will be other stories and they’ll be different.  Just like I hope Logan and Deadpool usher in more mature stories I hope this movie kicks off more diverse movies about people other than cishet white guys save the day.  I love stories about superheroes, I want more of this good shit and it can feel boring as hell to hear the same kinds of stories told again and again.  This was good and different and that is way better than good and the same.

 

Postscript

Also, being a World War I movie with a superhero, this movie is Eberron as fuck.  It is so easy to imagine Ares as a Prahktu for Ral Tukesh.  I’m not sure if I should try to put some of these elements in my current Eberron game or take out some of the big similarities.

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