Sunday, June 11, 2017
The comic book movie WONDER WOMAN opened recently to strong box office and mostly positive reviews; the relevancy of this is that it's the biggest budgeted movie ever directed solely by a woman(Patty Jenkins), featuring the first big screen solo appearance of a beloved character who's been around for decades but has somehow never had a movie of her own. (Over the years there have been several attempts at getting a Wonder Woman movie off the ground, but they all fell apart). Somewhat amazingly, the character of Ant Man got his own movie before her, which shows what a boy's club Hollywood sees super hero movies as being.
Super hero characters seem to hold the same prominence now that western heroes did back in the 1950's and 1960's, with westerns appearing all over both big screens and TV screens back then. And like westerns, super hero movies give us broad, simple stories with clearly defined good guys and bad guys and plenty of action, with both kinds of films inevitable climaxing with a battle royal between the hero (or heroes) and the villain (or villains). Personally, I find the predictability of both genres (and I think super hero movies have become their own genre) to be their weakness; just as westerns often end with the white hatted hero outdrawing the black hatted villain yet again, the last half hour of nearly any super hero movies ends with cgi characters smashing through buildings in absurd orgies of destruction that are essentially meaningless; cities are destroyed, billions of dollars of damage is done, but the good guys won, so who cares? And are we really supposed to be worried about our heroes losing that final battle? How could we when we know the characters are all signed for another ten films!
Still, since I like to support women directors in Hollywood, so I went to see the film (in 3-D Imax, to get the full effect). While I enjoyed it more than other recent super hero movies I've seen, I still found it just OK; it's often self serious and ponderous (I couldn't help laughing at the odd accents the Amazon women all have), and yes, the final battle at the end is as tedious and predictable as any other final battle in a super hero movie. And often the style of the film often feels locked in to what previous directors in this series have done, with a lot of the heavy handed slow motion action scenes that series director Zack Synder seems so fond of.
So I wasn't too crazy about WONDER WOMAN. So what? Well, the thing I have found interesting is the number of downright rapturous reviews and essays I've read from women who saw the film, with writers like Gwen Ihnat and Esther Zuckerman freely admitting that they were in tears during the film. Part of this may have been that they have been waiting patiently for years for a Wonder Woman movie, and the fact that one has finally arrived, directed by a woman, makes it all the better. But I think there may be something else going on here. I think the movie's arrival is helping us through tough times: I think the Trump era has made the country hungrier for a female super hero.
Last year we saw a woman who was qualified and experienced lose in an election to a man accused of sexually assaulting no less than ten different woman, and who was caught on tape bragging about that very kind of assault. Could there be any more demoralizing blow to the feminist movement than that? As we all know, art is something that can help us all get through troubled times, and for women depressed by the Trump presidency, watching Wonder Woman pummeling bad guys on screen seems to providing a catharsis. Even if the film was green lit years ago, and the creators probably thought that it would be released when Hillary Clinton would be in the White House, it couldn't be more timelier as a potent image of feminine power. So if Wonder Woman and other female characters like her can inspire women to get out and punch a certain misogynistic president out of office, than I'm all for it, even if I wasn't too fond of the film aesthetically.