Kevin: You’re probably aware that “Wonder Woman” made movie history last weekend, as after a year and a half we finally discovered who took that photo that Diana was so anxious to get back from Lex Luthor in “Batman v. Superman.” Well it turns out it was some old French guy. Now that one of the most pressing questions of our day has been answered and Diana has the picture proving her immortality back in her possession (although what does it matter since Lex had a digital copy?), I guess it’s also considered historic that “Wonder Woman’s” $100.5 million opening weekend gross was the highest ever for a female-directed film (at least until Sofia Coppola’s “Avengers 17: This Time Thanos Really Means it You Guys, Seriously” is released).
The TGD staff had wanted to check it out last weekend, but for some reason we decided to vacation in Beirut and the movie is currently banned there because star Gal Gadot is Israeli. Seeing that the country of Lebanon has its priorities firmly in order, we managed to catch it this week, but since it was at the Alamo Drafthouse and we’re men we were forced to serve as footstools for the women in the audience. But even with those viewing constrictions it was an enjoyable night at the movies, and ranked against the 134 comic book movies that have come out in the last 15 years, I’d put it at a solid 27.
The movie starts us off on the island of Themyscira, where every warrior is a woman and they’re all on the same menstrual cycle. Apparently Zeus created them to protect humankind from his dangerous and out of control son Ares, the same way that Donald Sutherland protects us from Keifer. Apparently as the God of War, Ares is responsible for all the bad things men do, so the next time you leave the toilet seat up blame it on Ares. Also considering how many times Ares is mentioned in this movie you’ll never guess who Diana fights at the end, in a climax that shares at least a few aspects with the much derided final battle in “Batman v. Superman.”
Either way, apparently the greatest warrior on this island is played by Robin Wright, who probably has a lot of experience defending herself since she was married to Sean Penn (just kidding, no basis in fact, please don’t sue!). We get a bunch of scenes of her training Diana, while the other Amazonian warriors engage in sparring sessions to prepare for either war with Ares or a Ronda Rousey comeback attempt.
Eventually though Chris Pine flies in to add some sausage to this clambake as Steve Trevor, after which Diana metaphorically saves his ass and then literally sees his ass while he’s bathing. That’s right, finally a man shows off his body for the ladies in one of these movies, unlike all those other male-starring comic book movies where … every single actor also has to work out for six months before filming a gratuitous shirtless scene:
Anyway, after hearing about the atrocities being committed by the Germans in World War I, Diana accompanies Trevor back to London to do her part to stop the killing, but first there is some fish-out-of-water comedy where Diana experiences some of the most shocking sexism imaginable, such as: impractical frilly dresses, military men wondering why a woman with no security clearance has barged into their meeting, and the concept of paid secretaries (Diana calls this being a “slave” but Hollywood calls it being a “personal assistant”). I wonder what Diana will think when she gets a load of Andrew Dice Clay in 1990, or Lebanon now.
After a second act that goes on a little too long, Diana finally gets to the front lines and unleashes her Wonder Woman powers on the Germans, we get to see the famous group shot captured on film …
… and Diana and Trevor actually have sex (meanwhile isn’t Captain America still a loser virgin?). All of it is well done, and if I perhaps am not as ecstatic about it as many others, that has more to do with my overall comic-book-movie fatigue, especially regarding the typical origin story template which “Wonder Woman” follows nearly beat for beat.
But if the journey here is not any more original than that of “Iron Man,” “Captain America,” or “Batman Begins,” the reason the movie works is that we want to follow Gal Gadot (as well as the always engaging Pine) on that journey as much as we did Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, or Christian Bale. Gadot can play the fierce warrior as well as the wide-eyed and curious innocent, and even when slicing through a German platoon she still believes in the innate goodness of people. And since it’s apparently dangerous for male critics to point out the obvious, I’ll let my wife who I saw the movie with acknowledge that Gadot is a striking physical presence who, in her words, projects both “power and femininity.”
I’ll also note that my wife, who has been excited about the idea of a “Wonder Woman” movie since they first teased it, loved this version immensely, so even while I am not as enthusiastic I can see why it has struck such a chord (I feel the same about the “Transformers” franchise, which at least one member of TGD seems to harbor some attachment to).
Of course since this is 2017, the excitement about finally getting a female superhero film that has universal appeal has already given way to hot takes about how the movie didn’t hammer this or that social message, or whether Wonder Woman perpetuates an unrealistic beauty standard (I haven’t noticed any clamoring for Superman to played by Josh Gad though). But I’ll just note that as we were leaving the theater a woman behind me told her friend, “That’s what I love to see, a beautiful woman kicking ass.” Right on sister, that’s something we should all get behind.
And speaking of beautiful women kicking ass, let’s end with an appreciation of the actress who will still always be the #1 Wonder Woman for those of us of a certain age, Lynda Carter:
CJ Adds His Two Cents on the End of “Wonder Woman” (Major spoilers to follow):
CJ: First off I am glad Kevin has been brave enough to admit his love of the “Transformers” franchise. You are a trailblazer for all the others who don’t want to admit it, but it always hurts when you’re the first one through the wall. Welcome Kevin! (Kevin: Uhhh that’s not exactly what I was implying there CJ but please continue.)
I was pleasantly surprised by “Wonder Woman,” as all the positive press seemed to be a little TOO much (as with “Anchorman 2”), and I started to wonder if maybe there was some overcompensation going on. That being said, I do have one fairly big issue with the movie, and that involves Ares.
Ares is the God of War, and the whole movie sets it up for us to think this is a big bad who is ready to light the world on fire, and is so unstoppable that apparently only a mythical sword crafted by Zeus himself can kill him. This is what the movie builds up in our minds. And my thought when he finally reveals himself is: THIS GUY????
I get it, he needs to be in disguise, so he can’t be walking down the street looking like The Rock. I also get that Ares takes human form, and thus can’t look like Doomsday. That being said, when he does reveal himself, couldn’t he be bulked up a little at that point? Every time the camera zoomed in to show his face with his helmet on, I just couldn’t get scared by a mustachioed middle-aged British man. Honestly stuff like this is why the British Empire lost its hold on the world.