10/02/2017

A Knight in Shining Wonder





WONDER WOMAN
Patty Jenkins, 2017


Superman saves the Metropolis. Batman saves Gotham. Wonder Woman saves the world.

I am not exactly a fan of superhero movies, although I've seen quite a lot already. I don't read comic books either. Nevertheless, I was thrilled to see Wonder Woman.

Created by William Moulton Man-Whore... oops, I mean, Marston, Wonder Woman was based on his wife (Elizabeth Holloway) and his mistress (Olive Byrne). Marston and his playthings, I mean, his women lived together as a threesome.

Anyway, Jenkins' Wonder Woman is said to be a refreshing take on superhero movies. Finally, here's a superhero movie about a super strong woman with supernatural powers. Super! In such a superior way, our female superhero (otherwise known as Diana Prince a.k.a. Princess of Themyscira) superbly fights the super bad guys because that's what superheroes do, right?

Gal Gadot shines as Wonder Woman. Basically, Wonder Woman is Xena: the Warrior Princess on steroids. Allegedly molded out of clay by her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), Diana grows up in a land that only exists in my Sapphic dreams — the all-women island of Themyscira. A world so heavenly... until men ransacked and destroyed it. Thanks, but no thanks, Steve Trevor! (Why must men ruin everything? Such vermin!)

An American spy for the British intelligence, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes his plane into the island of Themyscira. Princess Diana fishes him out of the water, saving him just like Miho (Devon Aoki) saved Dwight (Clive Owen) in Sin City. Afterwards, the bad guys transcend into Themyscira, hunting Steve and eventually clashing with the Amazons.

Driven to save the world from Ares a.k.a. the god of war, Diana leaves Themyscira for our self-destructive planet called Earth. Accompanying Steve in London, Diana learns the ugly truth about Earth, which is currently under the wrath of World War I. Diana must help Steve in stopping General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and Isabel Maru a.k.a. Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya) from spreading a chemical weapon. At the same time, Diana learns the truth about herself.


Gal Gadot and The Film's Technical Aspect





Gorgeous Israeli actress Gal Gadot is perfect as Wonder Woman. I couldn't picture any other actress in the role. Miss Gadot is what happens if Natalie Portman makes love with Claire Forlani. Fabulous! As Diana, Miss Gadot is commendable. The actress was also good during the heavily choreographed fight scenes, which are mostly impossible. But impossible stunts are often seen in superhero movies.

The music and cinematography also serve as some of the film's strong points. Rupert Gregson-Williams' piece, Wonder Woman's Wrath, is just the right theme to musically embody our superheroine. (It's also a good workout music.) The musical piece is spirited and brave, giving you a feeling as if Wonder Woman just punched you in the throat or something. Epic.

Aside from Miss Gadot, Matthew Jensen's cinematography is also something to behold. Although it is obviously powered by CGI, Themyscira looks like a paradise with its dreamy landscape. I also enjoyed the animation sequence as Hippolyta tells Diana an Amazonian bedtime story. It's like looking at a moving Renaissance painting. By the way, the actual painting was made by an artist named Raffy Ochoa.

Most of the performances are good. Wonder Woman has a solid lineup of thespians from different nationalities. My favorite performances are those by Robin Wright (great to see Jenny/The Princess Bride kicking a**), David Thewlis, Danny Huston, and Elena Anaya. Miss Gadot gives a notable performance, but her character is lacking some emotional depth. Chris Pine's acting is also good, but he is not remarkable as Steve. (I think Pine's best performance is in Smokin' Aces.)



Important Movie Loaded with Clichés


As for the critics' "refreshing take" remark, Wonder Woman doesn't feel refreshing at all. Aside from its female superhero (about time!), its use of reversed gender roles, and the notion of female empowerment, the film has nothing new to offer. Wonder Woman initially felt intriguing and exciting. However, as the film progresses, its intrigue and excitement dissolved into a series of superhero clichés.


Diana to Steve: Get dafuq off me, man. I don't need you.



If we're talking about narrative style, the most "refreshing" superhero movie for me is Batman Begins. Christopher Nolan's film was able to give its superhero a character — not just a personality — but a character! Because it is imperative for superheroes to have flashy superpowers and personable charm, most writers and directors often fail to give them sufficient characterization. I think that's what Jenkins and Zack Snyder failed to do with Wonder Woman. Diana Prince wasn't given enough depth and characterization. Oftentimes, it was difficult for me to emotionally connect with her. It's not because of Miss Gadot's acting or accent, it's mostly because of her limited characterization.

Except for the council scene and the French mother begging Diana for help in No Man's Land, I was never emotionally invested in Diana Prince as a character. I was hooked on her as a warrior and a superhero, but never as a character. I was never emotionally moved nor convinced by Diana's love for Steve because their romance escalated quickly. We never got the chance to understand how they fell in love with each other. That's why I can't move myself to cry with Diana when (SPOILER AHEAD) Steve sacrifices himself. Also, their romance felt forced, clichéd, and ordinary because... heteronormativity.



Queer Women Invisibility





"Lesbian existence comprises both the breaking of a taboo and the rejection of a compulsory way of life. It is also a direct or indirect attack on the male right of access to women."



Speaking of heteronormativity, one of Wonder Woman's writers confirmed that Diana Prince is indeed bisexual and has been romantically involved with women. (The assistant Etta Candy is said to be queer as well.) So, why weren't we able to see some Sapphic sweetness in the film? (And I'm not the only one asking such question.)

Why? Because money. Warner Bros. is still a money-making machine, just like most production companies in Hollywood. If they replaced Steve Trevor with a woman as Diana's love interest, do you think China and other conservative countries would not ban Wonder Woman? If the movie is banned from being shown in some countries, that means less money for the producers. That's why LGBTQ women are continuously erased in mainstream, big-budgeted films like Wonder Woman and Fried Green Tomatoes.

If the film thinks that the useless romance between Steve and Diana is important, what makes Diana's bisexuality less important? You wanted to emphasize love that's why you had to make Diana fall for Steve? There are other ways to exemplify love. It doesn't have to be restricted by the romantic kind. Diana is a warrior who fights for love. The film could've shown a different kind of love instead. There's love for those who suffer. Love for our friends and family. Love for humanity. Romantic love should not always be the standard of love. Love is a many-splendored thing, as the song goes.

On the other hand, the film has some Sapphic undertones:

(1) Themyscira is an island with no men. What else could be any more lesbian than that?

(2) Thanks to the quote, "Men are essential for procreation, but when it comes to pleasure... unnecessary" — to which Steve's libido vehemently objects. Hey, Steve, dude. Haven't you heard about tribbing? Yup, no d*ck necessary.




For a while, I was shipping for Antiope and Menalippe (Robin Wright and  Lisa Loven Kongsli). But I read that they are actually sisters. So, no.

(3) And then there's Elena Anaya, a lesbian actress who — along with Patricia Yurena — is probably the most beautiful Spanish woman I've seen (if she's not Dr. Poison, of course).


 


Straight women may have finally found their representation in Wonder Woman. But what about my fellow queer ladies? Warner Bros. just had to remove any trace of Diana's bisexuality. Are we going to be erased from existence forever? The lack of representation for LGBTQ ladies proves that women still have a long way to go. I'm beginning to think that my kind does not exist, that we're not real. But we're here, and we are real. I hope that someday lady-loving ladies can be accurately represented in mainstream cinema, putting an end to the unjust and hypersexualized stereotype associated with our sexual orientation.



Still A Man's World


I appreciate Wonder Woman's use of reversed gender roles. Unlike most mainstream movies, Miss Jenkins' film has a male character (Steve) as the damsel in distress constantly needing the help of his knight in shining armor (Diana). I like that. It's about time filmmakers do more of this role reversal.

Although the film aims to empower women and succeeds in doing so, Wonder Woman still has constant reminders that our planet is (sadly) still a man's world, and women merely exist for men.


Lucy Davis as Etta Candy



Diana exists because she has to vanquish Ares. She also exists to help Steve. Etta Candy (Lucy Davis) exists because of Steve and Sir Patrick (David Thewlis). Isabel Maru exists because of Ludendorff. It is so rare in any film that women exist for themselves. A man always has to be in the picture. Like, WTF?!

I also feel that the film subtly worships the male sex by sexualizing Diana in an unnecessary way. It's not because of Wonder Woman's costume. (I love that costume!) Miss Jenkins squandered some screentime focusing a bit too much on the sexual aspect. Don't even mention that awkward "above average" scene.

First of all, Diana is not human. She is a goddess, an alien if you may. Why the f*ck would a goddess even bother herself with trivial stuff like sex and penis size?! Of course, she read all the 12 volumes of that sex book. She also hasn't seen a penis before. So what? Is it already mandatory for her to share some sexual tension with a horny human like Steve? Why make her look like a naive slut with musings about the d*ck? What does the male genitalia have to do with Diana's concept of love and world peace?! Nothing. But it's still there because this is still a man's world we're living in. So, whatever. (Somebody please take me to Themyscira!!!)



That James Cameron Comment


James Cameron is a filmmaker best known for films such as Titanic, The Terminator movies, Avatar, and True Lies. Recently, Cameron found himself in dispute with Lynda Carter, the actress who played Wonder Woman in the iconic TV series. The cause of their argument is Cameron's remark about Miss Jenkins' film:


"All of the self-congratulatory back-patting Hollywood's been doing over Wonder Woman has been so misguided. She's an objectified icon, and it's just male Hollywood doing the same old thing! I'm not saying I didn't like the movie but, to me, it's a step backwards. Sarah Connor was not a beauty icon. She was strong, she was troubled, she was a terrible mother, and she earned the respect of the audience through pure grit."


Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day



As a woman, I wasn't offended by Cameron's comment. Personally, I don't think Cameron meant any harm with it. He was merely giving his constructive criticism about the character and the film. I also don't find him misogynistic or anti-female empowerment. In fact, most of his films have strong and independent women in it. There's Sarah Connor in The Terminator films, Rose in Titanic, and Helen Tasker in True Lies. What he didn't find appealing or empowering is Diana's useless sexualization, which I talked about earlier.

A woman doesn't need to be sexualized in order to be desirable, because being desirable should be the last thing on her mind. For me, female empowerment is about feeling confident as a woman, not as a sex object. Oftentimes, female empowerment is also about being independent and not needing any man. Men need women (to cook for them, to wash and iron their clothes, to serve as their orifice, etc). 

On the other hand, women don't need men. Money? Women nowadays can earn it themselves. D*ck? Yes, that's mostly the thing men brag about. But do women need it? Nah, nein, nunca, no. Security? An empowered female is a secure woman. So, that Wonder Woman quote is right: men are unnecessary to women.

Despite its flaws, Wonder Woman is still a milestone in mainstream cinema. Miss Jenkins' film shows the world that women are no damsels in distress. Women don't need a knight in shining armor nor a Prince Charming, because they are their own knight in shining armor and a Prince Charming is often unnecessary. Women are strong and beautiful creatures who can stand up for themselves, determined to fight for what they believe in.


Trailer for Wonder Woman:




DISCLAIMER: No copyright infringement intended. I don't own or claim to own any of the photos used.



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