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When the film Logan opened, I told all my friends I didn’t want any shit anymore about how depressing Manchester by the Sea is.
But that was just the beginning. It seems the world of comic book as escapist fare in film may be seeing its dying days as the genre seems to be getting darker and darker and ideas of right and wrong seem to be getting more and more ambiguous.
In many ways this began perhaps with The Dark Knight Rises, which is not your mother’s Batman or a generation’s raised on the over the top camp (if that’s not redundant) of the Adam West TV take on Gotham’s guardian.
But as of late, we’ve had Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in which a group of people, almost all of whom die at the end, use morally ambiguous means to prop up a Menachian religion. And then the emotionally devastating Logan in which a group of people, almost all of whom die, don’t worry about morality as they fight off a great evil.
And of course we have Deadpool, a very, very, very… very dark comic take on the superhero, in which a man who also doesn’t think in terms of right and wrong, is punished for his sins by never being able to die (not the ideal state one would think it would be at first thought).
And now we have Wonder Woman, which, though perhaps not quite as dark as the others (not everybody dies this time), is about a demi-goddess who has been schooled in the ways of right and wrong, but ends up being drawn into one of the most morally ambiguous wars that’s been fought (WWI–WWII wouldn’t quite work as well for a backdrop here) and has to realize that while her powers are indispensable, her ethics are of the more dispensable kind.
In spite of this introduction, no matter what else it also is, Wonder Woman is fun. It’s quite serious at times, mainly when it has something to say, but even then, more often than not, it’s well, fun, and smart and even rather witty.
The movie only really falters at two points. That’s before the arrival and after the departure of the great spy and daredevil ace, Steve Trevor. These scenes are well enough done, even beautiful at moments. But at the same time, they are sooooooooooooooo serious. I mean, if the Amazons have a fatal flaw it appears to be a shocking absence of a sense of humor, which tends to make these scenes a bit heavy handed and weighed down by their soberness and their being incredibly on the nose.
But, ironically, this becomes one of the films strengths once Chris Pines as Trevor makes his sudden appearance. He has no idea how to relate to this magnificent creature he sees before him and so he stumbles and bumbles his way in getting to know her, hopelessly tongue tied.
And it’s quite charming. It’s as if they were channeling Ninotchka. The only thing missing is Trevor falling off his chair and seeing Diana (aka Wonder Woman) laugh.
Gal Gadot as Diana and Pines have great chemistry together, and it’s their interplay, often hysterical as cultures collide, that drives the movie. Even when the conversations get real, focus on the war and morality, when they get serious and wax philosophically about these creatures called man, it comes out almost as repartee from a work by Noel Coward or Somerset Maugham, or even as sexual foreplay (there is many a time when you want to shout at the screen, shut up and kiss her already).
Pines crack comic timing and Gadot’s crack inability to take anything other than serious is a marriage made in heaven.
And what a supporting cast, reminiscent of the studio roster of character actors, though Lucy Davis as Etta, Trevor’s on the brink of suffragetting secretary, who steals the scenes she’s on.
It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s morally ambiguous.
What else do you want?
Directed by Patty Jenkins and written by Allan Heinberg and Zack Snyder.
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