Wednesday, March 04, 2009

"Now Go. Unleash Hell": A Brief Review of Wonder Woman (DVD)

I have two reactions to this movie, Gentle Reader.

The first is a rather lengthy, near-academic discussion of the Absolute Smartness and Complete Joy of this video. It involves some Awfully Big Words, and perhaps A Few Comparisons to literary texts. It is Smart and at times, somewhat High Victorian, but still, a smart and engaged review.

The other goes, I believe, something like this:

"Omigod omigod omigod SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

At least, Mr. Reads informs me that is precisely what I said throughout the watching of this movie.

It is a Smart Movie, Friends, and Even Smarter than any of the other recent DC videos--Doomsday, New Frontier--that have graced our markets. Never let it be said that I do not enjoy those movies. I do, Friends. I do. But this movie depicts Diana in such a joyous way, in a way that Completely Understands the Amazon Princess, in a way that does not rely on Cheap Jokes or Unhappy Gendered Divisions, that I feel that this movie, unlike the other big-name titles, gets its main character completely.

It begins with bloodshed and war. Amazons and Gods fighting for supremacy. The Amazons win, in the end, by defeating Ares, and by losing so many of their sisters. And it continues with a Child Made Of Clay, of a Sister Longing for Love, of Another Sister Longing for War. It continues with Familiarity: with Steve Trevor, with a contest to see who will be the Amazonian Champion to escort Steve Trevor back to Man's World. But not just any Champion, and not just any warrior. A warrior that fights well, but a warrior who fights dirty. And when she no longer has a sword, she uses her fists. In the end, she is declared Champion, and when her Sisters are betrayed by one of their own, Diana becomes Earth's Champion, as well, against the dark forces of Ares's Army.

It begins in familiar places, Gentle Reader. And then, it becomes something uncanny.

Familiar yet unfamiliar, but not horrifying as Dr. Freud would have us believe. Rather, upon first arriving in Man's World, Diana spies a small girlchild crying, because the boys will not let her play. As the girl, they say, she must wait on the sidelines to be rescued.

Princess Diana scoffs, not only at such faulty logic, but at the improper and utterly preposterous way the young men hold their swords, and engage in their swordplay. After teaching the girlchild the proper way to fight, the thrust stroke that will kill, she looks at the girl fondly and tells her, "Now go. Unleash hell."

This is when this movie becomes Utterly Extraordinary.

Diana looks upon Man's World and finds it wanting, both in its approach to gendered divisions and in its presentation of violence and greed and bloodshed. She gives her opinions of these things, Gentle Reader, not only by speaking out against them, but also by using the stereotypical "trappings" of femininity, a purple dress, a high heel, to defeat her male enemy.

On the one hand, yes. Diana rails against the inequality on Man's World by destroying the feminine trappings that would bind her sisters. But for This Humble Scholar, who focuses much of her work on the Engagement With and Manipulation of those very trappings by nineteenth-century women, I say that Diana demonstrates the power hidden within these garments and accoutrements. What is a dress if not a sling, if not a catapult? What is a high heel if not a weapon to be wielded?

Steve is irreverent of and awed by Diana intermittently, and even ventures to call her a "crazy Amazonian dragon lady." The running joke of the definition of--forgive This Humble Author for the inappropriate language she is about to scribe--"crap" throughout the film offers cleverness among the earnestness. And Steve's righteousness, not only in the rescue of Wonder Woman over the rescue of the world, but in his patriotic anger over the desecration of the Lincoln Memorial ("they're messing with Lincoln!" he says. "Nobody messes with Lincoln!") update us to current concerns, as well.

In the end, of course, the threat of Ares's army is neutralized by what the American government believes to be "a group of armored supermodels." And Diana becomes the Warrior for Peace, with her Mother's blessing. Provided she visits home often, of course.

We often forget, Gentle Reader, that Wonder Woman is, first and foremost, a bruiser. She is not a plotter and schemer like Batman, or a boy scout like Superman. She is a Warrior, and she prefers to fight with her fists. And when she is knocked down, she will get up, again and again, not because she does not know fear. Of course she knows fear. Only the mad do not know fear. Rather, as a warrior, she knows Fear, understands it, feels it as far down as she can, and still, she meets it halfway.

That is the very definition of a hero, after all.


Sea_of_Green said...

Ooooh, nice review -- now I'm REALLY intrigued. Hopefully, I'll be able to pick up this movie next week. I DIDN'T pick it up when it came out, and it's just KILLIN' me!

Amy Reads said...

Hi Sea of Green,
Thanks! I absolutely Adore This Movie and believe everyone, including yourself, should see it forthwith. I think it is Very Fun, and Very Smart. Although I am still a sad, sad fangirl with the lack of a Whedon-authored Wonder Woman live action. Ah well.

skullduggery said...

I got the DVD on Thursday but haven't had a chance to check it out yet (I've got a stack of DVDs waiting to be watched so no telling when I'll actually see it).
I know you're behind on your comic reading and the last thing you need is another one to read --- but I just finished reading the first issue of a new limited series from Radical Comics. It is called Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead. It is written and illustrated by Steve Pugh (who is a phenomenal artist -- his last work was on the Sharkman series). It is based on a story originally written by Warren Ellis. It is the best comic I've read this month (by that I include February since we're only a week into March). Really just a great comic all around. I'm very much looking forward to the rest of the series.
Next time you're in your LCS, you should ask for it and at least give it a quick thumb through.

SallyP said...

Arrgghh! Some of the reviews have been glowing, some of them have been surly, but one thing is for sure...I HAVE to got out and get this movie.

I have found one thing to be rather interesting however. All of the glowing reviews have been by women, while the surly ones have been by men. Which makes me doubly eager to see it.

skullduggery said...

All of the glowing reviews have been by women, while the surly ones have been by men. Which makes me doubly eager to see it.

Well, that just gives me the impetus to watch the DVD that much sooner.
Of course I am predisposed to give it a positive review because I already think Wonder Woman is the best of DC's Trinity.
But I have to go buy the DVD again first because I gave my (unopened) copy to my niece today.

Anonymous said...
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skullduggery said...

Well, it took darn near forever, but I finally managed to cobble together my thoughts on the movie -
wonder woman