Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"Wonder Woman" not just another fanboy film

I'm too old and jaded to be a fanboy.

Maybe that's why I dislike standard comic book hero movies. They're like fireworks displays. Lots of pop and sizzle, but what are you left with? I like movies that have substance or are just downright weird. "Logan" had substance. "Deadpool" was weird and profane. 

The new "Wonder Woman" has substance and weirdness. I really liked it.

Who would have thought that World War I could be so topical? A century after the U.S. blundered into The Great War, many of its themes have come back to haunt us. How does a country blunder into war? Can you say Vietnam and Iraq? Who uses poison gas? Can you say Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad? What country bombs civilians? Bet you can't name just one.  

Here's another question: If Wonder Woman finds and kills Ares, the ancient God of War, will war cease to exist?

You will get no spoilers from me. But "Wonder Woman" is traditional in that it places a quest as its central theme. Diana (a.k.a. Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot)), the only child on the mysterious island of the Amazons, trains to be a warrior. No surprise, then, that she gets the call to save the world. The call comes in the form of an American spy (Capt. Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine) who crashes a stolen German plane into the sea off the island. WW rescues him. Trevor has stolen the poison gas recipe book from the German mad scientist (Doctor Poison) who is managed by German General Ludendorff, one of the few historical figures portrayed in the movie. Ludendorff wants to keep Germany in the war during its waning days of November 1918, when an armistice is threatening to break out. The general commands his troops to find the spy and the stolen book. They follow the spy to the island and a battle ensues where WW discovers a hint of her superpowers.

That's a lot so far, but the action has barely begun. It's charming to think that the German mad scientist would have a poison gas recipe book. She wears a facial prosthetic due to a war wound, possibly damage from a gas attack. On the Allied side of the war, French artists made facial prosthetics for soldiers disfigured in battle. One can only assume that artists in other countries were doing the same. While the war's casualties were horrendous, modernized battlefield medicine saved many who would have died in previous wars. So we called on our artists for a solution.  

I'm not going to tell you whether WW stops Ares' mad reign with her God Killer Sword, that World War I truly was the "war to end all wars." As we all know, the world is a wicked and warlike place. Ares himself tells us that it's not his fault that humans are so warlike. He just helps them along a little and they do the rest. 

Taking a page from the book of Sisyphus, humankind replays its fate over and over again. If only we had one person to blame it all on.

Alas, war is hell, as WW sees. It also is forever. Zeus created humans and within us lies the seeds of our own destruction. If that's not a timely lesson, well, you haven't been paying attention. 

P.S.: After I wrote this, I read other reviews of the movie, including one on Roger Ebert's web site, Vulture and in conservative National Review. The best was by Mark Hughes in the May 30 Forbes. It's a blend of industry forecast -- he predicts that "a $90 million domestic opening with a 3.2x multiplier would get it to a stateside cume about $288 million" -- and insight. And he shows some real insight. 

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