Wonder Woman (2017)

Viewed June 5th

 

A goddess on Earth helps an American spy working for the British during World War I.

One of the most interesting moments of Wonder Woman comes right in the beginning. There are several shots of the "Amazons," a society of woman warriors, riding horses across a landscape. Led by Robin Wright, they appear formidable and muscular, but not necessarily masculine. They're definitely women. It creates a certain uncanniness. We feel as though we've seen these sort of epic tracking shots of horseback riding heroes before. Indeed, as modes of using the camera, these shots aren't novel--they extend back to the earliest days of the western genre in the silent period. But the fact that these warriors are all women, does feel different. I could have lingered in this zone of gender uncanniness for an entire movie the way, say, the women-in-prison exploitation genre sustains interest by the mere fact of its gender flip-flopping imagery. Without delivering an explicit feminist message through dialogue, the cinematic images are feminist. And director Patty Jenkins gets that these early prelude/origin-story scenes are some of the strongest material she has to work with as an artist because she happily extends them longer than they might otherwise be. But, alas, the mechanics of the story demand that one of the young Amazons, Diana, must leave to impart Wonder Woman-style justice to the outside world. The rest of the film is a cut above most recent superhero movies. I appreciated the basic Christ-like wisdom of Wonder Woman. When it comes to being a hero, you can't choose whom you save. "It's not about what they deserve, but what you believe in," she says in a key scene.  But the images and use of the camera maintain an almost by-now banal bang-bang-explosion familiarity without engendering that gender twisting. So you lose the interesting thing you had in the beginning.