How often do I go to a theater? Almost never. But something made me want to see Wonder Woman. I hadn’t heard anything about it except that it was becoming popular. And you could say well, I wanted to see it for sociological reasons, i.e., to discover what the mass mind is being subjected to now. And you’d be right. I think! At least that’s the main reason I usually go to see movies.
But something in me held another view of this movie even before I went to see it. And knew that I would want to see it on a big screen rather than here at home, which I usually much prefer. I also saw both Interstellar and Gravity on the big screen, and reviewed them both. Unfortunately, when I search for the Gravity review I no longer find it. and as for Interstellar, my main gripe was why did they leave the ruined earth rather than permaculture her? The usual rape and pillage attitude: extract resources, leave ruination in its wake, and go on to the next low-hanging planet.
Aside from sociology, I go to the big screen when I want to immerse my psyche in our real? imagined? version of “space.” (Having recently familiarized myself somewhat with “flat earth” arguments, I’m increasingly conscious of our human capacity to pretend just about anything through cgi technology.) Sitting in front of a screen at home just doesn’t cut it.
So on to Wonder Woman. I knew I wanted to go. Wasn’t sure why. Hadn’t read anything about it.
My Green Acres Village podmate Rebecca’s adult daughter Nezhla is here taking care of Rebecca’s dogs for the two weeks Rebecca is on vacation in California, and when she asked if anyone wanted to do something last night, I told her I would definitely go to Wonder Woman. She jumped at the chance. Said she had already seen it and wanted to go again. Later, as we were walking out of the air-conditioned theater into the sultry heat of the Indiana early summer evening, this 31-year-old would-be wonder woman said, with conviction, that she’s decided to buy the DVD, because seeing it again will just get too expensive (at $11 a pop for her, only $9 for me, a “senior”). That it is one of her all-time favorite movies. That she loved it even better the second time.
Well, I do understand her enthusiasm!
When we arrived and sat down, the onslaught of previews was just beginning. And every single preview assaulted the viewer with an idiotic smear of random, numbing shock and awe “action” scenes, usually with cgi roboticized “aliens” against cgi background and “real” foreground chaos and mayhem —, exploding people, cars, buildings, cities, on and on and on. I was stunned. Is this all that is featured in contemporary movies? No, Nezhla said, it’s because Wonder Woman falls in the “superhero” category. Oh. With this my initial enthusiasm for Wonder Woman started to flag . . .
But then was quickly quelled as the movie began. An island in the middle of nowhere, of Amazons, no children except for one, Wonder Woman herself, as the child Diana who yearned to learn how to do battle like the grown up women practiced, all extreme athletes with superhuman abilities mock-fighting each other, presumably to keep in shape lest Ares, the god of war, who almost did them in long ago, return and wreck his war havoc on their beautiful hidden paradisical land.
Wonder Girl, is of course, the daughter of the Amazon Queen, but wants to be tutored in the arts of war by the queen’s sister (played by Robin Wright). The two sisters almost come to blows, but then, when the time is ripe, the queen gives her permission for Diana to be trained in the arts of battle, honorable battle of course, where humans fight opponents close up.
Now you might say, why is this set up not just like the other “action” movies previewed earlier? For there’s plenty of play-action here on their lush tropical island, but all of course, set in the background of a paradise that time left behind, with gorgeous, shapely, muscular amazons — and sometimes their glorious horses — gracing both foreground and background. Well, I’ll tell you, here’s why: this movie is layered. And overriding among the layers is that deep background of Ares, god of war, that Wonder Girl longs to learn how to fight, figuring that if she can learn how to best him, then humans will never again want to go to war.
But of course, Diana doesn’t know war herself, or other humans, the male kind. She just knows her storybook world, with a mother who tells her she was made from clay. Her mentor however, is very hard on her, keeps telling her she is not operating at her maximum, no matter how powerful her training feats — flying leaps with sword in hand, easily deflecting arrows with wrist armor, tackling multiple opponents at once, etc. etc.
Okay, she grows up, and now of course, her capacities have magnified considerably. By the way, all the versions of Wonder Woman (and Girl) are believable. Especially the third and final one. And, Nezhla whispered to me at some point, the actress picked for this role, Gal Gadot, is an Israeli who did her two-year duty in the Israeli military and also won the Miss Israel contest in 2004. I read somewhere that she bulked up with 15 extra pounds of muscle to do this role, and now I see that Gadot did all her own action shots in the movie, and that only one scene had to be reshot! What a clear vision by this female director!
I won’t go any further than this, except to say that, given the layering of this movie, the inevitable encounter with Ares — not once, but twice, as the first time she picked the wrong human in disguise and yes, Ares, according to this tale, does really exist! — didn’t do the trick. Humans kept fighting . . .
And, it turned out, the encounter with the real Ares turned her own warrior goddess power on. Now she was truly Diana (also known as Artemis). From then on the action shots get even more extraordinary (how is that possible?!?) and of course magical, unbelievable with our 3D eyes. And yet, by this time, we, I and all females longing to make a huge difference in this mad mad world — are fully engaged, not just cheering her on, but identifying with her courage and her honor and her prowess completely. At whatever level she wants to take her powers, we are in, riding along in her wave to paradoxically use the weapons of darkness to save humanity from its own darker energies. But I get ahead of the story, way ahead. Let’s go back to the island.
The plot line thickens when when a military man from World War I crash-lands his small plane off the coast of the island exactly when Wonder Woman happened to be standing alone on top of a very tall cliff looking out to sea. Of course she dives off the cliff and swims out to save him. The ensuing complications of their inevitable relationship (what is that? she points to his (erect?) penis, when of course, she inadvertently walked in on him emerging from a bath in what looks like a hot springs pool in paradise), and the continuing cultural clash between Diana and the “modern” world once the two of them reach the European front is wonderfully droll and often hilarious.
I was continuously surprised at how the “action” shots — now in World War I — just kept ramping up — each one outdoing the one before it — AND how the momentum, texturing of details, and as I said before, layering of this movie just kept me wide open to what’s now and what’s next. An incredible achievement.
And you know what? It might just be a good movie for the mass mind. Might just function as a tiny potent seed dropped into the collective unconscious at this massively violent moment to begin to turn us away from utilizing war as a method to “solve problems.” Wonder Woman succeeds in provoking its audience to pay attention to the destructive, tragic folly of war as we simultaneously identify with this courageous Amazon Goddess who is fully engaged in battle to do what is necessary to help humans convert from war to peace, from fury to love, from destruction to creation.
One caveat: The Gandhian philosophy of non-violence never arises. Should it have? Could it have, given the assumptions and momentum of the movie? How would one layer that in?