Friday, 5 March 2010

Wonder Woman - animated man hater!

The Wonder Woman live action movie may have been put on hold (again!) after Joss Whedon was relieved of script-writing duties last year but, in case you missed it, 2009 did see the release of an animated feature which, despite a few small niggling flaws, was pretty damn good.

So, let's get those niggling flaws out of the way first. Number one has to be the invisible jet! One of Wonder Woman's most iconic accessories, the invisible jet is - like the Batmobile - such a ludicrous plot device that, if it's going to be used at all, it must be handled with extreme care. Sadly, in this case, the writers failed. Miserably!

It's included here because, just as in her early incarnations, this version of Wonder Woman cannot fly. Which is fine except, if it cannot be seen, it doesn't make sense for anyone else to be able to see it or fly it just because that happens to suit a particular action sequence (spoiler withheld!) Nor, incidentally, is there any attempt to explain how such a device came to be developed by a society which has otherwise failed to develop any form of weaponry more advanced than the spear, the sword and the bow!

My second niggle would have to be Wonder Woman's strength which can most generously be described as ... variable! At times she seems to possess just enough to overpower common or garden street thugs, soldiers and fellow Amazons, while - in other scenes - she is perfectly capable of holding her own against Gods, Demigods and the very elements themselves. I don't mind which version a writer wants to opt for, but you can't have it both ways, guys.

Then there are a number of inadequately explained plot developments. The most irritating of these is probably the question of who first reveals Themiscyra to the outside world, allowing Steve Trevor to crash land there. The movie hints at a number of possible suspects, but no one is ever named.

Okay - I said this movie was good, so let's leave the negatives for now. There are more but they are small. Instead, let's look at what actually won me over. Well, there were several things. For a start, the voice acting is pretty solid throughout. Nathan Filion's distinctively lazy drawl, in particular, brings real character to Steve Trevor, a character who is so often portrayed as bland and uninteresting. The plot moves along briskly, telling the story of Wonder Woman's origin and her first visit to "Man's World" in a way that dovetails neatly with the story of how the Amazons first came to be custodians of Themyscira. (No Herculean rape in this version!)

What I liked especially, however, was the fact that this movie was prepared to tackle the conflict which - to my mind - lies at the heart of the Wonder Woman character. Most writers avoid this. Instead they try to convince us that her inner conflict has something to do with having to reconcile her dual roles as warrior and ambassador, conveniently ignoring the fact that many, many military men have moved on to pursue successful careers in politics. What this movie grasps is the fact that the real conflict for Wonder Woman to overcome lies at the very heart of her origin story: despite its more commonplace name, Themyscira - the island which gave her life - is no "Paradise Island" but an unnatural place where no child could possibly be raised without it warping their view of the world.

The Amazons, the people who have raised and educated Diana, are a society built on and around a fear and a hatred of men. Since the very earliest Wonder Woman comics, the Amazons have ascribed all human faults exclusively to men even though they are quite clearly guilty of the same; they are tasked with bringing female virtues to mankind and yet have shut themselves off from it; and they see no injustice in a legal system that condemns a man to death for nothing more than setting foot on the island (however inadvertantly!)

I know some women reviewers have found it difficult to accept the anti-male version of Wonder Woman we see throughout most of this movie but, raised in that environment, of course Diana is going to be suspicious and wary of men, all too ready to condemn the entire sex for the merest hint of a human frailty, and to ascribe the darkest intentions to the slightest show of attraction or, indeed, even courtesy. For me, the fact that the movie isn't afraid to acknowledge that reality is its strength, giving the character room to grow and to develop.

And develop she does. Although the action side of the plot is all about Wonder Woman the super heroine doing battle with the big bad God of War (Ares, obviously!) the real story here is the story of Diana the person, out-growing the preconceptions and prejudices which have shaped her every thought on Themyscira and reaching a far more realistic and balanced understanding of the true nature of men. To me, this portrayal of Wonder Woman isn't about her being a man hater. It's about her overcoming the forces which could have made her one.

4 comments:

  1. I really need to check more of these out. I have not watched any of the DC series. I only watched Hulk versus and just to see Deadpool. But I enjoyed both Hulk movies more than I thought I would.

    I assume the DC series is just as good. Funny how they both look exactly the same visually. What is it with super hero cartoons almost always looking like this? XD That's not a bad thing... I like it. It's just you would think that at least they'd want the 2 companies to look different. DC and Marvel.

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  2. You should check them out, I think. I grew up on DC rather than Marvel, so the big names there always appeal to me more than elsewhere. The Wonder Woman movie is especially good. Doomsday (Superman) is not bad but feels like two separate half-hour episodes clumsily stitched together in the middle. There's a Green Lantern animated movie too which reminded me a little too much of Star Wars (complete with Cantina scene!) That's not one of my favourites but I know Tim Tyler rates it very highly, so it's horses for courses, I guess.

    Of the Marvel output, I've seen Doctor Strange which was okay but didn't leave me feeling I had to watch it a second time, and Iron Man which probably suffered from following too close on the heels of the live action movie. Let's face it, anything would struggle to live up to Robert Downey Jr's performance in that!

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  3. I wish there was some more originality in superhero cartoons (AND live action movies!) these days... when I was a kid, BTAS was nothing short of revolutionary. It changed the way I looked at TV animation as a whole. Today's cartoons are nice, at best - just like the three DCAU movies you mentioned. Although I have to say, the Green Lantern movie was the most visually spectactular, and, being a visual kind of guy, I can appreciate that! :P

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  4. I agree. Originality is in short supply as far as the super hero genre is concerned. But then, as I've said before, that's true of most types of genre fiction!

    I certainly felt the plots of the Iron Man and Doctor Strange animated movies were VERY tired. The story of the WW movie also followed a well-trodden path (hardly surprising since it was her origin story!) but I felt the characterisation raised it above the norm, in much the same way as Toby Maguire's portrayal of Peter Parker made the live action Spider-Man more than just another costumed slug-fest!

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