Saturday, June 17, 2017

Wonder Woman Roundtable, Part 1: The Hero 2017 Needed [Contributors: Jenn, Julia, Anne, Jon, Deb, Marilyn, Megan, Erin, and Chelsea]


Wonder Woman smashed through the box office recently (it was the highest ever U.S. opening weekend for a film directed by a woman), and continues to charm critics. Because here at Just About Write we have a lot of feelings (and embrace the mantra of #LadiesSupportingLadies), we decided to do a giant roundtable for you about the film. In fact, the roundtable was so long and well-articulated that we'll be splitting it up into parts. Check back for part two soon, but for now, enjoy our thoughts!

What was your reaction when you heard the DCEU was going to make a Wonder Woman film?


Jenn: I'm going to be honest — I haven't really been invested in DC-related content, apart from the television shows that air on The CW. But when I heard that there would be a Wonder Woman film, I was excited. I think I might be the only person on the face of the planet who didn't see her cameo in Batman v. Superman since I never watched the film. So getting the opportunity to be introduced to Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in her feature film was pretty great.

Julia: When a Wonder Woman film truly was a go in 2015 with Patty Jenkins signed on to direct, I was very intrigued that a major studio would finally make a female-led superhero film. Naturally, the idea was very compelling, as the DCEU had yet to release a movie. Once I saw the trainwrecks of Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad last year, I had my qualms that a solo Wonder Woman film would work, even though Gal Gadot was the best part of BvS. However, all of my doubts were erased when the first trailer for Wonder Woman dropped. As each new trailer and clip were released, my anticipation grew and grew with the hopes that the DCEU had finally figured out what they were doing wrong and corrected their previous mistakes. Let’s just say that Wonder Woman definitely doesn’t disappoint and is the DCEU film that everyone has been waiting for.

Anne: I don’t have much of a resume when it comes to superhero movies because I think they have the potential to be so boring and trite. And such a huge reason I hold that opinion is the way women are handled in these movies. I saw The Avengers: Age of Ultron and even though Scarlett Johansson was cool(er than Hawkeye), that movie left so much to be desired for female characters. I was stunned at how willing they were to make her a love interest in a movie where she is an action character, and later irritated when toys were being made of the Avengers that didn’t include her. Where is her movie, by the way? So when I heard that there was going to be a Wonder Woman movie, I was happy — finally, you know what I mean? — but anticipated the worst.

Jon: I’d heard rumblings of a Wonder Woman film since 2007, when Joss Whedon was signed to write and direct, but nothing came to fruition. However, when it was announced back in 2015 that there would be another shot at bringing Wonder Woman to the big screen, I was hopeful but trepid. I was curious to see what Patty Jenkins would do with the source material and became more intrigued upon learning it was set in WWI — a rare background for any big budget tentpole blockbuster.

However, that intrigue was dampened considerably when Batman v. Superman AND Suicide Squad were released. If the quality of these two entries in the DCEU were THIS bad, then what is that going to spell for Wonder Woman? It can’t be that bad... could it?  Yet, when the film’s date began to get closer and closer, and early word started to leak out, my hope slowly began to return. When I walked out of the film, I was beaming. Not only was I ecstatic to witness DC’s return to form, but also getting to witness one of the best superhero films ever made.

Deb: I had such low expectations, honestly. The track record for DC’s cinematic universe producing movies that I felt captured the spirit of superheroes was so low that I just wrote them off entirely after Man of Steel. I didn’t feel an ounce of excitement at the idea of them tackling Wonder Woman because I just felt like they’d do what they did with all their other movies: bog it down with brooding angst and cynicism. That’s so very against what Wonder Woman is — but it’s also very against what Superman is, and they managed to make him a brooding angst-machine, so why would Wonder Woman be any different? I am incredibly glad that I was wrong.

Marilyn: “It’s about time!” I was really starting to think superhero stories were the domain of male characters, at least in the cinematic universes. Annoying. Mostly, I was glad for it. I was glad the story was being told because it was well past time and in the DC universe, Wonder Woman is a major character. She should have her own feature film.

Megan: I was thrilled, but I was ultimately extremely scared. I’m always worried about DC universe films because I think that Zack Snyder tries too hard to differentiate himself from the Marvel universe and DC television universe that it ends up being garbage. But then when I heard that he wouldn’t really have much to do with it and it would be a woman who took the story of Diana Prince seriously, I was over the moon. Once I heard them talk about it last year at SDCC, I was hooked.

Erin: I know next to nothing about the Marvel and DC universes. I wouldn't have been able to tell you which one Wonder Woman was in. I didn't even know she was from a comic book. I thought the Lynda Carter show was where it began. So, when I heard it was going to be a movie I thought it was cool, but chalked it up to being part of these superhero franchises that don't really interest me. It wasn't until I heard that Patty Jenkins was directing that I got excited. Any time a female director is behind something big, I get excited even if I'm not familiar with the story or source material.

Chelsea: I’m one of those people that has superhero film fatigue. I’ve only really loved the first two Captain America films and Thor as a character, but the rest just barely amuse or bore me. The DCEU is terrible and before Gal Gadot, Margot Robbie was the only thing keeping me there. Man of Steel was just a garbage fire and I have only bothered with the Wonder Woman scenes in Man of Steel. Her scenes gave me hope that she would do the character right. I had complete faith Patty Jenkins would be fine. Monster is a terrific film, and Jenkins has done some great television directing. Once I saw the San Diego Comic-Con footage last summer, I knew I was 100% on board. I was so tired of the basic white boy superhero film and all of them having the same story. I was so ready for a female story.

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Wonder Woman was the highlight of Batman v. Superman for many last year. After seeing the film, what impression did her solo story leave you with?


Jenn: Like I said above, I never watched Batman v. Superman so I couldn't even tell you what her cameo was about in that film. But the solo story was incredible — it was exactly everything I could possibly want from an origin story film. It was fresh and fun, beautifully directed, and allowed us to follow Diana's journey with ease. The natural rise and fall of the action and plot was great. I didn't even mind that it was almost two and a half hours long because it didn't FEEL tedious (like, admittedly, so many films around Oscar season do). Even knowing next to nothing about Wonder Woman's origins (before the film I would have had no idea how to pronounce Themyscira), I was able to follow what was going on. Diana is incredible and I love her so much as a hero and a nuanced, layered female character. The only qualm is that there were far too many slo-mo action shots for my liking (I was burnt out on them this year because Arrow overused them too).

Julia: I honestly didn’t know much about Wonder Woman’s origin going into her solo film, so I was surprised with how her story is deeply intertwined with Greek mythology. However, I was upset with how the DCEU twisted the classic Greek mythology to fit their own needs without any regard for what Greek mythology actually means. Wonder Woman felt a lot like Captain America: The First Avenger because their origins are similar to a degree in the way they are told. I really enjoyed all of the action scenes, sans parts of the final battle between Wonder Woman and Ares, and thought that they were done very well (with the best sequence being the trenches of No Man’s Land scene).

The best part of Wonder Woman is that it is Gadot’s film and no one tries to take the lead away from her. She is a kick-butt warrior, and I wish more people would talk about how great she was instead of talking about the other characters. Wonder Woman is a great female-led superhero film and sets the bar high for the other DCEU films and all of the Marvel female characters — including the solo Captain Marvel film set for 2019 and Ant-Man and the Wasp set for 2018.

Anne: Well said. I guess for me, having little experience with superhero mythology, I thought that the story was entertaining but tonally clunky. I thought that Gal Gadot and Chris Pine were obnoxiously charming together, and I wish that the movie had held with the more lighthearted vibe it gave off for the movie’s first hour or so, especially because almost everything else in the movie was pretty paint-by-numbers. I honestly had no idea what World War that was supposed to be! In addition, the villain doesn’t ring especially true and doesn’t connect with Diana’s personal story as much as I would have liked. I did like how the story tied back to good and evil in a novel way — challenging Diana’s naivete — but the structure of the story is something I’ve seen a million times, which is why more consistent humor or a more personal story would have gone a long way.

Jon: I had only briefly dabbled in Wonder Woman’s backstory prior to viewing this (my only history being a couple of comics and Susan Eisenberg’s iconic take from the 2004 Justice League animated series), but as Julia said, I was surprised at how elements of Greek myths were woven throughout the tale. What pleasantly surprised me was that while the Greek myths were an aspect, they weren't THE aspect. Rather the focus was put more on the darkness of humanity itself: how we, as human beings, have an inner darkness within us, and how someone’s initial view of us can change over time. It’s a topic that I found rather welcoming in a superhero film, allowing you to think rather than having everything become “CGI EXPLODE FEST.”

After viewing Wonder Woman, I decided to go back and look at Diana’s scenes from BvS. I was rather surprised to discover they make WAY much more sense after seeing Wonder Woman. They actually give you a sense of how Diana reacts to humanity in the modern world, and what motivates her to join the fight again (even if the reasons are somewhat messy, but then again, so is the whole movie). Finally, this movie is Diana’s movie, and not once did it feel like the film ever strayed focus from that. Gal Gadot was born to play this role, and she embodies it to perfection.

Deb: Wonder Woman’s film captured the superhero soul of the character well in its tone and message, which is all I ever want from a superhero film — especially one involving the very archetypal characters of DC’s universe. I didn’t need another cynical take on the follies of man, or an agonized examination of how tragic it is to be a hero, or two hours of death and explosions. I wanted Wonder Woman as the Spirit of Truth, fears of corniness be darned. I wanted her to fight for the good she believed existed in mankind and to do so with the compassion and idealism I think has always existed at the core of the character. That’s what the movie gave me, and my only complaint about the message of the film is the use of romantic love as the primary motivation at the end. But even that is a very minor personal complaint. Overall, I got the impression that the people involved in Wonder Woman actually understood the character, and I think that’s the most critical thing for a superhero movie.

Marilyn: I really tried to like Batman v. Superman, I really did. But it was just so dull. Like you said, Wonder Woman was a rare (and all too brief) breath of fresh air in that clatter-trap of a film. I guess that’s why I had no preconceptions of her solo story going into Wonder Woman. I expected to see her learn how to be a hero and, basically, that’s what I got. But her origin was so much more than most male-driven superhero stories. The focus felt a lot more organic, a lot more compelling and a lot more relatable in a real-world environment. Diana felt like a real person and as such it was so much easier for me to relate to her motivations and care about the outcomes.

Megan: Oh, God. She was the only saving grace of that film other than the quick shot we got of Jason Momoa as Aquaman. Her origin story was so absolutely enthralling. Diana came from the Amazons, a group of amazing women that were warriors and didn’t feel like they were missing out on anything by living without men. Like, they live without men and it’s a great life. That’s such a fantastic thing, if you ask me. And Diana has no problem taking on anything. Her origin story is majorly important for girls of any age to see!

Erin: Err, I didn't see Batman v. Superman, but I kind of want to because I love Diana Prince now, and more of her in anything sounds good to me.(Although, what I'm hearing from all of you, maybe not.) Wonder Woman is my first experience with her story, and I thought it was pretty great. I didn't have any preconceived notions or expectations about her origins. As a newbie going in fresh, it was super entertaining and engaging.

Chelsea: Like I mentioned above, I only watched Diana’s scenes of BvS and not the whole film. I couldn’t handle that three-hour nightmare. I was filled with joy the entire duration of this film, however. It was the same feeling I got after seeing Rey in The Force Awakens. Every moment of it worked for me and it didn’t feel like 2 hours and 21 minutes. I left and immediately wanted to go back inside. Sure, it was a lot like Captain America: The First Avenger meets the fish-out-of-water of Thor, but again, I love that film and that character, so it all worked for me. Just watching those island scenes with the other Amazons and seeing how powerful they were was thrilling. Everyone else was great in the film but Diana is such a shining star. Gal Gadot was right in saying that the film is about love — how one person can love humanity so much and want to do everything in her power to make it better, no matter the sacrifice. We do not deserve Diana Prince.
Stay tuned for the second part of our roundtable review later this week!

3 comments:

  1. Nice to hear all your thoughts! The origin of the comic is incredibly interesting (and deeply wrapped up with the Suffragette movement and some fairly complex people) and I would highly recommend listening to the recent episode of the podcast Stuff You Missed in History Class called "William Moulton Marston and the Creation of Wonder Woman".

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  2. I am sad that you guys, like so many others, never mentioned the other ways WW showed different representation. This is the second DCEU movie to feature an Native American secondary and they didn't kill him off this time (I literally left the movie gushing about how they didn't kill the Indian like they did with Slipknot in Suicide Squad). To me, this is bigger than having a female led super hero movie and it never bothered me that a bunch of Greek Amazons were mostly white because Steve Trevor recruited a bunch of guys that actually looked like the WWI soldiers that fight for Canada - A Scot, an Indian and an American all answering to Brits who had no care for the humanity for the "cannon fodder" they sent into battle.

    And Chief was more than flat (so about the normal amount of depth for a secondary character) and definitely not a stereotype. He even touched on Steve's country not being "the good guys" by mentioned that they took his country to Diana. He literally gave Diana insight into Steve's culture.

    It is sad that my standard for showing "Indian representation" is "he is there, he isn't a stereotype and they didn't kill him" but, at the moment, it better than nothing. Who knows, maybe we will eventually even see a Native American woman portrayed to those standards as well.

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  3. It is one of the fantastic SuperHero no wait SuperHeroine movie and many people recommended me this movie but I didn't have any internet available finally I got new charter spectrum connection and have many movies in my watchlist and this is in the top of my list to watch. I hope I enjoy watching it as after reading your review I am feeling excited. :)

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