You Can’t Spoil A Movie This BAD. You’ll be OK.
Not to be that white woman who has to make everything about her, but my third thought after I watched Black Panther was “Wonder Woman was shit.”
To be fair, my first two thoughts were:
1. OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD THIS IS SO AWESOME
2. Okoye is my new goal level of badassery
A lot has been written about both films, and I doubt I have anything new to say about Wonder Woman, but I definitely don’t have anything new to say about Black Panther. So here we are. WW was on HBO, so I decided to re-watch Gal Gadot’s star turn with the much needed help of a bottle of rosé. I’d recently decided I was going to write this hate blog as my new form of therapy, and this movie was definitely at the top of my shit list.
Before I watched the movie, I looked at the Rotten Tomatoes list of the top 60 superhero movies of all time. Then, Wonder Woman was in the #1 spot. I am happy to announce that it is now in the #2 spot, and Black Panther is where it belongs. Wonder Woman still isn’t. As much as this pains me, its #2 position has to be in some part because people wanted to like this movie so badly, and not because it’s poop. I know I fell victim to that trap.
I always had my reservations, though. My dream had been for Lucy Lawless, star of Xena and Battlestar Galactica, to play the role. No one would call her “charismatic,” they’d call her a total motherfucking rock star. Just look at her.
Is it type-casting? Yes. Do I care? No.
My obsession with Xena strongly contributed to my dislike of how Ares was portrayed in the film. Yes, I know this movie was based on a comic book, not a campy 90s t-show with thinly veiled lesbian themes, but I forgot what I was talking about and realized I need to google “Xena Wonder Woman fan fiction.”
Kevin Smith, who played Ares on Xena, is a national treasure. Just look at him.
His portrayal of Ares was cocky, sadistic, the kind of sexy you really wish you weren’t finding sexy (sorry mom), and even a little scary. If the two Ares were to meet up in that fan fiction I really hope exists, Kevin Smith would totally kick butt. This is key, because having a good villain is 75% of having a good action movie. We have to be afraid, but also really invested in having them die a horrific gruesome death followed by an appropriately cheesy catchphrase. This movie was so invested in the “oh my god, that kindly old man Aries!” gotcha moment, we never got to experience any dramatic tension.
And the decoy villains? A not-so-kindly old man and a woman in a mask that probably ended a costume shop intern’s career? Let’s be real, we’ve all seen at least ten scarier German villains, thanks to everyone’s obsession with creating a “fresh” take on Nazis.
But even a good villain wouldn’t have saved it. Wonder Woman was a metaphorical poop emoji written by a known chauvinist, and everyone calling Gal Gadot “charismatic” is using a code word meaning “she was hot and not terrible.” Seriously, what genius decided to let Zack Snyder, the 12-year-old snapping everyone’s bra straps, write the first attempt at a truly feminist superhero movie? Oh durr, probably him! He was one of the producers. It is worth noting here that, according to Rotten Tomatoes, his next highest rated movie where he has a screenwriting credit is…300. Did that even have a script? Did it have a female character – where we define character as someone who exists not just so there can be a scene where we assure the audience the Spartans were definitely not gay (history spoiler alert: they were a little gay)?
A director can only do so much with a script. I feel for Patty Jenkins, who was handed a supposedly feminist script that turns the average white dudebro sidekick into the the martyr I guess we’re supposed to cry over when he dies. I was cheering just knowing he wouldn’t be in the sequel. Plus, can we talk about all the penis jokes? Actually let’s not, it’s just embarrassing for everyone involved.
She did what she could; the action scenes were rocking, the Amazons looked like warriors, and I truly believe that Gal Gadot’s supposed charm had more to do with good directing than anything else. She knew the right camera angles and the proper length of time to focus on the former model’s face. Gadot can certainly land an expression, but if you actually listen to her inflections in her lines, it’s basic. Plus, why does she have a different accent than all the other Amazons? Oh, right, because some genius decided to make a politically charged movie even more politically charged by hiring an ex-Israeli soldier.
The best part of the movie was definitely everything that happened before Chris Pine showed up, and then the fight on the beach. I’m going to fucking call him Chris Pine because I cannot for the life of me remember what the character’s name actually was and I don’t care enough to look it up, even though I’ve looked up plenty of other stuff on Rotten Tomatoes, clearly. Only the kid who shot spit bubbles at the girls he liked would think that a woman would be that excited to see a man for the first time. She’s learned, understands that men are useless except for procreation, and knows her war history. A much more reasonable reaction would have been to throw him back into the ocean.
The one thing I did look up about the comic books was to see if Chris Pine died (so I guess I did know his name at one point). Well, he didn’t. So all the nerds who sit around complaining about how unrealistic it is to put Black people in Star Wars should be royally ticked off that they turned his character into such a selfless freedom fighter. There was literally no canonical reason to make him so heroic.
At the end of the day, we deserved better. The good news is, Hollywood is getting this whole “let people tell their own stories” thing, though the DC Comics side of things is certainly dragging its feet compared to Marvel. Thor: Ragnarok, another superior Marvel film, featured a compelling female villain without once feeling a need to refer to her as a ‘bitch,’ and was directed by a pretty unknown New Zealand-born director named Taika Waititi – a name that definitely screams “not a boring white dudebro.” I just wish they’d begun this journey while there was still time to cast Lucy Lawless.
Unrelated: If you haven’t seen Taika Waititi’s What We Do In the Shadows just…go do that. You won’t need a bottle of wine to get through it.