Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The new Wonder Woman animated movie, and a general Wonder Woman-related quibble

I finally had a chance to watch the new Wonder Woman animated movie the other night. I must say, I enjoyed it very much! Mr. Sea and I both thought it was highly entertaining (“A keeper,” per Mr. Sea). Yes, yes, the plot was essentially yet another super-hero origin tale, but the presentation was such that I didn’t really mind. The film is also gorgeous to look at. The art and animation team really did a superb job with this one.

The thing that surprised me the most about this movie was that it's much more humorous than I expected it to be. In fact, it's actually laugh-out-loud funny at times. Much of the humor is at the expense of Steve Trevor, and I can’t help thinking that the movie’s version of him is like a strange cross between Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner. Steve has Hal’s remarkable, impossible piloting skills and his ways with the ladies, but with Guy Gardner’s, er, social skills (and also, sadly, with really bad hair). Two running gags in the film involve Steve’s favorite curse word (“Crap!”), and his encounters with Diana’s magical lasso, which of course compels him to tell the truth (“...nice rack!”) when he really doesn’t want to (“WHY am I telling you these things?!”). Steve is treated like the comic relief to Wonder Woman’s more serious nature, which actually works rather well.

It’s important to note that this movie DEFINITELY deserves its PG-13 rating. Wonder Woman is definitely depicted, at last, as a warrior, as she should be. However, I can’t remember the last time I saw this many decapitations in a single film. There are battles galore, and they are very violent. There are also monsters galore (including zombies) of various types, including at least two that look suspiciously like drawn versions of some classic Ray Harryhausen monsters(!).

(I was more than a little alarmed to see this movie included in the children’s section in a local Target store. There’s no way I’m letting Mighty Mite watch this movie until she’s at least close to her teens. When is the public-at-large going to learn that just because a movie is animated, it doesn’t mean it’s for children? “Hey, let’s go watch some old Ralph Bakshi movies, kids!”)

Wonder Woman isn’t a perfect movie by any means. Other reviewers have taken issue with how Etta Candy is depicted, and I must say I agree –- it’s a sad treatment of this long- established character. There’s also a scene that I swear is stolen straight from the first Hellboy movie. Still, for me, the movie's strong points far outweigh the weak ones.

However, the movie also reminds me why, though I am fond of Wonder Woman, I’ve never been a fan of her comic book solo stories.

Throughout my history of reading comic books, I’ve ALWAYS encountered people who assume that, just because I’m a woman, Wonder Woman must be one of my favorite characters. Well, no, she isn’t (I’ve always been more of a Black Canary fan), but my grievances with Wonder Woman really don’t have anything to do with the character herself. Rather, it has to do with the Wonder Woman version(s) of classical mythology.

Now, this is really just MY problem, and I don’t really expect anyone to agree with me, but my biggest issue with Wonder Woman stories is that I really, really hate how they depict the Greek gods, and Greco-Roman culture(s) in general. In Wonder Woman stories, the writers almost always rework the myths to make them more culturally Judeo-Christian than Ancient Greek, which really bugs the heck out of me. I can't help thinking that if Wonder Woman's mythological background was fine-tuned to more accurately reflect the original myths and ancient Greek culture, I would probably like her solo stuff much, much better than I do. Otherwise, for me, the character of Wonder Woman really, only consistently works as yet another member of the Justice League.

Just for example, here are a couple of quibbles I have with details from the movie:

(1) Ares and Hades are NOT EVIL!!! Or at least they certainly aren’t supposed to be. True, they reflect some unsavory aspects of human existence, but they are NOT EVIL. And since when is Hades like Bacchus/Silenus? Grrrrrrrr …

(2) The Underworld is NOT HELL. This always bugs the heck out of me. In ancient Greek culture, the idea of the Underworld sprang from the notion that when people die, they return to Gaia (the Earth). Sure, in the myths, the souls of some people do undergo punishment in the Underworld, but the Greek notion of HEAVEN also exists in the Underworld. (With a few minor exceptions, people didn’t go to Olympus when they died, folks! Olympus WASN’T Heaven –- it was just where the gods lived!). The Underworld is just where people go when they die, period. Depicting it like Hell is grossly inaccurate. The true Underworld, as it appears in the actual myths, is much more complex than that, and far more interesting.

Okay, okay, SORRY, sorry ...! Off m'soapbox, off m'soapbox ...!

I still liked the movie! I really, really did!


TF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TF said...

You cannot believe how nice it is to read from somebody else who also finds this kind of hideous warping really unbareble.

Heck, I love Disney's Hercules.
But after a classical education and knowing most myths off by heart, I have to take it with a HUGE pinch of salt...

'It's for kids, Tom. For kids. They're not gonna show Zeus have Hercules from an adulterous relationship. They're not gonna show Amphitrion as a crazy old king. They're not going to tell us that Hercules ends up going mad and killing Megara and their children. And that it's because of that that he has to do the tasks. He doesn't do them before. AND HADES WASN'T EVIL!!!!!.... relax. It's for kids...'

SallyP said...

You've hit on one of the things that has always driven me mad, the incorrect portrayal of Greco/Roman Gods. Greek mythology was one of my favorite subjects in college, and it drives me NUTS sometimes, especially the whole thing with the Underworld being portrayed as hell.


But it sounds as though I do have to pick this up soon. Just haven't been out much lately. However, "crap!" and "
nice rack" are definitely Guyisms.

And what parents let their kids watch this and Watchmen? The sam ones who let their 7-year old daughters wear hooker outfits apparently, and buy them cell-phones when they are in kindergarten.

Double bah!

Sea_of_Green said...

Now, I have to admit that I did enjoy the Disney Hercules, but I think it's because I went into it (A) knowing it was a comedy, and (B) assuming that Disney wouldn't be faithful to the source material (because, hey, Disney is NEVER faithful to the source material).

However, Wonder Woman comics still get on my nerves. They're much more pretentious, and the writers present the material as if they WERE being true to the myths, which is utter hogwash. :-\

Amy Reads said...

Hi Sea of Green,
Thank you for your review! I, too, agree that the rewriting of the Greek Gods with the concepts of Good and Evil does play havoc with intentions. I have always enjoyed Greg Rucka's run on WW for his updating of their persons, but the continuation of their... machinations. They are meddlesome, above all else.

Having been a Wonder Woman fan since I was a Wee Child, I fear that sometimes, I am So Overjoyed to see her on screen, in comics, in the public eye that I will forgive any inconsistency in her character or background. This led to a discussion last night with Mr. Reads in which we discussed the mishandling of some of the Strong Female Leads in DC over the last few years. Given your statement regarding Black Canary (she, too, is a Personal Favorite, along with Diana and Big Barda), might I ask you: what were you thoughts of Black Canary and Sin in Birds of Prey a few years ago?
Amy (Reads)

Sea_of_Green said...

Hi, Amy, and welcome! And thank YOU for your review on AS-R, because that's what finally got me off my duff to go pick up the movie in the first place. :-)

About Dinah and Sin, and mind you, this is just my opinion: I liked Sin just fine, but her relationship with Dinah kind of reminded me of the time when Hal Jordan (as the Spectre) was saddled with his niece, Helen. I liked Helen very much, and she contributed to some nice character scenes with Hal -- but I think she also dragged down the action (and overall intent) of the stories to a large degree. The Spectre comic was suddenly about HER rather than about Hal/The Spectre -- and that's not why I was buying the comic. So, though I liked Sin well enough, and sympathized with her and Dinah to a degree, I wasn't sorry to see her removed from Dinah's care. The stories needed to go back to being about Dinah (and the heroes in general), not about Sin.

-- Sea