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!