Film Crit Hulk SMASH: That Wonderful WONDER WOMAN

A quick look at the core functionality of DC's latest victory.

Just a quick take on this one.

There are many things to talk about with Wonder Woman. There's the fact that DC finally seems to have gotten its act together and built something somewhat functional and good hearted. There's the fact that both Gal Gadot and Chris Pine are outrageously good in the film. There's the lauding we can lavish upon Patty Jenkins and the production team. There's an entire dialogue we can have about women being starved for non-sexualized heroic images and the way this film finally taps into that need. There's also all the valid conversations we can have about the various shortcomings of the the film too in terms of representation or race. But there are many authors who are much better at those conversations and I'll happily leave it to them and listen attentively. For me, I always want to zoom in on the level of function within story.

What's may seem weird about Wonder Woman is that for a film as universally liked as this, there's a lot of tangible story problems present. The first 17 minutes are sort of nightmare, full of tell-not-show, confusing conjecture, and vague telegraphic utterings of purpose (we have to stop doing this. Either give information outright or misdirect; stop thinking we can cryptically allude to "true purposes" likes it's something the audience won't get immediately). It all sets up a Themyscira that feels far too postured and never truly lived in, something critical to setting up the stakes of both the the threat and the leaving.

But as soon as Chris Pine arrives and they're off on the adventure, this becomes the rare studio film in which the second act is the absolute best. The same clunky posturing problems rear their head again in the third act where the math of the Ares reveal never makes sense (dramatic or otherwise), all before slipping into just another CGI slugfest (we also have to stop doing this. People don't want this. They want the end of Kill Bill Vol. II. They want it personal, intimate, and meaningful). And so, the overwrought nature of the fight makes us desperately cling to the emotional beats that work within it. And the glaring truth is that these problems are pronounced enough that they would normally kill a lot of other films. 

And yet, despite all this, when that last title hits and Diana leaps off into the skyline of Paris, there is no doubting that it all still works. No, gentle red piller, it's not part of some political leaning. It about how we still hear her echoing the words about choosing love in the duality of man's folly, helping us realize that what really makes the film work is a simple and undeniable commitment to theme. For at the core of Wonder Woman is the notion that purity matters, especially in the face of cynicism. That what many would call naive is in fact just the continued choice to care about our collective survival. It's the heart of empathy. And with this film, the sincere commitment to empathy is ingrained into nearly every moment. It's in every step of Diana's characterization. Every gesture. From the love of discovering ice cream, to the unveiling across the depths of No Man's Land. And it is even ingrained right into the clunky, posturing aspects of the film itself. And so when those end credits hit there is only thing I am really sure of... that Diana, Princess of Themyscira, I believe in you. I look up to you. And I love you.

And I love what you believe in most of all.