Review :: WONDER WOMAN

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There is a scene, in the new Wonder Woman movie, where Gal Gadot’s character walks into a room of politicians arguing over the merits of war and peace, and the whole place goes quiet when it not only becomes apparent she’s there, but that this is unacceptable. Setting this movie within the War to End all Wars is not only apposite as we remember these events a hundred years on. It highlights the truth that it has not been very long at all since women were considered as second class citizens, and that to fight was a man’s preserve. Into this comes an innocent, Diana’s character not simply a fish out of water but with no real conception of this ‘World of Men.’ That’s exactly what it is: women are bit parts, secretaries and set dressing, yet every woman’s part in this cinematic version of early 20th Century Earth has both substance and significance. It is especially encouraging to see a villain in female form, but I’m not spoiling plot here. That’s crucial to your enjoyment of this movie: go see it cold. Don’t binge on spoilers beforehand because they will lessen your enjoyment so very much.

This movie has so much to lend to it in positives, not simply a pretty damn faithful reproduction of Wonder Woman’s ‘origin’ story. Chris Pine is as great a Steve Trevor as you could possibly have hoped: inspired by Diana’s heroism, yet still unable to believe her true motivation until the truth literally explodes in front of his eyes. The plot isn’t flimsy, but solidly robust, and even when it drifts into cliche or skips credibility for simple exposition you allow this to slide, because you buy into what you’re being told. There are some beautifully placed nods to other DC heroes, to the genre generally but where this entire endeavour so brilliantly succeeds is where Diana is a warrior. The sequence where she liberates a Belgian village is so incredibly uplifting you’re willing to forgive the casualties, that the Germans might not just be the bad guys. This Amazon owns everything she sets out to do, encouraging those around her to be better than they are without her by their side.

However, there are criticisms. The way this story is both presented and told initially assumes a great deal of an audience, and my 12 year old with no backstory and understanding of the genre was confused and unhappy at certain parts of the narrative. If you’ve already bought into the DC Universe it makes a lot more sense, yet there are a number of quite serious questions that are left unanswered in WW’s narrative. The biggest single issue I still have after several days however is the convenience with which events play out in the first 45 minutes: with the running time of this movie at 2 hours 21 it is fair to say that had there been any more scene setting, your average audience would have struggled. So, you let the issues slide, because there’s moments where you forget everything and simply allow the movie to swallow you whole, and it does. The last 40 minutes is breakneck, and even though it ends with a denouement that could have been ripped from another Marvel movie if you’re looking to compare and contrast, it doesn’t matter at all.

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There’s not a dud performance amongst any of the supporting cast: particular love goes to Lucy Davis (above) as Etta Candy (who should have had more to do, frankly, but this is 1918) with Robin Wright and Elena Anaya doing a really great job in their respective tasks. When there’s intimacy (and this serves an important function in the plot so it wasn’t just written in as an afterthought) it is so brilliantly acted by both leads as to be both acceptable and encouraged. In fact, that strength is one of the cornerstones of the entire movie: that love is what matters above destruction and hate, that caring and not killing is what should always be the default, in the end. However, the fact that people have to die is a point that echoes throughout the entire fabric of the film, from first frame until the last, and using mortality as the lynchpin to so much of this action gives a resonance that remains with the audience long after they have left the theatre.

Frankly, I’d argue you’ll not likely to see a better ‘comic book’ movie this year: I’m not sure Justice League is going to give Gadot the space she needs, or that her supporting cast are the right characters to pick, but we will see in November. In terms of my personal scale, this ranks on a par with Batman Begins, and I think probably sits with the original Iron Man movie as an origin story that isn’t just totally believable, but you’d have wanted to be real. There’s more than enough to keep the casual fan happy, and if you’re a hardcore fangirl nitpicker, it leaves you with more positives than negatives. In fact, I’ll repeat what I said as the credits rolled: I’ve waited 50 years to see a movie with a heroine so beautifully and compellingly formed like this.

I hope I don’t need to wait the same time for another.

Eat to the Beat

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Today, someone took the time to explain to me how one properly flosses teeth. I realise that this has never been pointed out before, and understanding WHY something happens is probably more important than the fact it is done. Sometimes, that extra step is hard when everything else matters. I’d never visited a hygienist until today either, so please feel free to chuck a disapproving look this way. However, I made sure to tell her how gentle she was, how nobody else had ever taken that care before with my teeth, and that being willing to learn brings great reward.

Remember to tell someone today how important they are, and how much they matter.

Last night, I rented a movie as I was alone in the house: Dr Strange now explains a lot of the motivation in the Marvel universe, the location of one of the outstanding Infinity Stones, and that however much I love Benedict Cumberbatch he’s fucking wasted as badly constructed combination of Tony Stark and Star Lord. The cut of the film feels horribly off in places too, and the effects sequences… it was like watching a migraine. However, I may yet give it a second viewing to see if stuff improves. This does mean however that two of the best British male character actors of a generation now hold significant store in a Comic book Universe. There’s always a bright side.

Last night was also my first lesson in what my body enjoys digesting post operation and what is unacceptable, and an important correlation was made. I understand why a certain Chinese dish makes me unhappy: it’s not the fish, but the batter they’re coated in. Sadly that means last night’s chicken also makes it onto the ‘avoid like the plague’ list, which is sad as it was lovely at the tastebuds stage. There was a warning I might also need to lay off trigger foods that were an issue pre-Operation, but as yet I think I might yet get away with going back largely to normal.

Today is the last day of playing with back end stuff for the other sites. Starting tomorrow, it’s T Minus 15 days to full-on Patreon awesomeness. I’d better get on with my to do list :D

Words

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It’s been some time since a movie stopped me in my tracks, but last night (as our kids were with their Gran and Grandad) Mr Alt and I ‘rented’ Arrival. It’s probably the best six quid I’ve spent on a film for quite some time, and although it was almost frustratingly slow to start, on reflection the pacing was spot on. It’s also a VERY clever film in terms of its use of a Chinese character (who has a key and pivotal significance to the narrative) as has become the fashion of late for Hollywood. I won’t spoil it for you, because I really urge a watch if you’ve not done so: I guessed the ‘plot’ quite early on, and the signs on the roadmap to final understanding were subtle enough to make this hugely satisfying. My only objection is Renner’s casting as a physicist when all I can see him doing is firing arrows, but that’s my problem to fix and not anyone else’s.

What Arrival has now prompted in my mind is the understanding that language is a hugely subjective tool. There’s a key point in the narrative (which is referenced in the trailer and so won’t spoil you) where, in interpreting the Heptapod’s incredibly complicated, 3D written language, the word ‘weapon’ is used by the aliens with immediate and devastating effect. Crucially, it is immediately understood by Dr Louise Banks (Amy Adams) as a potential mistake: we are teaching aliens our language, and by doing so there is always the possibility that a word can be misinterpreted because of the way we misuse them ourselves. There’s a brilliant scene in the narrative that foreshadows this too: Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) is amazed that the first words that Banks will ‘teach’ are, in his mind ‘grade school’ and only when Louise explains exactly why it has to happen that way is it clear that learning to communicate without misinterpretation is one of the most complicated things we will ever do.

Social media, on any given day, is a perfect example of how that process can get mangled.

Language is a constantly evolving concept: words change meaning from generation to generation. What someone can consider a grievous insult others will laugh at as a clever pun, or an adroit use of definition, and the problem remains the interpretation of the individual. On social media however, there are other issues to consider. If, as has been the case in the past, I’m discussing something in one place with someone who’s reading about other people’s views in two other places, their frame of reference to mine is different, making their interpretation of the key issue inherently different. If all you did on Social media was have one to one conversations, an awful lot of miscommunication and offence would automatically vanish, but often several conversations will go on at once and in amongst this people are asked to make judgements, sometimes based on only a portion of the total facts available. When the definition of those words get mangled, then it can all go to hell very fast, and pretty much always does.

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There is a great deal you can learn from discussion and debate, so much so your kids will be encouraged in school to do just that. My son has been incredibly brave in his admissions, my daughter is just beginning to find a voice which I hope one day will allow her to feel confident in her chosen career. Being comfortable enough to argue is great, but I’ll be the first one to admit that doing so in certain online spaces is a waste of both time and sanity. Even the most erudite of speakers, the most intellectual of human beings has the capacity to become a total imbecile when given half the chance, or the right poke from a Troll. On the flip side, branding a whole group of people as ‘deplorable’ doesn’t do wonders for your PR either. This is where the adage that ‘it takes two to start an argument’ is the mantra to repeat, and the Monty Python sketch on Arguments should be taught to every person who’s never heard it:

M: I came here for a good argument!

O: AH, no you didn’t, you came here for an argument!

M: An argument isn’t just contradiction.

O: Well! it CAN be!

M: No it can’t!

M: An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.

O: No it isn’t!

M: Yes it is! ’tisn’t just contradiction.

O: Look, if I *argue* with you, I must take up a contrary position!

M: Yes but it isn’t just saying ‘no it isn’t’.

O: Yes it is!

M: No it isn’t!

O: Yes it is!

M: No it isn’t!

O: Yes it is!

M: No it ISN’T! Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.

This week therefore I’ll be doing my utmost to improve communication skills in places where I know they’re lacking. I’ll also remember that it matters just as much who I’m speaking to as what I say, and that a wise woman remembers this and plans accordingly.

Some days, the best thing to do is never to speak to begin with.