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Wonder Woman, Warner Bros. Pictures, 2017

by Joseph Spece

Reflections on Warner Bros’ Wonder Woman (2017).

The lilt and lyric oilpaint technique used to illustrate Hippolyta’s tale of gods and men aspires to be Michelangelo, but succeeds more in being Rubens. And like a Rubens, Wonder Woman has superior plastic form, even if its vision is insufficient.

 

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The serpentine and sea-like life of Hestia’s Lariat——its liveliness in the hands of Diana——must immediately become the standard by which all cinematic wielder-relic relations are judged.

 

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The fact that the film’s major action is anamnesis, or even flashback-in-flashback, is particularly poignant; Diana lives, it seems, as a curator at the Louvre, without any credit for her heroism during WWI. So the Feminine persists, elemental, with all its teeth and Doing, despite the historian’s refusal or ignorance of it.

 

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Director Patty Jenkins’ refiguring of the Amazonian contest motif and her handling of Captain Trevor’s marooning are among her most inspired decisions; without these moves, the film remains a kids’ comics transplant.

 

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Ceremony & Stringency wear their crowns still.

 

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Some will argue that without certain heterosocial tropes——dress-buying with witnesses, slow dancing, melting with some man into a softly-lit chamber——Diana of Themiscyra could not realistically grow her long-term interest in defending human innocents. For my part, a hero driven to joy and follow-through by something like Kant’s sense of duty is feasible for Wonder Woman, and worth wishing for.

 

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Gadot’s Diana has moments of duende.

 

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Critic Katie Walsh has written: ‘Witnessing such feminine power is mind-boggling and awe-inspiring, but wistful, too.’ Her use of ‘wistful’ rings true and adds questioning interest to an otherwise clichéd passing assertion. And that interest is: Does Power Have a Gender?

 

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The rolling, leaping, arc-making acrobatic and artistic quality characterizing certain of Diana’s battle-cuts always lives alongside her capacity to burst blankly through a wall. Diana is a brilliant linguist and fits properly in a gem-blue gown. Diana has knocked out a clocktower and then smiled. If we compel ourselves to explain her tactician’s forceful-sensual appeal, let’s admit straightaway that only a woman needs account for abstract / many-minded capacity, since all history’s demanded she be legible.

 

Then we may give Diana’s supergendered genius its due: Y a d’ l’Un——‘There’s such a thing as One.’[1]

 

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A person of real crystal principle is spared the inconvenience of nemeses. She walks in the gas field tall as a crane. Paths narrow to the hollow.

 

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Extremity is the mode of the pilgrim, not balance.

 

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Assertions in the film that Diana was ‘brought to life by Zeus’ are diminishingly revisionist, as are recent comic and film-confirmed arcs historicizing the child as produce of God-Amazon coitus. These emendations attempt to invest Diana with a genealogical male influence whose absence has always served her; they also divest Wonder Woman of a rich, singular, Far Solitary and New Familial all-female upbringing. Let me reiterate her origin, per creator William Moulton Marston: Diana is sculpted in clay by her would-be mother Hippolyta, whose great driving love and desperate wish for a child is honored by another woman, Aphrodite, whom animates the sculpt.

 

I will not allow this art-vision to be co-opted by executives or well-wishers whose capital is common fucking.

 

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Not once in the entire film is Diana of Themiscyra referred to as ‘Wonder Woman,’ nor can I recall a single mention of the United States. These omissions are pointed, and I like them.

 

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The film’s treatment of Diana’s relationship with Steve Trevor is pleasingly functional. Chris Pine exceeds all expectations in his capacity to recognize and act out ‘being-beholden’; his stock manpuppy churlishness and military savvy neither aspire to be savoir-faire nor celebrate their strictly temporal significance. Diana of Themiscyra is outside of time, but touched.

 

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I remain in pieces about whether or not Diana’s interactions with Trevor are beneath her.

 

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That Diana and the Amazons speak ‘hundreds’ of languages is believable, given their situation and seeming enlightenment; that English becomes their go-to choice for daily chats off the Greek coast, less so.

 

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All of Gadot’s voguish and refined civilian looks pay homage to Lynda Carter’s style as Diana Prince.

 

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I cannot decide whether the mock-Ragnarök scene-series concluding this and 28 of 29 superhero films is more oral fixation or anal, more destrudo or libido, tundra or taiga, palsy or botch.

 

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I cannot figure how even a single sentence of wooden banal dialogue makes it through the sieve of 12 adults in Editing. Imagine what Wonder Woman could’ve been if even one were brave enough to say: Is this the best we can do with sentiment?

 

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Nothing undoes well-crafted diegesis in film like the concluding ‘Into My Sequel I Fly’ cut.

 

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Put Gal Gadot’s performance in perspective: in order to avoid consignment to navel-gazing protagonism and every peril after, her Wonder Woman had to read wholly equal to / ignorant of her own deep intelligence, striding, beauty, sangfroid, sudden passion——her vincere est vivere. This is not simple conveyance of ‘innocence,’ as some critics have said, but an Utter Color last seen when Brontë made Heathcliff pure black.

 

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Passivity and its doubles must be interrogated.

 

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That the film allows Diana’s tiara to become a memorial ornament is error. This weapon once slit the throat of Kal-El when thrown from a semi-blind distance of 20 feet.

 

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In private life I’ve said: ‘Wonder Woman makes up in social reach what it lacks in Imagination.’ I want to rescind that; I won’t put commercial social impact before true art-making. Acquiescence, mimesis, and economy have no place in the realm of Imagination——that’s reach and instruction we need. Make the art fearsome or retire.

 

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Fearsome art may beget a little queer boy wondering if Diana can be loved for something other than her loveliness. Believe me, we proceed then to the chasm where I call my bit of rope a lasso.

 

 


Note:

[1] Jacques Lacan in Encore (5). Bruce Fink himself toils with translation here: ‘There’s such a thing as One,’ ‘There’s something like One,’ ‘The One happens.’

About the Author:

Joseph Spece lives outside Boston, MA.

  • C.

    This makes every review on RT look like a term paper. Holy shit. Berfrois make this guy a column.

  • Terri M.

    I bet “C.” is the author