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Wonder Woman

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This movie has the capacity to both satisfy and frustrate in the same beat.

The Sun-reading Neanderthal in many men will go hoping for some side boob and serious thigh action, and they will not be disappointed. What’s wrong with that, anyway, in this cinematic age of gender-blind flesh fetish? After all, don’t many women go to witness the fitness too? Similarly, the quivering pre-orgasmic schoolboy in them, the Robert Crumb if you will, may achieve climax at the sight of all the female physical power on show.

But why must it be delivered in waxed, contoured, filled and pouting form? While Robin Wright Penn manages the chew her way through the gristle of dire dialogue with neck sinews and manufactured scars popping, and perhaps even a hint of grime or sweat, why must Diana never perspire? Never blush, nor grunt like the magnificent athlete she is? Why must every violent action she undertakes be punctuated with simpering poses not unlike an imaginary Kendall Jenner fashion shoot?

Gal Gadot does a fine job of working through the stylistic and conceptual conflicts. Diana is, after all, an ingenuous, dewy-eyed goddess, unperturbed by discovering modernity and oblivious to how (ironically) her innate inability to perspire and consistently immaculate make-up so utterly conforms to its unrealistic expectations. Her dead-pan expression, as she marches out of Selfridges wearing a fabulously chic period twin set while gripping a vicious shortsword and shield, is only surpassed by her stoic blank stare of determination while mounting the trench ladder to confront No Man’s Land, surely to be disintegrated by a monsoon of machine gun fire.

But no, dear reader! She is not even grazed by a single round, nor can she be bested by entire batteries of artillery. When not on one knee, resisting Newton’s laws of mechanics against explosive force, she struts to the enemy line with the bombastic swagger of a reality television “star” offering some sexy young German a can of Pepsi. If only it were that simple, Gal. In fact, you’ll need to slay the God of War himself in order to cool the rage and lust for murder that burns in the heart of every Kraut, thereby ending the War to end all wars.

I suppose it’s incredibly facile to balk at the cartoonish assault on historicity of a comic-book adaptation, but it remains unpalatable to reduce such horror to a binary battle between bloodlust and love, and have its resolution achieved by a supermodel on a rampage. The historian in some of us might take solace in the fact that the First World War was not characterised as a struggle between good and evil, but rather as a senseless and epic slaughter. They might also vomit a little inside their mouth and swallow it again when confronted with SS Commandant Ludendorff, nevertheless.

The feminist in you, who went hoping that this might finally contain a female action hero who can stand toe to toe with the best solely on the basis of her character, strength of action, intellect or charisma, might leave with a trickle of blood from one nostril, and the aura which precedes a migraine. Marvellous though it is that Wonder Woman saves an entire town of civilians, and a platoon of soldiers trapped in hell, all on the back of her own initiative and thrashing muscle, what are we to make, dear reader, of her ultimate moment of truth? The zenith of her self-actualisation comes when she realises that love, as she has now experienced it, is a more profound force in human affairs than violence. The love of her boyfriend, who turned Kamikaze, despite his love for her, because of his ultimate love for goodness and truth. The love that leads her, in the grip of despair at losing the man with whom she chose to have premarital relations, on a flame-scorched murder-spree (pffft, women, eh?).

I cannot recall another superhero who chooses to save the world because of love. Is it necessary for a female hero to be motivated by her emotional landscape? Can she not make choices based on what is reasonably rational, what is morally sound or what is common sense? Would that not ring true to the audience? That said, many an action hero of the male species has been driven by jealous anger or thirst for revenge. Why not Wonder Woman? Sadly, she has to expound that the ultimate goodness in the hearts of people is their capacity for smoochy smoochy snuggles before she can eviscerate the bad dude with his own solar beam.

Which brings us to my final point. For all these observations, it remains a mildly entertaining diversion, made all the more watchable by the presence of the evergreen and magnificent David Thewlis. Some may know him only as Remus Lupin, or the bad chap from the new Fargo, but ever since seeing Naked (Mike Leigh, 1993) I’ve elevated him to the honorific ‘Best Thing to Come from Blackpool’. I shan’t spoil the plot but let’s just say there’s some spicy meat. Yeah bwai. He makes mincemeat of what continues to be a chewy old script.

Three perfectly manicured nails out of five

Written by James P. Campbell

18/06/2017 at 19:55