Sunday, July 2, 2017

Wonder Woman: the loss of innocence and importance of belief

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Well, I finally saw Wonder Woman only a month after it came out. I'd been wanting to for a while but never had time with work and school taking priority. It had a different feel from the Marvel movies I am used to but that isn't the focus of this review as it would take an essay to examine my feelings about it (outside of the basics that will be covered here). All that I will say is that it was a great sight darker (for the reasons analyzed in this review). Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and the many aspects of thought it brought up. It was a delicate balance between wide eyed innocence and the horrors of war that ultimately was executed quite well. I actually feel that it was Diana's innocence that truly tied the plotline together.

Diana was truly the only innocent in the movie, thanks to her mother's careful sheltering. Growing up as the only child on an island of warriors and scholars, Diana was technically skilled in everything she did but completely lacking in personal experience. All that drove her achievement as a warrior at first was a desire to become better and to prove herself. She had no knowledge of war or violence or death. She learned and experienced out of pure curiosity but had no driving force outside of herself (and her aunt/general). This curiosity is what led her to Steve's downed plane, curiosity. It was out of the goodness of her being that she saved him.

And there her innocence began to falter, experiencing its very first cracks that exposure will bring.

In her first real battle she was distracted by the fighting and death and the harsh reality of war. She lost her training in the reality of destruction. This led to the death of her aunt/general. Her innocence combined with the goodness that her mother had instilled within her also led to her determination to go out and destroy Ares and save the world. The scene in the boat was solely there to orchestrate Diana's technical knowledge and complete innocence. The kind of innocence that a child might have. Well, that, and to show that Steve is a good and honorable person (although the scene with him naked was a LOT more enjoyable).

Once Diana enters London we are shown a mixture of her innocence and culture shock. Everything appears dark and deadly compared to Themyscira, I honestly don't think they could have found a more extreme dichotomy to portray. While there was a great deal of comedy in Diana's outfitting and her crashing a war meeting, we were also introduced to some of the realities of our callous world through a new lens. We are led to truly see the General's callous compartmentalization, the flirting of a man with broken dreams, and the man haunted by his dreams. The liar, the coward, and later the denier. All led by a good man, definitely above average for a human.

Leaving London we are again assaulted by the images of despair as seen by one who has never experienced it. Diana's innocence and compassion lead the audience to absorb the pain that she witnesses more acutely than we would had she been well versed in war and destruction. This devastation finally gave Diana a purpose, a reason for those skills that she had honed through the years of training. It only makes sense that her other powers would begin to develop faster as well. For the very first time we see Diana experiencing and not just learning. As her innocence falters more, her drive increases. Her ability increases. But still the innocence remained.

While not the most devastating moment of the film, the destruction of the town and Diana's heartbroken denial of Steve and her final call for vengeance against Ares was as hard to watch as it was wonderful. Watching her walk out of the gas and the feeling the burn of her anger was magnificently done. Her battle with Ludendorff was appreciatively anti-climactic, leading to a wonderful confrontation between Diana and Steve as we see the final remnants of her previous worldview fade. As far as she knew, she had just killed Ares and nothing had changed. Mankind was corrupt and they truly were undeserving monsters, to be capable of such destruction. It couldn't however end there as there was still a final showdown to be had.

The revelation of Ares was well done and Diana's conflict over her true identity was masterful (even if it was extremely predictable within the movie plot as a base, ignoring any knowledge of Diana beforehand). Her fight was filled with her skill and her passion but was still lacking that last piece. She was still fighting based on her childish ideology, even if it was colored with her own recent experience of death and destruction. It was this ideology that led her to deny Ares' plan for the destruction of mankind, not some deeper belief in their virtues. This ideology had been her entire life and it was truly all she had left at that moment.

But ideology cannot stand experience and Steve's death was one experience too many for Diana's already overloaded system and she had a bit of an over reaction... combined with god-like powers... At that moment that final childlike innocence was shattered and, as during most instances of world-ending revelations, she had a bit of an over reaction, nearly falling into Ares' rhetoric about the vile nature of mankind (even when it was, you know, Ares, who led to the direct events that put her in this situation. Manipulation much?).

But, in the end, love saved the day. Somehow (my one major issue with the movie, especially thrown in during such an otherwise solid final showdown), Diana suddenly remembers what she couldn't hear Steve say to her and remembered something else that he'd said to her earlier about how believing was enough (I actually didn't take noted during this one so I don't remember exactly). And Diana believes in Love. From there, Diana fights Ares and kills him, having fully embraced her godly powers and gotten a new purpose. (No, it doesn't happen that fast for us mere mortals and I am sure it took her a while to fully integrate into a worldview as well.)

The premise of the movie as a flashback was nice, kind of showing us where Diana was now (not in relation to Batman or others) as well as allowing her to give us her new philosophy in a beautiful and final monologue that sums up the flashback and tells us why she continued to be a hero as well as explaining her current occupation at the Louvre

"I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind; but then I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learnt that inside every one of them there will always be both. The choice each must make for themselves — something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know... that only Love can truly save the world. So now I stay, I fight, and I give — for the world I know can be. This is my mission now. Forever."

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