Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Critical Reaction to "WONDER WOMAN" and the DCEU
CRITICAL REACTION TO "WONDER WOMAN" AND THE DCEU
I might as well put all of my cards on the table. I am tired of people claiming that the D.C. Comics Extended Universe (DCEU) finally got its franchise right with the recent release of "WONDER WOMAN". As far as I am concerned, the DCEU had been getting it right ever since the release of its 2013 film, "MAN OF STEEL".
I enjoyed "WONDER WOMAN" very much. In fact, it is my favorite movie of 2017 . . . so far. But I do not consider it the best film within the DCEU franchise. But that is not my point. My point . . . has to do with the reasons behind this declaration regarding "WONDER WOMAN" and why I find it so troubling.
I cannot help but wonder if today’s critics and moviegoers have balls of rubber. When did it become so damn important to them that all comic book hero movies are "fun" or loaded with humor? There is NO LAW that all comic book movies have to be "fun". The Captain America movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) franchise were not all fun . . . especially 2014's "CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER" (which is why I am such a major fan of the movie). Neither were the Dark Knight Trilogy films directed by Christopher Nolan. And the DCEU film, "SUICIDE SQUAD" was practically loaded with humor. Yet, that film was trashed as well, and criticized for similar reasons as "MAN OF STEEL" and its follow-up, "BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE" (another major favorite of mine). So, why criticize the DCEU movies for lacking a sense of humor?
Another criticism that has been lobbied against the DCEU films was the franchise's ambiguous portrayals of its main characters. Especially Clark Kent aka Superman. I am beginning to suspect that deep down, this negative reaction regarding the DCEU franchise solely began with the portrayal of Clark Kent aka Superman in "MAN OF STEEL". Many people seem incapable of dealing with Superman being portrayed in some ambiguous manner. They could not deal with his insecurities regarding his place in the world - insecurities that originated with his status as an immigrant from another world . . . and his super powers. These traits - especially his powers - led Clark/Superman to be initially regarded as an outsider and with distrust. "MAN OF STEEL" was the first time any movie had explored this aspect of Superman's existence. And to be honest, it did not reflect well upon most of the Humans featured in the movie. When it seemed that Superman had finally risen above his insecurities in the next movie, "BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE", events in that film proved that he had not - not completely. And the reason he had not risen above his insecurities stemmed from the public's fickle reaction to him. In the 2016 film, some people worshipped Superman as a god. And this made him feel very uncomfortable. Others regarded him as a convenient savior to be at humanity's beck and call. Not only did many of the public felt this way, but so did the majority of political and military leaders. And others, like Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne aka Batman, regarded him as a current or future menace. Had this ambiguous portrayal of Humanity or its ambiguous reaction to Superman's presence annoyed a lot of people?
I do know that many critics and moviegoers had protested his killing of the Kryptonian leader, General Zod, claiming that Superman does not kill. I found this declaration either ignorant or hypocritical. Why? Because Superman had killed Zod in a previous D.C. Comics film, 1981's "SUPERMAN II". No one had protested. And many comic book movie fans today insist that scene never happened. It seem many fans and critics will not allow Superman to be an individual with virtues and flaws. Instead, they always seem to demand that he be some damn, one-dimensional symbol used to wallow in their illusions and fantasies of a convenient savior in an unsafe world.
This attitude has been extended to both Bruce Wayne aka Batman and Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman . . . but in different ways. Many critics and moviegoers not only criticized Superman for killing Zod in "MAN OF STEEL", they also criticized the Batman character for his killing of numerous thugs and his attempt to kill Superman in "BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE". Considering that Batman has always been such a noir character among the comic book heroes, I found this criticism very hard to swallow. Have there been other occasions in which the Dark Knight had deliberately killed someone? Hmmm . . . he killed the Joker in 1989's "BATMAN". He arranged the Penguin's death in 1992's "BATMAN RETURNS". Batman caused Harvey "Two Face" Dent to fall to his death in the 1995 movie, "BATMAN FOREVER". And in 2005's "BATMAN BEGINS", Batman refused to save the life of his mentor-turned-nemesis, Herni Ducard aka Ra's al Ghul from one of Gotham's runaway monorail trains. Mind you, some countries do not consider deliberate killing by inaction a felony. Some countries do. And in my eyes, it is not only murder, but hypocrisy at its worst.
However . . . hardly anyone seemed to remember these previous incidents of Batman causing the death of another. Instead, they focused their ire upon Batman's actions in the 2016 movie. Was it because Batman was not portrayed as a clear-cut hero throughout most of the film? Or that he seemed to be portrayed as a homicidal xenophobe, bent upon Superman's destruction? Did this negative portrayal put these fans and critics off? Were they unwilling to peek into the uglier aspects of Batman's persona . . . something that the comic books have never been afraid to explore? But the portrayal did not stick and eventually, Batman saw the light . . . again - something that a lot of moviegoers and critics had failed to notice Or perhaps they were too taking umbrage at how director-writer Zack Snyder was willing to take Batman so close to the abyss. In many ways, these same moviegoers and critics remind me of the general public featured in "BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE". Perhaps that is one of the reasons why so many were negative toward the film. Zack Synder had portrayed them in a way they probably found unflattering.
As for "WONDER WOMAN", I get the feeling that many critics and film goers are complimenting the movie for THE WRONG REASONS. Unless I am mistaken, the movie I understand that it is the first truly successful comic book heroine movie and I am not only glad, but relieved. However, the movie seemed to possess a more ambiguous and complex tale than many are willing to admit. And these same fans and critics seemed to think that it is the only DCEU movie that is truly a "fun" movie. Strange . . . I never came to that conclusion. Looking back on the film, I noticed that the movie possessed pockets of innocence and humor - especially in the first half. But once the movie shifted to the war zone in Belgium, it gradually became more grim and angst-filled. Diana's innocence and naivety, which seemed humorous in the film's first half, proved to be an impediment to her character growth in the second half. Yet, I have only come across a few articles willing to admit this.
In fact, many were so busy emphasizing Diana's compassion, warmth, frankness, strength and warrior skills so much that they seemed to turn a blind eye to her personality flaws. Many had ignored that Diana's bubble-like upbringing had made her too naive for her own good. Although one might be inclined to compliment her frankness, many had failed to notice that this trait proved to be an impediment to Steve Trevor's attempts to report his actions in Eastern Europe to his superiors. Or that there is a time to be frank and a time to keep one's mouth shut. Many critics and filmgoers have been so busy focusing on Diana's virtues or trying to paint her as a more superior costumed hero/heroine than Superman and Batman that it seems as if they have deliberately turned a blind eye to her flaws. Or pretend that she had overcome her flaws by the end of World War I. Many have also complimented Wonder Woman aka Diana Prince for coming to the conclusion that humanity is not all good or all bad. The ironic thing is that Wonder Woman came to her balanced opinion of humanity after her experiences in "BATMAN V. SUPERMAN", not in this movie. She came to this conclusion after a conversation with Batman aka Bruce Wayne in the 2016 movie. After her World War I experiences, Diana had spent nearly a century maintaining an emotional distance from humanity and maintaining a cynical view (which I share, by the way). And many filmgoers and critics have either failed to notice this . . . or refuse to acknowledge this aspect of her character.
Now, I am a big fan of "WONDER WOMAN". So far, it is my favorite movie of the Summer 2017 season. But the movie does have its flaws. I have a deep suspicion that a great deal of the movie's acclaim originated from gender politics."WONDER WOMAN" is the first truly successful costumed hero/heroine movie in which the protagonist is a woman. As a woman, I am pleased by this turn of events. But I am also disturbed that so many are using this aspect of the film to judge it superior to the other films within the DCEU franchise. Nor do I regard "WONDER WOMAN" to be morally straightforward as many critics and moviegoers insist that it is. In this movie, the character of Princess Diana aka Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman is forced to shed her naivety and truly grow up. And in a rather painful manner. If the movie truly was that morally absolute to me, I would not have found it that interesting in the first place. Nor do I regard the public's misconception of the movie as morally absolute as a sign of its superiority over the previous three DCEU films. I have reached a point in my life in which fictional works with a black-and-white morality are not as interesting as it used to be when I was a lot younger.
Due to certain arguments, I do not regard "WONDER WOMAN" as the "savior" of the DCEU franchise. Unlike many moviegoers and critics, I did not find the character of Wonder Woman to be ideally moral. In fact, there were times when I found her idealism and moral absolutism rather annoying. And I did not find the movie as morally absolute as many claim it was. Despite being thrilled that the film is the first comic book hero movie with a woman protagonist to be very successful, I do not regard that as an argument to view it superior to the other DCEU films.
For me, the idea that "WONDER WOMAN" is the D.C. Extended Universe franchise's "savior" is a load of horseshit to me. As far as I am concerned, the DCEU never required any "saving". At least not yet.