By Eleanor Ringel Cater
“Wonder Woman” isn’t wonderful.
Okay, there, I said.
While the entire future of women in Hollywood is apparently riding on this femme-centric action flick (Variety-speak) and while the critics have raved and audiences have rallied, I just can’t join the celebration.
“Wonder Woman” is sturdy. It’s expensive. Its star, Gal Gadot (a former Miss Israel; who knew Wonder Woman was a nice Jewish girl?), is winning and hard-working.
And yet, what’s up on screen is dutiful and derivative and, frankly, a bit dull.
The movie opens on the secret Amazon Island Themyscira (is it just me or does that sound like a STD?) where dozens of well-toned women run and wrestle and ride horses and practice archery (Again, is it just me or does this look like a summer camp for extremely attractive lesbians? Not that there’s anything wrong with…)
We meet Wonder Woman, aka, Princess Diana, when she’s still a Wonder Child. She has two mommies: the warlike General Antiope (Robin Wright) and her more reserved biological mom, the Amazon Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen).
Not surprisingly, they don’t see eye to eye on her upbringing. But all that becomes moot when, around the same time Diana has passed puberty, a World War I bi-plane crashes into the sea just off the coat of Chlamydia… I mean Themyscira
Inside is stalwart Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) whom Diana saves from drowning. In return, he tells her all about the Big Bad War going on. Given her superhero DNA, Diana naturally demands to accompany him back to London so she can help save the world from the Huns (as Germans were called during The Great War).
What ensues is, well, a valiant stab at creating a franchise, which, if the box-office numbers are any indication, will most likely happen.
To repeat, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But you do wish this were a better movie.
Diana, Steve and their “ragtag” crew are sent on a daring mission Said crew is an embarrassing clump of clichés. There’s trickster Sameer (Said Taghmaui) who sports a fez. And Charlie (Ewen Bremner), a peppery Scot who actually wears a kilt (even when riding a horse). And The Chief (Eugene Brave Rock), a stolid Native American who’s very good at…wait for it…tracking.
The action sequences are appallingly generic. Close your eyes and they could be anything from “Captain America: Civil War” to “Batman v Superman.”
The movie’s most enjoyable scenes take place in London where Diana is a classic fish-out-of-water. She doesn’t understand why she can’t walk around naked — or at least in her patriotic breastplate and star-spangled panties. When Steve introduces her as his “secretary,” she’s not sure what he means. After he explains, she replies, “Where I’m from, it’s called slavery”
Score one for the good guys (gals).
For Diana, London is a brave new world of mixed blessings. A place of catcalls, leers and male privilege (“What’s it doing here?” demands one peer when she brashly enters an male-only enclave). However, it’s also a place of ice cream, snowflakes and dancing.
But if you’re old enough to remember “Splash,” with Darryl Hannah as the bodaciously beautiful yet blissfully childlike mermaid, this is pretty familiar stuff.
So is the “We must infiltrate that German gala” plan. Translation: we have to give Gadot a chance to show up in a drop-dead gorgeous evening gown. (To the movie’s credit, her accessories include a sword.)
And there’s simply something stomach churning about Steve’s real secretary, a squat, unattractive (but cheerful!) woman. She is, of course, a suffragette. Certainly not desirable, but a really good egg… as they say.
That “Wonder Woman’ has done so well can’t be taken as bad news. But it’s a bit unsettling to realize what sort of dunderheaded, generic “feminist” picture appeals — to the culture as a whole and to Hollywood in particular.