So, that movie came out.
After all the hype and mixed reviews, all the Zack Snyder hand-wringing, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is here, and I saw it.
All of it.
My reaction is in that special place where “wow” meets “yikes.” But it doesn’t matter. Not really.
It doesn’t matter Dawn of Justice functions like a Chicago deep dish pizza of superhero action drama – too much of every tasty ingredient you’d ever want thrown into an 8-inch-deep monstrosity.
It doesn’t matter that Dawn of Justice is high on Easter eggs and low on narrative, a 231-minute supercut of phenomenal fanboy fantasies, jam-packed with character left turns, and the prime example of be careful what you wish for.
It doesn’t even matter that I can say all these things about the epic mess that is Dawn of Justice, which I was entertained by even though it wasn’t good.
Because Wonder Woman, dammit! GREAT HERAAAAAAAAAAA!!!
Sorry, nerds. I was in it for Wonder Woman in a movie, and I got Wonder Woman in a movie.
At last, praise Aphrodite.
I got Diana Prince slinking about in man’s world in sleek, glamorous, minimalist clothes. Diana dances with Bruce Wayne at Lex Luthor’s party, both of them sensing the kinks behind their smiles and knowing that both of them are on a mission. Batman just can’t go without dancing with a rival, can he? He’s danced with Selina Kyle in Batman Returns and The Dark Knight Rises, and with Diana once in the Justice League cartoon.
Even better was watching Diana put Bruce in his place when she said, “You’ve never known a woman like me.” She toyed with him a bit, only to take his intel out from under him – for a little bit. She looked at him like he was a child. Which, when you’re 2,000 years old, I guess any mortal will be a child to you.
But after the umpteenth unexplained Easter egg, the third or fourth Batman nightmare, the 15th of Batman’s casualties, 25th shot of sad Superman and 203rd Luthor vocal tic, I finally got my moment of truth when Wonder Woman appeared, costume and all.
The movie went from Batman’s “oh shit” as he awaited death by Doomsday, to “oh shit!” when the smoke from the blast revealed Diana’s crossed, glowing bracelets.
There she stood, Wonder Woman; her hair black and flowing, her eyes sharp and alive.
We got that rousing theme music, a blend of Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL that lives up to the imagined mashup of Man of Steel and Mad Max: Fury Road. (Think Trans-Siberian Orchestra plays a Greek festival.)
I loved how unafraid she was. She’s fought more than her share of monsters, she said, before leaping – sword and shield in hand – a football field’s length, right at Doomsday. Her scream as she did so gave her strength.
I enjoyed that for all of her fighting ferocity, Wonder Woman had some smarts in her attack, too. The defensive quality of Diana’s attack showed that she was there to hold the monster in place until Batman’s kryptonite spear could be recovered.
She knew that Doomsday only got stronger with each blow, so her moves correlated with that, like Hercules and the giant. Decrease how many times he can punch you by cutting away the hand. Stop him from running after you by slicing the Achilles tendon.
And then there’s the smile. Oh, the smile. That sly look of someone happy to meet a challenge. You can knock down an Amazon, and she will rise and redouble her efforts.
Hell, given Wonder Woman’s dominance-and-submission roots, that smile amid hitting and being hit could have something kinky to it as well. Man! Can I get some of that “love through submission” stuff from Marston and Peter’s old comics? Maybe a limp, wounded Steve Trevor will undergo some of that old Amazonian re-education? That would rock.
Dawn of Justice gave us Diana the warrior woman, which has been popular enough in most recent versions of Wonder Woman. It’s a fine part of the character, but I prefer when her strength is not as warrior’s ferocity and more of feats of derring-do to keep the peace. I want more of that in her own movie.
In that final Bruce-Diana conversation full of world-building potents, I thought that Batman sounded more like the Wonder Woman I know, given how much this Diana felt wary of re-entering man’s world.
I’m hoping that we’ll see more of that sentiment in her solo movie, as the mechanized horrors of World War I force Diana to question whether men and their world can be saved. And we’ll see Themyscira and how these Amazons behave.
As of now, we have a little taste. On the day Dawn of Justice was released, Warner Bros. let out a photo for the Wonder Woman movie of Diana in golden Amazon garb along with her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), and her aunts General Antiope (Robin Wright) and Lieutenant Menalippe (Lisa Loven Kongsli).
They look fierce, sexy and powerful, for sure.
Cool, I thought.
Now, where’s Philippus aka Alcippe, the black Amazon who, in the comics, is Diana’s key trainer and a top confidant of Hippolyta?
It didn’t feel right to see these three women credited as Diana’s mentors, with Philippus not there. This wasn’t some plea for diversity for diversity’s sake, or race-bending a role.
This was asking about a diverse character apparently gone from this adaptation, when such characters already are horribly few.
And I wasn’t the only one looking for Philippus, who currently is enjoying a great turn in the Legend of Wonder Woman limited series.
Some folks got pretty mad about the missing Philippus, especially when there’s no listing of the role or a black actress on the film’s IMDB page. And yes, for a movie that did its work to put the classic Etta Candy (Lucy Davis) in there, it would be dumb to leave Philippus or other ethnically diverse Amazons out.
For now, I can’t let the hot takes become my solid opinion. Wonder Woman began shooting in November, and they may not have shot everything on Themyscira yet and may not have made all the casting public yet. At least director Patty Jenkins responded to the criticism that day to say there are “lots of great, diverse characters” to be seen on Themyscira soon.
Let’s hope. But for now, I have Dawn of Justice and its taste of what Wonder Woman has to offer.
Looking forward to more. For now.