Five minutes into the Wonder Woman film, my girlfriend grabbed my arm and whispered, “Is that real Greek mythology …”
I whispered, “No.”
My girlfriend fought to hold back a peal of laughter. I breathed in, breathed out, and did the mantra that I always employ in any film that uses Greek mythology: Modern film writers don’t have a Mendeley library. You can do this. It might not be that bad. Everyone on the Internet said it was great. Well, almost everyone. Autostraddle says it’s good. You trust Autostraddle, right? RIGHT? Oh, shit. Wait. Did they say Ares killed every god? How can someone kill every god when there are enough known Hellenic deities to fill a small New England town? Who wrote this script? Oh my gods, what if this is what the franchise is actually like? Is this the franchise backstory? Am I coming into this just not knowing?
My girlfriend’s next whisper happened several minutes later, “Is that real? Did they really just do that?”
No. No. No. No. No.
No. No. No. No. No. No. No.
No. No. No. No. No.
The film’s cinematography was amazing. The fight scenes were good for a ~$150M* film. It was great to have a film that gave women real(ish) armor.
That script, though. That script was not great work. It also is secretly the same plot as Guardians of the Galaxy 2, complete with (spoiler) a vengeful god who decides to destroy all of humanity because humans gave lim a splinter (or just didn’t live up to ler expectations). I am absolutely amazed that the director was able to work with such a bad script and plot.
(Not only that, but in an early part of the film, Wonder Woman is revealed to have read a twelve-volume treatise on sex. Whoever wrote the dialogue occasionally forgets that this happened and makes this character say things that make absolutely no sense. Of course she’s seen a penis before because she read a twelve-volume treatise that must have had some diagrams. Of course she knows what gestures of human affection are. Is she an android?!)
The thing about bad backstory writing is that this is entirely preventable using free resources on the Internet, such as the Perseus Digital Library and Theoi.com — no interlibrary loan wait periods, no paywalled articles. The problem is that not enough people writing consider it a good investment of their time to do well-researched, rigorous writing grounded in an understanding of non-monotheistic mythology.
The story at the core of Wonder Women and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is the Wrath of Gods for the Sins of Humanity story. So many other stories can be explored instead, and it’s this lazy, shallow look (instead of a deep, longitudinal one) that really hampers a lot of modern fictional works. This story is a sexy one to monotheistic cultures because there is a sense that a god must be vengeful, that le must be out to get us, and that the outcome must be to kill or stand up to this abusive figure who only wants to harm us. It’s a baddie movie using figures from mythology to quell our anxieties about our own worth as a species when we have done so many horrible things to one another and to the world around us.
One never explores gray areas. I would have loved to see a film that explored the complexities of war using the other myths about it — the idea that Ares is bound outside of the city gates, for example — or one that employs the idea of Persephone’s jar or the myth of Zagreus and the Titans. It would have been way better, and there would have been plenty of opportunities for amazing fight scenes.
Wonder Woman was otherwise great. She punches some Nazis, has a bunch of kickass fight scenes, and it’s a great victory for women because we need more blockbuster action films that give us real(ish) armor. And it could have been so much more if only the script team had consulted with someone who actually knew more than the tl;dr version of Greek Mythology.
* Corrected from 100M.