Saturday, July 23, 2016

Wonder Woman

I just saw the first trailer for the upcoming Wonder Woman movie. Especially given that I had just moments before seen the trailer for an upcoming King Arthur movie, I am full of thoughts.

Again, even though it's not directly gaming related, I'm going to take a little bit of a detour and talk about something else nerd-related. Hold on to your hats, people, here we go.

Thoughts on Movies in General

I used to like watching movies. I really did. I watched quite a few of them. Then one day, when I was working at Blockbuster Video (many years ago, obviously), I looked out over the many shelves of films on both VHS and DVD, and found myself wondering how many different titles there were. I did a little calculating and estimated that there were probably around 700 titles in that specific location alone.

Just that one store.
If anyone were to watch even a quarter of that many movies, that would be 350 hours spent sitting on one's butt having little cognitive function, and essentially no physical activity at all. And I realised, why would I spend that much time of my life sitting on my butt doing nothing when I could be doing something? 

Maybe still sitting on my butt, but doing something. Reading. Writing. Actively creating. 

Honestly, I have the same sort of thoughts about sports. How much time and money do people spend to sit in uncomfortable stadium seats to watch other people playing games? Wouldn't it be more fun to play the games yourself? Even if you're not as good as the players on professional or collegiate teams, you'd still be having more fun because you're the one doing it, rather than watching someone else do it.

Which brings me to the inscrutable custom of streaming video games. Once more, we have people (thousands at a time, from what I'm told) watching other people play games that they could be playing themselves.

Ok, enough of that tangent. Back to my point.

My point is that I don't much care for movies. Since that time (roughly 2003 or so), my movie-watching habits have steadily decreased. These days, I watch maybe twenty movies total over the course of a single year, and most of those are old movies (I kind of feel sick calling movies from the 80s 'old') on DVD in my own home. The number of films I see in the cinema each year? Two, maybe three.

Seriously, unless it looks like it's going to be an amazing movie (as was the case with Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) or belongs to a franchise to which I have become completely addicted (like Tron, Star Trek, or the X-Men), I'm just not going to bother.

And from what I've seen of movies that I haven't watched, it doesn't look like I'm missing much. The movies that get attention these days, from what I can tell, are either ridiculously over-the-top action films with overly convoluted storylines that seem to think they're only successful if they can confuse the audience so much that they don't really know what's going on anyway, but that doesn't matter because the audience isn't there for the story, they're there for the CGI fight scenes; or they're so-called comedy films that think 'comedy' is defined as 'as many dick jokes as they can squeeze into two hours.'

The aforementioned Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a delightful exception. There was very little CGI (outside of the opening credits), the story was excellent and able to hold its own without confusing the viewers, and it had a strong emotional impact.

But other than that? Movies just don't deliver what I want from them anymore. And what I want is story. If the story is accompanied by CGI or flashy fights or whatever, I'm ok with that, as long as the story is there. If the story gets overshadowed by the CGI or the flashy fights, or if the story gets too complicated, or if the story is bad, then I've lost interest. Nothing else you can cram into a movie will make me interested in it again once the story itself has failed.

This is one of the things I love about roleplaying games. The ones in which I'm involved are stories. If I'm involved in a game that's not telling a good story, I'm going to bail. I've done it before. And telling a story together with my friends? That just makes it even better.

But if I'm going to be told a story, in whatever medium that story is told, it better be a good one.

Preceding Wonder Woman

Right before I saw the Wonder Woman trailer, I had watched a trailer for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. It's blatantly obvious from the trailer that this movie is going to suck. First, they claimed that Arthur was 'raised on the streets,' which goes against everything that has existed for any decent Arthur story told up until this point. The story that appears to be forthcoming from this film, based on what I've seen in the trailer, looks like absolute pants. And as is usual, it appears to prop its appeal entirely on excessive CGI and flashy fight scenes.

Count me out.

Watching the Wonder Woman Trailer

So then I saw that a trailer had also been released for the upcoming Wonder Woman. I was curious partly to see if Zack Snyder was directing it, and partly to get an idea of how Hollywood is going to treat the first (and, as far as I know, still only) major solitary (as opposed to part of a team) superhero to be female. Yes, you can argue that several of the X-Men (Jean Grey, Storm, and Rogue) are major superheroes, but they aren't considered by the general populace to be characters in their own right, but rather characters that wouldn't work without the rest of their team. Most people don't know who Power Girl is. Captain Marvel has similar recognisability issues, and the current incarnation isn't even the original character anyway. And finally, characters like Supergirl and Batgirl are just 'Superman, only female!' or 'Batman, only female!' Wonder Woman is pretty much the only one left.

The Look of the Movie in General

I was pleased to see that Zack Snyder is not directing this film. I didn't have to watch either of his Superman films to see how badly he'd ruined that franchise. I really didn't care for his adaptation of Watchmen. And Sucker Punch... well. 

But as I watched the trailer, I could tell that there was a lot of the same 'Lots of CGI! Lots of flashy fights!' that plague so many modern movies. I'm having trouble getting excited about it.

Granted, my perceptions here may have been coloured by having just watched the King Arthur trailer. Maybe I'll give it another try another day, or when another trailer comes out.

Feminism in Wonder Woman

I really want to like this movie. I really want to want to see it. She is the only major solitary superhero that is a female. Given how hard it is for people to take women seriously in American culture, it's nice to finally see her given her due. Of course, she does fall prey to what I call 'The DC Curse.' The main reason that I prefer Marvel over DC (aside from the fact that the X-Men are about the only superheroes for whom I really care) is because most of the Marvel heroes have actual powers, whereas most of the major DC heroes have an object or set of objects that grants them powers. To see what I mean, let's compare the major characters from both universes:

DCMarvel
Superman: has strength, flight, x-ray vision, heat vision, etcSpider Man: Has strength, wall-crawling, danger sense
Batman: has a bunch of toolsThe Hulk: Has incredible strength
Wonder Woman: Has magic bracelets and lassoIron Man: Has a robotic suit of armour
Green Lantern: Has a supernatural ringCaptain America: Has super strength and reflexes
The Flash: Has super speedWolverine: Has mutant healing power and uncanny senses as well as adamantium claws and skeleton
Green Arrow: Has arrowsDaredevil: Has radar hearing

There are more heroes from the Marvel universe that are fairly widely known, but not a lot more from the DC universe. But on the DC side, Superman and the Flash are the only two with actual powers. The rest have a bunch of gadgets and gizmos. On the other hand, only Iron Man is lacking in actual powers on the Marvel side. I know there are other characters that aren't as well known, but this chart shows the general trend.

Anyway, Wonder Woman falls into this trap. She has a magic lasso that forces anyone within it to tell the truth. She has bracelets that she can use to deflect bullets. She has an invisible aeroplane. In the new movie, she apparently also has a sword and shield.

But even more than that, the thing that bothers me is that she's still seen as beautiful first and a capable hero second. Sure, the movie versions of Jean Grey and Storm and the other female X-Men wear skin tight leather suits, but so do the males. Even in The Fantastic Four, Susan Storm wears clothing similar to her teammates. But Wonder Woman? She wears ridiculously revealing clothing, even in the film. Gal Gadot was chosen in part because she fits the 'ideal' female form. Despite the fact that any capable fighter would have some muscle bulk. I mean, are we seriously supposed to believe that anyone with legs that thin could actually deliver kicks with any power?

Wrapping it All Up

Anyway, that's what I was thinking as I was watching the trailer. So I'm really torn about this film. I suppose it's a step in the right direction, although it's agonizing just how long it's taken us to get to this point. And I wish it wasn't a case of 'one step forward, one step back.' But maybe I'll see something more promising in the future that will make me want to give this film a try.

In the meantime, go forth, have fun, and above all,

Game on!

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