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The trailer for Zack Snyder’s Justice League is Here

In Zack Snyder’s Justice League, determined to ensure Superman’s (Henry Cavill) ultimate sacrifice was not in vain, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) aligns forces with Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) with plans to recruit a team of metahumans to protect the world from an approaching threat of catastrophic proportions. The task proves more difficult than Bruce imagined, as each of the recruits must face the demons of their own pasts to transcend that which has held them back, allowing them to come together, finally forming an unprecedented league of heroes. Now united, Batman (Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and The Flash (Ezra Miller) may be too late to save the planet from Steppenwolf, DeSaad, and Darkseid and their dreadful intentions.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League debuts March 18 on HBO Max.

Movie Review: Wonder Woman 1984 Delivers Throwback Fun

Wonder Woman 1984

The much delayed and anticipated Wonder Woman 1984 has finally been released in an unprecedented roll of the dice and experiment by Warner Bros. and its parent company AT&T. Released on HBO Max and in theaters, the film has pivoted a few times due to the current pandemic and shifting needs of consumers. Taking advantage of my big-screen television and surround sound, and not wanting to risk COVID, I took advantage of my HBO Max subscription to watch the film and in doing so, I felt transported back decades to the early years of comic film adaptations. That’s both a good and bad thing in the end. But, the end result is a film that’ll be polarizing and over years most likely dissected, analyzed, and opinion will shift for the positive.

Shifting the setting decades from the original, Wonder Woman is now in 1984 living her dual life. Longing for the return of her Steve Trevor, she’s been lonely and somewhat isolated. Enter the dreamstone, a MacGuffin that can make wishes come true. A failed businessman, Maxwell Lord, also wants the statue in hopes that he’ll be able to turn around his ventures and become a worldwide business dynamo. What results is a film that examines the 80s while also upending superhero movies in many ways.

Directed by the returning Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman 1984 features a story by Jenkins and Geoff Johns with a screenplay by Jenkins, Johns, and Dave Callaham. The story and direction have their bumps but overall the film feels like a throwback to earlier years of superhero films both in tone and look. This isn’t a film filled with cynicism and negativity. Instead, it’s a story about hope, love, and a positive future. It’s bright at times and wears its pacifist leanings on its armored sleeve.

The biggest break from other superhero films is the lack of a villain with a motivation to cause harm. Played by Pedro Pascal, Maxwell Lord is Donald Trump mixed with 1980s television hucksters. It’s established early Lord is a fraud attempting to make money through a pyramid scheme. He wants a successful business not to rule anything and we see that through his actions.

In the end, the issue presented is desires uncontrolled. Lord’s plan spirals out of control putting the world on the brink of nuclear war. In that way, we get a very different story from DC and Marvel films of the past. This isn’t a nefarious plan so much as a mistake. It’s a scam that gets out of control and results in unintended consequences.

Jenkins attempts to have fun with that spiraling out of control world as things amp up slowly and then the avalanche. Lord wants more and uses his newfound powers in an attempt to enrich himself and at the same time also create some stability… which only creates more instability. We’ve seen a similar plot in Bruce Almighty. While that film stayed isolated to Buffalo, this takes it to a global scale.

The team slowly builds Lords out of control failure from his empty office, to the Middle East, to the White House, and then beyond. It’s a ramping up of an out of control power and a man desperate to figure out what to do next. He easily could have just made himself the ruler of the world but he doesn’t. He wants to be “the” businessman.

Jenkins attempts to bring an 80s vision to the film’s 1980s setting. That results in a mixed result. The tone of the film has much more in common with Richard Donner‘s Superman than it does with anything post-2000, the “modern superhero film era”. Its colors, lighting, and overall attitude are one of positivity. It has a light tone never taking itself too seriously and playing loose with the logic of the story. We’re treated to a finale that breaks from the traditional punching that crescendoes most comic films. It puts an exclamation point that the film attempts to do something different.

But what the film really does is remove itself from the meta-cinematic universe we come to expect. Yes, the film has the return of Steve Trevor from the first story but it has little direct impact on other DC films nor does it set up or continue a meta story that involves 20 other films. It’s a two-issue story arc giving us breaks between drawn-out “events”. It’s supposed to be a breezy popcorn film focused on fun and it generally succeeds.

The film absolutely has issues with its story. Trevor’s return has a lingering of rape due to how it’s done. Kristen Wiig‘s Barbara Minerva/Cheetah is underused. Some of the film could have been tightened up in the details. The film is loose with some fat to it. Minor changes would have made a leaner and tighter film. Special effects at times are rough and some fight sequences feel a bit uninspired. But, every comic film released has had problems none are perfect and there are modern releases that are in a far rougher shape than this.

The actors all bring some interesting aspects to the film. Gal Gadot is supposed to be front and center and while she plays alone very well, she doesn’t quite have the draw power she had in the first film. That’s partially because everyone else is so over the top in their performances that her Diana/Wonder Woman comes off as too serious and dour at times.

Returning is Chris Pine as Steve Trevor. Pine has the most fun of the actors continually being excited about the world he’s returned to. The joke happens over and over but Pine’s delivery never gets old and through him, the film gets to poke a lot of fun at the time period. Pine is our time capsule reminding us of the fashion, dances, and innovations of the decade.

Joining Gadot and Pine are Kristen Wiig as Barbara Minerva and Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord, the two “villains” of the film. I put that word in quotations because neither is truly evil.

Wiig plays the bookwormish Minerva who also works in the museum with Gadot’s Diana. In Diana she sees someone she inspires to be and her wish to do so brings unintended consequences. Wiig does a fantastic job of evolving from one thing to the other playing a convincing flower blooming. She does the stumbling nerd well and then the confident woman everyone wants to be around. There’s a lot of 80s John Hughes in the performance and it captures the decade well.

Pedro Pascal puts in an over the top performance tapping so much of what was wrong the decade. His scheming Lord is the insecure loser and con-artist we knew so many of the titans of the time were. Donald Trump, televangelists, late-night infomercials, Lord is all of these things in a bad wig. He’s the embodiment of everything wrong during that time period and does it with a delivery that emphasizes the slime. But, he also gives us a villain who isn’t so much one and as we learn someone the audience can relate to more than they want to admit.

Wonder Woman 1984 feels like the enjoyment will be directly inversed to how cynical one is. The more you are, the less you’ll like it. It’s a film that doesn’t take itself seriously and just roles with its ideas. The action sequences are enjoyable, performances a bit over the top, and a story that you just roll with. This is a popcorn film that wants you to not think and just go for the ride. It’s comic book escapism that takes its tone and look from comics delivering popcorn digital enjoyment.

Overall Rating: 8.0

Wonder Woman 3 is a Go with Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot Back

Wonder Woman 1984

Wonder Woman 1984 is a success in the eyes of Warner Bros. and its parent company AT&T. Soon after the film’s release on Christmas Day, the film studio announced a third film has been greenlit. Director Patty Jenkins will return to complete the trilogy with Gal Gadot starring once again. The film “will have a traditional theatrical release”.

Wonder Woman 1984‘s release had a “strong opening weekend performance” according to Warner Bros. chief Toby Emmerich.

The film opened with $16.7 million domestically from 2,100 theaters and $68.3 million from the international box office. That’s one of the best debuts post-COVID.

The film opened in both theaters and the same day for HBO Max viewers. The film studio said that around half of the platform’s retail subscribers watched the film on Friday. Millions more viewed it through cable or wireless access. HBO Max is reported to have 12.6 million active users.

Those stats exceeded expectations in the first 24 hours on the service and the momentum is expected to continue well beyond that.

It’s unknown when the film will make it into production as Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot are working on a film about Cleopatra from PAramount and Jenkins is set to direct a Star Wars film, Rogue Squadron, which is slated for Chrismas 2023.

Wonder Woman 1984 Shines in its First Trailer

The first full trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 is here and it shines in fully embracing the 80s.

Fast forward to the 1980s as Wonder Woman’s next big-screen adventure finds her facing two all-new foes: Max Lord and The Cheetah.

With director Patty Jenkins back at the helm and Gal Gadot returning in the title role, Wonder Woman 1984 is Warner Bros. Pictures’ follow up to the DC Super Hero’s first outing, 2017’s record-breaking Wonder Woman, which took in $822 million at the worldwide box office.

The film also stars Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Kristen Wiig as The Cheetah, Pedro Pascal as Max Lord, Robin Wright as Antiope, and Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta.

Wonder Woman was created by writer William Moulton Marston and artist H G. Peter and debuted in All Star Comics #8 in October 1941.

Wonder Woman 1984 is set to open June 5, 2020.

Movie Review: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

Sometimes sequels are lazy cashgrabs, (especially animated sequels– looking at you, Cars movies!) but the followup to the movie everyone thought was going to be terrible but was actually groundbreaking and amazing is almost equally as… um… “awesome.”

I say “almost” because it’s hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube for the original conceit of the movie: that the Lego toys (and our characters) exist in the real world in a suburban basement somewhere in what was an extended metaphor about capitalism, fascism, consumerism, playing with your toys, and having childlike wonder and fun with them.

Having expended that creativity in the twist ending (and further exploring it in both the Lego Batman and Ninjago movies), the only answer in the sequel is to double down on what else worked so well in the first — humor, songs, childlike anarchy and imagination — and move forward. While this isn’t quite the revelation the first one was, it’s still easily the best movie of 2019 (so far).

Our story begins where the last one ended (literally) with the arrival of Duplo aliens from the “Sistar” system. Now 5 years later, the aliens continue to come and destroy anything that our heroes build in the former metropolis of Bricksburg, which is now a Mad Max style apocalyptic wasteland, complete with broken Statue of Liberty!

However, this doesn’t dampen the spirit of Emmett (Chris Pratt) who continues to think everything is awesome. The more cynical realistic Lucy / “Wyldstyle” (Elizabeth Banks) along with Metalbeard (Nick Offermen), Benny (Spaceship! Charlie Day), UniKitty (Allison Brie), and Batman (Will Arnett) rule over the city protecting it from incursion and destruction. But Emmett starts to have dreams of an upcoming “Mom-ageddon” where all the Legos are put into storage forever.

When one day a mysterious spacewoman named General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) shows up to “invite them all to a wedding,” she kidnaps all of our heroes except Emmett and takes them to the Sistar system. Our optimistic construction worker then has to travel into the great beyond up the staircase and to the new galaxy to rescue them.

On his way he encounters Rex Dangervest (also Chris Pratt in a dual role) whose super awesome spaceship is piloted by Raptors. Rex is super hardcore, which gives him not only “master builder” powers but “master destructor” powers. The two new “vest friends” plan to disrupt the wedding ceremony between Queen Whatevra Wa’Nabi (Taraji P. Henson) and Batman as it is the final sign of the Momageddon.

That plot doesn’t really do the film justice however, because there is so much more going on at every level. The film is infused with joyous songs. The infectious conformity anthem of “Everything Is Awesome” is one-upped by a song literally meant to brainwash our heroes by claiming that “this song’s going to get stuck inside your head.” And it really does.

In “Gotham City Guys,” Queen Whatevra seduces Batman in what is perhaps the funniest sequence in the film for comic fans as she plays on Batman’s insecurities and rivalry with a certain Kryptonian. This is also a good time to mention that Jason Momoa and Gal Gadot also both appear as their DCEU characters in some truly excellent cameos. But don’t worry– Green Lantern is still played by Jonah Hill from the first movie! (What, they were going to get Ryan Reynolds?)

Returning musical champs The Lonely Island also make an appearance singing a song about how cool the credits are– which definitely make you want to sit through the credits. And Queen Whatevra channels evil Disney anthems like “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” “Be Prepared,” and “Mother Knows Best” singing a song all about how she’s definitely definitely definitely not evil, she promises.

What really makes this film work are the multiple layers of meaning. And for this discussion I will have to delve into minor plot spoilers, but not ones which adults wouldn’t see coming from a mile away in a kids movie. Of course as adults we recognize that the “Sistar System” is actually ruled by the sister of the young boy we saw in the first film.

What is actually happening in the war between Bricksburg and her system is sibling rivalry played out large. An older brother feels that his little sister is breaking and stealing his toys (which he’s not wrong about by the way). And a little sister just wants to play Legos with her older brother. Taking in stride the meaning of the first film, we see the son becoming his own father: demanding the conformity to his type of play and excluding those who won’t play along.

And we also have the eponymous Mom of the Momageddon (Maya Rudolph) who is doing what moms everywhere do: if you can’t play nicely with each other, then I’m going to have to take away the source of the conflict (the offending toys). Again, these are minor spoilers, but they’re also pretty clear to adults who read between the lines of the early plot and who are aware of the conceit of the first film. Also, let’s take one moment here and point out how amazing Maya Rudolph is. She is the shining star at the center of this film’s universe, bathing everything in a warm glow at the perfect intersection of awesome, funny, and super serious. She’s the perfect mom.

There’s also deeper message here that emphasizes the original (covert) feminism of the first Lego Movie, even directly pointing out that Lucy was the one who did most of the heroic things but Emmett is still seen as the leader and the hero. But this film is implicitly making the case for opening up the toy box for everyone, and not just everyone in general, but specifically for young girls. It should also be noted that the central players of the Sistar galaxy are also voiced by women of color (Haddish, Beatriz) — another implicit demand for playing with everyone.

Gatekeeping is endemic in our fan culture, and nowhere is it more apparent than among self-professed fans who seem most intent on keeping women out of the fandom. The same mentality also infects the toy aisle of your local favorite big box store, which is still one of the most unnecessarily gender-segregated areas left in America.

The idea that Legos and building sets are only for girls, and therefore we have to create special gendered Legos for them is as silly as it is retrogressive. And yet, Lego has done just that, haven’t they?

The strongest message that we got at the end of the film is simply to play with one another, and allow different forms of play and imagination to work together. Spoiler alert: when the brother and sister stop fighting, they create a beautiful new Utopia for the Lego heroes from both universes to live in.

There’s another great moment near the climax of the third act where “Everything is Awesome” is turned on its head and Lucy starts singing how everything’s not awesome, but it can be if we all work together and put aside differences and misunderstandings. Essentially, it’s a message to not go Hard AF at each other, because all that brings is destruction and unhappiness.

There couldn’t be a better lesson for 2019, and this was made all the more poignant when I saw this film at a critics preview screening the same night as the State of the Union speech. Everything’s not awesome, but there’s a way forward if we can hope and dream of a better world and work to bridge misunderstandings in order to confront the real evils that exist out there.

Note that this isn’t some mealy-mouthed centrist plea for bipartisanship or something of that nature. This is more of a plea to an increasingly fractured left and center who can so easily fall into the traps of purity tests or even engaging in ridiculous activities like re-litigating the 2016 primary.

One of the biggest lessons of this Lego movie is the fight about who started the war between Bricksburg and the aliens. “You started it.” “No you started it.” It’s the oldest, childish argument in the world, and it’s time to move past things like that to help make our world a better place.

The film is also incredibly funny, with jokes coming a mile a minute. You will want to re-watch several times, and maybe see it out of the theater because you are laughing so hard you will miss the next joke. There are beautiful and hilarious Easter eggs and callbacks to the previous film, but nothing that presents a barrier to anyone who didn’t see it.

The character designs and animation also continues to be astounding. Freed of just following the instructions from the first film, so many of the designs are just built on anarchy and imagination which makes them incredibly fun and toyetic. I left the theater and immediately went online to look to see if I could buy a UniKitty battle cat. Luckily I can, along with numerous other sets that I would probably have to take a second mortgage out to be able to afford. There’s also an amazing “Battle Ready Batman and MetalBeard” set for those who might gawk at playing with “girls toys.” (Did you not get the memo?)

The film does bog down a little bit in its second act, but it more than makes up for it with an amazing ending. The spirit and morality and hopefulness of this film make it something that will make you happy and want to play with your toys and hug your kids.

Everything’s not awesome, but it can be if we’ll listen to The Lego Movie 2.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Movie Review: Ralph Breaks the Internet

ralph breaks the internetRalph Breaks the Internet may not be as good as the original, but it still has the same heart that its predecessor did. It takes a while to find its bearings, but when it lays in to making fun of internet culture and fellow Disney properties, it becomes an amazing thing to watch. And down deep, there’s a great story about friendship… and insecurities.

It’s been 6 years since the events of our first film, and everything is exactly as we last saw it. Wreck-It Ralph (John C Reilly) and Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) are still best friends. But while Ralph is enjoying the routine of his life, Vanellope wants more. She’s tired of racing around the same tracks over and over. And so, when Wi-Fi is installed in the arcade, Ralph and Vanellope find themselves scouring the internet for a part to fix the Sugar Rush game.

Of course, then they find themselves without the money to purchase what they need and find themselves at the mercy of the very strange economy of the internet. This is where the film takes off as they visit various locales trying to make some money. This includes a Grand Theft Auto / Twisted Metal type online racing game, where they encounter a racer played to perfection by Gal Gadot. I know this is weird to say about a 30-something and a 10-year old, but you really sort of ‘ship her with Vanellope. Friendship, of course! *wink*

Speaking of great new characters, we also get to meet “Yes,” (Taraji P Henson) the algorithm behind a Buzzfeed/YouTube type site. The film endlessly skewers internet trends and viral videos, which not only makes for a lot of fun but also some wry commentary on what it is we do for entertainment online.

But the absolute breakout scene of the film (Minor spoiler, but an early version of this scene was shown at Comic Con, so this shouldn’t be news to anyone) is Vanellope learning that she is now one of the Disney princesses.  Not only is this the best scene in the film, but they went to the lengths of getting as many of the original voice actors for each of the Disney princesses as possible. It’s also a great commentary on the tropes of Princessdom. Oh, and while in the Disney area, they make fun of Star Wars. A lot. It’s perfect.

What ends up working the most about this film is that it is driven by these two characters who we as the audience can see are drifting apart and want different things. We also see them making bad choices in how they communicate with one another about their wants and insecurities, which makes them drift even further apart. it’s a great introspection on friends and friendship and friends drifting apart.

The only downside of this is I’m not sure kids will buy into this message. It feels much more like an adult conversation about insecurities and why it’s hard to maintain adult friendships, whereas kids just make friends because they’re into the same stuff and in close proximity to one another.

The other downside of the film is it’s not clear if this will keep the same classic vibe that the original Wreck-It Ralph did. By being very comfortably retro, it set itself apart as being sort of a film placed outside of time: thanks to nostalgia for classic 8-but arcade games, it already has a classic feel before it’s even made.

This film trades in that classic vibe for such current and prescient content/memes as Fortnite dances, and it’s unclear what cultural impact (if any?) this will have several years from now. Then again, you might have said the same thing about Q-bert or Street Fighter, and we still have all of those characters in Wreck-It Ralph.

One thing writer-director Rich Moore knows is comedy. As a veteran of The Simpsons and writer/director of some of its most classic early episodes (“Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment” is a personal favorite), he knows how to bring giant belly-laughs and smart satire. All of that is served up here in giant Thanksgiving-sized helpings.

The only problem is the film takes 20 to 30 minutes explaining its newly revised premise until the funny really kicks in. Sequels usually can forgo some basic exposition and cut to the chase, but this has to reset its basic premise before wackiness can ensue. And it doesn’t really hit its stride until that scene where we’re making fun of Disney princesses. It hits that climax about 2/3 of the way through, and rarely approaches the same heights again. It’s really unfortunate, but at the same time, it’s hard to remember a better single scene of any animated film in the past several years. Those five minutes are worth the price of admission alone.

The original Wreck-It Ralph works so well because of its giant heart.

When Ralph embraces that he’s a bad guy and is willing to use his badness to save his new, weird, glitchy friend, we all shed a tiny tear. It’s a beautiful story about broken people finding each other and being ok with not being “perfect” according to everyone else’s standards.

Ralph Breaks the Internet might break your funny bone, but not your heart. It’s missing some of that beautiful magic of the first, but it’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser for families looking for a great time in theaters over the holiday season.

Here’s hoping Disney will green-light a third film where they just make fun of Disney properties.

3.75 out of 5 stars

PS- Be aware there are two after-credits scenes, but neither is a must-see. However, at least one provides more of the meta-humor poking fun at the film and its marketing. They’re worth sticking around to suck the extra marrow out of the film, but if your little kids have to run to the potty and can’t hold it much longer, you won’t miss too much. This isn’t the MCU. . . yet.  Wait a minute. . . Here’s a pitch: Ralph Wrecks the MCU— IN 2024! Crossover with Marvel vs. Capcom! Make it a team-up with Deadpool. BRILLIANT!!! Rich Moore– call me.

Around the Tubes

It’s a new week and we’re gearing up for San Diego Comic-Con! Lots to do and we’re only a week and a half away from the convention! What are you excited to see more of? Sound off in the comments.

While you wait, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

Washington Post – ‘Wonder Woman’s’ Gal Gadot visits children’s hospital dressed in full superhero costume – Very adorable and good on her for bringing some light to these kids’ lives.

iO9 – Meet the Professor Who’s Going to Teach a College Course All About Batman – Who wants to take this course?

UpNorthLive – Michigan couple chooses comic book shop to wed again – Very cute.

The Comichron – June sales off on fewer releases, but first up quarter since summer 2016; Justice League, Magic Order lead comics – For those that enjoy the horse race.

 

Reviews

Talking Comics – Batman #50

Talking Comics – Catwoman #1

Around the Tubes

It’s new comic book day tomorrow! What’s everyone getting? What has you excited? Sound off in the comments below. While you think about that, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

Around the Tubes

The Comichron – May 2017 comics sales estimates online; combining orders again gives Batman top slot – Some more info for those that like the horse race.

CBR – Comic Legends: Which Marvel Rival Was the ORIGINAL ‘Brand Echh’? – Some fun comic history!

Star Local Media – Love for literacy: McKinney teacher is co-director of first Texas Latino Comic Con – Such a cool convention and glad to see it!

CBLDF – “The Band Who Must Not Be Named” Wins Supreme Court Case – This should be interesting to see the impact.

CBR – Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman Payday Was Criminally Low – Sigh.

10 News – Vandal throws bricks through windows of Ocean Beach comic book store – Boooo!

The Beat – A Year of Free Comics: Read Colossi #1 for free and see tiny humans menaced by a giant cat – Go read it!

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

Comic Attack – Black Panther & The Crew #3

Wonder Woman Refuses to Celebrate Violence

by Jill Raney

I love superhero movies. Like, my love for superhero movies borders on obsessive. (I saw Ant-Man on opening night. I already know what I’m doing for Valentine’s Day next year, and it’s seeing Black Panther. I will never, ever forgive Joss Whedon for Age of Ultron.) And I fracking love Wonder Woman, which may come as a surprise to some who know me for my work against Israel‘s occupation of the Palestinians.

First, Wonder Woman is an actual good superhero movie. It has an actual plot, several characters grow and change in meaningful ways, and the fight scenes are meaningful parts of all that plot and character development. Superhero movies are starting to ruin themselves, and it’s so satisfying to see a superhero movie use its tropes to tell a genuinely great story.

But more than that, it’s a superhero movie that doesn’t glorify violence. It’s an explicitly feminist superhero movie that doesn’t argue that women joining in on militarism is feminist — because feminism instead requires honoring every person’s humanity. Wonder Woman manages to make a coherent, compelling argument that violence doesn’t fix anything. Wonder Woman shows us that killing someone might stop that person from killing others, but killing someone doesn’t have the power to end suffering. Only loving each other, strategically, even when it’s hard, can do that.

This message is especially meaningful because Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot served in the Israel Defense Forces and makes a point to speak positively of her military experience, ignoring that her military service was a contribution to Israel’s decades-long military occupation of the Palestinians. As she told The Daily Beast, “I want people to have a good impression of Israel”.  (Loving problematic things is hard, and I respect the hell out of people who are skipping Wonder Woman because of Gal Gadot’s politics.)

I’m glad the talents behind Wonder Woman decided to alter the canon to tell a story of World War I, again for two reasons.  First, it makes it a better movie, because there’s already a great superhero movie about a hyper-competent brunette soldier and her boyfriend Steve who dies in an airplane in World War II. (Seriously, Wonder Woman manages to feel so fresh despite sharing many plot points with Captain America: The First Avenger. See: the hero gaining military training by subterfuge, a disfigured science-y supervillain who wears a mask, the romantic leads’ witty banter about sex and military tactics, the hero undertaking an unauthorized rescue mission and stopping the enemy’s chemical warfare alongside their international and racially diverse hand-picked special forces unit, a battlefield goodbye to doomed romance, a solemn celebration of the end of the war, etc. At least Diana and her Steve got laid, sorry Peggy and other Steve.)

But more than that, it gives the movie room to breathe that it might not have were its Israeli actress fighting Nazis on screen.

Extremely valid Jewish trauma from the Holocaust was the most reasonable of causes for many Jews to move to Palestine after World War II. Extremely valid Jewish trauma from the Holocaust, generations later, is much of what Jewish institutions throw in our faces unreasonably when a Jew speaks out against Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians. (Coincidentally, that’s what I was doing the same day as I saw Wonder Woman — and shortly before I crashed the Celebrate Israel Parade to hold a “No Celebration with Occupation” banner with IfNotNow, I saw a parade spectator wearing a “Magneto Was Right” t-shirt, which is a whole other essay about Jewish Holocaust trauma and troubling relationships to violence.)

Gal Gadot, with her decidedly non-English name, is visibly Jewish in a way her comic book actress contemporaries Natalie Portman (Thor’s genius girlfriend Jane Foster) and Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff, who deserves her own Black Widow trilogy) are not. Surely many of us might feel some satisfaction to watch a famously Jewish actress punch Nazis in the face. But I suspect that, were Wonder Woman set in World War II, we would not have seen Diana be so forgiving to German soldiers once the immediate threat had passed. And that would have made Wonder Woman a lesser movie.

Diana seeks to kill Ares, believing that destroying him will end humanity’s inhumanity. She kills General Ludendorff, mistaking him for Ares, and finally kills Ares himself, but she spares Doctor Maru, whose supervillainous mustard gas had killed the villagers Diana had saved just days before. She spares the German soldiers who survived her battle with Ares. Diana knows that more killing will not end inhumanity, only love can do that.

The Israeli government and mainstream Jewish institutions refuse to allow our community to forgive, to spare those perceived as enemies, and that institutional refusal to honor Palestinians’ humanity in particular makes its way past our gas masks of critical thinking and into our minds and souls. As I saw Diana lift that tank over Doctor Maru, weigh the moral choice before her, and decide that this death would cost more than it would save, I couldn’t help thinking of Gal Gadot’s Instagram post in support of the Israeli troops who were attacking Palestinians during the 2014 Gaza war.

Did Doctor Maru deserve to die for her crimes against humanity?  It’s not about what she deserved, it’s about what you believe.

What’s so delightful about superhero stories is their ability to help us imagine what we might do if regular social norms or the laws of physics didn’t apply to us. They invite us to imagine who we might be if what holds us back weren’t there, and they invite us to consider whether the things holding us back are truly strong enough to stop us.

Diana, Princess of Themyscira, is a goddess, trained in combat by the Amazons to protect all life, raised in a peaceful (and queer, fight me) paradise, with no understanding of or patience for the misogynist, racist social mores of 1910s Europe. The rules don’t apply to her. I can’t fly, and neither can Gal Gadot, and sadly, neither of us has a Lasso of Truth. I’m an American Jew and I don’t know what it’s like to choose between jail time and mandatory service in an occupying army — but Gal Gadot does, and she made her choice. I do know I can expect some nonsense on Twitter for this piece, and I can expect continued hostility from Jewish institutions for my work to oppose the occupation.

The laws of physics and the expectations of our communities apply to us mere mortals. Those expectations that our communities place on us can feel as heavy as gravity, but they are not gravity, and we can choose to flex our ordinary, non-super muscles and push back.

Do Israelis and Palestinians deserve freedom and dignity? It’s not about what our people deserve, it’s about what our people believe.

It feels like too much to hope, but maybe some of the little Israelis who go see Wonder Woman because of Gal Gadot will internalize the movie’s message. Maybe they’ll grow up to refuse to occupy in part because of the example set by Diana, Princess of Themyscira.


Jill Raney is an anti-oppression advocate, entrepreneur, and enthusiastic genre nerd. They live in Washington, DC, where they are a member of IfNotNow, the Jewish movement to end our community’s support for the occupation.

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