Okay, so since I’ve been back I’ve been trying to chew my way through all the pop culture that I missed, and this seems to be a big one. It came out the day before I left (which didn’t quite give me enough time to squeeze it in) and already people had been singing its praises. Critics liked it, fans liked it, it was slotted to make tons of the monies, everything was great. Now it’s three weeks later and it’s still doing great, both critically and commercially, better than anybody could’ve hoped for. I mean, I saw it on a Wednesday night at the quietest theatre I know, and it was still packed. That’s gotta say something.
It’s also become something of a cultural talking point. Errrrrybody and their mom has something to say about it. Mostly, if they’re idiots, it’s about how surprising it is that the movie is doing well. “You mean a good director can make a good movie, even if she’s a lady?! Poppycock!” And if they’re not it’s about how great it is to finally get a good, female led super hero movie or that it’s nice that the curse of the DCEU is finally over. And I agree with both those things! Diversity of representation in films is important (and I am not implying, in any way, that the problem is solved. Only that this is a positive and necessary step in the right direction) and having a superhero that the other fifty plus percent of the planet can use as wish fulfillment is a good and positive thing. Plus, even though I’m an unashamed Marvel fanboy (Peter Parker was solely responsible for my sexual awakening. When I was a kid I used to watch the 90s cartoon and just want, so hard, to be 1/2 of a Mr. and Mr. Spiderman marriage. Ever since then, if you’re not a handsome secret genius that wears skin tight suits and cracks wise while beating up street thugs, it’s probably not going to work. If you are though, get at me, I’ve found dating really difficult for some reason) it’d be nice to get good movies from both of the big houses.
So basically I went into this movie hella ready to heap my love on it. My heart was full, my tear ducts were open, and my fingers were poised to tippity tap out their sweet, juicy approval all over the internet. And…
It was pretty good!
I mean, I liked it. Well, not all of it. But most of it! Sort of most of it. Some of it…
Part of the heartbreaking amount of meh I feel towards this movie may have to do with my superhero fatigue, which the child/teenage version of me would punch me right in the mouth for saying. “You had to watch Mutant X for years just to get your fix, and now you have too much?! We watched all of Smallville you sonofabitch!“ And I get his anger, I do! It’s like a rich person complaining about how having too much money is a burden. I’ve just…I’ve seen so many, and almost all of them are the same. They’re different too, different characters, costumes, powers, villains, whatever, but in most of the ways that matter they’re identical. Person discovers they’re extraordinary, discovers a bad guy that needs to be stopped, suffers tragedy and hardship, grows in some way, defeats said bad guy. The End. And that’s not a terrible thing, in and of itself. I’ve spent years of my life loving it. Not only that, but I generally tend to love genres that use repetitive narrative structures, mysteries being another good example. I find the predictable nature of them delightful and comforting. But that type of mystery, where I kind of know the end, and the good guys are good, and the bad guys are bad, are not the only books I want to read. And neither is this type of superhero movie. I like it when people surprise me sometimes, when they take that expected narrative device and do something interesting and different with it.
I think another big part of my problem with this movie was the beginning and the end. The middle chunk of this movie is incredible, almost perfect. But the setup is a little rushed (which might just be me. I like a nice, slow burn, and tend to find shoe-horned in exposition really jarring. Most of it was pretty good, but every now and again it seemed like they were just whipping through stuff as fast as they could), which wasn’t a huge deal. I get it. It’s a big movie, you’ve got a lot of stuff to fit in there, and it’s already pretty long. But it’s not like there isn’t stuff you could cut out to make the film fit better (*ahem* boss fight *ahem*).
Which brings me to the only thing that I really, really didn’t like about this movie: the third act. God am I ever tired of these. I can’t be the only one, right? Big, firey, CGI smash em ups just aren’t that fun or interesting to watch. And the middle part of this movie is sooooo gooooood! She starts on one end of the spectrum (people are good and if they’re hurt you should help them) and Steve starts at the other (things aren’t that simple, and if you want to do good you have to compromise) and throughout the course of the film they learn from each other and move towards the middle (him more so than her). I just thought it was building to a more complicated, nuanced finish, and when it didn’t I was really let down. Also, the execution of it was a little on the cartoonish and silly side, and didn’t fit the World War 1 setting and tone.
Listen, none of this is the filmmaker’s fault. Patty Jenkins has nothing to do with any of the previous superhero movies and she shouldn’t have to shoulder all the baggage and expectations I came into this with. This was a good movie, with a great cast and a solid story. She did enough. But I can’t help the way that I felt when I left the theatre: fed, I got exactly the meal I paid for, but not quite full. Wanting more.