Remember the term “middle-brow?” Middle-brow entertainment. Books, magazines, movies, for those who weren’t high-brow but wanted to be better than they were. Better educated, behaved, cultured. Movies, largely, understood the subtleties of culture, manners, and morality, and that part of the audience who didn’t, were a little embarrassed about it.
Hollywood movies were shown overseas, but to appreciate them and understand them took knowledge and intelligence or, at least, cultural curiosity. No longer. Expensive movies expect to make most of their income in foreign lands.
Enter Marvel (Disney) and DC Comics Entertainment (Warner). It would be awkward to stop a culturally-American movie to explain customs and social norms that were already understood by all the characters in the movie. Comic-book movies mostly eliminate any confusing eccentricities. They’re set in a fantasy world with a minimalist culture. They still stop to explain, but it’s everyone who needs the explanations now: no one knows what the Infinity Stones are; few know the Norse gods Thor and Loki; every enemy needs to be explained to the other characters by the one person who happens to know all about them.
In comic-book movies, America and other countries are comprised of landscapes, populated cities, the government, and perhaps news media. The street-filling citizens are there to be saved or killed. The government is there to do shady things and generally be unhelpful.
Wonder Woman put in a brief appearance in Batman v Superman to help with the “boss level” battle at the end. In her own movie, the actress does a fine job, credibly portraying a goddess created and gifted by the gods of Olympus, and she and the film make her a sympathetic character who the fanboys can admire without feeling gallantly protective.
Princess Diana leaves her Amazonian home to join in WWI on the side of the Allies. Hmm, not quiet. On the side of – mankind, against the god Ares. Ares improbably killed all the other gods of Olympus except Zeus, who created Diana to slay Ares.
Steve Trevor has a mission to stop the evil scientist making poison gas for the Germans. Chris Pine handles the role well, and his chemistry with Gil Gadot makes the movie a fun ride
Wonder Woman is a big hit among grownup comic book enthusiasts. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. And compared to crap like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, it’s a triumph. But if you’re tired – tired of comic book movies you can’t possibly take your children to, tired of villains as disdainful of humanity as the film they’re in, tired of long boss fights, tired of movies with America-free America – the numerous good ingredients of Wonder Woman will not stop it from being One More of These Damned Bleak Things. I look forward to the next movie Ms. Jenkins makes without having Zack Snyder influencing things.