ActionFest Double Team Review: ‘Wonder Women!’ Punches Like a Girl and That’s a Good Thing!

By  · Published on April 25th, 2012

In an attempt to shake things up a bit and pay a bit of homage to the amazing fight sequences we saw at ActionFest, Brian and I will go back and forth on these reviews in a kind of point for point debate style as opposed to traditional review format. We hope you enjoy it.

Brian Salisbury is only part man, the rest is composed of dense, angry layers of English muffin pizzas and Sno-Caps. Forged in the fire of Mt. Dubious Taste, Salisbury (alias Steak Plissken) now wages an unceasing war against the forces of good and pretentious. Entering the squared circle of ActionFest, he is determined to eye-gorge himself on action flicks and wreck as much havoc upon his Viking-bearded cohort Luke “Danger” Mullen as he routinely does upon his own digestive system. Will these two titans of genre consumption merely destroy each other in Asheville, or will their collective might leave the city a smoldering crater with only Zaxby’s cups and Cheerwine bottles to denote its former existence?

Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines is a documentary that owes more than a little to Not Quite Hollywood, but if you’re going to take cues from another doc you could do far worse than Mark Hartley’s loving ode to Ozploitation. Wonder Women starts strong, tracing the origins of Wonder Woman from inception to her modern day incarnations with several stops along the way. The film features interviews with everyone from the famous Wonder Woman TV show’s Lynda Carter to feminist leader Gloria Steinem. It’s interesting and engaging but falters a bit towards the end; muddying the waters with over-generalizations and somewhat dubious assertions. Despite these relatively minor flaws, it’s an informative and enjoyable film.

Brian: [singing] Wonder Woman! [/singing] Yeah, Wonder Women ummm title to be inserted later.

Luke: The Mark Hartley Story. Every documentary needs to stop using the phrase “the untold story,” I’m sorry.

Brian: And it’s not just that…

Luke: No, it’s the whole style.

Brian: It’s this weird rock ‘n roll video aesthetic that people are trying to bring to all kinds of documentaries after Mark Hartley did it so well with Not Quite Hollywood and Machete Maidens Unleashed. But Wonder Women ehmisfugen is about basically the representation of women in media in general. I mean it starts off about Wonder Woman the comic book character and about how she was really the first female super heroine and how she kinda changed things for a lot people. It does branch out from there and talk about the feminist movement and how TV and movies portray women. It’s a very interesting subject matter even if you are in possession of a penis as I am, it’s still a fascinating subject. And I did like learning some things about the Wonder Woman character that I was completely unaware of going in.

Luke: This one is kind of a mixed bag I think for both of us. It’s fairly short, it clocks in around 62 minutes. And the first half hour or so is really strong. I think it’s because they’re focusing on the Wonder Woman comics and there’s some really interesting information in there that I don’t think is common knowledge.

Brian: Like for example, I didn’t realize that the creator of Wonder Woman also created the polygraph test…

Luke: Or that it was a man. I kind of assumed that it was a woman so I found that really interesting.

Brian: …but it kinda makes sense given that she has a lasso of truth that prevents you from being able to tell lies, it’s actually an interesting context for that.

Luke: And speaking of the lasso of truth, I liked that they dipped into the bondage imagery in early Wonder Woman comics. I feel like I’ve seen some of those cells and thought to myself, man that’s pretty provocative, so it was cool to find out that those weren’t just isolated incidents, that there was sort of a pattern or theme with those types of images.

Brian: It may be a self-serving situation but I did like that they presented both sides of that. On the one side it was like, it’s weird that she’s such a strong female presence and yet there’s so much bondage imagery. And then they were like yes, but she’s also a woman who’s only weakness is being bound by a man. It’s like this strange femininist mantra, she’s only weak when a man imposes his will upon her and forces her to be weak.

Luke: That’s interesting. I like what the doc said about how we often have that image in comics of a female character bound and almost always the character is waiting for a male to come and rescue her, and in this case Wonder Woman is able to escape herself and that’s the interesting twist that’s put on that. Unfortunately, it kinda derails a little bit and makes some dubious claims.

Brian: There does come a point in this movie where they are basically lambasting comics for over-sexualizing women in the artwork. And the counterargument is brought up that men are equally idealized and hypersexualized in the artwork. But there was a specific interview subject who refuted that point, because it’s only the female characters in comics that are the victims of violence and death. I’ll give you that to an extent, but are you really going to say that no male superheros have been hurt or killed? And as they’re flipping through comic book covers to back up this claim, one that they show is Superman holding a dead Supergirl. And yes, that did happen but in a later comic Superman dies.

Luke: Spoiler, motherfucker! Well that’s a whole separate issue, this documentary does spoil a few things like Thelma & Louise and the Buffy TV series. And I kind of understand because they’re making a point about the fates of female characters and so of course they have to be able to talk about that in a certain way, but I did get some things spoiled for me. And back to the hypersexualization of women in comics and media, I do think violence against women is a completely separate issue from how they’re portrayed visually. It’s such a strange point to bring up in defense of that claim. But again, those were the words of one particular interview subject. On the whole, it’s a pretty good documentary, it’s well paced, it does a lot of basic doc things right, keeping things moving, keeping things interesting and knowing when to quit. And their animations worked, they were very well done. It does have a Hartley feel, but at least it’s not bad Hartley. So I guess we mostly agree again on this one.

Brian: Yeah, maybe I should put out the fire on this six-sided ring we made.

Luke: Nah, keep it burning for next time!

You need more ActionFest 2012 coverage. Admit it.

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