No. The weird thing is, at least parts of it were more --- much more. I found myself drawn back to one sequence in particular, over and over. One that had the capacity to bring tears to my eyes. Say what? Why. Is. This. Happening?
The sequence is very short --- less than three minutes. But what a powerful three minutes. Let me give you a writer’s perspective of what occurs in that span. Then I’ll give you the YouTube address and you can watch it yourself:
Diana (Wonder Woman) is with an undercover group making their way through the World War One trenches of the front lines in Belgium. She has just spoken to Flemish refugees in the trench, who tell her a horrific tale of massacre and enslavement, and her first response --- which should be everyone’s first response, by the way --- is “we have to help these people.” Unbridled, clear-eyed altruism.
Except… her response is met with stony indifference. Captain Steve Trevor, her world-weary go-between and colleague who is, like many of us, just a little too cynical for his own good, dismisses her. Steve’s seen much evil and malign indifference, probably starting well before the war even started, and he’s seen a boat-load more since then, horrors and evil no person should have to witness. And he’s… well, he’s jaded. We’ve got a mission to undertake, he says, that doesn’t include this. Besides, there’s no way we can get across no-mans-land to the affected village. Going over the top is suicide. It’s just not possible, and we can’t save everyone. That’s not what we’re here to do.
(Sigh. Oh, Steve. I understand your cynicism, your warped perspective. I really do. Many of us do. We live it daily in what Thoreau called our “lives of quiet desperation,” because that’s what this flawed world we live in tends to do to us. But dammit, Diana’s right, Steve… and fortunately for you --- for us all --- she’s going to do something about it. And she won’t waste time trying to persuade you over to her perspective --- because she instinctively knows how close-minded we humans tend to be.)
So she turns away. There might be half a second of indecision as she does so, but if it exists at all, it really is a split second or less. And within the space of that moment, she’s made up her mind. She lets down her hair, dons her tiara, turns back to Steve, who’s conferring with other colleagues, and says, “No, but it’s what I’m going to do.” Translation: stay here if you want, you emotional cripple. But I am not going to stand idly by and let this atrocity continue.
Immediately, she climbs the ladder leading from the relative safety of that muddy ditch into a pretty good earthly approximation of Hell, shucking her long coat in the process. Both actions shock the crap out of the troops cowering around her, and there are some truly great reaction shots of their collective appalled disbelief at this nearly naked woman (by 1918 standards, anyway) apparently committing suicide by going over the top.
She stands --- upright! On a First World War battlefield! --- and starts walking across a barren landscape reminiscent of the moon. A bullet rockets towards her, and she deflects it with the metal cuff/bracelet running from her wrist towards her elbow. As the startled Germans realize someone apparently has the insane temerity to walk alone towards their lines, they scramble to begin firing on her. A small smile crosses her lips as the realization comes to her: I can do this. And she starts to run, deflecting bullets as she does so. Her confidence is nothing short of inspiring… and there’s something unbelievably hopeful in what she’s doing.
The Germans fire a trench mortar, and still running, she unslings her shield, using it to bat the offending shell away. Then the Germans get their machine gun going, and she is forced to crouch behind the shield as a hail of lead hits her. But her posture is not that of a defeated, terrified woman; it’s a fighting crouch demonstrating she is by no means beaten. (More amazing camera work, especially an overhead view of this firestorm of lead ricocheting off her shield.)
Then her colleagues race up to help her… and they do… the trench is taken so she and they can move on the town… and the moment is over. But what an incredibly inspiring moment. Watch it here:
(By the way, the soundtrack is a marvelous accompaniment to this entire sequence --- in fact, hugely responsible for magnifying the atmosphere of the events. It is uplifting… hopeful…determined. A perfect complement to the events we watch. Music can so often be that.)
So… what affected me so much about this tiny sequence? I’ve thought about it, finally concluding it’s related to some of my favourite poetry, lines I like so much I’ve included them in my novel Gryphon’s Heir, lines I like so much I’ve made them favourites of my protagonist, too. They’re by Tennyson from his poem Ulysses, universally well known: To strive, to seek, to find… and not to yield. The sequence from the film is a truly marvelous representation of them.
Because, you see, it’s a testament to all that is good within us: it’s about striving, about standing up for what’s right, even when those around you are disinclined and disbelieving. It’s about refusing to give in to apathy and the forces of darkness in our world, remembering, as Edmund Burke said, that “all that is required for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
And ultimately, it’s about redemption… which, my God, this battered world of ours could use a little of as we come to the dawn of another year.