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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

43 Comments

  1. William Shaw
    June 27, 2017 @ 12:03 pm

    One thing I really liked about the film was the framing of Daniel Thewlis, the British Establishment made flesh, as the epitome of evil. The sequence where Chris Pine says ‘I wish there was just one bad guy, but the world is, like, complicated man,’ only for the film to turn around and say ‘actually no, the one bad guy to blame for everything is the posh bastard in tweed who sent you here in the first place.’ Now THERE’S something with subversive potential.

    Plus, the visual of Thewlis doing the Generic Supervillain Hover while still dressed in tweed and spectacles is a fantastic visual, but it’s suggested rather than presented – for no discernible reason, we never get a closeup on him when he’s like that, and the movie contrives to put him in generic Lord Sauron cosplay.

    Shame.

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  2. Austin G Loomis
    June 27, 2017 @ 1:07 pm

    On an arguably related note, are you planning to review, or even to see, Professor Marston & the Wonder Women when it comes out this fall?

    Reply

  3. UrsulaL
    June 27, 2017 @ 3:15 pm

    There is also the option of bringing the three together – “the girl one”, “the warrior one” and the radical politics.

    After all, it is radical politics to give power to a girl. Particularly the power of war. And it changes things to have that power lie, not in a dyad of two white men, but with a woman. (And especially growing up in the Amazonian jungle, she’s from a cultural place outside the white mainstream.)

    There is an interesting analogy in the way that Sanders and Trump both played up misogynistic fears of Clinton, Trump overtly, Sanders more subtly by focusing on the economic without taking into account the interactions of race and sex in economic oppression.

    Reply

    • mr_mond
      June 27, 2017 @ 4:43 pm

      Would you mind elaborating on why giving a woman the power of war is particularly radical?

      Reply

  4. Roderick T. Long
    June 27, 2017 @ 3:34 pm

    “World War I is presented virtually indistinguishably from World War II, with all the jingoistic rhetoric of valorous Americans/Brits and evil and murderous Germans intact”

    Well, except that Diana spends most of the movie assuming that the German general is the big bad, when it turns out the British politician is actually the big bad. Doesn’t that subvert the trope a bit?

    I’d also be interested in your take on Dr. Poison, who seemed more complex and even sympathetic (certainly more so than the two main male antagonists) than most comic-book-movie adversaries are.

    Reply

    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      June 27, 2017 @ 7:05 pm

      I think subverting that trope would require that Thewlis just be the big bad, as opposed to the bigger bad. Having the German general be a Nazi with the swastika filed off is hard to subvert around.

      Doctor Poison was interesting. A film that gave her most of the general’s plot would have been more interesting too.

      Reply

      • Aylwin
        June 27, 2017 @ 8:10 pm

        Well, Ludendorff was a Nazi.

        Reply

        • Aylwin
          June 28, 2017 @ 1:44 pm

          To expand and clarify, he was never actually a card-carrying party member, and represented another far-right group, the Volkisch Freedom Party, during his years in parliament. But he was a close political ally of the Nazis in the mid-1920s, to the extent of being effectively Hitler’s partner in leading the 1923 Munich Putsch. In the presidential elections of 1925, he stood for the National Socialist Freedom Movement, a party established by the merger of a Nazi faction with the Volkisch Freedom Party, during the brief period after the putsch when the Nazi Party was banned.

          And we’re not talking about some alliance of convenience here. His beliefs were in harmony with Nazism, not only on the obvious stuff like nationalism, authoritarianism, ultra-militarism or anti-communism, but also in terms of things like racial theories, conspiracist anti-semitism, Lebensraum policies (which he actively promoted during the First World War), or esoteric religion with neo-pagan tendencies (which he turned to in the interwar period, viewing Christianity as too soft and too Jewish). He was the main originator of the stab-in-the-back-myth. On any looks-walks-and-quacks-like-a-duck basis he qualifies with flying colours, with or without the swastika.

          And it does not require any creative intervention to put him front-and-centre, considering that in the later years of the war he was one member of a duumvirate which not only commanded the army, but to a considerable (though much-debated) extent dominated the government as well. And while he was in theory only the second-in-command to Hindenberg, it is commonly argued that he was actually the primary driving force of strategy and policy (though the extent to which that is true is also disputed).

          Obviously historical accuracy is decidedly not a priority of this film. But representing Ludendorff as a quasi-Nazi or as the leading figure of the German war-effort can hardly be said to be a betrayal of reality. Arguing that this constitutes “jingoistic rhetoric”, which is to be decried for detracting from the “subversive” goal of representing the British Establishment as the supreme villains of the war seems…odd.

          Reply

          • Gavin Burrows
            June 28, 2017 @ 6:15 pm

            I think the question is less whether the film libels Lundendorff. (Who, were he still around today, would be unlikely to get round blog moderation here.) But that, partly because the film needs Diana to believe he’s Aries, he has to be the proto-nazi element in opposition to all the other German generals. There’s the scene where he bumps them off to avoid them signing an armistice.

            Yet in truth they mostly came from aristocratic backgrounds, were gung-ho imperialists and when they did object to Nazism it tended to be more about the Reichstag now admitting people who weren’t proper toffs.

            In short, the problem’s not that it says Ludendorff was bad, but that Lundendorff solely was bad.

            The best way to watch the film is not to think of the actual First World War but the way it’s popularly seen, as the ultimate example of a war which should never have been fought. And historicising things, such as naming the Red Skull equivalent after an actual General, runs counter to that.

          • Elizabeth Sandifer
            June 28, 2017 @ 7:22 pm

            To be honest, given that he was portrayed as a gas-huffing thrall of Aries, it didn’t really occur to me to check whether there was an actual historical figure there, and even with the name match I’m not sure lining him up with a historical counterpart quite works.
            Of course, I’m not 100% sure about the British Establishment as the supreme villains either, given that Aries’s scheme appears to be to establish ceasefires in order to cause more wars, which is, to say the least, difficult to parse. I forgot to make more of that in the piece though.

          • JFrancis
            June 29, 2017 @ 10:39 am

            On the latter point at least, I wonder if the intention was to associate Ares with an armistice that came into effect several hours after it was signed (resulting in needless deaths, something he seems to be aiming for) and subsequently with the punishing nature of the Treaty of Versailles. Certainly I read it as setting Ares up as masterminding the well-known A-level history question, “To what extent did the Treaty of Versailles lead to the Second World War?”

            So maybe not so much ‘ceasefires to cause more wars’ as ‘this particular ceasefire to cause more wars’.

            That’s where my mind jumped in any case, neatly allowing me to deduce Ares’ identity in ten seconds flat.

          • Martin Porter
            June 29, 2017 @ 6:26 pm

            I suspect we’re ovethinking this a bit. That the Treaty of Verseilles created more wars, as oppsoed to just stopping a bloomin’ big one, is a pretty difficult one to argue. It wasn’t perfect, but on the whole the politicos did their best.

            What it most definitely did preserve was the European Empires, but I doubt that is what the film was getting at either.

            Frankly if anyone can explain why Ares was Thewlis, apart from the fact he had to be someone, I’d be very interested.

          • Gavin Burrows
            June 29, 2017 @ 6:27 pm

            I kept thinking “a nice idea, but a bit too extra-diegetic”. Then got to the bit where it allowed you to guess Aries, which is more than I did!

            For me it would have worked better had there been no Aries. Not only would have it taken the film away from the generic super-battle finale (and it’s not a memorable fight). But also it would have made for a more dramatic moment for Dina.

            She slowly tracks down and bumps off her man. Only to find that he was just one General among many, with others ready to take her place. Outside of Paradise Island, the old Gods died millennia ago and since then the evil that men have done has been done by men. Her war to end wars is a war without end. At first she’s stupefied, then she figures she may as well fight it anyway.

          • JFrancis
            June 29, 2017 @ 7:20 pm

            Having only watched the film through once, I’m very sympathetic to this suggestion. The final fight was very much a ‘and here we go off the rails’ moment for me. It rather undercut the growing realisation on Diana’s part that things didn’t work the way they did in the heroic stories.

            Whether it would have been better to cast Ares as long dead or a current in the world you can’t just punch to death, I’m not sure. Either way, at the time I expressed it as thinking that the last bit felt as it it had been written by someone different from everything that had come before.

            And I should probably be clear that I’m not necessarily talking about the actual effects of the Treaty of Versailles so much as a popular conception of it. This is stretching back a decade and a half to studying it at school though, so I certainly am not going to pin everything on the theory, and I certainly don’t claim any recent understanding of the history, but it struck me as an interesting thread (ahem).

            I certainly think that if you have to have Ares, treating him almost as a farmer of war – bringing even the big ones to an end before everyone can get too sick of them to try again next time – would be a fruitful way of portraying him.

            As for him being David Thewlis, I’m all in favour of it simply for the sublimely daft image of him still having the same moustache when he’s a god of Olympian figure and proportions.

          • Radek
            July 6, 2017 @ 6:01 pm

            But in a way, there was no Ares.
            Steve says so: Ares is actually inside every human. You cannot excuse the Germans/Nazis/whoever their actions because they are not being brainwashed either by an evil god or an evil dictator. People are essentially corruptible – and perhaps even essentially corrupt – even the Americans. That’s Steve’s point. And Diana says that maybe she’s the only who is can actually be said to be innocent. And he agrees.
            Interestingly, if she were then to follow through with her mission to “eliminate Ares”, she would have to wipe out humanity, which was indeed the “real” Ares’ plan.

    • CJM
      June 28, 2017 @ 1:22 am

      My issue with that reading is that he spends the war pushing for a weak peace treaty and sends them out into the field to maintain that treaty. So Ares becomes a figure of appeasement.

      Which in turn means that it still feels very much like a World War 2 film, with Eviler Neville Chamberlain as the main villain.

      Reply

  5. James A Mullins
    June 27, 2017 @ 8:36 pm

    “Starved for female representation?”

    Despite me being British what the hell does Trump, the alt-right or his overall influence does it really matter. I care about female represention and I grew up with it in many positive ways but how are we really “starved”? Do you mean in this genre?

    Examples please.

    Reply

    • Lambda
      June 28, 2017 @ 9:13 am

      Well, someone like me doesn’t need more female representation in my media, I haven’t seen an American superhero film for well over a decade, and apart from Doctor Who, I almost exclusively watch anime. (As such, I don’t really know what I’m doing on this review page.) But it still seems pretty clear to me. You can evaluate media based on what it does for you personally, what it does for the average viewer you imagine, or what it does for the society in which it exists. That point is very much the third. Women, and their importance and interiority etc. are being pushed out of huge swathes of American culture, with very real consequences for them. And superhero movies, which are watched by almost everyone in this culture, have been playing a part in this by featuring an endless line of male hero after male hero. If every time you go to the cinema to see a hero, they’re a man, it’s easier for men to think women aren’t important or that they’re objects you can do with as you please or whatever, and also for women to feel demoralised, that it’s the natural way of things etc. (It won’t be like that for everyone, of course, but if you’re already close to a given tipping point, it might put you on the other side, which means more people ending up on the wrong side.) And that’s the experience of the huge numbers of people who watch lots of superhero movies. Until now.

      Reply

    • Dustseeing
      June 28, 2017 @ 10:46 am

      List of superhero films with a female lead:

      Supergirl (1984)
      Tankgirl (1995), although we can quibble over Tankgirl’s status as superhero…
      Black Scorpion (1995)
      Black Scorpion II: Aftershock (1997)
      Barb Wire (1997)
      Witchblade (2000)
      Catwoman (2004)
      Elektra (2005)
      My Super-Ex-Girlfriend (2006)
      Wonderwoman (2017)

      That’s a pretty large gap between 2006 and 2017, and before then, the only ones that really stand out as “superhero films” (rather than parodies or comedies) are Supergirl, Catwoman and Elektra. If we take Iron Man (2008) as the start of the superhero renaissance, we have 24 Marvel films either released or in production, with only one female lead- Captain Marvel. Plus a joint lead- the Wasp.

      I don’t know about you, but a couple of films in the last ten years doesn’t really shout “representation”.

      Reply

      • Elizabeth Sandifer
        June 28, 2017 @ 7:26 pm

        I’d set the renaissance at X-Men in 2000, but that still really only gets you Catwoman and Elektra, which were second tier sequels made on the desperately cheap.

        Reply

        • Dustseeing
          June 29, 2017 @ 3:44 pm

          X-Men is more the 12th century renaissance if we’re taking a teleological view (after Sarton- “pregnant with many ideas which could not be delivered until much later”)- although although I’d admit that the MCU and Snyder probably look more favourably on Sanger et al. than their 15th-c. predecessors.

          (If we’re going to stretch the analogy to breaking point, then that makes Chris Nolan our Petrarch.)

          Reply

      • Martin Porter
        June 29, 2017 @ 6:21 pm

        Difficult to really claim Barb Wire for the feminists …

        Reply

      • bombasticus
        July 6, 2017 @ 3:41 am

        Please say more on Barb Wire here.

        Reply

  6. Other Edge
    June 27, 2017 @ 10:41 pm

    “But as someone who’s long been of the “superheroes are actually kinda fascist” school of thought,”

    A strange thought, because every fascist I’ve met despises superhero movies and calls them Jewish “capeshit” propaganda meant to steal cinema away from the “right” filmmakers.

    Reply

    • Froborr
      June 28, 2017 @ 5:07 pm

      The idea of the superhero–that a singular individual possessed of immense power, accountable to no one, will wield that power to protect Us and punish the Other–is itself fascist (or at least protofascist), even while the characters and creators rarely are. It’s unsurprising to me that fascists themselves would be more concerned with the latter point, since fascists rather notoriously don’t care much about ideas. Whereas for me, that very tension is the source of a lot of what makes superheroes interesting.

      Reply

      • Elizabeth Sandifer
        June 28, 2017 @ 7:25 pm

        Yeah, my view is roughly that fascists are idiots and I don’t care what they think.

        Reply

      • Sarracenian
        June 29, 2017 @ 9:21 am

        Remind me to introduce you guys to Ishinomori works then

        Reply

        • Froborr
          June 29, 2017 @ 9:44 am

          I read his Zelda comic as it came out in Nintendo Power. And while I haven’t read them or watched the adaptations, I’m broadly familiar with Cyborg 009 and Kamen Rider.

          Reply

          • Sarracenian
            June 29, 2017 @ 2:47 pm

            I recommend giving a swing then, if you ever want a superhero stories that arguably is one of the rare unambiguous aversions of the proto-fascism in superheroes (helps that one of the main themes is how the superheroes existing is very much a bad thing & how they cannot actually save the world)

  7. Wack'd
    June 28, 2017 @ 2:17 am

    So your “peak contrarian” argument for this being a bad film is:
    1. It’s not properly a superhero origin
    2. The villains are too generic to wring social commentary out of
    3. The backstory doesn’t quite work

    Like. I know you say you don’t wanna be too hard on it because it’s important but after all the hype about how scathing this was gonna be I’m feeling…kinda let down. And I like the movie.

    Reply

    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      June 28, 2017 @ 7:24 pm

      I don’t think I ever promised scathing. The perverse contrarianism is more in saying “Wonder Woman isn’t feminist enough and also should be more like Batman v. Superman.”

      Reply

      • Wack'd
        June 30, 2017 @ 10:07 pm

        Fair enough. Phrased that way: yeah, no, I see it now.

        Reply

  8. Howard David Ingham
    July 2, 2017 @ 9:11 am

    Interesting that you say that WWI is indistinguishable from WWII in the film. I felt there was enough in the way of blurring (and some anachronisms) to make me feel that it was a very late in the game decision, like it was written and production designed as a WWII movie and filmed as a WWI one.

    I wondered if that was something to do with people behind the scenes desperately wanting to defang it because having a character played by an Israeli actress with well known and quite outspoken politics facing off against the architects of the Holocaust made people in the process a bit nervous.

    Reply

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    July 25, 2019 @ 4:13 am

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