Monday, September 4, 2017

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Wonder Woman Scene 12

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast focuses on Scene 12 (Diana and Hippolyta debate after the throne room interrogation) of Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins.

  • Amazonian leadership and forms of input
  • Diana thinks it's Ares and the Germans
  • Hippolyta puts Diana down in her place
  • Hippolyta says to "do nothing"
  • Connections to the DCEU - parenting and optimism

Contributors: @ottensam @raveryn @derbykid @wondersyd

Welcome, fans of the Justice League Universe. My name is Sam. In this podcast, we go scene-by-scene through the Warner Brothers films that are part of the Justice League Universe, often referred to as the DCEU. In this episode we are going to talk about Scene 12 of Wonder Woman, which is the aftermath of Steve’s interrogation when Diana talks to her mother about leaving to help in Man’s World. This analysis was written by myself with Alessandro Maniscalco, Rebecca Johnson, and Sydney. You can find us on Twitter @ottensam, @raveryn, @derbykid, and @wondersyd.

In our last episode, we covered Steve’s interrogation scene, and we actually forgot to mention a couple of lines that are not just throwaway lines; they have a nice connection to something later on in the movie. Doctor Maru said in the flashback: "I need more time." And Ludendorff responded, "Unfortunately, we don't have more time." And time is an important motif in the movie -- not only because it’s a period piece but most importantly because of Steve’s watch and the climax of the film with Diana and Steve together. Between that scene during the final battle and this early scene with Maru and Ludendorff, we get a stark contrast between the two couples: Steve and Diana on one side, and Maru and Ludendorff on the other. Both wish they had more time, but for Maru and Ludendorff it's more time to create a weapon that will kill millions and extend the war. For Steve and Diana, it's more time to spend together and build their love, to maybe get to that notion of normalcy and peace that they talked about during their dance.

So Maru’s mention of needing more time is a nice thread that we wanted to make sure we didn’t let slip away. But the main thing in the last scene was Steve’s intense description of the Great War. We saw Diana and Hippolyta’s silent reactions and now in Scene 12 we flow immediately into their spoken reactions. Hippolyta strides majestically out of the throne room, with her advisers around her. This image of Amazonian leadership, with respected colleagues surrounding a revered queen, and everyone willing to speak up and offer their candid opinions contrasts very sharply with Ludendorff’s leadership, which we’ll see in Scene 17 as he strides through a bleak camp and then shoots a subordinate in the head. And the Amazonian leadership style also contrasts with the British, who are very exclusive in terms of who they allow to speak and often are in so much commotion that they can’t even hear the people who are supposed to be speaking.

Hippolyta is the initial focal point of this scene. As the leader of the Amazons, she views it as her duty to protect them, possibly having lost sight of their original charge to be a beacon for mankind, or their secondary charge to rid the world of Ares. As she says later, she may have evolved past these callings, now viewing them as children’s stories, with the safety of the Amazons in general, and her daughter in particular, now her primary goal.

One of Hippolyta’s advisers, Phillipus, asks if they should let Steve go. Phillipus, by the way, is played by Ann Ogbomo and she’s a character from the comics, created by George Perez, and she has appeared even recently in the DC Rebirth era of the comics. She has been very close to Hippolyta, as you might say. In this scene, Hippolyta responds by expressing concern that Steve would bring more men to her shores. This concern is probably well founded, because even if Steve doesn’t explicitly invite others to attack the island, it’s worrisome enough that Steve now has knowledge of the island, and that knowledge could be passed on spurring others to mount an expedition to the island.

As Diana tries to make her way to the front, Phillipus says that they can’t hold the man forever. Diana finally reaches her mother and says that this “must be Ares.” So instead of focusing on something small like the fate of Steve, or something local like the safety of Themyscira, Diana is immediately concerned with the big picture and she’s convinced that a war like Steve described would only be happening through the influence of Ares. Diana doesn’t know anything about the outside world except for the stories of them being created as good and kind, so to hear about this wickedness and violence, Diana has concluded that it’s not mankind’s natural state -- it has to be Ares. Those are the key points established thus far in the movie, and for audience members who are also fans of the comics, they might be thinking that another reason it seems like Ares’s doing is because he feeds off the conflict and violence, literally getting stronger because of mankind’s warfare. So we can see Diana’s point that this looks like Ares, even though the other Amazons around her seem unconvinced.

Senator Acantha, played by Florence Kasumba, asks Diana straight up, “What are you talking about?” And Diana apologizes to the Senator, probably because she is asserting herself a bit beyond her customary position, but Diana continues, pointing out that Steve said the war might never end, and that millions are already dead. “Only Ares could do such a thing. We cannot simply let him go,” meaning Steve. Diana says, “We must go with him.” So Diana is now responding to the original topic between Hippolyta and Phillipus. Diana is taking the most strident position, that they should actually leave with Steve to try to help in the war.

Hippolyta, still focused on the interests of her people, refuses to deploy her army to fight “their war”. Her only concern is her people, not the world outside of Themyscira.  And she has reason to keep them separate from the world of Man after what they had already experienced a long time ago. Diana directly challenges her mother, saying it is NOT “their” war because “Zeus created Man to be just and wise, strong and passionate.” Diana is suggesting that men would never do this on their own, it must be Ares. And she’s also suggesting that it is the Amazons’ war, too, because they should help mankind against Ares.

Hippolyta does not like hearing these bedtime stories used against her. She shifts back toward Diana and Diana backpedals. Hippolyta has more power in this situation and she physically tries to put Diana in her place while she also talks down to her, relying on a superior level of experience, saying, “That was a story, Diana.” This important physical blocking is emphasized by the use of close-ups, whereas before the shots were all basically medium shots. And Hippolyta’s move here highlights Diana’s naivete as she says there is much she doesn’t understand; “Men are easily corrupted.” This highlights Diana’s lack of experience, which is of course the centerpiece of Act 1 for Diana’s character arc. But this moment also highlights Diana’s strength and fortitude. She doesn’t back down, even when she is in a position of less power. Hippolyta turned away and continued walking, as if the conversation should be over, but Diana continues after her mother, saying that Ares is behind the corruption, so it’s not truly mankind’s fault. Diana specifically calls out the Germans, because based on the interactions on the beach when Steve called them the bad guys, she thinks they really are the sole bad guys in the war. She says that Ares is the one influencing the Germans to fight. And she is, of course, somewhat correct in this claim, but she’ll find out that the war is more complex than she thought and she’ll find that there’s blame on both sides.

Diana concludes by making an appeal to the Amazons’ higher calling. She says that “stopping the God of War is our foreordinance. As Amazons, this is our duty.” So again, she is talking about bringing the Amazons out of seclusion and having them help with the Great War in Man’s World.

Hippolyta has now had enough. She again turns toward Diana and you can feel her physical presence as the queen. Her next line cuts pretty sharply on a personal level. She says, “But you are not an Amazon like the rest of us.” This must have hurt quite a bit because Diana has spent her whole life being the only child on the island, being separate from everyone in that way, and also being the one person who did not partake in the prior battles or the mythic history of the Amazons. To hear this coming from her mother, the one who protected her and tucked her in at night, must be really tough. And this line connects backward and forward in the movie. Looking backward, we can think about the little girl that we’ve already seen. She was mimicking the warriors and wanting desperately to be like them. But her overprotective mother didn’t want that to happen, and now her overprotective mother is singling her out yet again, telling her that she’s not like the other Amazons.

And looking forward, we the audience will eventually find out that Hippolyta’s line has another layer of meaning because it’s actually true, Diana isn’t really an Amazon because she was created separately as a demigod and a godkiller. From this perspective, it’s actually kind of a positive character trait that Diana has always wanted to be like other Amazons, because this is a humble position -- she would have been less likeable if she were a spoiled princess or a kid who always kind of sensed that she was a demigod and better than the rest.

To wrap up the scene, we have one more bit from Hippolyta, and it’s an important one. She says, “So you will do nothing. As your queen, I forbid it.” At this point, Hippolyta has explicitly pulled rank, and the Amazons all file out after her. For us, however, the most important words are “do nothing.” This ties Diana’s story directly to Steve Trevor’s. In the last scene we heard about how Steve had to do something when he ran into Doctor Poison, and in the next scene, we’ll hear Steve talk about how he has to do something or do nothing, and he already tried nothing. So here, Hippolyta is putting Diana in a position that links her up with Steve. Hippolyta is telling Diana that she has to do nothing, but this goes against Diana’s better urges, and when Diana talks to Steve, she will clarify her determination that doing nothing isn’t an option for her -- just like Lois Lane noticed it wasn’t an option for Clark Kent, by the way.

Just in case we’re being too harsh on Hippolyta, though, let’s consider that she knows the full truth about her daughter and she is very worried about what the new revelations will mean. She has sincere fear that her daughter will be in grave danger. And Hippolyta is also speaking from experience. She has actually already had a journey similar to what Diana will go through in the rest of movie. Hippolyta was created as an Amazon, separate from mankind, and she had the duty to go amongst mankind to restore peace and love. She saw lots of the horrors of mankind, as she was enslaved and had to lead a revolt. She also saw gods fall.

So Hippolyta, understandably, is jaded about mankind. But this is sort of normal in life and amongst generations -- the parents’ generation is knowledgeable about the world and knows how dangerous and corrupt it can be, but the younger generation, like Diana, are more idealistic and believe they can change everything for the better. So each generation gets to take up the cause anew. And in this movie, the filmmakers take the side of that idealism -- they say that it’s ultimately about what you believe, so if you think like Diana that you can make the world a better place, and if you do something about it, then you actually can. Patty Jenkins, in the art and making of the film book, described the story of this film overall as the story of a naive daughter who has to gain experience and learn what her mother already knows.

Steve and his father may have a similar dynamic, but we don’t have enough detail to know for sure. We do know that his father went through hell and back with the watch, and then he passed on the watch to Steve and told him to do something (or do nothing) when he sees an injustice. So that is also sort of like passing a torch.

But for Scene 12 overall, it’s a short scene but a dense one in terms of ratcheting up the tensions between Hippolyta and Diana -- tensions that are rooted in love and protectiveness conflicting with Diana’s natural empathy and desire to help. It ends with Diana being put down into her place, which is a set-up for the tower scene when she asserts herself, and then ultimately the scene where she is leaving Themyscira and saying goodbye to her mother. This is the last time she talks to her mother before that farewell. And Gal Gadot did an admirable job acting in this scene, going toe to toe with Connie Nielsen and pulling it off. You can see and hear the desperation in her acting as she doesn’t understand why her mother can’t see what she sees, or why she does not embrace the Amazons’ purpose.

After this scene, we cut to the infirmary where we will see that, physically, Diana heals quickly. The emotional scars, though, of this conflict with her mother, may take longer to work through.

End of Episode

That’s our analysis of Scene 12 in Wonder Woman. To close out the episode we just want to make a few quick remarks about connections to other films in the DCEU. With Hippolyta here, we again saw the overprotective streak. She wants to protect Diana from Ares and certainly doesn’t want her going out looking for the fight with him. She doesn’t want Diana involved in anything beyond the shores of Themyscira. This outlook is different than Jor-El’s in Man of Steel who was willing to send his only son, Kal-El, to Earth to guide the people and give them hope. Granted, for Jor-El there was clear danger on Krypton whereas with Hippolyta the danger is out in Man’s World, but still there seems to be a contrast in mentality between Jor-El and Hippolyta.  And in a way, Jonathan Kent exhibited both views in that he wanted to protect Clark and keep him from the world in order to protect him, but only until he was ready and the world was ready for him. Then he wanted Clark to go out into the world and inspire hope and be a hero. Overall, any protectiveness exhibited by parents seems like a very plausible mindset for parents to have about their children. And we can note that all the parents end up being right -- Jor-El was right that Krypton was going to erupt, Jonathan was right that mankind was going to make it really hard on anyone with Superman’s abilities, and Hippolyta was right that Mankind can be a corrupt place and that Ares is out there as a threat to Diana.

Another connection that we noticed is between Hippolyta’s line, “Men are easily corrupted,” and Bruce's line at the end of Batman v Superman, "Men are still good.” These lines form a sort of assertion and rebuttal. And they may both have a point. In a way, Hippolyta is correct when she says "Men are easily corrupted" because all Ares had to do was make suggestions to them and they would start their own fights. And also, if we look at the real world itself, it seems painfully clear that men are corruptible. But then we have Bruce’s acknowledgement at the end of BvS -- "We can do better." He, probably better than most people, recognizes that Mankind can give into the worst aspects of humanity (with or without Ares), but thankfully we can own up to our flaws and faults and aim to rise above them. Bruce’s optimistic perspective is very similar to where Diana will be at the end of Wonder Woman.

Thanks for listening. And be sure to also check out the Suicide Squadcast and Man of Steel Answers. Long live DC!

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