Monday, June 4, 2018

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Wonder Woman Scene 32

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast focuses on Scene 32 (saving the village of Veld) of Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins.

  • Diana as leader
  • Action scene compared to Batman's warehouse rescue
  • Wonder Woman's musical themes
  • Diana and Steve on parallel tracks
  • Destroying instruments of war
  • The Oddfellows helping out
  • Shield callback and symbolism
  • Observations from @PrimeEarthMook

Follow @JLUPodcast on Twitter
Contributors: @raveryn @ottensam @derbykid @wondersyd
Episode artwork by Matthew Rushing (@mattrushing02)

<Transcript Below>
Welcome, fans of the Justice League Universe. My name is Alessandro. This podcast provides analysis of the DC Films produced by Warner Brothers. This episode was written by myself, Sam Otten, Rebecca Johnson, and Sydney. You can find us on twitter @raveryn, @ottensam, @derbykid, and @wondersyd. You can also follow the show on twitter @JLUPodcast.

In this episode, we cover Scene 32 of Wonder Woman, in which Diana and the group storm Veld to rescue the villagers.  The scene is filmed at Luton Hoo in Bedfordshire. Sam pointed out how incredibly British sounding this location is.  This is an important scene because it is the first time Diana acts as a hero to save people. In the last scene we saw her unyielding bravery in the face of unfamiliar weaponry whose destructive nature she has seen firsthand with the death of Antiope.  Although she parades into No Man’s Land without hesitation, she is not careless and must be aware she is putting herself in danger. I wouldn’t say she is necessarily fearless, but rather courageous in the face of danger. This scene is a nice continuation of that heroism and action with very little break in between.  Here we see her in the act of rescuing the oppressed and enslaved villagers with the help of the Oddfellows.

When Diana first arrives at Veld, three soldiers spot her and start firing.  However they quickly retreat even after Diana and the others take cover. It’s possible the soldiers were making their rounds and simply caught sight of the unfamiliar group who didn’t belong so they started firing on them.  More probable is the soldiers were radioed by the men in the trenches about an overwhelming force penetrating their defenses and moving toward Veld. And these soldiers were coming out to investigate only to retreat upon seeing the strangely clad Diana with the Oddfellows.  The immediate response of artillery Diana is met with when she enters the village suggests the soldiers were expecting the attack. Of course as soldiers of war, it would also make sense for them to be ever diligent of any potential attacks.

Diana tells the Oddfellows to stay there while she goes ahead.  She heroically puts herself in harm’s way while keeping them away from danger.  Their reaction is great as they look at each other with disbelief. Steve especially looks like he’s thinking “You heard her” as he nods to the others.  Another layer to this sequence is that in the siege of Themyscira it was Steve Trevor who told Diana to say while he ran into battle. And just as Diana didn’t listen, Steve two will rush in with the others.

Diana proceeds to fend off attacks as she weaves her way through the alleys until an explosion sends her flying against the side of a brick building.  But she turns the tables and uses the impact as a foothold to launch herself into the adjacent building. She crashes memorably into a room with German soldiers reminiscent to how Batman crashes through the windows into the warehouse in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  She performs a hero landing emphasizing her heroics and takes a moment to look around and assess her surroundings with her defenses up.

The music and sounds drop dramatically to emphasize the music once it starts up again.  This contrast makes the electric cello more pronounced and powerful as it wails the Wonder Woman theme introduced to us in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  While No Man’s Land was a powerful scene, it makes sense they focused more on the Amazon theme for that scene and saved this theme for the fighting in Veld as it fits better with the fast-paced action.   

Diana quickly uses the table as a projectile to reach the soldiers away from her.  @4eyedRaven on Twitter noticed how Diana kicking the table from left to right on the screen and taking out a couple of guys against a wall is very similar to how Bruce threw the crate in the warehouse scene of BvS.  Many have compared this fight sequence to that Martha Rescue by Batman. In our opinion, it’s not quite to the Batman level who’s fight involves more storyline and has more well-written moments. We believe that sequence has more ebbs and flows in the fight, but there is still really high quality here in this battle.

There is definitely some good choreography including memorable sliding movements, acrobatics, and the rifle breaking across Diana’s back which continues the motif of her destroying weapons of warfare.  She uses her gauntlets and her shield, and at one point even her boots, to deflect bullets. The shield, normally used for defense, is also used as a weapon to strike the soldiers with. Because sometimes the best defense is a strong offense, a notion which this seige on Veld encapsulates.

One soldier gets thrown out of a window which provides for a nice link between and transition to the Oddfellows scrambling in the alley who see part of the impact of Diana’s attack from the outside as the man falls to the ground.  The guys scurry past taking advantage of the distraction Diana is creating. Clearly they did not stay put as Diana told them to: further sign that they are all heroes, choosing to act and do something to help where just a couple of scenes earlier we saw them urging Diana to turn a blind eye.  Diana certainly has helped to inspire them with her unimaginable abilities and leadership. But realistically, if they had stopped to help every single person in need of help, they may never have gotten to their goal. Veld, however, as we mentioned in scene 30, was a red line for Diana given the inhumane treatment of people.  And Veld was an entire village of people suffering. So the Oddfellows courageously rush into the village to see what can be done by the three of them while Diana continues to take out the German soldiers inside. She does some especially cool moves here including a sliding sword strike, a sliding sweep kick, a tumble onto her shield, and two spinning attacks.  Finally she performs an iconic knee strike thrusting herself and a soldier out the window.

After Diana lands on the adjacent rooftop we get a great dynamic composition of Steve and Diana running.  This is symbolic and represents how their paths have finally aligned as they run parallel to each other. This is also significant in that in the scenes immediately following this one the two finally connect romantically.

As the Oddfellows are about to come around the bend they are confronted with some German soldiers.  Here, with his back against the wall, we start seeing hints that Charlie may not be quie up to the task at hand.  Ewen Bremner does a great job of conveying that fearful emotion in his face. With enemy soldiers in their way, Steve Trevor’s solution, like Man’s solution, is more firepower.  He throws the grenade and rushes in like Diana. Looking back, now when I see Steve get hit with the butt of the rifle it reminds me of when Diana gets hit with the rifle in the bank scene of Justice League.  Chief throws a bundle of three Stielhandgranates [shteelhandgranata] or stick hand grenades which attaches to the far wall. Steve shoots it yielding even more firepower.

Diana arrives at the center of town where she encounters an armored truck with heavy artillery.  It’s design was based on a real World War 1 vehicle, the Ehrhardt E-V/4. She lunges into the air in an epic slow motion shot.  The truck shoots off a heavy shell causing Diana to lose her shield as she approaches which only serves to anger her. She tears into the truck tossing it fairly easily destroying yet another instrument of war.  

The next few moments are pretty powerful and emotional, which help to propel the connection between Diana and Steve.  As the soldiers close in on her she deflects their bullets but notices one of them gets hit from a bullet which she did not deflect.  This causes her to question where it came from so she turns toward that direction and sees Steve. Whereas Steve shot the soldier aiming for Diana on the beach of Themyscira too late, which resulted in Antiope’s death, here he is right on time to help protect Diana.  Not only does she get a sense of Steve’s protectiveness of her by caring enough to to come to her aid, but more prominently she is heartened by Steve’s decision to act in the face of danger and join her in helping the villagers of Veld. She is able to see Steve in a new light as a brave warrior and it gives her strength.  The music mirrors and amplifies the feeling of heroism. We get a merging of Diana’s Angel on the Wing theme and the Oddfellow theme heard in scene 1 when Diana reminisces with the photograph as Diana and the Oddfellows converge in the town square.

Diana whips out her lasso and in majestic Wonder Woman fashion she dispatches the soldiers with Steve.  Its a great side by side shot of the two working together. The lasso looks especially magical and awesome here in contrast to the dull colors used to emphasize the dire tone of the village and the war.  Once the soldiers are dealt with we get an audio cue of a gunshot and a visual cue of a villager falling to the ground to signal to the audience there is a shooter. Diana looks up to indicate the sniper is on higher ground and the camera rotates around her to reveal her perspective of the cathedral immediately followed by the opposite perspective of the shooter.  The view from atop the cathedral helps us to see the vantage the sniper has and the difficult situation the others find themselves in on the ground.

Each character has their strengths, and this situation is an ideal one for Charlie’s who Steve recruited for his marksmanship.  Unfortunately, Charlie can’t bring himself to shoot due to his PTSD, but he is able to look through his scope, which is useful several times in the future.  Fortunately Steve sees a large plate of metal which may have come from the destroyed armored truck and, remembering Antiope’s shield leap on Themyscira, devises a plan.  Like in No Man’s Land, the team works with Diana but it’s definitely her leading the way. With the help of Chief and Sameer, they use the metal plate to propel Diana into the air to reach the sniper.  

The entire siege on Veld is filled with moments that hark back to the beach battle on Themyscira, and this one is the biggest payoff.  It works on many levels. There’s the obvious visual callback of Diana leaping off the metal plate like Antiope did off the shield. It also shows Steve Trevor learning from the Amazons and thinking differently from the “more firepower” approach of dealing with opposition.  Diana’s leap represents her succeeding Antiope who had been her mentor. In this regard, it also symbolizes Diana living up to Antiope’s tiara and the charge given to her by Hippolyta.

If we view the shield moment through the lens of social commentary, which movies tend to include intentionally or coincidentally in varying degrees, we can see it is full of symbolism for the relationship between men and women not only in cinema but in society. In cinema, often women are subjugated to men such as men saving women or women as just the love interest of men.  And in some cases women are given roles equal to the men. But this moment shows a man being willing to help and support a women, and the man recognizes that she can do things he can’t do and he works with that rather than resenting it. Studies have shown that in society men often feel threatened by women’s success.  One such study published in volume 41 of the Sage Journals demonstrates this sentiment by showing that men engage in more assertive behaviors toward women in superior roles and will exhibit less assertive behavior toward women who are team players rather than women who are assertive and ambitious.

In addition to feeling threatened, many men also feel emasculated if a woman can do something better than them.  This has breeded a culture in which women feel they must or are forced to hide their abilities or intelligence. Two Professors from Brock University in Canada have been researching this complicated dynamic.  In their book “Smart Girls: Success, School, and the Myth of Post-Feminism” they interviewed 71 boys and girls aged 11 to 18. These interviews showed that girls found they needed to dumb themselves down to be popular and liked by boys while boys wanted to be seen as naturally intelligent.

Although these prejudices exist in society, this moment with the shield shows that men should feel okay to work together with women even if it means being the launchpad for women to go above and beyond, achieving something that the man couldn’t do himself.

After taking out the sniper, Diana emerges on top of the church and visually it is just her in the frame with smoke flowing around and behind her. This is the first part of a visual contrast that will come later when she is surrounded by the poison gas in Veld --- they visually linked the two reactions of Diana, first with her joy and second with her grief. It also shows the complexity of war because this act in taking out the sniper was a violent act, but a cause for celebration. And then later, the poison gas looks similar in some ways but of course is viewed by Diana and by us as utterly horrific.

End of Episode

That is our analysis of Scene 32 of Wonder Woman. And before we move on to the celebration in Veld, we did want to mention a few cool things that one of our listeners noticed about these last few scenes -- in the trenches, in No Man’s Land, and then here in Veld. These are from Omesh Singh, who we interact with on twitter as @PrimeEarthMook.

First, in the trenches, Steve says that no man can cross No Man’s Land. And while we of course addressed this gendered phrase and how Diana would bust through it, Omesh made an additional connection, back to Scene 16 on the boat when Steve said that there wasn’t much they could do about the war, but they could try to find the men who can. Diana back then says she’s the man who can, and by the end of the movie, Diana will end up busting through that gendered presumption, too, just like she does in No Man’s Land.

Second, Steve yells “Diana” as she is disregarding his guidance and climbing up out of the trench toward battle. Omesh noticed that this was similar to how her tutor yelled “Diana” back in Themyscira when she was running toward where the warriors were training.

Third, in the Battle of Veld, Omesh noticed that Wonder Woman on at least one occasion was holding her sword by the blade instead of by the handle, so that she wasn’t unnecessarily killing German soldiers, but she was able to take out their weapons and incapacitate them.

And fourth, when Diana leaps up toward the clock tower to take out the sniper, she has the same pose and is shot from the same angle as at the very end of the movie when she leaps out over the Paris skyline. So just as she has fully embraced her role as Wonder Woman in Veld, she concludes in the present day by re-embracing that public role, ending her 100 years of reticence.

So thanks, Omesh, for those insights. And as always, we thank all our great listeners. And thanks to the Suicide Squadcast and Man of Steel Answers for your pod-tastic inspiration.

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