Title: Wonder Woman
Studio: Warner Bros.
It is hard to not think of words such as “feminism” and “empowerment” when we talk about the character Wonder Woman, but there is a reason those characteristics have persisted for so long when it comes to this icon. While Wonder Woman is an empowering movie that dabbles with aspects of feminism, it does not douse the audience to a point of nausea. In fact, I am uncertain DC and Warner Bros. fully understand the kind of reach it had or will have after this weekend.
I was quite impressed to see a well-filled theater of females in a variety of age ranges on a Friday afternoon showing, but what made me realize just how much this movie was showing off its empowerment came in two forms. The biggest was seeing some girls with their fathers, a few dads’ in fact even wearing Wonder Woman apparel and showing just as much excitement for the movie as their daughters. Seeing both young and old light up with wonder and awe from the initial opening scenes to the closing battles was almost better than what was happening on screen. The other, and I will confess it choked me up a little, was after the movie a young girl in her early teens asked her father if they could go to the comic book store and pick up some Wonder Woman comics because she was, “wanting to see more of her.” That, right there, was true empowerment. A movie that has the potential to interest young women in a form of media that has delighted so many and to see another side of good story telling as well as get them involved in additional reading is a win in any column. Fortunately, Wonder Woman the movie delivers not only a good story, but a great message for women and men of all ages.
Based partly off of All-Star Comics #8, Wonder Woman’s first appearance, the movie does a great job of incorporating Diana’s backstory but not over focusing on it. Largely told as a flashback, Diana (Gal Gadot) receives an old photo of her and a group of soldiers she worked with which sets off the retelling of her life from childhood and her desperate plea to become a strong warrior. However, her mother, Queen Hippolyta (played by Connie Neilson) forbids this as she knows that Diana has a greater purpose, but she wants to keep her child as innocent as long as she can. Diana’s stubbornness, though, makes her form a pact with the general of the Amazons, Antiope (played by Robin Wright) to train her at night. When Hippolyta finds out, she pushes Antiope to train Diana harder than any of the other Amazons. In a series of montages.
We see Diana becomes stronger and more disciplined and in the course of her training she witnesses a plane crash into the water of her Paradise Island (also known as Themiscrya) where she rescues Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine). In doing so, Diana witnesses the potential that the world of man has to offer, both good and bad, as German soldiers who had been following Trevor discover the island and prepare an assault. The Amazons witness and experience the barbarity that men potentially have to offer, but Diana believes that the cause of nastiness is due to the God of War, Ares. Believing that what the suffering Steve Trevor has been through can be remedied by killing Ares, she sets off to London with Trevor. In the process of her hunt, she encounters two specific Germans involved in keeping the war going: the power mad Ludendorff (played by Danny Hudson) and Dr. Maru (played by Elena Anaya). With Steve’s help, Diana pushes herself to attempt to stop all the evil the war has brought.
One of the many moments in which the movie shines brightest are the interactions between Diana and Steve. The chemistry is believable as is the comedy. Diana is naïve about customs and a full understanding of the male gender and Steve is hesitant to be forthright about certain matters, like sex, but ultimately in a way filled with charm and levity he showcases the mistakes he and other men make and have made. This use of foils is wonderfully refreshing because the comedy comes off as genuine. It does not try to be funny, it just happens between the two and thankfully the other characters, as well. Other aspects that make the movie comedic on a realistic level are the supporting characters, especially Etta Candy (played by Lucy Davis). Etta’s whole-hearted acceptance of Diana as a woman who has never really experienced the world and all it has to offer provides some really good moments on screen, especially when Diana is trying to fit in and she is selecting the best “casual” outfit.
The other characters seemed to have been selected with care as they play their parts extremely well in whatever role they were designated to be. However, I did feel the one character I wanted to see played up a little more was Dr. Maru. I realize that the main antagonist was designed to be an ultimate battle between the opposite sex, but Anaya’s character is almost pushed to the side as an after-thought thereby losing some true potential. However, I understand that the movie was not designed to be overly female-oriented but I am hoping and anticipating more female villains, such as Dr. Maru, will appear and have weightier roles in the next movie though as the interactions have so much possibility.
Aside from seeing true female villainy potential, there was not much that the film stumbled at particularly. I believe that for many, the third act which is heavily CGIed will be a tad disappointing, but if viewers remember that Wonder Woman is a super hero with super capabilities, which requires a heavy suspension of disbelief, it should not be too problematic. After all, her ability to leap, fly, and smash through buildings is crucial in order to keep the action at maximum. Having to rely on CGI is a sacrifice that is worth it so long as it does not take away from the story telling or the believability of the action. Fortunately, for the most part, it does not do that.
What makes the film an overall enjoyable adventure is that there is no agenda other than telling a great story of a great female superhero. What matters most is that we the comic book loving viewers have needed a badass feminine hero to let Hollywood know that their stories are worth telling. Viewers do not need to over analyze and decide if the movie is “truly feministic” or “overtly sexist” with unfair imaging for girls and young women. All women have the potential to be their own Wonder Woman. Strength, justice, peace, love are the cornerstones of this icon, not her image. If viewers go in and look beyond the physical, they will walk out having a better understanding of this powerful protagonist.
Being laden with comedy, action, and a superb cast along with storytelling, Wonder Woman is, in my opinion, worth getting lassoed into, and trust me, that is the truth.