I don’t usually see many blockbuster superhero movies, but when I do see them, I enjoy them for the mindless, escapist entertainment they are meant to be. I’m also a laid-back and forgiving movie-goer. However, after seeing the previews of Wonder Woman and getting very excited about having a genuine female-centered superhero story, I had high expectations. WONDER WOMAN needs no hedging, no equivocating. It was amazing. Truly. Bear with me as I quickly get through a few things.
- I got weepy a few times. First when Wonder Woman flipped a tank during a fire fight. Other times were split between feelings of gratitude that the big screen featured this fantastic character and moments when I simply appreciated the message.
- There are typical superhero movie tropes throughout. As with Superman, Wonder Woman only knows part of her background and heritage, and she gets a crash course just before discovering her full power.
- Also, with a touch of Superman’s innocence and belief that humanity deserves assistance, Diana of Themyscira, Daughter of Hippolyta, is repeatedly dismayed and perplexed at the war suffering she witnesses. At one moment she becomes disgusted, perhaps better described as betrayed, by the lack of purity in humans. The central message of the film is summed up when she realizes that purity tests don’t work.
- There are a lot of slow motion action sequences. And they are gorgeous.
- Somehow, Wonder Woman manages to get into her superhero uniform with ease, no matter the circumstances.
There were also several moments that both moved me and felt fresh in a superhero film.
- The first time Diana, still on her home island, consciously tests her super-human abilities, there is a thrill that emanates from the character. It seems much more inwardly than outwardly focused.
- Every time Diana is sincerely puzzled by behavior we take for granted. i.e.: Walking past suffering, lying politicians, having difficulty choosing the right thing to do.
- Characters with matter-of-fact statements and assumptions that sweep across gender inequality with the confidence of never having felt gender inequality.
Diana’s back story, which is a not quite fully-detailed origin story, is well-paced and satisfying. The Amazon scenes could be a short film unto themselves; they are stunning and exciting and inspirational. Robin Wright as General Antiope is a badass. I wanted to hear about HER story. Tell me more about that shoulder scar, General. Despite a dearth of details relating to how Diana has “more power than she knows” (as she is told several times), her development makes sense and feels authentic. It’s an organic coming-of-age story.
I also liked that while Wonder Woman showed Diana as empathetic and caring, she wasn’t painted as incapacitated by emotion. Whereas Superman goes off to his ice castle to mope and lick his wounds, and Batman is continually hanging on to misery, Wonder Woman suffers loss and then picks herself up and gets to work. This seems a lot more female than fainting couches or snarling defensiveness.
I’ve said a couple of times that Superman feels like the best comparison in the superhero world. And an homage hunch that I had during the movie was realized when I saw this meme that confirmed my suspicions about allusion to eyeglasses, buttoned up “disguise,” and gender reversal of saving the sidekick. That doesn’t happen by accident. Nicely done, Patty Jenkins!
The film’s shortcoming is with the bad guys. Several short scenes showing WWI era Germans creating toxic gas that kills in seconds seemed unnecessary and overly developed. A female evil scientist was perhaps included to 1) have another female character (of which there are really only three post-Amazon world) and 2) to show that it’s not only men but all humanity that is capable of evil. Still, the scenes between the two main baddies felt as close to gratuitous as is humanly possible. (See what I did there?) I mean, it’s clear that the real bad guy in the film is war itself, and Diana consistently fights against that throughout the film.
That criticism out of the way, I loved this film. I can’t wait to see it again. I finally understand why men like these superhero movies so much; when I left the theater, I felt like I could kick serious ass. I felt like there was justice within reach, and that I could contribute to it. It’s possible that I turned up the music too loud and sung fiercely off-key on my way home. Hey, I’m even excited to see Justice League because it has Wonder Woman in it. And it had better not screw up Diana of Themyscira’s character.
Bonus: Then there’s this tweet. Which, I will fully admit, made me weepy. And damn it, I needed that. My whole generation needed that.