“If you need to stop an asteroid, you call Superman. If you need to solve a mystery, you call Batman. But if you need to end a war, you call Wonder Woman.” - Gail Simone
TLDR; Wonder Woman (WW) is a fresh of breath air that the DC franchise needed. It proves that DC has finally gotten its act together as the plot, characterisation and pacing of this movie is a lot tighter than its predecessors. Gal Gadot (Diana Prince/ Wonder Woman) and Chris Pine (Steve Trevor) are both incredibly charming and drive the movie forward.
I’ll be honest: WW’s potentially strength lies in the amount of hype leading up to it. It has been questioned for years whether a female-lead superhero could break the box office (thanks to flops like Elektra and Catwoman), and given the recent popularity of feminism, it seemed like the time was ripe for a new contender to attempt to do the impossible. (Also given DC’s track record with movies, yikes things were not looking good.) Did WW live up to that potential? Yes. YES.
WW succeeds where its predecessors failed - Elektra was reasonably well shot but had a dull plot, whilst Catwoman buys completely into a male-fueled fantasy of what the character should be, making the show feel superficial.
The “male gaze” is never used once in this film - maybe because it was directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins - and in that sense, it does the Amazons justice. None of them are ever sexualised - instead, the focus is on their strength and their graceful yet deadly fighting abilities. The fight choreography in this movie was astounding since it displayed their brute strength and focused on their efficiency. There was no attempt to turn it into something “cool” (-pointed look at Black Widow-), and it was that earnestness that made it remarkable. A movie that doesn’t sexualise its female characters (particularly when wearing otherwise revealing clothing) deserves major props because, well, the male gaze happens so often that it’s now been normalised somewhat.
I was also relieved that Diana didn’t suffer from the “born sexy yesterday” trope. This trope usually depicts a very attractive young woman who is new to the ways of the world, and is guided by a man as to how she should behave in her new environment. Although Diana is naive, she is never gullible - she is intelligent (her knowledge of many languages and implied education in many ways of the world) and this allows her to stand as an equal to Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor. Perhaps more importantly, Steve never treats her as stupid as well. Although he is unsure of the ways of her world as well as how much of his world she knows, he never demeans or patronises her.
Speaking of Steve, I really appreciate how they characterised him: he truly treats Diana as an equal. There’s no benevolent sexism here as he neither sees her as necessary of protection (obviously) nor does he place her on a pedestal (despite her status). Unlike the other men in their ragtag group, he never once hits on her or questions her place by their side (benevolent sexism alert). The relationship between him and Diana feels genuine and develops slowly (movie-wise), making it feel more realistic (than um, Steve Rogers hooking up with Peggy Carter’s niece). Moreover, he’s a genuinely decent guy!!! He’s a unicorn. We need more of him.
Besides the obvious FEMINISM! standpoint this movie has to offer, it also teaches us about the importance of morals and belief. In this sense, WW provides a depth that its forebears didn’t— or, more accurately, couldn’t. This may be due to DC’s recent trend of raising philosophical discussions of justice and a hero’s inner worth. DC has finally found that perfect sliver of balance between philosophy, action and fun, i.e. there’s no brooding over one’s morality or identity. Instead, Diana learns that being good and saving the world wasn’t as easy as she believed it to be: not only is it impossible to save everyone, it is also easy to give up on others once you’ve seen how flawed they can potentially become. Nevertheless, whether you ultimately decide to abandon all hope does not depend on whether these people deserve your help, but whether you want to commit to the person you want to be. It is this moral dilemma that makes the movie interesting and also makes Diana relatable.
Having Steve Trevor talk about his own moral compass and guide Diana in her quest to understand humanity was also a great move. He has his own backstory and motivation - yet he never detracts from Diana’s journey but rather enhances it. Major props to the writers for striking secondary character development gold.
Finally, but also most importantly, WW never forces feminism down our throats. In my eyes, that’s what makes it perfect - it handles the material delicately through the portrayal of Steve and the Amazonians, whilst placing the focus on the crux of every superhero movie: saving the world. Given the fact that the script was written by three men, I think this kind of proves (even if it’s the exception) that it is possible for male scriptwriters to nail a realistically well-developed female character (and a decent, interesting love interest). I hope this happens more often.
But of course, I’m not saying that the movie was entirely perfect.
It’s not a Zack Synder-produced— sorry, I mean, DC movie if the final battle isn’t melodramatic. It’s easy to tell where his influence (or rather, when it’s truly the end of the movie) comes in, i.e. when the entire backdrop is nothing but CGI and hammy screaming. I doubt this gripe I have will ever cease.
Also, standing at nearly 2.5 hours long, WW is a little too draggy for my taste. Nevertheless, newcomers and longtime fans of DC would appreciate the details put into breathing Diana’s origin story into life. We understand not only her motivations and her people’s past, but also get to watch her grow to become a wiser individual.
While watching WW, it struck me that young girls (and boys) would be able to watch a strong, confident and all out badass female character take centre stage, and may even grow to idolise her. For all that it’s worth, the DC franchise so far has been a disembodied mess of violence, angsty brooding and overpowered men having identity crises. While those movies have questioned what heroism means to varying degrees of success, WW seizes the opportunity to answer those same questions conclusively in its hero’s voice. I’m glad that DC finally has a hero (movie-verse wise) that everyone can look up to.
(Rating: 4.5/5 for general badassery, wit, humour, fierceness and Captain America nostalgia)