This past week I took an evening for myself and watched Wonder Woman. Spoiler: it was a good movie and an excellent representation of what female superheroes should be.
Beautiful. And I don’t just mean Gal Gadot, the Woman herself, but the entire movie. It was moving, fun, action-y, and thought provoking. While the DCU has been very lackluster and straight-out bad, they went where Marvel has yet to venture with all it’s success: a female directed, female led movie about a female superhero. From little girl Diana shadow boxing while Amazonian warriors spar to adult Diana deflecting bullets with shield and bracers above the trenches of World War One, this film delivered on almost all of it’s promises.
Without going into a bunch of detail, or long plot discussion, I will say this movie was excellently written, with witty dialogue, good themes, foreshadow, callbacks, delightful fight choreography, and great casting. As I write, I am listening to the score, and that is fantastic as well. From start to finish, this film was well constructed. However, it isn’t perfect.
I felt that a few moments were unearned, and that lessened my opinion, but not enjoyment of, the movie. First unearned moment, and perhaps a big one: when Wonder Woman and her love interest (I loved typing that phrase just now! finally not a hero and his love interest!) supposedly have sex. Earlier in the film, Steve and Diana discussed sex and reproduction, and Diana (having grown up on an island entirely populated with women) admits that men are necessary for reproduction but unnecessary for sexual pleasure (!) but seems uninterested in trying heterosexual relations for herself. But then, in what a few days, or weeks, maximum, she is inviting Steve into her bed and arms (again, supposedly, the movie suddenly cuts to the outside and shows nothing but gently falling snow and only implies the union). I do like that Steve was about to leave in the scene, having escorted Diana to her room, but then Diana herself invited him in and initiated the first kiss between them. It was nice to see Diana not only taking the lead on the battlefield, but also in the bedroom. Too often the man imposes himself in near sexual assault, so it was nice to see a reversal here. Still, though, the love story had barely developed by that point and I thought that it was unearned. Small quibble.
Secondly, it was a little ham-fisted setting up General Ludendorff to be the big bad, Ares God of War. I knew from the beginning it wouldn’t be him, as he was just a little too evil and intent on conquering the world, which no one really was in World War I. As I understand history, the war to end all wars was more about protecting self-identity and honoring alliances. Anyway, without a mustache to twirl, Ludendorff was too twirly for me to believe him as Ares. Interestingly, the guy with the mustache I missed completely as Ares until he showed up to reveal himself. I was thinking there was no Ares in this film, as the story was developing, and indeed didn’t need him to be for the story it was telling. (But what is a superhero movie without a big boss battle? A better superhero movie, in my opinion, but then, this is DC.) Anyway, the reveal of Ares I thought was pointless except to give Diana a boss to battle at the end while Steve was actually, you know, fighting for something.
Now, to the real Big Bad: World War I. In the comics, and history of comic-book Wonder Woman, she saves Trevor who I believe was originally a World War II pilot (and then every conflict thereafter? in updates) but never a WWI pilot. Setting the film in World War 1 was a brilliant move for the story they were telling, which was that Diana believed she could end war, and bad men, by killing Ares the God of War who was supposedly the machinator behind the scenes. If you have this set in World War 2, there is a clear Ares: Adolf Hitler. And killing him would have almost definitely ended the war then and there, thus proving Diana right without her learning anything about mankind or conflict. However, WW1 is a war without sense, purpose, big bad, or natural end. It was simply a meat grinder. Without a big bad to kill, even if you mistake Ludendorff for Ares, you must come to grips with the reality that mankind carries within each person the capacity for depthless evil and insurmountable good and it is a personal choice for each one of us which path we follow, God of War or no. This is a lesson that Wonder Woman learns the hard way when she does kill Ludendorff and nothing changes. It was, for me, the climax of the film.
Lastly, the final unearned moment of the film: Steve sacrifices himself to stop the Germans from gassing a bunch of people, and Diana goes ballistic, enabling her to defeat Ares, whom she is battling thus far without success, because she loves Steve and is devastated by his death. Like I said when I was discussing their maybe-sex scene, it didn’t really seem like she had loved him that deeply. Obviously he did her, but not her him, yet. Minutes ago she even thinking Steve was as evil as everyone else on the planet. And then he dies and she is all “but I love you!”. I just didn’t buy it. That and the unnecessary battle with Ares ruined the end of the movie for me, but not enough for me to not enjoy the movie as a whole. Bigger nit.
Wonder Woman, despite it’s flaws, is a good film, and a better one for what it is, the first film in which a female leads, and leads well, and where the men around her are equals or content to follow her obvious expertise. I enjoyed it, and will probably own it. I cannot say the same of any other DCU movies to date, or even in the future as I can foresee it.