Wonder Woman was everything I wanted it to be. It’s the kind of superhero movie that reaffirms my belief in good scripts and great directors.
When I was 5 years-old, we lived in Nowhere, West Virginia. Lynda Carter was starring as Wonder Woman in the now-iconic TV series. By today’s standards, that TV series was hokey, but I was enthralled. Wonder Woman and the Bionic Woman were the only girls on TV to whom I could relate. I absolutely believed in my ability to be a hero.
Every hero needs a costume, so I grabbed a cami, a pair of white undies and a handful of markers to make the best Wonder Woman knock-off suit I could. I felt a little naked wearing my new suit out into the yard, but wear it I did. I was ready to take on the world! Then, a neighbor boy made fun of me. He laughed at my meager artistic ability and said I was no Wonder Woman. I was embarrassed and furious. I don’t remember if I hit him (I probably did), but I’m sure I gave him a piece of my mind. Even so, my homemade Wonder Woman costume was never seen again.
The Hero Inside
Jump to 2017, when I sat in a darkened movie theater, watching Diana Prince shed her cloak and become Wonder Woman. That moment meant so much to me. Finally, here was a worthy Wonder Woman. Her costume wasn’t about being sexy. She wasn’t keeping her gifts a secret. She wasn’t following Steve Trevor’s orders. She took to the battlefield like the warrior she was, and my heart nearly exploded.
Maybe it’s hard for men to understand how powerful it is to finally — FINALLY — see a woman take the lead in something as brutal as No Man’s Land, and win. And earn respect. And banish all doubt about her ability. Her triumph wasn’t tarnished by any kind of “and she looked hot doing it” or “I’m sorry, maybe I should have waited” or “does my hair look okay?” bullshit that usually accompanies that kind of move by a woman in a movie. She had the skills; She used them. She made no apologies, and she wasn’t expected to. “Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Women are trained, from birth, to acquiesce, to be unselfish, to diminish our accomplishments. There is none of that crap in this movie, and it is glorious. My spirit soared during every fight scene where Wonder Woman defied every expectation of the rest of her team. During one fight scene — I’ll try to avoid spoiling — Steve pulls a clever move that serves to 1) acknowledge that she is stronger than any of them and 2) demonstrate that he was paying attention the first time around. Ladies, is that not one of the biggest compliments you can get?
Even at the climax of the movie, when doubts begin to eat at her resolve, Wonder Woman responds, not with a breakdown or a bucket of tears, but with even more strength and more power.
Cast and Effects
The rest of the movie is just as expertly crafted. Chris Pine is a stand-out as Steve Trevor. To writer Allan Heinberg and director Patty Jenkins’ credit, he is saved from being just the boyfriend. His character has many facets, and Pine does a wonderful job peeling away the layers of Trevor to reveal what drives him.
The production design is stellar. The palette resembles the darkness of war, taking on a completely gray tinge, just as war is full of gray areas. Their view of the world is even darker compared to the blindingly sunny island of Themyscira.
The special effects do not overwhelm the story or the actors, as some other superhero movies have been prone to do. Rather, they allow Wonder Woman and the other Amazons to perform astounding feats.
To address some of the criticism the movie has received, I need to talk specifics. So,
MILD SPOILERS AHEAD.
In their review, IGN expressed their dissatisfaction with no clear villain in Wonder Woman. First, there is a clear villain, just not who you think it is. That’s a tremendous plot twist, and should be lauded, not criticized.
Moreover, the villain in Wonder Woman is war as a concept, on the grand scale, which is deftly threaded through the entire movie. Diana’s confusion about the place war has in our world is exactly what Shakespeare meant when he said art is a mirror held up to nature, or something like that. From the very start, the Amazons talk about war as an enemy to mankind. That theme is repeated again and again, in dialogue and in imagery.
Wonder Woman is a solid story that takes time to build characters. Too often superhero movies try to do too much, try to incorporate too many storylines which results in a confusing mess. Wonder Woman avoids that trap to become a thoughtful exploration, not only of Diana’s origin, but also of war and man’s place in war, as well.
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