Today we are traveling to the island of Themyscira. And London. And France.
Sometimes things come up so many times that it seems like there is no way anything new can be said about it. Such is Wonder Woman. I didn’t plan to write anything about this movie, but I am. Because, I am a comics loving woman and, you know what?, we needed this.
I suppose it could be argued that DC fans needed this, because DC movies have a tendency to suck lately. Women, however, have been there bright spot. I made the mistake of watching the extended version of Batman vs. Superman, which added another interminable half hour to an already interminable movie. The only bright spot was when Gal Gadot rocked up in the finale adorned with her muted Wonder Woman garb to kick some ass. Similarly, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn made Suicide Squad worth a view despite it’s nonsensical story, even if it was simply to ogle her sparkly hot pants covered ass, or celebrate that the token lady was stealing the show from Will Smith and someone who literally bursts into flames. So perhaps it’s not surprising that it’s DC that has made the first female-centric superhero movie of this particular age.
As a Marvel fan, I have to take a moment to complain. Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanov, or Black Widow if you will, is one of the leading Avengers. She has appeared in Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Captain America: Civil War. That’s five times with at least a few more to go and still… no solo. My favorite Marvel character, Scarlet Witch, has managed to eek her way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and played by Elizabeth Olsen, who is a pretty rad lady. But her screen time probably equals about forty minutes combined and she’s, as always, cast as the unpredictable wild card that everyone needs to keep an eye on. Which is… valid, but also bullshit because, yeah, she blew up part of a building by accident and is just coming into her own regarding her powers, but she feels really guilty about it and Tony Stark created Ultron. I just hope that they don’t fuck it up when she finally meets Stephen Strange. But we got another female Avenger so YAY! God forbid we introduce one of the founding members of the Avengers, but Janet van Dyne is dead before she’s introduced and her tough daughter, Hope, will be stepping into her wings in the upcoming Ant Man and the Wasp, which is… an improvement. A half step is still a step. Thank god for Jessica Jones. And, of course, there is the upcoming Captain Marvel. It’s just a wonder that it took so long. It’s just the way it is, men save the world and the women are their girlfriends. If they’re really lucky; wives.
Enter Wonder Woman. The first critically acclaimed film in the DC Extended Universe. After clunkers like Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman, no one was concerned. They didn’t need to be because even if the movies sucked they still made money and, honestly, there will always be another Batman. There will always be a new Superman. There have been six in my lifetime, if we count TV. There have been five Batmen on the silver screen. Lynda Carter, however, hung up her lasso of truth in 1979, two years before I was born. Since then there has been a failed TV pilot (I’ve seen it, it wasn’t great, but it probably wasn’t much worse than the first season of Gotham) and the inability, repeatedly, to get a Wonder Woman film off the ground. Most notably a script written by Joss Whedon, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and eventual Avengers fame, that was passed over by studios. Whedon was famously pissed about this. Whedon is famously a supporter of strong female characters. He also made much of Natasha Romanov’s Age of Ultron storyline about her inability to bear children. I love the man and would never bad mouth him, but that’s a fact.
Diana (she’s never referred to as Wonder Woman in the film), however, never plays second fiddle to any man. It’s not in her nature. As an Amazon, Diana was raised on the island of Themyscira, hidden away from the rest of the world after the Greek god of war, Ares, corrupted Zeus’ creation of man into selfishness and hatred. A story that has basically nothing to do with Greek mythology and sounding a tad too much like the Christian creation myth, but I’m going to just let it slide because basically everything else in the film is pitch perfect. The Amazons, made of love, were created to combat mankind’s corruption. Ares was wounded and Zeus, as his dying act, created a weapon strong enough to defeat Ares when he returned. The Amazons have lived in tranquility since. But still they train, and Diana, the daughter of the Amazon queen shaped of clay and brought to life by Zeus himself, is trained the hardest. Until the outside world literally crashes through the barrier between Themyscira and the world beyond. The year is 1918 and for four years the world has been engaged in fighting like no one has ever seen before. Steve Trevor, an American spy working with the British, is fleeing with the plans for a new hydrogen based mustard gas and crash lands near the Amazons island utopia. Saved by Diana, the Amazon naturally believes that this is what she’s been training for, that Ares has returned and corrupted man into unparalleled fighting. She leaves Themyscira with Trevor, and flees into the thick of World War I.
In it’s more superficial moments Diana’s fish out of water confusion about the modern world is amusing, and comparable with Captain America’s conversion from the forties to the twenty-first century. But it’s Diana’s unfailing faith in humanity that makes her so endearing. No matter the evidence she sees in front of her she is unwilling to believe that people are fundamentally bad. A message that is probably more timely now than when the script was written.
It’s also interesting that while there is a love interest in Wonder Woman, very little time was given over to romance. Diana’s focus is firmly on her mission and things don’t progress with Trevor until after he’s accepted her as the hero that she is. And he does, fully. Steve Trevor is a formidable force on his own, as a spy and airman, but his accomplishments can only be secondary. Which is pretty familiar to women everywhere.
After watching Wonder Woman I felt empowered. Stronger. Unlike so many other glossy superhero movies, the women in Wonder Woman felt real. They proudly sported scars and had bodies of all types. The older women were still smoking hot, but they wore their age with pride. Wonder Woman’s costume was skimpy, it always has been, but in this incarnation it accentuated her strong arms and legs. It was form fitting, but there was no cleavage. Gal Gadot is incredibly fit, but when she moved her thighs moved like human thighs. It was glorious. Thank you Patty Jenkins.
It may seem like I have done a lot of complaining here, and I have. But I am still a Marvel girl and I like Gwen Stacey and Pepper Potts well enough. But Wonder Woman was a breath of fresh air. The kind of movie I’d been waiting for without ever realizing it because I thought it would never come. Comics are, sadly, a man’s world and embarrassing female costumes and poses are just part of the deal. But for now, for just this small period of time when Wonder Woman is the comic movie du jour, we get something better. And maybe some hope for females in the future.