I finally watched the first female-led superhero movie in the past decade. The first female-led superhero film that focuses on the rise of DC Comics’ most celebrated female warrior: Wonder Woman.
I have to be honest: it felt so good seeing my favourite superhero reigning supreme on the silver screen. From the moment the movie started, I felt my breath catch and my eyes fill with nerd tears. Both remained this way for the duration; I watched Wonder Woman through a hazy veil of happy, proud and excited tears. I couldn’t help it. It was happening! It was finally happening! A female driven/led superhero movie; a Wonder Woman movie! A movie about DC Comics’ undisputed queen. My loud, proud feminist hero and idol! To quote another favourite movie of mine: it’s all happening!
Unlike DC Comics’ other live action movies, I didn’t have the usual feeling of foreboding or dread as I sat down to devour the evening’s nerdy offerings. I was excited. Since the first announcement of the movie, as well as the casting of Gal Gadot and even her first appearance as Diana Prince in the otherwise woeful Dawn of Justice, I’ve been positively giddy with excitement. So, I’m more than pleased to say that Wonder Woman’s origin story and introduction to the superhero movie canon did not disappoint, and it was more than worth the wait.
The Geek, Simple. Wonder Woman movie review.
It was quite interesting awaiting the release of the movie with my boyfriend. He suffered the usual uneasiness that I have felt previously. When Ben Affleck was announced as Batman, or when I saw Harley Quinn’s teeny tiny glitter shorts before seeing Suicide Squad: All these moments made me uncomfortable, and now, it was his turn. His reasons were valid-ish… He was originally concerned that Gal Gadot wouldn’t be bad ass enough for Wonder Woman. He felt that her appearance detracted from her comic book legacy; that she was too ‘supermodel’ for Wonder Woman. He also took extreme chagrin to Chris Pine being introduced as Diana’s romantic interest, which I think was a major show stopper for him:
“Wonder Woman doesn’t need a boyfriend!”
“If he saves her life, that’s it, I am DONE!”
Surprisingly, none of these things crossed my mind at all. Admittedly, I feel like I immediately took a sense of ownership over Wonder Woman – she is my favourite superhero, after all. As someone who doesn’t particularly like DC Comics’ attempts at live action movies (with, as always, the exception of Nolan’s efforts), and as someone who has been more than vocal on DC Comics inability to just let the original origin stories drive the franchise, I desperately wanted the movie to be excellent. Not just for me, but for comic book fans young and old, for women, for my niece – Wonder Woman has always been a strong beacon of femininity and a symbol of strength for women everywhere. She’s important and we need that kind of representation in the ever-increasing prevalence of superhero movie-dom.
I suppose a lot of this stemmed from Sony’s now infamous leaked emails regarding women and their alleged aversion to action films. And, of course, how no one wants to see female superheroes. Using the lamentable Catwoman and 1980s Supergirl as supposedly valid reasons not to reintroduce or appropriately represent female heroes within this movie genre both enraged offended me. I deserved better representation in my hobbies – we all did.
So, when Wonder Woman was officially announced, I felt that there was an almost worldwide, collective intake of breath; a desperate plea to the gods for Wonder Woman to be awesome. Luckily, Gadot and Jenkins pulled it out the bag. They honoured Wonder Woman in ways that even surprised me, a total fan girl. They focused Wonder Woman’s inner strength, her resolve, her grace and her power. Diana’s feminine traits weren’t only represented, they were celebrated; her empathy truly drove the movie. Her lasso of truth and bullet-repelling weapons were an awesome addition, but it was her nuances; her adorable and funny comedic moments, and over all exploration of humanity that were given greater prominence – and it worked so well. Ultimately, it was this that became more compelling than the action scenes… and let’s face it they were awesome. But even during the unforgettable scene where she marched throughout the violent trenches of World War One and the nerd tears were free-flowing, it was her pride, poise and purpose that were driving the scene; not her ability to kick ass.
I also loved her look. Unlike DC Comics’ previous efforts at ‘dressing’ female characters, I really didn’t think that Wonder Woman was oversexualised. I have read feminist critique that seems to focus on her ‘tiny’ outfit as means to criticise the movie, but – and again, aligning myself with the comic book nerd inside of me – canonically speaking Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was spot on. Yes, the outfit has always been somewhat revealing, but I don’t think that detracted from Gadot’s character at all during the movie. Her lasso of truth shining as a beacon of hope through the otherwise grim backdrop of a war-torn Europe was symbolic of her strength of spirit and her powerful character. Her trademark, and undeniably resplendent ebony locks brought everything I’d hoped for before seeing the movie together wonderfully, without playing into the male fantasy of Wonder Woman. She looked every bit the superhero I truly wanted her to be. In short, Wonder Woman was magnificent.
However, I will admit there were elements of Wonder Woman I didn’t like…
Fortunately, these were few and far between and focus predominantly on the choice of antagonist, and how this was explored. I’m not sure if it’s because of Diana’s strength of spirit, but I feel that her antagonist; the physical manifestation of her passion to end all wars was a let-down. I feel like he wilted in her presence, like the other men in the movie. Even Chris Pine’s ‘above average’ Steve Trevor seemed to be dull in comparison to Dianna’s sparkle. While the movie’s pre-release marketing hinted at a bigger role for Doctor Poison to play, it was actually god of war, Ares, that became the movie’s main villain.
I’ll admit, I like the way it was handled. We thought it would be General Ludendorf and it turned out to be the rather unassuming David Thewlis’ Sir Patrick Morgan character instead instead. Yet, in spite of this ‘twist’, I still felt let down.
Professor Lupin of Harry Potter does not an antagonist make.
Don’t get me wrong, he played the part very well, and it certainly didn’t make me want to turn off the movie. I simply found him more believable as the kindly politician, as opposed to the thunder-wielding, bare-chested god he was portrayed as in the final scenes. Truth be told, the scene in general reminded me a bit of Iron Man, and so I may have drawn unfair comparisons to Thewlis and Mickey Rourke’s characters – or, I may have been inadvertently lamenting the demise of Professor Lupin, even now… I’m not entirely sure I can pinpoint what I didn’t like, just that I didn’t like it. I mean, the mask donned during the fight scene certainly echoed the mythological imagery of Ares we’re familiar with, I just didn’t think that Thewlis made a particularly compelling or foreboding antagonist. As a result, I think the fight scene fell flat.
I’m not sure if this is because a large part of me wondered why Wonder Woman, a superhero and half-god, didn’t recognise her foe straight away? Certainly, it could be argued that because she’d led such a sheltered life as the daughter of Hippolyta, she wasn’t entirely sure what type of strength Ares would emanate? Or perhaps, because she was so enamoured by humanity, in spite of its shortcomings, that she was blinded to his power? Either way, I still didn’t find David Thewlis character believable as anything other than a kindly politician – even if I did like the premise.
There’s no escaping the abundance of false starts that DC’s extended universe have poured down on the disappointed masse over the past few years. This is why I feel so pleased with Wonder Woman. Patty Jenkins honoured the mythical leanings of Diana’s origin, and refused to subvert to the disappointing ‘Zeus is my father!’ rhetoric proffered in the New 52 comic books. For the majority of the movie, Jenkins honoured Wonder Woman and remained true to her creator and her origins in the DC comic book canon.
Should you go see Wonder Woman?
Without a doubt. It certainly isn’t the over-arching feminist blockbuster that a large portion of Wonder Woman’s feminist audience wanted. There are still elements that could be considered problematic, but Jenkins, Gadot and Wonder Woman offered audiences a fresh insight into the superhero genre that hasn’t been seen before. Not only because it’s the first proper female-led film that adheres to the comic book genre properly, but because Wonder Woman as a character and as a movie had purpose; it was well-defined from the outset and followed a distinct, purposeful narrative throughout.
In my mind, Gal Gadot embodied the character of Wonder Woman to a tee, at least in my mind, and as the credits rolled, I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. This is what I wanted from my favourite superhero; I can’t wait to watch it again and I have slightly higher hopes for the upcoming Justice League movie than I did before…