Despite a brief obsession with The New Adventures of Superman and Smallville as a kid, I’ve always considered myself to be a Marvel girl. DC was always too dark and cynical for my tastes. Too “real world”. I’ve always liked the rebellious, anti-institution nature of Stan Lee’s universe, which celebrates difference and constantly hopes for a better tomorrow. Everything in the world of DC was just a little too messed up for my tastes, a bit too accurately reflective of the really awful parts of the real world.
Wonder Woman is the exception. Diana is an optimist with a fervent belief that the human race is worth saving. At the beginning of the movie, she sees the world in black and white; people are good and the God of War forces them to act in ways that are evil. By the time the film ends, her perspective has become far more nuanced and complicated, reflecting the complicated nature of human beings.
In short, when army pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes on the warriors’ secluded island paradise, disrupting the fictitious all-female sanctuary of Themyscira, created by the Gods of Olympus, Princess Diana (Gal Gadot) of the immortal Amazons rescues him and is soon en route to early 20th Century London to stop the war she believes is influenced by the God Ares.
It’s nice to see female superheroes finally getting their own movies, although I was perhaps a little disappointed that there was still a love story element (courtesy of Steve). It was minor, however, and I was totally rooting for them to get together from the start so I didn’t stay annoyed for long.
I do question why Diana is the optimist of the DC canon. The part of my brain that occasionally dips it’s unapologetically polish-free toes into radical feminism thinks that her creators might have assumed that a woman would be less prone to cynicism. The rest of my brain would be flattered by that assumption but also hopes that it was never made, unconsciously or not.
I’m also very glad that all evidence points to the skimpy clothing becoming a thing of the past – only someone with Diana’s powers would think that only being half-clothed in a fight is every a particularly practical idea (although, the women are not the only ones with a clothing problem in DC – both Superman and The Flash wear outfits that leave little to the imagination but at least they’re covered up). Sure, women should wear whatever they choose to wear – it’s our choice and has nothing to do with moral character – but when we’re talking about armor, full coverage sounds like a pretty good idea to me.
On a more superficial but no less relevant note, Wonder Woman is a beautiful film with a brilliant cast. Gal Gadot positively shines as the titular character and there are so many fantastically talented character actors in this cast that I couldn’t possibly talk about them all. However, I would like to note that Lucy Davis is a comic genius and gives a hilarious, perfectly timed performance as Etta, Steve’s secretary.
Overall, the script beautifully balances humor with serious conversations about human nature and the concept of a just war. It would be easy for such a hopeful script to stray into trite cliché but aside from a few classic supervillain lines, the dialogue is believable and the message shines through without repeatedly being hammered into your head. That, I think, is one of the strengths of this particular genre. Comic superheroes have always been a great way to talk about big ideas and to acknowledge the value of our differences over our fears, without becoming sappy or unoriginal.
I have to confess that I was becoming somewhat disillusioned by the DC movie-verse, until Man of Steel, Batman versus Superman and Wonder Woman came along. I’m cautiously optimistic about both the upcoming Justice League movie and The Batman (should it ever actually see the light of day).