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Considering that Green Lantern (the anticipated beginning of DC’s movie universe) was Dead-On-Arrival, Man of Steel was only a qualified success, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice collapsed under the weight of its own self-importance, Suicide Squad’s marketing made promises the movie didn’t deliver, and the trailer for Justice League attached to Wonder Woman needs the subtitle “Attack of the Bloat,” Warner Bros. and DC really needed to hit it out of the park with Wonder Woman. And considering their last female-led superhero movie was Catwoman, a lot of execs’ chairs must have been feeling pretty warm the last few months…
Good thing Wonder Woman is a winner!
There are so many good things that I can say about Wonder Woman. The cinematography is amazing, particularly in the various fight scenes. Gal Gadot and Chris Pine are great (though there were a couple places where the tone of voice didn’t exactly match the scene for some reason, namely in the final battle). It is amazing just how faithfully this movie adapts the source material (even if the setting is World War I instead of II). The villain is surprisingly compelling and developed. And after Batman v. Superman lost itself in world-building, I think this needs to be said: Wonder Woman is a single, complete movie.
Diana is a young, naïve woman who has longed for and trained for battle since she was a child. However, when American pilot Steve Trevor crashes into the ocean off Themyscira, Diana is thrown into the chaos of World War I and forced to reconcile what she has been taught about men by her mother with the harsh realities of war. All the while, she must complete her mission of destroying Ares, God of War, whom she believes to be the mastermind behind the war.
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The premise of the movie is extremely compelling and offers a brilliant coming-of-age quality to Diana’s journey. She betrays a unique level of naïveté with regard to the ways of the world, which lends itself to several amusing moments between her and Steve. Watching Diana’s understanding of war as Ares’ work of corrupting men into killing each other develop into the realization that man truly is capable of committing atrocities without the god’s interference is absolutely brilliant. This is paired with the revelation that Sir Patrick Morgan, the War Cabinet member who spoke out in favor of the armistice, was really Ares. Further, Ares’ objective isn’t actually war, but is really peace (which he views as only possible once man has been destroyed). In this way Ares becomes the perfect foil for Wonder Woman: both are vastly more powerful than mankind and view war as evil. However, Ares views war as a necessary evil so long as man is corrupt and destructive to the world, while Wonder Woman sees in men both the qualities of evil and of good, war and love. Consequently, Wonder Woman chooses to stop Ares and fight to restore peace among mankind.
All of the action sequences are incredible, but none more so than Diana’s appearance at the front: “That’s ‘No-Man’s Land.’ No man can survive there.” Diana’s simple response of discarding her cloak and climbing the ladder (letting her theme tell the story) is awesome – one of those scenes that sends a chill down your spine, which every (action) movie needs.
In terms of comic book characters and references, I’m not as familiar with Wonder Woman, so I didn’t pick up too many. However, I was a little surprised that of all the Wonder Woman characters they could have picked, they decided to include Etta Candy in the movie. But I’ll give them this much: they did not overuse their Etta Candy; she’s in the movie enough, but not too much.
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I was even more surprised that Steve’s team of misfits (Sammy, Charlie, and Chief) were not comic book characters (at least not according to the movie’s Wikipedia page). I honestly thought that the idea of an Egyptian, a Highlander, and an American Indian running around with Wonder Woman was too crazy to not be something out of the ‘40s! They really did feel like DC’s 1940s (or 1950s) answer to Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos.
The love story between Diana and Steve is certainly one of the highlights of the movie, but it also causes several of the movie’s biggest issues. There are only a couple of places where this movie struggles with pacing and feels like it drags. Unfortunately, those happen to be two of Diana and Steve’s first five scenes together. The scene in the cave with the “watch” and the scene on the boat both feel as though they could have been cut in half without losing anything and made for a better movie overall. Similarly, the fact that the two of them (presumably) sleep together after the battle feels like a bit of a letdown regardless of how you view it. Either she isn’t the good role model (sleeping together before marriage), or she isn’t the ideal feminist (needing a man). Further, that they consummated their love lessens the impact of his eventual sacrifice—part of what made the sacrifice at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger so moving was that he and Peggy never had that opportunity (Haley Atwell’s comments notwithstanding).
I have said this in the past and I need to reiterate it here: I will not blame a screenwriter/director/producer for being faithful to his or her source material. I will certainly question the necessity of being so faithful, but I won’t blame them for it. That was true with the non-controversy over casting a white guy to play Danny Rand – a white guy. And it has to be true here. In fact, I would argue that in terms of questioning/defending the decision, the burden of proof only lies with the creative team when they deviate from the source material; it lies with the critic when they are faithful to the source material.
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That’s all a long explanation for me to say that I was not a fan of the boast scene with Diana and Steve – and not just because it was way too drawn out. I understand that William Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman, was a strong feminist and designed Wonder Woman to be a model liberated woman – which he understood to mean a woman who “don’t need no man.” Hence Diana’s statement that “while men are necessary for reproduction, they are not necessary for pleasure” is consistent with the source material. However, this is not the kind of statement that I would want my daughter hearing from someone who’s supposed to be a good role model. So if my daughter asked if Wonder Woman was a good example to emulate (based on this movie), I would have to say, “Sort of.” I would certainly want my daughter to be brave, compassionate, willing to do what is right… In that way, Wonder Woman is a positive role model for young girls. But in terms of marriage and relations with the other sex, she really isn’t.
Of course, parents really shouldn’t be relying on unfiltered media to raise their kids!
Be that as it may, this scene makes me hesitant to say this movie is appropriate for young children.
But it is definitely more appropriate for children than Deadpool!
Other than that, this is an excellent movie. It’s a lot of fun, the action is great, and the plot is really good. We’ll have to wait and see how Justice League turns out before saying the DCEU is back on track, but Wonder Woman is certainly a reason to be hopeful.
Have you seen Wonder Woman yet? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!