As the date for the Wonder Woman premiere approached, many DC fans voiced concern, believing that if Wonder Woman failed as Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman had, things looked grim for the DC cinematic universe. After releasing a series of movies that were received with lackluster reviews by fans and critics alike, DC really needed a win. Given the glowing praise from all sides over the opening weekend, I believe DC has finally turned things around with Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman tells the origin story of Diana of Themyscira. Raised as the only child on an island brimming with immortal Amazon warriors, Diana always longed for the glory of battle, but was forbidden from even training due to her mother’s adamant command. Eventually, a chance to leave Themyscira presents itself in the form of Steve Trevor, a soldier who tells the Amazons of the horrors happening throughout the outside world because of WWI. Diana leaves with Trevor to join the cause of ending the war to end all wars, and through her travels learns more about the world of mankind than she would have ever imagined.
This film does an excellent job of capturing Diana’s heroic spirit. While the Batman and Superman of the DC cinematic universe came across as too broody and corrupted thanks to DC’s desire to be more edgy and realistic, Diana remains as pure as the driven snow. She goes forth from paradise into the hellish world of war, compelled purely by her love for mankind.
I want to emphasize that I said “mankind“, not “men”. At its core, this story is about Diana gaining a greater understanding of humanity. It is not about the battle of the sexes. This was probably my greatest concern coming into the theater, that the movie could go in two equally horrible directions. Either Wonder Woman would be made into some overtly sexualized heroine whose main characteristic is that she’s crazy attractive and also happens to be talented in combat, or Diana would spend the entire film surrounded by idiot, sexist men who she is always one-upping and humiliating.
I would say that this film avoids both of these common pitfalls, making Diana one of the most realistic female superheroes I’ve seen onscreen. There are many things about the outside world that Diana does not know, and many humorous mishaps are played out for comedic effect, but the audience never doubts her abilities and intelligence. She is gorgeous and definitely sexy, but the film avoids gratuitous “money” shots and instead focuses on giving her kickass combat scenes.
There are certainly moments in which Diana experiences pointless sexism from the men she comes across, but thankfully these moments do not occur with her love interest or any of the male supporting cast. While the men who become her brothers-in-arms are not necessarily stellar examples of appropriate behavior, they treat her with respect, speaking of her beauty without objectification, and supporting her superior capabilities in battle without complaining of emasculation.
While I would hope that contemporary male directors could bring about such thoughtful, realistic depictions of women as well, I do believe that a key part of Wonder Woman‘s success is its director, Patty Jenkins. It is wonderful to see a female director bringing us one of the best depictions of a female superhero in cinematic history while making the film marketable to both sexes. This proves what should have always been obvious: blockbuster films can portray women in realistic ways and have tremendous box office success. Wonder Woman ticket sales from opening weekend alone have exceeded $100 million.
This film is special to me because of the doors it has opened for other female superhero movies down the line, but even taking its historic significance out of consideration it is a great movie. As with most origin stories there is plenty of ground to cover, which I believe mostly done successfully. There may be minor questions left unaddressed, or moments that could have been dwelt upon longer, but the overall story arc is solid. Special effects, especially CGI, can be a bit hit-or-miss with some of the more magical elements of Wonder Woman’s powers coming across unrealistically, but there is nothing to seriously detract from the film’s value, and the fights scenes are all fantastic. Some performances were less than stellar, but most were excellent, especially Gal Gadot’s. She truly does an excellent job of portraying the awe and depth of this iconic heroine.
I would give this film an A+ and encourage everyone to go and see it. It is a film that can be appreciated by all ages and watched again and again. Go out and support this movie. Even if superheroes aren’t your thing, I’m sure you’ll find something in it that will touch your heart. Take your whole family. Give your daughters a female hero they can look up to, that will help them believe that they too can be a hero like her. I’m so glad this movie has been so successful, because a world with Wonder Woman, even if she is only behind our TV screens, is truly a better place.