Wonder Woman is a lot of things to a lot of people. Superhero, feminist, Amazon, an icon, a killer, and the longest-running female hero to ever grace the pages of comic books. She was the reason a lot of girls started reading comics, and a lot of boys learned that girls can kick ass and take names. She is exactly what her name is, a wonder of a woman, a genre-breaking character that proved that you, yes YOU, can do anything! And yet, despite having been around for over 75 years, it wasn’t until 2017 that she finally got her own movie. Which I finally saw! And it was pretty damn good.
In true comic fashion, I will be reviewing this movie on the merits of it being a superhero movie and how it works within the established world of Wonder Woman. My assessment is that it’s an okay superhero movie, but a great Wonder Woman movie.
Essentially, Wonder Woman, alternatively known as Diana, Princess of Themyscira, is raised on an isolated island of female warriors as the only daughter of the queen, Hippolyta. Her mother warns her to never leave the island in fear that the god of war, Ares, would find them and destroy them. Diana heeds the warning, until one day a man named Steve Trevor crashes his plane into their island and unwittingly brings a group of German soldiers with him. After an epic fight, Diana learns that the world is in the throes of WW1 and finally gets permission to leave the island in a hunt for Ares. Little does she know how corrupted the outside world really is and the length that humans would go to kill each other.
Like many standard superhero movies, there are moments of romance, drama, ass-kicking, and well-placed quips between hidden easter eggs and world-building. Girl lives on island, meets a boy, gets off the island, discovers the world and saves it by beating up Germans. It’s not the most original story ever written, but that’s to be somewhat expected considering that this is an origin movie that’s actually based on the character’s origin, as written in the 40s. They may have taken some liberties, but it’s a great throwback to the original series. The writers spend a lot of time establishing her personality, which leads to a strong character who takes no shit. She has a ferocious devotion to her ideals and never once compromises herself despite being told “no” by practically everyone in the movie. It’s also really fun to watch her fight, a feeling only improved by Gal Gadot’s actual experience in hand-to-hand combat.
Setting the movie during WW1 (despite the fact that the comic character debuted in 1941) was also a wonderful choice. I adored the setting and costume design, and the deliberate choice to have Wonder Woman contrast a grey London in the middle of a war was a beautiful way to present her as a beacon of hope. The movie not only addresses the industrialisation of war and its unwilling casualties, but the women’s suffrage that was very active at the time. There’s even a scene in which she’s wearing her civilian clothing, which remarkably resembles her outfit from her times in the comics as the Justice League’s secretary, and she ends up smashing the eye glasses that come with it. That’s just plain cool. Her presence at such a tumultuous time in history shows how much people like her helped change the course of the world. She’s basically the golem of change.
So, as a superhero movie, it isn’t bad. It does what it sets out to do, giving Wonder Woman an origin story while bringing in an audience that would usually shy away from superhero flicks. It has some pretty stellar villains, ultimately stating that war is the real bad guy; though to be fair, I was not sold on the whole Ares angle. It felt a little too on the nose. There’s a secondary villain named Dr. Poison, who’s pretty bad ass and would’ve made a far more appropriate villain for Wonder Woman to face off against. Played by Elena Anaya, Dr. Poison has half a face, and has dedicated her whole life to making mass poison to kill enemies. If that’s not an allegory for war, nothing is! She’s the complete opposite of Wonder Woman, like a Loki to her Thor, and it’s a shame she isn’t the main antagonist.
Now, as a Wonder Woman movie, it’s great! For a film whose purpose was to bring Wonder Woman to life and to show her as the powerful figure that she is, it does a solid job. As stated, she never compromises and never says die. The film stays true to the comics and wonderfully handles the overt sexism from the early works. It leans more to the modern age run of Wonder Woman with a Gail Simone vibe (the writer who handled a majority of Wonder Woman’s comic work in the past few years).
This is the movie that Wonder Woman deserves. Sure, it might be a bit cliché when it comes to the library of superhero movies we have, but it’s still its own movie, and there’s no denying that a Wonder Woman movie is a HUGE deal for a variety of reasons. One: this is her first movie! Ever. That’s amazing. She has been around since 1941 and is just now is getting a movie. Two: she is not just a superhero, she is one of THE superheroes. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman. This is a hero that has had just as much of an impact on comics as her contemporaries and has helped launch the medium to the entertainment powerhouse it is now. Wonder Woman is an old school figure whose history goes further back than some of our grandparents. She punched Hitler, for God’s Sake! Three: as much as some fans want to distance themselves from the gender gap in comics, it’s a real thing, and the release of a Wonder Woman movie will help bridge that. There are hundreds of articles on this subject, so I won’t hammer the point home, but you’d be living under a bridge if you didn’t realize that this movie has changed the game on gender politics in comics and the movie industry as a whole. (Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about Jessica Jones, she’s a whole different beast.)
So, all in all, I definitely dug the flick. It has some drawbacks, like any movie really, but it respects the character and respects the audience, simply telling the story of a woman, a war, and the unyielding light of hope. Go check it out.