When it comes to feminism and the power of the female, the world of superheroes is much too starved for comfort, especially so when it comes to the film renditions of the popular comic book material. But in 1941, William Moulton Marston introduced a completely different character to the budding world of comics – Wonder Woman, who even with her skimpy, male-mind derived costume showed female power in a before unseen manner, undoubtedly because her creator, a psychologist himself, in his creation leaned heavily on early feminist theories. With decades (almost a century!) of adventures and alter-verses and pairings, the demigoddess Wonder Woman a.k.a. Princess Diana of Themyscira a.k.a. Diana Prince remains at the very top of the superhero world, even though she suffered heavy amounts of misogyny even in said fictional world. Even so, is surprising (or is it?) that – given the flood of the superhero movies – she received her stand-alone movie only now, after over a decade in development with different scripts and directors and potential cast members being thrown around; but perhaps that only added to the anticipation of what many of us hoped would be a DC Universe movie that actually delivered.
The movie, being the very first completely Wonder-Woman-centered feature, takes us to the very beginning of her story, following a short stop in the present-day Paris, where a faded, old photo sends Diana (the superb Gal Gadot) down the memory lane. On a paradise island, Diana, now a young Amazon girl with a curious mind, is growing up under the protective wing of her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and under the watchful eye of her warrior aunt Antiope (Robin Wright). Despite her mother’s wishes, the child insists on being properly trained like the rest of the women on the men-free island of Themyscira – through rigorous training, she grows up into a righteous, fierce fighter that manifests more power than the rest of the island’s inhabitants.
We learn that the Amazons started their life on the island following a mythical battle between the Greek gods, with Ares, the corrupter of mankind, being the last one standing, even though he was heavily injured with diminished powers; before dying, Zeus left the ultimate godslayer weapon behind for someone to finish the job he started. Even though she is sensitive and compassionate, Diana’s sense of justice fuels her desire to enter the fight and free the world of the blood-and-war thirsty Ares. Perhaps her mother could quench her thirst for action for a longer time, were it not for the plane crash of an American pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) into the waters of the island – and he does not enter the sanctuary alone, but brings in more than a whiff of the outside world, with the German WWI marine forces hot on his heels.
Diana manages to save him just before a battle ensues between the Amazons and the German soldiers who are eventually defeated, but not before amassing a huge Amazon body count with their supreme weaponry. As Diana learns of the World War I that is raging in the world outside, she is certain that Ares is somehow to blame; taking the divine weapons, and with a reluctant blessing from her mother, she joins Trevor on his return journey to London, in order to hunt Ares down and put a stop to the global bloodshed.
Even with some CGI hiccups, the list of things that Wonder Woman did right is very long: great soundtrack, great script; it manages to maintain the wondrous balance of action, humour and heart. Add great casting, with Gal Gadot fitting into the Wonder Woman boots with a flawless perfection, and with Chris Pine delivering magnificently – all human hues of his character are presented with the perfect balance; the effortless chemistry of the two makes their relationship believable. The supporting cast also did a splendid job – even though my guess on who Ares was turned out to be spot-on, that did not take too much away from the story. The fact that the film was directed by a woman, American director/screenwriter Patty Jenkins, who has proved having a penchant for adaptations, added to the female energy of the film, with Jenkins proving that she is a filmmaking force to be reckoned with.
Wonder Woman differs from other superheroes in so many ways, even from her fellow Justice League members. Even though she is naive at first, she becomes more aware of the flaws of humankind than Superman is, but manages to stay far less jaded about the evil that lurks within than Batman – she is a demigoddess who sees the balance of good and bad in humans, with a belief that good will ultimately win. Accordingly, the focus of this feature is on the flaws and fears of humankind, and on the waning belief that the good can ultimately win – asserting that life is no fairly tale, and sacrifice is required even in the imaginary world, but that it only makes a human life more precious. It clearly points out that it is the human nature that leads to wars and rampage, but when dug deep enough, we can also find the compassion in us that we all need to stop what seems to be unstoppable. This is a powerful message that is being delivered at an actual time of need.
The other powerful message comes from Wonder Woman as a female; even though, unlike other heroes, she does not start her existence in pain, but comes from an idyllic hidden island, where she grew up free from hate, fears and greed of humankind, she is determined to use all she is to deliver salvation and help to the world that is in a great need of both. It is not only her killer combat skills that befit an Amazon princess, but her compassionate heart and a vigilant, decisive mind that put the wheels of change into motion. She shines out of the imaginary world to all women in a time when we face the danger of slipping backwards, to an era where the equality of sexes was a vague idea and the capability of the female sex was very much underappreciated and all signs of an independent female mind were trampled upon. She reminds all of us that we, too, can be warriors and that we should move our collective minds into action, because action is required. Wonder Woman may be an action super-heroine movie on the paper, but it is much more than that – and it is more than just worth a watch.
Written by Sanja Struna
All photos © Warner Bros. Pictures