Warning: Curse words ahead!
Above is the opposite of war according to Saga, and in all likelihood Greek Mythology as well. After all there must have been a reason Aphrodite and Ares kept hooking up. Opposites attract. This is not to say that in the context of Wonder Woman I ship her and Ares together romantically, but rather that it was inevitable that those two opposing forces would clash. The film Wonder Woman is rooted in this idea, which is why I decided to open up my review/thought dump with it. Diana is not Aphrodite (fyi), but she is very much love. I will try to keep this spoiler free for those who haven’t seen it yet, though I’m just going to say right now that I do recommend it for those of you who enjoy superhero movies/are hungry for a female lead that packs a punch.
Of course I don’t want to overhype anything. Like with any movie Wonder Woman has it’s flaws, however I want to start off with what I felt the film did right. One of my initial worries was that the story would be bogged down by what I consider to be elementary school feminism. In the trailer the joke about Etta Candy’s description of a secretary being compared to slavery kinda made me cringe in all honesty. Thankfully that was one of the only times I felt that kind of discomfort. Wonder Woman is capable and smart and she never sets out to make anyone look bad. The men that get in her way do that to themselves by underestimating her.
Diana also comes to grips in some of the quieter scenes with the reality that humans can be racist. This is something I didn’t think the film would decide to touch on because people freak out at the mere mention of inequality despite the reality of it. The fact that the film is set in World War I is arguably why it’s easier to swallow (people rarely deny racism in the past), but all the same the men of color in the film being honest about their place in society was important and helped Diana understand humanities less than ideal traits.
Another thing I enjoyed was Diana’s home Themyscira. Not only was it visually stunning and diverse (racially) but it felt like a real functioning Amazonian society. Last week in my piece about Strong Female Characters I mentioned how often I find authors (particularly men) get all female/matriarchal societies wrong. Wonder Woman I feel did not. In fact one of my problems with the movie is that I wanted to spend so much more time on Themyscira discovering all the intricacies of their society even knowing that there were bigger fish to fry.
Another thing I think Wonder Woman did well was that it allowed Diana to be naive, but not unintelligent. Some people might have rolled their eye’s during this one particular scene early on with Diana and Steve on a boat talking about sex, but I think it was an important moment. Diana believes initially that all of mankind is good because that was what the stories she grew up with told her, however just because Steve is the first man she’s ever met Diana does still know about reproduction and human anatomy (she reads). This distinction saves the film from the usual trope of a character introduced to a completely new world and falling in love with the first new element they meet. Diana doesn’t like Steve simply because he is new and an experiment, their relationship develops on more even ground.
Now for some of the bad. Most people I’ve seen agree that the films open was it’s strongest point. Like with most superhero films it follows some of the typical tropes in the later half as opposed to remaining fresh and new straight through till the end. Again I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but in my second viewing of the film it was fairly easy to see some of the twists and turns right away. The film was still fun it just didn’t feel as shocking the second time around.
On a personal note, I also think that on both Themyscira and in the ‘real world’ women of color could have had a lot more to do. History often times likes to act like we weren’t there, but a little research would show you that that’s not true. The men of color’s roles were important, but Wonder Woman ought to be more intersectional than that. Future movies I’m sure can remedy this.
Those are the bulk of my thoughts for now. The film didn’t emphasis this very much, though I don’t necessarily consider it a major flaw, but I do want it known before I close out that Wonder Woman is canonically bisexual, and this movie coming out during pride month is something that I think matters a lot. Like with women of color, I hope future movies address this fact with more nuance.
Overall keeping story, cinematography, and character development in mind I would say Wonder Woman is DC’s best film to date. For some that is a low bar, but to me this movie is what raises it. Diana’s role is much more developed and her character was done well. The victory for female heroes and directors is important, but objectively it is secondary. Wonder Woman is good quality period. I look forward to seeing more female super heroes (Storm) gracing the big screen very soon.
Do it Marvel I dare you! Minhal Baig can direct!!!
***Featured Image: My going to the movies look, last Friday.