I saw Wonder Woman with some friends. It was a good superhero movie, but I feel as if I’ve grown away from the genre despite still enjoying it in theory.
The movie stars Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Chris Pine as her sidekick WW1 soldier.
Wonder Woman is, as far as I could tell, never referred to as Wonder Woman in the movie. Everyone calls her by her name, Diana, hearkening back to the virgin, Roman goddess of the hunt that inspired her creation.
Diana grows up on a hidden island with the ancient Amazons. She trains to be a warrior to fight the Greek god of war, Ares, who in this mythology has slain all the other gods.
Diana’s training is nearing completion when the island is attacked by the Kaiser’s forces as a spillover from WW1. Diana saves Chris Pine’s character, Steve, who is an American spy running from the Germans.
Steve reveals that the Germans are designing some sort of new gas. They’re going to release the gas during the armistice at the end of the war and kill a bunch of Allies.
Diana believes that the gas attack is part of Ares’ plan to continue the war because he’s the god of war and that’s what he does.
Diana and Steve embark on a journey to stop the gas attack, find Ares, and defeat him.
The movie was sold as the first GOOD superhero movie with a female protagonist. It definitely fulfills that promise, but as for it being some sort of feminist power story… I didn’t see it.
Evaluating the movie from a feminist perspective, it does at least pass the Bechdel test. The main character is a powerful woman with agency, obviously.
But… Wonder Woman still has a majority of male characters. Most of the movie Diana is hanging out with four other men and rescuing women from men.
That’s possibly just a result of the setting. It’s a war setting and women are still second-class “citizens” in the army NOW. At the time the movie is set, women couldn’t even vote.
There are a couple of conversations the characters have about sex and feminist issues, but they seemed to be placed more for comedic effect than as part of a progressive agenda. The other characters don’t see Diana as innovative and powerful for wanting to wear pants. They see her as weird.
Wonder Woman is a good superhero movie, as I said. The pacing is right, the fights are fun, the jokes and one-liners are delivered well, and the costumes are great. I should also point out that the costumes and sets were very drab and grey, most likely just a result of the WW1 setting.
The movie is fun and perhaps a bit formulaic. I enjoyed it as much as any other superhero movie.
But here’s the thing. I’m a male. All the stuff that seemed normal to me about how superhero movies work may seem thrilling and great to a little girl who watches Wonder Woman. The movie isn’t a feminist manifesto, but its a step in the right direction for equal representation in film, especially in a genre that has been male-dominated for decades. If I had a daughter who was into superheroes, but was tired of only seeing men, you can bet I would be taking her to see Wonder Woman. Probably more than once.
So that’s my take on the movie. It’s not an amazing superhero movie, but it probably will be something special for women and girls who have been waiting to see something like this. Hopefully the movie’s success will help create other female protagonist roles.