So we went to see Wonder Woman on opening night, and were not disappointed. Lots of other people had the same experience, because the movie made over 100k opening weekend and is being hailed as a needed course correction for the DC movie-verse.
I grew up watching the Batman/Superman Adventures, and the animated Justice League of America and Justice League Unlimited. I never really read the comics, but I’ve seen snippets here and there. Somehow, though, when DC makes the leap to the silver screen they forget the core of what makes things work and just take the skin. They take the skin, change out the soul, and then wonder why it doesn’t do as well as they expected.
Wonder Woman is a movie whose soul is hope and faith. Semi spoiler alert?
Diana is raised in a peaceful place that is constantly preparing for war, and teaching about good and evil. She initially sees the world as we wish it was–a good world that is only corrupt because of one corrupter. The first man she meets, Steve, is a bit blown away by her version of the world, but doesn’t bother trying to argue with her. I mean, he just saw an island of Amazons and experienced the lasso of truth, he knows enough to know that’s not an argument worth getting into until he knows more than he knows now, you know? When Diana is faced with the reality that it’s not that simple, that mankind itself is corrupted, Steve argues with her about saving it. Because it’s not that simple; it’s not a question of what you deserve, but what you believe (how’s that for a core truth about the way the real world works?). She comes to realize that, in the words of Samwise Gamgee, there is some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.
Unlike other DC movies, the good worth fighting for is a bit more obvious in this story (we aren’t sure there actually IS any good in most of the other recent movies). Diana is surrouned by a cadre of diverse souls who decide to risk it all in a desperate mission for the sake of brotherhood, a leader worth following, and the world. They have no one forcing them to do this, and nothing to gain for themselves.
The film has many of the same elements as Rogue One, actually. It’s not quite as skillfully executed in terms of tightness of story or world building (or science…poison gas exploding in the sky instead of on the ground doesn’t actually solve much–your only hope is that it is somehow light enough to….go into space? Maybe? Before it falls back to earth in the rain), but the elements of depth are there and carry the movie through it’s weaker elements. (I was personally bothered that the hero’s name is Steve, which wasn’t very typical in WWI, and that the depiction of the “Front” involved villagers fleeing the front in a panic like the Front just got there. And lets not even talk about young Ares’ mustache.) The movie isn’t doing well because of accurate world building, it’s doing well because it’s a story with heart and soul. The hope it leaves you with is real, because the film actually demonstrated what love looks like.
The success of this is due in no small part to the flawless performance of Gal Gadot, but also an excellent supporting cast and plenty of inspiring cinematography.
I’m sure much will be made of the fact that this is a movie with a female superhero carrying it–and how that’s never been done before (or has it? Rogue One, Force Awakens, Hunger Games, all dominated by their heroines). I’m sure people will fight about how it’s feminist (woman in armor is lead fighter!) or not feminist (her armor is far to feminine and skimpy to be feminist) but that’s not what I saw when I watched the movie. I saw a movie about a warrior who was compassionate and determined to protect those who could not protect themselves. She also happened to be a woman, and still feminine with her flowing hair. Honestly, I saw everything I want to be. She respected people (men and women alike) as equals and saw her role, her particular role, as protector. The world as she saw it divided people only by skills. It looked a lot like the world I see in my head. It’s not necessarily the way the world IS, but it’s how it should be.