Waiting for Wonder Woman

I don’t remember the first time I met Wonder Woman. I remember her presence in my childhood as a sense of wanting to be her (or Princess Leia, or She-Ra…).  I have vague impressions of Lynda Carter on my television screen, and maybe even my own moments of pretending to be Wonder Woman. It’s hazy, but she was there.

I forgot about her for a long time. This was easy to do, since she went a bit underground after the TV series (or it seemed that way, in my world). My dad, a long-time comics collector and sci-fi fan, helped me grow up with a healthy dose of superheroes and Star Trek, but somewhere along the way, Star Trek overcame the rest. (I never did get into comics myself until I discovered Neil Gaiman’s Sandman while in college.)

But by degrees, she’s been coming back into my life. First there was Tim Hanley’s Wonder Woman Unbound, which I don’t remember well, followed by Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman, which I loved an awful lot. Then Wonder Woman appeared at the end of a trailer for some other superhero movie (I didn’t see it, so don’t ask me which one – one of the Iron Man movies? That silly Superman vs. Batman movie?), and rumors abounded, from time to time, of a movie coming soon.

Then the first trailer hit, and I worried. Over the past decade, I’ve become increasingly disenchanted with superhero movies – I don’t even bother to see them anymore, frankly. (The Lego Batman Movie is the only recent exception, but I’m not sure that counts?) Right away, the trailer for Wonder Woman made me skeptical, particularly because

  1. No Man’s Land was a World War I thing and
  2. Wonder Woman is a WW2 creation

What. The. WHAT? Surely, it seemed, something was off in the hist– okay, I get it: it’s a superhero story, and you can mix up history all you like, but I worried nonetheless. As the release date inched closer, I started seeing article links worrying about the lack of publicity around the film (or defending that approach). Then I read Patty Jenkins’ explanation for why the film takes place in World War I, and I started to relax a little.

Lucky for me, I had a day off on Friday June 2, so I scooted myself right over to the deluxe seating at my local multiplex to check it out. In the 12 or 15 hours since it had begun showing, people were RAVING about how amazing the film was. I entered optimistic, but still a bit of a skeptic. (By the way, I caught Gal Gadot on Jimmy Fallon the week before the release, and fell in love with her.)

I didn’t fall in love with Wonder Woman, though. Oh, I enjoyed it, and I’m very glad that it’s here. But this movie is not the most amazing superhero movie ever, and frankly, it was boring in spots. As Jill Lepore put it in her recent New Yorker piece, “The new “Wonder Woman” is set in an extravagantly staged and costumed 1918, driven by an uninteresting plot about the Kaiser and chemical weapons.”

In fact, we get very little time in the most interesting part of the movie – the island of Themiscyra, where Diana grows up. After sitting through 20 minutes of previews for testosterone-driven films, then surviving the opening framing device (I won’t give it away, but suffice to say it has something to do with other superheroes) – it was about time when we got to the island of the Amazonian women. Here, finally, we were on to something.

And when Diana heads off to take out Ares, the God of War, once and for all – don’t get me wrong, it’s noble and it’s awesome in its own way. But things go kaput pretty quickly after that. We get a lot of scenes of people telling Diana things have to be done a certain way, and then she does awesome things.

Even so, this is a story that emphasizes Wonder Woman as an ingenue. In the midst of all the cool ass-kicking things she does do, and the way she saves people, so much of this movie seemed to focus on the idea that Diana Prince is not smart, that she doesn’t understand the world, and that this lack of understanding handicaps her in the end (or maybe not). She has her victories, and I won’t argue that there is something incredible about her fighting her way through No Man’s Land (I think I may have cried, too).

Yet at the end of the day, it comes back to the wisdom of men and how that wisdom inspires Diana to act. Don’t get me wrong – there may be something worthwhile here. Diana Prince is no man-hater, for example, but at the end of the day I’m not convinced that we’ve yet seen the real Wonder Woman.

Maybe that’s not fair. This is, after all, a new origin story for Diana Prince, and in that vein, it may be important – if more is done with her story. If Wonder Woman becomes subsumed in the Justice League once again, a bit player who we seldom see again, then will any of this have mattered?

Maybe it does.

But right now, I’m still waiting on that Wonder Woman story. Or give me Antiope’s – I’ll take that any day.

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So tell us….what did you really think of Wonder Woman? Was this the superheroine movie we’ve all been waiting for?

One thought on “Waiting for Wonder Woman

  1. I really do like this movie because of the humanity in it. I wouldn’t easily call Wonder Woman and ingenue; she’s intelligent, driven, and idealistic, but this is an origin story and her character is that of an outsider (similar to Spiderman’s naivety in his origin story and why he’s so likable and relatable). And I like that Jenkins leverages that as a device to critique problematic norms (WW is unaware why all the men go silent when she enters the war meeting). I wouldn’t so easily say that the wisdom of men inspires her to act; what I like about the dynamic between WW and Steve is that they learn from one another; they inspire one another from their various experiences. She inspires the men to move at no-man’s land and at the gala, when Steve messes up with the village and WW let’s him have it as she goes off and kicks ass. These events lead up to Steve’s character arc; she inspires Steve. And it’s mutual, Steve tells WW about the issue with mankind and inspires her to keep fighting, and so WW does with better understanding about people. I like this dynamic so much because Steve is everyone in the theater, the average person who, even beside a demi-god is capable of change. The most empowering thing about this superhero film is that it respect the humans in this film. Although there are cool action sequences and explosions, we see the consequences, the death and destruction, regular people have to face. Most super hero movies forget that there’s someone in the car that’s being thrown (Marvel’s Civil War is an exception). Wonder Woman sets a precedent that the love-interest in films are worth more and can inspire, and that even regular people can be heroes alongside super-humans. Every super hero film ought to do this, and I’m glad this one did.

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