Wonder Woman is one of the greatest superheroes of all time. Nobody at their competitor even comes close. Yes, I said it. I won’t qualify it, because there is no need.
Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, DC Comics holy Trinity has existed for 75 years and with the exception of a brief hiatus in 1986 (for Wonder Woman) all three have run continuously since their creation. If you don’t have time to listen to me wax on lovingly about the charms and history of one of the world’s greatest heroes, it’s okay. Go see Wonder Woman three times, say a Hail Mary and all is forgiven. It is a fantastic movie worth your time and without a doubt redeems DC Entertainments earlier mixed efforts. Ignore those people saying it looks like Captain America. Maybe it does. I don’t care. Gal Godot is Wonder Woman and she made this look good!
For the rest of you, it’s time for a trip down Memory Lane. I have been a fan of Wonder Woman since I discovered her in the pages of the Justice League in the early 70’s. She helps found the Justice League during the Silver Age of Comics. How surprised I was to learn there was another Wonder Woman who existed in the Justice Society during the Golden Age of Comics. I was floored to learn there were TWO Wonder Women! As a budding Answer-Man, my research, because this was before the Internet, led me to discover she had been a comic character since 1941!
Wonder Woman was created by the psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston and first drawn by artist Harry G. Peter. Marston was a respected writer and was credited with at least partially creating the technology leading to the invention of the polygraph. An avowed feminist and polyamorist, he was also credited with writing various articles on bondage and submission in 1928! Yes, this explains some of the stranger characteristics of the Wonder Woman mythology including the loss of her powers when bound… Anyway, Marston was a complex man and his creation has grown more complex over the seventy years of her existence. Wonder Woman first appeared in All Star Comics #8 in October 1941 and first cover-dated on Sensation Comics #1, January 1942.
I have waited since 1976 to see Wonder Woman on the silver screen. There have been eight major Batman motion pictures, there have been seven major films since Donner’s and Christopher Reeves iconic Superman. Why has it taken so long for one of the longest running, most successful female superheroes to get the big screen treatment? On the face of it, Wonder Woman seems like a no-brainer.
Lynda Carter showed the character’s potential in the seventies for three seasons making the character a part of Americana. When Donner proved a man could fly, there was no reason Wonder Woman couldn’t have existed then. When Batman was getting nipples on his armor, special effects had moved along enough to allow much of what we saw tonight to exist (granted to a lesser extent) but it could have been possible.
A character who has been around since 1942, has adventured with the Justice Society and the Justice League for sixty years and no one thought she could carry a movie? So, why has the other member of DC’s holy trinity taken so long to come to the big screen? Was it fear of her not having the power to compete economically? Was it fear of a strong female character? Was it the fear of weak men unwilling to take risks? Or was it a character whose backstory has been twisted and convoluted to the point almost no one can effectively tell it all? Let’s go with D: All of the above.
Whatever they were thinking it was clearly wrong. Wonder Woman (2017) is a nearly perfect superhero movie. DC has finally figured out what Marvel has perfected with its eighteen or nineteen movies: Less is more.
Wonder Woman does not overlap any other DC properties. It does not try to shoehorn unnecessary backstory. It does not have any other superheroes. It is a complete thing, told from beginning to end, without flashbacks, without many of the narrative tricks movies use today; its just good old-fashioned storytelling, the way mom used to make.
Since I refuse to spoil it for you, everything after this point stays vague and nebulous, talking about impressions, a couple of ideas and what I liked about the movie. Feel free to read knowing nothing will be revealed. But if you want to talk in the comments after you see it, I will happily chat you up about things I noticed.
Wonder Woman (2017) is a great movie because it takes almost all of the versions of Wonder Woman (and there have been at least five, maybe six) and combines the essence of the character into a seamless whole. She is smart, wise, humane, sensitive, fierce, courageous and inspirational, all at the same time. What made her work was an element which has been missing from the DC Entertainment Universe since it began: Hope and compassion for humanity.
Gal Godot is positively radiant as Wonder Woman. Yes, if you search the Internet real hard you could certainly find something I said about her not being the ideal Wonder Woman (to me). Too small, not enough presence or some such. After her debut in Batman v Superman, I considered recanting but she didn’t get enough screen time there. I can now say with assurance: She embodied the role in a way, I did not expect. She was warm, friendly and empathetic when she was dealing with the world. She cared and you knew it. My god, that blue dress…
She’s does not resemble the Job-like version of Superman, constantly plagued with a host of troubles. The Man of Steel Superman seems distant, detached; in the world but not of it. Nor is she a borderline sociopath like Bruce Wayne who is clear in his mission to fight crime, but his humanity seems to barely exist, the man is little more than pure vengeance personified. Diana’s emotional clarity and honesty when confronted by dismissive or rude individuals was justified and exactly the right response. She never let anyone shut her down and was able to make the right decision, intuitively. Something Superman used to be lauded for.
I am big enough to admit I was wrong. Can you forgive me, Ms Godot?
What I loved:
Our introduction to Themyscira begins with loving long shots of the mythical Paradise Island and the legendary Amazons who inhabit it. The only thing wrong with Themyscira was there wasn’t enough time spent there. Little Diana’s adventures revealed just what kind of woman she was going to be; strong-willed, outspoken, and curious to a fault.
The training sequence of the Amazons which little Diana is forbidden to participate it, is still absorbed from a distance. As outstanding as it was to watch the Amazons train, they were even better when they fought. In a scene where the Amazon’s discussed the fate of Steve Trevor, I was struck by their diversity. According to legend they were created by the gods and blessed with fighting prowess, limited immortality and incredible natural beauty.
My favorite was Antiope (Robin Wright), Queen Hippolyta’s (Connie Nielsen) sister. A battle-scarred veteran who trained her students hard but clearly loved each and every one. Her desire to train little Diana was spot on and she wasn’t afraid to catch some heat to get the job done. Our time on Paradise Island was too brief but the Amazons acquit themselves well when Man’s World comes to their shores.
Hidden by the gods, the winds of war still manage to make their way to their shores in the form of World War I, Steve Trevor and his German pursuers. The stunt work and the fight scenes in this movie were inspired. Both creatively and visually satisfying, I found each fight to feel believable, just enough over the top to feel superheroic. The horsemanship and archery were a rare treat as well. Look out Hawkeye, the Amazons might have your number.
On the subject of Steve Trevor, there is little than need be said. Christopher Pine takes the role, plays well with it, manages to be funny, serious and heroic all in the same breath. I really liked him in this role. Too bad his Captain Kirk was never this good. Many have complained his role was too large, that if this is Wonder Woman’s story, why was his part so central to the story?
Because Steve Trevor is integral to the initial development of the character. It is his example which inspires Diana to continue dealing with Man’s World when she might have turned her back without his support. Pine is adequate to the task. He doesn’t hog the spotlight. Hell, he couldn’t. Not whenever Gal is on the screen.
Steve’s lovable misfit spies and collaborators, the linguistically gifted Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui), Charlie the sharpshooter (Ewen Bremner) and the disenfranchised entrepreneur, Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) grew on me. These fellows had some of the best dialogue in the movie. Rather than being just extras in the play, they become critical components in the story, kicking ass, taking names and even getting their moment to shine. I wish there had been more of such moments. Steve’s boss, Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis) funds the suicide mission these gentlemen volunteer for and Etta Candy, played by The Office’s, Lucy Davis, is both unrecognizable and incredibly funny in her role as Steve’s secretary.
Our villains include the renegade General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya) a brilliant chemist with a goal of creating a gas no mask can protect against.
Both do their part ably enough as villains go but it seems DC has the same problem Marvel has, making their villains more than caricatures or cardboard cutouts to knock down before facing the true threat.
I thought General Ludendorff might be the template for Baron Blitzkrieg, a World War II supervillain with similar strength and durability. Their battle even resembles one between Baron Blitzkrieg and Wonder Woman during the Silver Age. Perhaps if we are lucky enough to get another Wonder Woman set in WWII he can get a proper introduction. I know just the chemist for the job…
What I didn’t like:
The Golden Lasso: Of all the special effects in this movie, I think this was the most problematic. There was something off about it, perhaps it looked better in 3D (I’ll never know but I will ask one of my friends who went to the 3D showing what he thought).
The Godkiller Sword and Shield: I like the idea of her being introduced with the Godkiller sword but I am glad they showed Wonder Woman being able to work her lasso and dispensing with the phallic symbol and shield as part of her overall costume. As far as I am concerned they should have never been part of her full time look.
As a piece of visual craft, I enjoyed almost the entire movie. Costumes were excellently displayed, sets were simple but got the job done. Most of the CGI passed muster. I loved the musical score, something no Marvel movies has managed to get right. In fact, Marvel’s movies seem to be designed to take no risks in the music department but the score in Wonder Woman is strong and evocative. There are a couple of plot holes but nothing I couldn’t deal with. I would have liked to know for certain where Themyscira was but I will live without that knowledge. As complaints about a movie go, this was so small I just couldn’t be bothered to complain about it.
Wonder Woman does something no other DCEU movie property has managed. It gave me hope for the future of the franchise. I left the theater believing DC might be able to learn from this movie and make their next products simpler and yet richer by focusing on the story by not competing with Marvel. Instead they should be doing as I have suggested in the past using their positively fecund library of stories, in measured doses, to recreate a better, cleaner DC Universe.
Wonder Woman, I have waited 40 years to see you this way. As a compassionate being who understands the only way to save the world is to love it. Oh and to kick the asses of anyone who doesn’t understand that. Fortunately, you appear capable of doing both. It was worth the wait. DC, you did good.
A final note for the Continuity Cops among us:
This Earth is not the DC Earth as we know it. Why do I say this? Because Wonder Woman does not come into existence in the DCU until World War II. This new DCEU Earth redefines her and Steve Trevor’s existence as being artifacts of World War I.
Thus Wonder Woman has been in existence for twenty plus years longer than any other known superhero in the DCEU. Does this appreciably change the DC Universe in any fashion we can understand? It’s hard to tell, but its worth noting there may be other discrepancies from the comics and we should treat them the same way we do when something in the MCU isn’t quite right. Note it, and keep moving.
Nothing I’ve seen thus far causes me to worry things shouldn’t turn out any worse for the wear because of this earlier start to the Age of Heroes in the DCEU. Other than perhaps changing the order of who inspires whom. In the comics Superman is the grandfather of all superheroes, ushering in the Age of Superheroes. It would appear, Wonder Woman is now the grandmother of the Superheroic Age on the DCEU Earth. I’m okay with this.
Wonder Woman 2017 was directed by Patty Jenkins. The screenplay was written by Allan Heinberg and the story was by Zack Snyder. Wonder Woman was played by Gal Gadot and Steve Trevor by Chris Pine. The movie is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content. The movie’s estimated budget was $149 million dollars.
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.