(2017, Patty Jenkins)
"They do not deserve you", Diana's mother tells her before she leaves the maleless paradise island of Themyscira and embarks on a mission to destroy Ares the god of war out in the land of men where WWII is raging. She could be talking directly to us. We do not deserve this movie - just read about the overblown furore surrounding Alamo Drafthouse's women only screenings of the movie (of all things to complain about the world whiny men complain about that) and I'm led to believe we don't deserve this. But then I watch the Amazon soldiers fight off a group of German soldiers and think to myself how many young girls and young women watching this and think how beautifully strange it is to see women doing that on screen in a movie at this scale, showing off their power and skills in gorgeous slow-mo - I literally gasped when Robin Wright, who plays warrior Antiope, leaped to the sky and dispenses three arrows at once with masterful precision, a move that would make even Simone Biles envious.
We witness Diana, our main hero, discover her own strength - both in physicality and virtue - and see her transform into the hero we admire. When she dons the costume (fantastically designed by Lindy Hemming) I suddenly had a vision of all the girls who would excitedly be dressing up in this same costume come Halloween. I had a vision of sharing this movie with my future adopted daughter (what a lucky girl) and geek out over comic books and movies and couldn't help but be filled with happiness. If it means this much to me, I can't imagine what this means for girls and women.
The gender politics in the movie can be unsubtle but it doesn't really matter. There's something so satisfying about a tentpole movie celebrating a classic superhero icon, populated by strong, Bechdel test-busting, female characters. Gal Gadot is perfectly cast in this role as she carefully modulates the character's paradoxes. Her hands that wield enough power to carry a military tank are the same ones that eagerly and tenderly reach out to a baby on the street. She's not a woman trying to be a man. We come to admire her because her femininity is so assured that she can still embody masculine traits without trying to be a man. That is not to say this is something we have never seen before but it's something I have rarely seen in a movie like this: a character who believably possess dualities without being a contradiction.
She plays the fish-out-of-water well as she navigates the odd world of a more modern Britain and makes some funny remarks about the vastly different expectations placed upon women in that society. When a secretary describes what she does she replies: "where I'm from that's called slavery." Her reactions towards the behaviour of people in this new and unfamiliar world is never arrogant or condescending. She feels genuinely stunned by the lack of honour, empathy and righteousness that people exhibit in this so-called civilisation.
Her banter with co-star Chris Pine who plays Steve Trevor, a WWII spy is charming and hilarious. Their back-and-forth has a light Lubitsch touch and it is very much welcomed especially in the context of the soulless characters that occupy the DCEU past. The film's only failings come from the burden of being in this cinematic universe. I would have given this a perfect rating if not for the unfortunate climax where - I'm assuming - studio interference is regrettably felt and the film dives into a blur of meaningless action scenes, a disservice to the character building that went before it.
Wonder Woman's determination and focus harkens back to classic stories about justice where a hero does good simply because they are good. In a way, it's a traditional narrative but it feels progressive, taking a huge leap forward because it is populated with not just one strong woman but a lot of other superwomen. They embody the women I know in my life who exhibit strength and sensitivity in equal measure. She is more than just Wonder Woman; she is, quite simply, a Wonder.