I enjoyed Wonder Woman, which came as a surprise to me given my growing distaste for superhero movies. I can remember seeing the Superman reboot Man of Steel with its phallic rockets and its boring boring fight sequences. But almost everything about Wonder Woman exceeded my expectations. It’s a well-made superhero movie and better still, it gets to the heart of why these kinds of movies matter.
Whereas Man of Steel ended up levelling cities and criminally underusing Amy Adams, all while giving us no stake on why Superman even matters as a man or a hero, Wonder Woman focusses tightly on its main character and explains what matters to her, and in turn the movie then explains why she should matter to us. In other words, it’s not boring and it’s not pointless.
This is a complete reverse on many recent superhero movies. In Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, the titular character has an arc more concerned with vengeance and petty squabbles than with saving people or making their lives better. I get that those movies are also about the complexities and burdens of being a hero, but even so, show us why we’re here! Sure Batman gets to stop a lot of bad stuff going down, but who cares if the Scarecrow manages to take over Arkham or Bane manages to isolate Gotham from the world? In The Dark Knight, the Joker only cares about beating Batman and Batman only cares about beating the Joker. There’s nothing in three whole movies about how ordinary people are affected, nothing in it for us.
As a movie Wonder Woman concerns itself with showing how deeply invested Diana is in helping humanity. She understands her responsibilities toward humanity and thanks to some good old fashioned storytelling at the start of the movie, so do we. Her beliefs get challenged and we as an audience are often asked whether we believe in what is going on. Is she really fighting a god, or is she taking down some bad Germans? It’s good that you are kept guessing about this for quite a substantial portion of the film.
This is a movie that will get even the most stone-hearted among you behind Diana and willing her to win. Not just for her sake, but for the sake of all the characters we meet in the movie. To paraphrase one of the characters, it’s not about whether humanity deserves this intervention but whether Diana has enough love to make it happen anyway. Obviously that is something that resonates with my core beliefs. It’s refreshing to see a movie with values where you root for the main character because she’s believable and credible - even though she’s whipping around a lasso made of glow sticks and dodging oncoming machine gun fire. You will leave the movie wanting to believe that she exists!
You can also leave the movie believing in something more plausible: that the message of responsibility and the call to action can live within you. Diana, in her gilded secret paradise, chooses to leave in order to fight. You don’t have to do that, but you can act to help people around you. You can opt to not ignore what is going on in the world around you, and you can choose to shape the world rather than be shaped by it. You will note that I have not mentioned the power of all this being embodied in a female character, but you can be sure that this movie will make girls and young women believe in themselves more than any other superhero movie in quite a while.
Sure, it is a smidge too long and the final fight between Diana and the big baddie is as unsatisfying as special effects laden battles often are. Nevertheless, I’m glad I managed to catch Wonder Woman while it was still on and I really recommend it.