Wonder Woman (2017) did wonders (excuse the pun) for my confidence in my female identity and empowerment. If you have daughters, nieces, sisters, mothers, aunts, friends, I would highly recommend watching this show together. The solidarity I felt in the theatre with my sister sitting next to me and the other females around was unbelievable. This movie has been hyped up for quite awhile now, seeing that it’s the first superhero film that is being helmed by a female director, Patty Jenkins, and with good reason. Hopefully, the success of this film and approval from the critics will pave the way for many more female directors to take the helm of blockbuster and superhero films.
This is Gal Gadot’s second appearance on screen as the iconic Diana Prince, or Wonder Woman, her first being Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). We delve into her history before we see her as modern day Diana Prince, antiquities dealer. Her origins and training at Themyscira and her relationships with the other Amazonians were the focus of approximately the first quarter of the film. This film passed the Bechdel test easily. The Bechdel test measures if a work of fiction depicts at least two women discussing something other than the opposite sex, which of course, the Amazonians do. Their concern is not of men, but of training, and preparation of the war that is to come.
We are told that Ares, the god of war, has wreaked havoc upon mankind and seeks to destroy the Amazonians. He is the last of the Greek gods, having destroyed the rest and Zeus has sought to protect the Amazonians by shrouding them and the Themyscira in a dense fog that dissuades mankind from piercing through. Much of their time is devoted to training, in minuscule outfits, which are not highlighted in the film. Same with the fight scenes, there is no unnecessary lingering of the camera on the female form except to appreciate the fighting prowess. It’s fantastic. No attention is drawn to the wardrobe of these Amazonian women and there are no boob or ass shots of the various women scattered throughout the film. It is an exhilarating change from films in general nowadays. It may be due to the influence of a female director, reducing the ‘male gaze’ and placing these women in a neutral light and their outfits, in a functional one. Unfortunately, this is short-lived. The world of men will not be denied, and quite literally, crashes into Themyscira in a plane.
Diana’s introduction to the modern world as she follows Steve to London is fascinating and interspersed with humour when she encounters items like a revolving door for the first time, or female fashion. Levity aside, Diana soon discovers that women have no place in current society, or at least not one with agency. She follows Steve into military meetings, bar fights and dangerous alleyways and eventually into war, where she always stands out. Her battle gear, red gold, and blue, stands out against a sea of blues and green of military fatigues, drawing out attention in every fight scene. It is symbolic of the way she stands out amongst the crowd of both ordinary mortals and women in general. She speaks out against Etta Candy’s subservience as a secretary, as well as the lack of female agency in decision making. The amount of representation and defense of the female is astounding and includes a scene where Diana expressly states her understanding, as found in a book, that “men are essential for procreation but when it comes to pleasure, unnecessary”. True.
Steve and Diana have an equal relationship, almost, but still in a way unlike the stereotypical Hollywood heterosexual romances. Steve defers to Diana. While he tries to protect her in the beginning, shielding her from battle and trying to keep her from interrupting men when they’re speaking, Steve quickly realises that Diana is more powerful and stronger than she appears. He steps back without complaint and lets her take the lead, even tying himself up with the Lasso of Truth in order to prove that he’s not tricking her in anyway.
In this film, the main male character is the one who gives the female the inspiration to continue on in her quest to protect mankind. Diana’s journey into the realm of man begins with a naive faith in humanity and a motherly like attempt to smother and educate. As she spends more time in it and sees more of the devastation that mankind wreaks on each other and on Earth, she loses that faith and begins to despair. It is Steve as well as the rest of her team, Sameer, Charlie, and Chief, who renew her faith with their sacrificial and brave nature in order to carry on. In exchange, Steve, a spy in a war that he sees as endless, has lost faith in humanity. He’s seen the horrors men can do to each other and seeks to end it as fast as possible with as few casualties as possible. Diana’s belief in mankind inspires Steve similarly to continue the good fight.
I would not list the number of role reversals in Wonder Woman, for fear of boring my readers with a long list. But it was refreshing to see the traditional male and female roles get switched for a change. The lack of a male gaze in this film allowed me to enjoy it without feeling uncomfortable at sexual objectification of women or the enforcement of gender stereotypes. I have male friends who found it boring, lacking of action, and uncomfortable with Chris Pine’s famous ‘rock pool’ scene. But hey, welcome to a day in a woman’s life yeah?
I must say though, that the villains in the film felt more like side characters to me. While interesting at first, they turned out to be slightly one-dimensional and predictable at the end. My interests were in female empowerment instead. Although, having Doctor Maru as the brain behind Ludendorff’s entire military operation was fascinating. The Germans were willing to place their trust in a female scientist whereas the British were unwilling to let a woman step into a single meeting room.
That aside, ladies, I highly recommend this film. Not just for the experience of the film itself, but also to support female superhero films, directors and all involved in this production of this ground breaking film. May it be the first in a long line of many.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Things to consider:
Warning: spoilers ahead of this point
- I really appreciated them depicting Diana’s quick intelligence and wit in the film. While she initially disparages Charlie for his lack of bravery and skill in battle, she quickly puts two and two together (with his nightmares), and realises that everyone has burdens to bear. She is nice to him the next day, which bolsters his strength. Similarly, in the scene where she climbs the tower in Themyscira, the growing awareness of her abilities influences her actions quickly and she improvises and learns.
- When General Antiope dies in battle, the first two to mourn her are Diana and Queen Hippolya. After that comes Menalippe, her lieutenant, who lets out an anguished cry. It’s not explicitly stated but I wonder if that was a hint of female-female relationships within Themyscira? It is worth exploring, seeing as how there are no men.
- So if Diana’s sword was broken by Ares, where’d she get a new one for the battle in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)?
- They never really explained Diana’s power and what she was a goddess of. I feel like assuming that it’s love would be too simplistic and they would have had Aphrodite for that, if we’re following the Greek gods mythology. I’d like to think she’s a goddess of faith or some sort, and her faith in mankind is what keeps her going.
- Steve Trevor is the representation of what Diana hopes of mankind. Not in terms of looks (I wish) but in his final sacrifice to save everyone else. Diana insists that she be the one to do it, but he tells her that she can save the world, while his responsibility is for today. The Steve in the beginning of the film would never have done such a thing. He was beaten down and had lost faith in mankind’s goodness. Diana’s faith, while naive at first, restored his hope. He may say that he doesn’t believe in Ares, or that mankind is simply corrupt, but in the end, he knows Diana is the only one who has any hope of stopping Ares and the war for everyone. And so, he goes, without complaint, without any misgivings, and simply without a second thought. They save each other in the end. For it is his act gives her strength at the end.
Favourite scene: It’s so cliché but I’m going to name the scene that Diana goes striding across no man’s land, against Steve and the other soldiers’ advice as my favourite scene. It is so empowering to see her, appearing for the first time in this film in full Wonder Woman gear, going where no man has gone before. I am a sucker for women subverting the idea that no man (nobody) can do this. Eowyn in Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)’s “I am no man” as well as Carina in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) deciphering the map no man can read are two great examples. Everybody tells her she can’t do it, but she knows she can, and she goes anyway. And she kicks ass. The soldiers follow after her into battle, and that is so iconic in every way.
What I had wanted to see: I would have loved to have seen more of the team in action together. We had good bits but we missed on good things like Charlie shooting, more of their teamwork etc. The ‘shield’ bit in the village was amazing; Steve had retained that idea from watching the Amazonians fight in Themyscira and knew how to convey it to Diana perfectly. It just makes me think that if we had a bit more time, the five of them would have had flawless teamwork.
I would have also liked to see her discussing her origins with her mother, Queen Hippolyta, but I’m assuming she never returned to Themyscira. The origins of her Bracelets of Submission (formed from the remains of Zeus’s legendary Aegis shield) were also never explained to her. Maybe in a second film?
Random fact: Chris Pine has reportedly signed a multi-picture deal for his role as Steve Trevor. This suggests that he might return in future films as either the same character in flashbacks, or in some other manner.
Someone has also pointed out to me that Steve Rogers, or Captain America, also crashed while flying a plane full of bombs in the Arctic in a heroic act of self-sacrifice. The conclusion is that all Steves in the military should not be allowed on planes filled with explosive material (insert crying emoji).
Comments and discussions are welcomed by the writer.