Storming No Man’s Land
"I am thrilled my younger sister finally got to see a female-led superhero film, one starring the most iconic superheroine in all of comics. Wonder Woman succeeds brilliantly as a course-correction for DC’s cinematic universe, giving us a hopeful and heroic protagonist instead of the travesties of Batman and Superman previously seen on screen. Yet the movie gestures at something even better, hinting that its heroine has a spiritual vocation of peacemaking. Sadly, it ends with yet another CGI-heavy super-powered dustup. Oh for a Wonder Woman movie that foregrounded femininity enough to subvert the inevitable cage-match climax!
Why does the last half hour of the movie seem like a disappointing regression to the action-movie mean?
Because so much of what came before was fresh and exciting. Diana of Themiscyra, a.k.a. Wonder Woman, is an idealistic Amazonian princess played with clear delight by Gal Gadot. She grows up as the only child on an idyllic island of women warriors, and follows her destiny—and swashbuckling pilot Steve Trevor (played by a gung-ho Chris Pine)—into the War to End All Wars, with the villainous god Ares in her crosshairs. Director Patty Jenkins weaves together Greek myths, World War I, and superhero lore into a colorful tapestry. An instantly iconic scene has Diana stride resolutely through no man’s land, deflecting machine gun fire with every flick of her bulletproof bracelets.
But the Amazons encapsulate the movie’s problem in miniature. Their primary pastimes include training for war and not telling Diana about her powers or destiny. It’s fun to watch them do battle with German soldiers who picked the wrong beach to storm. But it is notable we don’t see any nonviolent activities or artistic pursuits practiced among the Amazons. In DC comics, Wonder Woman has often been an emissary from Themiscyra, spreading their enlightened culture to the world. This goes all the way back to the Golden Age stories written by Wonder Woman’s creators, who conceived of the Amazons’ Paradise Island as a utopia of peace, love, and rehabilitative justice. It would be nice if, watching the film, my artistic, creative sister could see Wonder Woman’s people making art like she does—even if it were just a background detail. The fully-militarized Paradise Island tells a story of female excellence based on dominance and strength."