Full disclosure: I was never an avid reader of the Wonder Woman comics. My comic heroines tend to be gals like Tank Girl and Devi from Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and I Feel Sick. Having said that, I exist in the world and in the world of pop culture specifically so I have a love of the character and a love of seeing more female super heros in general.
Wonder Woman is the redeeming ray of light the DCEU has so badly been in need of. I feel no need to rehash the same thoughts we’ve all heard a million times before here, but I am not a fan of the gritty equals realism lens that we’ve been given before. It works for Batman, not for anyone else necessarily.
Here’s the thing with Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman: Even in the midst of an actual war there is more light (literal and figurative) than any other movie has given us. Diana Prince believes in love and light and isn’t afraid to admit it. There’s a quote from Jenkins in circulation about how she didn’t want to shy away from what could be perceived as too earnest and cheesy. That mentality is what best serves this movie. Because that is Wonder Woman. She is earnest and believes in doing the right thing. Sure, her initial experiences with humanity throw some curve balls at her, but that’s to be expected. The world is not the idyllic island she was raised on and it takes some getting used to.
There’s a love story, but it neither bogs down the storyline and action or feels like it was forced in because it’s a “girl movie”. The supporting cast around Diana is delightful, especially Lucy Davis as Steve Trevor’s secretary, Etta. I would honestly watch the adventures of her teaching Diana to exist in the real world over and over.
All that being said, Wonder Woman is not without its problems.
The universe continues to be racially tone deaf as fuck, if not to the same extent as Suicide Squad was. Amazonians of color are limited background imagery for the most part. The few that speak any lines only get one or two at most. The mammy stereotype is even employeed. Once Diana is out in the world the stereotypes of sneaky Native American and dishonest talkative Middle Easterner. Warner Bros needs to step up their game and realize there’s more to diversity than tired tropes and stereotypes again and again.
The other memo they failed to get is that often heroes are only as interesting as their villains. The villains are lackluster at best. Dr. Poison is potentially the most interesting, but she’s never really developed beyond the “chick who makes the poisons and wears a half mask”. Which is also symptomatic of the other thing that is underserved in Wonder Woman: A diversity of types of strong women. We are constantly being reminded of how beautiful everyone finds Diana, but Etta, while wonderful, is mostly shown to be somewhat bumbling instead of as the capable woman she clearly really is. Hopefully these are things that we see in future sequels, but this is a thing Hollywood frequently struggles with so I’m honestly not hopeful.
All and all though, the bright points outshine the problematic areas and hopefully will lead to more movies about female superheroes of all colors being greenlit. In the dearth of female fronted and directed super hero films, the perspective is much needed and, while the fight scenes are adrenaline inducing, this one is all about the heart. Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince is a hero that can be looked up to by small girls and grown women alike.