Wonder Woman – Superhero films just got interesting again

This should not be a good film. In fact it should be a really terrible film for it has all the elements of a bad, bad, really bad movie yet there’s something about it so refreshing among the vast swathe of superhero films.

It is true that the plot is hackneyed, driven by cliché and sentiment rather than anything resembling a true story. The action scenes are full of those hideous, irritating slow motion action scenes where we get to see lots and lots (i.e. way too many) of twirling and spinning, and other barely believable acrobatics to show off how superhuman our heroine is. Or rather what CGI and digital effects can accomplish in the modern age.

What’s more this isn’t a film set in some make believe destruction of Metropolis or Gotham. It’s set in World War One, in the trenches and bombed out Belgian towns, with the heroes fighting an enemy that hasn’t come from outer space, or the fifth dimension, or Lex Luther’s test tubes, but the Fatherland. Say what you want about the Germans, and the Kaiser, but the notion of them as the ultimate evil is a little dated these days.

And yet this film works. And not just works, it’s fantastic. For all the aspects of the old-fashioned pulp novels it contains, and the whole weird war sub-genre of historical ‘wargaming’, DC handle it with a sombre maturity. The war is shown in all its horror, with Diana and the others walking past men missing limbs or numb from shellshock, and her desire to help all is given short shrift by Steve Trevor, who becomes her teacher in so many of the ways the world has been corrupted away from the paradise enjoyed by Diana and her fellow Amazons.

[…] the traditionally male dominated world of comics, has changed, that now we can have movies where women are the protagonists […]

What’s more not everyone can be saved. Which is why this film works so well; because it takes its story, which is admittedly the standard superhero story, and wraps it up in the clothing of history to show that even Superheroes must sometimes take a back seat and let fate unfold in the name of a greater good.

In this way, the story is ably carried along by the cast; Chris Pine producing his trademark combination of gravitas and humour, along with a wonderful German accent, in a way that helps to bring home the human side of this story, but without ever eclipsing Gal Gadot. For this is, in many ways, her movie. It’s also a woman’s movie (not least because in Patty Jenkins, it’s got a female director) that shows women as more than just the beautiful sidekick, or the alluring femme fatale. When Wonder Woman sends German soldiers flying, she’s sending a message that Hollywood, and the traditionally male dominated world of comics, has changed, that now we can have movies where women are the protagonists, and it’s the man who does all the running alongside her.

wonder-woman-diana-steve-featured
Chris Pine features alongside Gal Gadot as a WWI fighter pilot.

Sure some will sneer and make snide comments about how little she seems to be wearing, but ignore them. In a day and an age where women are still facing an uphill struggle to catch up with men; a struggle they shouldn’t have to be facing, a film about a strong woman helping to save the world has symbolism that goes a long way beyond what she’s wearing.

By Gareth Wood

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