This Wonder Woman review is mostly spoiler-free. (Area of concern is whited out for sensitive eyeballs).
A lot was riding on Wonder Woman‘s back. The task at hand for Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot involved not only delivering the first real female-led superhero movie, but ensuring that it succeeded. Without a box office win, Wonder Woman risked becoming the only of its kind. Yet, with a smashing opening weekend currently totalling USD$100.5M domestically (USD$223M worldwide), Diana Prince has made one thing clear: female superheroes are here to stay and kick ass.
For starters, Wonder Woman has already made more money than Green Lantern‘s whole run. It is officially the highest-grossing movie directed by a female director, outdoing 50 Shades of Grey (thank the heavens). On top of that, Patty Jenkins’ film has so far been the only in the DCEU to receive a thumbs up from critics, also garnering a Rotten Tomatoes score of 93%.
Forget Elektra and Catwoman. Forget Gamora and Black Widow. Diana Prince isn’t here to help Superman or some other dude achieve something. Diana Prince is the something, and she’s not here to show some boob for you to let her have it.
Is Wonder Woman the feminist icon she was poised to be?
If there’s one thing to take away from Wonder Woman and Gal Gadot’s performance is that a woman has no limitations. That’s it, plain and simple. It’s not about whether or not Diana teams up with suffragists or if she delivers speeches to men about their behavior. Diana Prince is simply an advocate for what is right, voicing her opinion and fighting for her beliefs without waiting for external validation.
Wonder Woman doesn’t need to tell you she’s a feminist. She’s a well-rounded character, originally perceiving the world as black and white. The gray areas of the world escape her, having grown up in a secluded, utopian island. Diana doesn’t understand women’s concern for hiding body fat just as she doesn’t understand men’s need to oppress and silence women. Yet, she isn’t intimidated by the society she now finds herself surrounded by. Instead, Wonder Woman charges into action without a moment’s hesitation.
Diana Prince is a narrative delight. She’s innocent, driven, compassionate, and assertive. She makes you laugh with her tenderness and inspires you with her grit. Gal Gadot’s performance is captivating, even if some might deem it as inexperienced. She looks stunning and beautiful in every shot, without ever being sexualized. But most importantly, Wonder Woman is never a man’s superior. She is always, always his equal.
Feminism aside, is Wonder Woman actually a good movie?
Wonder Woman is a fantastic film. As a superhero movie it succeeds at being entertaining, action-packed, and aesthetically pleasing. Yet, it avoids all of the genre’s common pitfalls.
In Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor, the film finds neither a damsel in distress nor a sidekick. Instead, Steve and Diana are each other’s soundboard and inspiration. They both have their own paths and battles, their own view of the world. It is through arriving at a mutual understanding that Diana becomes the hero she needs to be and Steve recovers his faith in mankind.
Villains are another recurring issue for the industry, with otherwise successful movies like Deadpool suffering from irrelevant antiheroes like Francis. Wonder Woman‘s (highlight for spoiler) Ares/Sir Patrick (David Thewlis) bypasses the tried and used “boss” dynamic that often weakens superhero narratives, challenging the formulaic understanding of good vs. evil.
Is the movie perfect? Definitely not. But its quirks and flaws are what make it human.
What else sets Wonder Woman apart?
Aside from narrative and cinematographic wins, the film’s commitment to diversity didn’t stop at a woman lead and director. Wonder Woman also features a Native American character in the shape of Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) who denounces the massacre of his people, a Middle Eastern man named Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui) who is deprived from an acting career because of the color of his skin, and a sharpshooter recovering from PTSD (Ewen Bremner).
Lucy Davis’ Etta Candy serves as Steve’s hysterical secretary, someone we all can only wish to have seen more of. The Amazons of Themyscira, especially Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and General Antiope (Robin Wright) were simply breathtaking. They both delivered their lines with enviable conviction, highlighting tender “feminine” qualities without undermining their fierce and powerful presence.
The film is also filled with enjoyable tidbits, jokes that for once don’t feel forced or like the script was fulfilling a quota, and awe-inspiring shots that reduced many grown women and men to tears. Wonder Woman’s run out of the trenches will forever be one of the most influential scenes I have ever watched. Of course, Rupert Gregson-William’s score helped make this moment memorable, so kudos to him as well.
Is Diana Prince the hero we deserve?
Wonder Woman brings up many important questions about morality, revisits the dichotomy between good and evil in a refreshing way, and makes room for a different approach to the tale of the superhero. The story isn’t about whether or not the hero belongs in a world of men, but whether or not the hero wishes to become a part of it.
The question is not “Is Wonder Woman the feminist hero this century deserved?” but rather “Does this century have the guts to do right by her?” No. We don’t deserve Diana, but she also knows her work has just begun. It is up to us to uphold the promise to keep fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves. It is up to us to not let Wonder Woman be a one-hit-wonder, no pun intended.
May the rise of female directors be long and prosperous, and may we strive to value diversity even when the going gets rough.
Should you watch it? Hell to the yes.
Enjoyed our Wonder Woman review? Consider signing up to our mailing list for more awesome content, delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.
Wonder Woman (2017)
- Gal Gadot slaying
- Chris Pine's eyebrows and overall amazingness
- Angry Remus Lupin
- Successful shifting of superhero story dynamic
- Narrative could have been a little tighter
- Hearts being broken and still crying about it 24 hours later