I love watching superhero movies in the theater, and the #1 film in America, Wonder Woman, has been getting great reviews (plus a seriously strong Tomatometer Score).
Billed as the most successful female-lead Superhero movie (apologies to Catwoman, Elektra, Supergirl, Tank Girl…)- and directed by a female, this movie was destined to be an instant classic of feminine empowerment and all around ass-kickory. Which is why my wife, Michelle, usually disinterested in watching violent big budget movies based on comic books I read in elementary school, agreed to come and see it with me.
W.W. is the origin story of Princess Diana, a living Goddess from an island of women, long since removed from the violent world of men. When a man washes up on the shores of Paradise Island, the Amazon warriors are immediately forced into battle. Soon after, Diana joins the Allied forces on The Front, quickly becoming an efficient killing machine, helping America rid the world of Nazis.
Before I go further into my analysis, a disclaimer: I am a cis-gendered, heteronormative white male attempting to write about feminism, and therefore am not totally qualified.
So, before I go off on a mansplaining tangent about a film about a woman, directed by a woman, I asked Michelle and other women, for their opinions instead- using that as the basis for this blog entry.
Michelle prefers films, television, books, and life with little to no violence. As the bodycount in Wonder Woman grew, I noticed Michelle’s interest in the film wane. When I talked her into coming with me, I reminded her that she LOVED Katniss Everdeen, and rooted her on when she adroitly wielded her bow and arrow. Why? Because Katniss is a badass out of necessity. She defends her family, her little sister. She stands up directly to The Patriarchy.
Many believe in nonviolence as the only viable path to an enlightened society, as displayed by the women’s marches in January and the Pride marches across the nation last week. Others take the ‘any means necessary’ approach, including recent skirmishes between factions of the antifa movement who continues to engage in violent protests with White Nationalists.
In The Hunger Games, the revolution means an overthrow of the people in power and the systems in place that perpetuate oppression, the deterioration of our environment and wealth inequality. A woman needs to lead the revolution, because men will bring us back to war again and again, perpetuating a war machine that serves only the masters of war. And the woman, Katniss, must at times engage in violence in order to subdue the oppressors.
Wonder Woman does all of this, and more. And yet it left me, and Michelle, wondering if Wonder Woman does enough to address the atrocities of war through the eyes of a woman?
I asked my coworker Ivy about all of this, because she runs the graphic novel section at the bookstore and knows way more about the genre than I do. She pointed to an ineffectual scene at the end of the film.
“The moment when she’s holding up the tank, after going on a killing spree because she loses faith in humanity- then hope returns as she sees a flash of her new beau, the “above average” Chris Pine. It could have been about so much more-” she said- “the rest of the team, the people from the village, the rest of the world, but no, her faith in civilization is reduced to “The boy.”
This last point, made by Ivy, a female, seems to counter the point made in a Huffpo piece by critic Jenna Amatulli. She writes:
Another review that was exceptionally cringeworthy came from National Review. White criticizes Gadot’s Diana for her flirtation with one of the male characters in the film, alleging that the interactions “reduces Diana’s personal, historical, mythological complexity.” This is a particularly strange assessment to make when Superman had Lois Lane, Spider-Man had Mary-Jane, Iron Man had Pepper Pots, and Batman had Rachel and no one seemed to criticize those relationships impact on the male character’s “historical, mythological complexity.” -from ‘Wonder Woman’ Is Historic, But Some Male Critics Couldn’t Help Being Condescending
“So what could they have done better?” I asked Ivy.
“Not hire Zach Snyder to work on the script,” she deadpanned.
Michelle put it another way:
“If we really believe that women deserve a voice at the table, then we need to stop having men write their stories. In the male version of the story, the female warrior undergoes the hero’s journey. But, I want to see narratives in which the protagonist who saves the world undergoes the the heroine’s journey.”
She went on to say, “Wonder Woman is a goddess. And the lines of good and bad are so clear. But, Katniss was an everywoman. So her status as a hero is inspiring, because it’s achievable by anyone. A lot of the action movies that you guys like are fantasy-driven. You know, ‘If only I had superpowers, I could save the world too.’ But, that’s not the kind of storytelling we need. We need to be inspired to become the heroes that the world needs.”
In my mansplaining opinion, I agree with both Michelle and Ivy that the writing, especially at the end of the film, did not hold up. (SPOILERS AHEAD)
The big fight at the end lasted forever and contained too many slo-mo action sequences (Ivy and another coworker Nicole agreed- probably another Snyder-ism), culminating in the cliche-a-thon of one liners, including, “We’ll see about that!” among others.
Other critics have had mixed feelings about the film, though mostly positive across the board.
All of the critics I have read seem to agree that the lead Actress Gal Gadot did an excellent job. The direction, aside from too many slo-mo fight scenes, was good. The major problem that I had was with the writing.
Some male critics seem to have harped far too much on her looks, not her acting. Which brings us back to the point- men are doing too much splaining.
Speaking of women writing about women, I highly recommend reading the world’s foremost expert on Wonder Woman, Jill Lepore, and her excellent book The Secret History of Wonder Woman.
She has also written a great essay on the film, in which she honors the archetype, but contends (in agreement with me) that the film falls flat of expectations.
The bottom line is that this was a big budget action movie that delivered the goods- explosions, and lots and lots of dead Nazis. Wonder Woman was definitely worth the price of admission.
 For more on the subject, read this excellent article by Kayleigh Donaldson: http://screenrant.com/why-have-female-superhero-movies-failed-so-far/