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“Wonder Woman” Really Is “Wonder”ful

Wonder Woman lives up to her name in the highly anticipated release of the superhero’s first live-action film

Photo+courtesy+of+rogertebert.com
Photo courtesy of rogertebert.com

Photo courtesy of rogertebert.com

Photo courtesy of rogertebert.com

Kathryn Smith, Author

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The character of Wonder Woman has undergone uncountable changes in both story and appearance since her original creation in 1941. Hopes were high for the character’s latest adaption, her first live-action film. Thankfully, the production delivered and left viewers looking on in, well, wonder.

Director Patty Jenkins (“Monster,” “The Killing”) displayed her talent in what is now listed as setting the record opening for a female-directed film after bringing in $100 million on its opening weekend. Meanwhile, on screen, Gal Gadot’s portrayal of Diana Prince and Chris Pine’s character Steve Trevor work with obvious chemistry to defeat God of War Ares (David Thewlis) in this reincarnation of the classic DC Comics story by William Moulton Marston.

Opening with a picture of the serene Themyscira, the home of Gadot’s Diana Prince, the film immediately gives the mythical background story of the island and its entirely female inhabitants.  The audience watches as Diana matures from a young girl whose only wish is to be able to train as an Amazonian Warrior, to a woman stronger and more powerful than any other on the island. Then, after a training session one day, Diana spots a plane crossing the barrier meant to protect the Amazonians from the outside world. The plane crashes into the ocean surrounding the island and she swims out to see it, only to find Steve Trevor, an American spy in World War I. After being rescued by Diana, Steve tells her about the war, and she becomes set on going back with Steve to help defeat Ares, the God of War, who she believes is the cause behind the violence. Throughout the film, Diana and Steve pull in help from three others –  Sameer, The Chief, and Charlie – who not only supply a level of comic relief, but also evoke sympathy from an audience who can, in one way or another, relate to their backstories.

Wonder Woman has been breaking social barriers since her creation at the height of World War II, and this latest installation was no different. While managing to stay with the original story by including references such as Diana’s love for ice cream and her small, round glasses intended to make her less conspicuous, the film still revamps the story with new additions. Within the story itself, there’s the inclusion of the age-old villain Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya), a woman in the early twentieth century with a Ph.D. in chemistry, something which is still rare today. Additionally, there are hints to Diana’s bisexuality, which was recently confirmed by DC Comics, when she’s discussing sexuality with Steve. “[The 12 volumes of Cleo’s treatises on “body and pleasure”] came to the conclusion that although men are necessary for reproduction, they are not needed for pleasure.” The plot also deals with racism, such as when one of the men brought in to help Diana and Steve, Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui) says how he always wished to be an actor, a dream which he knows will sadly never come true because he is “the wrong color.”  Lastly, the script manages to discuss mental health, as Charlie (Ewen Bremner), one of three men behind Diana, suffers from PTSD and night terrors that haunt him as a result of the war. All in all, the plot of “Wonder Woman” does not just skim the surface of controversial but very real issues.

Outside of the plot, the movie continues to provide progressive ideals. For instance, Gal Gadot, who happens to be Israeli, is one of the few woman of color to ever star as a superhero. Similarly, two of the four men who help Wonder Woman are men of color, one Native American and one Moroccan. This accomplishes the task of displaying people of color in positions of power and benevolence, something that Hollywood seems to have difficulty with for some reason.

As with all movies, there were still unfortunately some flaws. Some found a few inconsistencies from the original story, such as which war was being fought (in the comic books as well as the Lynda Carter portrayal of Wonder Woman in the late 1970s, they were fighting in World War II, versus this depiction set in World War I), to be less than ideal. However, the only major point of concern was the fact that, when defeating the “bad guys,” she only is able to ultimately succeed because she loves Steve Trevor. Without going into any details that might spoil the plot, some found that the ending was just a little too reminiscent of the stereotype that a woman needs a man in order to succeed. However, Patty Jenkins has spoken out against this saying that she felt that by including it, they were veering “Wonder Woman” away from the idea that a superhero’s success is always a result of revenge and anger (take, for instance, the last DC Comics movie, “Batman vs. Superman”). And of course, one must consider the fact that she still defeats the villain by herself – even lifting up a tank in the process.

Nonetheless, “Wonder Woman” remains a fantastically feminist film. Although the film itself is maybe not appropriate for younger children due to the level of violence, it still has the potential (which it seems to be reaching) to expand the Wonder Woman franchise to a younger generation and get them interested in a powerful female superhero–one who can inspire them to fight not out of hate, but out of love, and accept others for who they are.

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“Wonder Woman” Really Is “Wonder”ful