To See or Not to See: Wonder Woman
Striking a perfect balance between entertainment and philosophical ideas, Wonder Woman is the best DC Comics film adaptation of late.
The story of Wonder Woman begins in the present-day. Diana Price (Gal Gadot) works at the Louvre in Paris. She receives a delivery from Wayne Enterprises, and when she opens it she finds a copy of a photograph from the 1940s. It’s a photograph of her (as Wonder Woman) and a motley crew of four associates. Of course, Wonder Woman flashes back to the story leading up to—and behind—that picture.
It begins with Diana. It begins with her childhood on Themyscira, the island of the Amazons. According to their lore, the Amazons were created by the god Zeus in order to help humans be peaceful and good. The Amazons helped fight Zeus’s son, Ares, the god of war, centuries ago in order to do just that. They await for his eventual return when they will need to fight once more.
So, when Diana asks her mother, Amazon Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), how she came to be, not only does she learn that Amazon creation story, but also her own. Hippolyta tells Diana she sculpted her out of clay, Zeus breathed life into it (now that’s one way to give the birds and the bees talk!), and Diana was born. She even shows Diana their powerful “god killer” weapons that they guard; someday they will have to use them against Ares.
Since the Amazons are warriors, they train constantly. Hippolyta tries to keep Diana from training with all the other Amazon women, but Diana is determined. So is her aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright). Eventually, Antiope convinces Hippolyta that training Diana is necessary; Diana soon becomes one of the best fighters the Amazon women have ever seen.
One day, a fighter pilot (in actuality a U.S. spy) falls from the sky, breaking through the fog enshrouding and hiding Themyscira. Diana rescues that man: Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Unfortunately, he had a battalion of German soldiers hunting for him, and they follow him to the island. A battle ensues. The fighting is fierce and the action shots are stellar. When Steve explains to the Amazons what is happening in the world and why the men appeared (i.e. millions of people being killed and terrible new weapons being used in World War I), Diana is convinced that Ares is behind it all. So, she leaves the island with Steve with the trusty “god killer” sword, shield, and the lariat, a truth-telling rope in hand. Together, they travel to the “Land of Men.”
Steve and Diana arrive in London where they are met by Etta (Lucy Davis), Steve’s secretary, who hilariously helps Diana get proper clothing. Promising Diana that he will take her to the war front (where she thinks she can find Ares and kill him which will immediately stop all the fighting), Steve has them make one stop first. He attempts to convince his superiors in the British cabinet, including Sir Patrick (David Thewlis), to destroy German General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and his evil sidekick, scientist Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya). Steve has discovered that Ludendorff and Maru have created a poison that will kill thousands, if not millions more, when it is deployed. Alas, like these stories go, Steve does not get permission to stop those villains as the Armistice talks are beginning. He, with the secret aid of Sir Patrick, gets together his go-to undercover crew in order to try and stop Ludendorff and Maru on his own. Steve, Diana, Charlie the Scotsman sharpshooter (Ewan Bremner), Sameer the smooth talker (Saïd Taghmaoui), and The Chief, a Native American black market man (Eugene Brave Rock) embark on a mission to save the world. Will they succeed? Will Diana find Ares? Is there even an Ares to find, and does he actually control the fighting of men?
In between very serious moments of war and evil, a lot of light moments are had. The chemistry between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine is on point. They each push each other to do their best (both the actors and the characters. For truly, Steve’s belief in Diana pushes her farther.). As Steve, Chris Pine is utterly charming. The back-and-forth banter between characters along with their line delivery is, most of the time, funny. For instance:
Diana: Would you say that you are a typical example of your sex?
Steve: …I would say I’m above average.
The tongue-in-cheek delivery of this had the entire audience laughing because, duh, Chris Pine is definitely above average. The rest of Steve’s crew also provided a refreshing lightness to the film (despite their ultimate lack of depth as fully-formed characters).
Then, there is Diana. Needless to say, Gal Gadot’s Diana is one that countless young girls and boys will look up to. Her tireless dedication to what is good and right is something that, in today’s age, is sorely needed. She ignores her mother’s desire to keep her untrained and safe on the island so she can use her strength to help others. Then, she charges into battle when every man around her (including Steve) tells her to stay put while they do the work because, again, she must help others. Basically, she never lets anyone tell her what she can or can’t do. At one point, Diana even tells Steve, “What I do is not up to you.” (#GirlPower)
Thanks to a wonderful screenplay by Allan Heinberg and steady direction by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman is also able to dive into bigger philosophical questions without losing itself in them. Since Diana has never left her safeguarded island before, she is naive to the ways of the modern world—but also immune to its underbelly. This character trait allows her to point out human folly without coming off as terrible. It also allows the viewer to watch her struggle with her responsibility as a superhero: helping people whether or not they deserve it. In fact, that question is voiced and contemplated many times throughout the film. Do humans—driven to war and darkness on their own—deserve help? This is the greatest lesson Diana learns, and we, in turn, take away from this wonderful film: the way to break through the darkness is with love. In the words of Diana, “It’s not about deserve. It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love.”
★ ★ ★ ★ out of 4
Photo Credit: Warner Bros