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Wondering Where Wonder Woman Went Wrong

№303 ~7 minutes

Spoiler warning: The following entry contains spoilers for DC Comics’ Wonder Woman and Marvel’s Iron Man 3.

In which I wonder about the short-comings of DC Comics’ Wonder Woman.

I recently went to the cinema and saw the latest effort in DC Comics’ attempt to catch up with the behemoth that is Marvel.

DC Comics’ Wonder Woman gets the award for managing to be the fifth1 feature film with a leading female superhero. Imagine that, we’re in 2017 and this is only the fifth.

But, I’m conflicted in my opinions of Wonder Woman.

Because there’s at least two perspectives from which one can approach this film and rather than picking one over the other, I’m going to do both.

Act 1: Bound through blood

The film opens with present-day Diana (Gal Gadot) receiving a delivery from Wayne Enterprises, leading to Diana having a flashback of her childhood on the island Themyscira, where she escapes her tutor to watch her fellow Amazons in combat training.

Director Patty Jenkins here manages to handle three prologue sequences without making any of them drag on.

Despite her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) forbidding her, Diana soon starts training with her aunt, general Antiope (Robin Wright) to be the strongest of all of them.

It continues as World War I pilot and spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and his plane crashes on the island, inadvertently bringing German forces with him and causing the first battle where we are given proof of the formidable nature of the Amazons, as the German bullets are no match for the intense Amazons.

But despite their superior archery skills general Antiope, taking a bullet to prevent Diana from finding out her true nature, dies in a heart-wrenching scene.

The Amazons fighting German soldier on the beach of Themyscira.
Easily the best scene in the entire film.

As Diana is about to leave her mother catches them on the shore before they have time to set sail.

But instead of the patriarchal, “You’re not going. Obey me,” we’re instead treated to a very emotional and empathic scene where her mother understands she can’t stop her and expresses it, urging her to be careful in the world of men, They do not deserve you.

This is later echoed as Steve’s superiors give him the predictable, “You’re not going. Obey us,” which he promptly ignores.

Diana leaves the island to try and stop the war, marking the beginning of her transformation into Wonder Woman.

Act 2: The woman who entered No Man’s Land

Apparently the director Patty Jenkins had to fight Warner Bros. to keep, what is arguably on of the best sequences, in the film.

I think that in superhero movies, they fight other people, they fight villains. So when I started to really hunker in on the significance of No Man’s Land, there were a couple people who were deeply confused, wondering, like, ‘Well, what is she going to do? How many bullets can she fight?’ And I kept saying, ‘It’s not about that. This is a different scene than that. This is a scene about her becoming Wonder Woman.’ Patty Jenkins

Boy am I glad she got her will through.

From the build-up, with Steve recruiting Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui) and Charlie (Ewen Bremner) in a local pub, who misjudge Diana as a damsel they will need to keep safe; Summarised in Charlie’s sentence, Listen sweetheart, I’m not gonna get myself killed helping a wee lass out of a ditch.

Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot) entering No Man's Land.
Easily the best scene in the entire film.

To the fight scene itself with Diana storming the German side of No Man’s Land, shielding herself from the ensuing bullet storm and then leaping into the trenches, taking out the soldiers only to continue to the occupied Belgian town of Veld to save the civilians there.

Where she proceeds to take out a German sniper from a church tower by, well… jumping off a makeshift shield and literally tackling the church tower, reducing it to rubble.

The misjudgement is later echoed when Sameer, Charlie and The Chief—who they met up with after the pub—are given the opportunity to end their journey in Veld, having held their end of the deal but instead express their concern for Steve’s ability to take care of himself, having now witnessed that Diana is the more capable of the two.

Act 3: The moustached myth emerges

And we finally come to the troubled third act.

The build-up to this has been quote astonishing

Now setting aside my complete lack of surprise on the reveal—the second Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis) appeared on screen I thought to myself, “He’s the main antagonist.”

His cane and unassuming portrayal being an obvious red herring.

My biggest problem with casting David Thewlis is that whilst he plays the British politician flawlessly he’s lacks the potency and terrifying presence that I want from Ares,the God of War of himself.

In some respects, his unassuming portrayal works as it’s intended—the idea being that the God of War merely nudges people to commit atrocities instead of doing them himself.

But it comes at the price of having a final showdown where the God of War himself, has the presence of lukewarm British pudding. With a moustache.

A more ambiguous actor, someone capable of walking both lines would have worked better for me.

Case in point, The Mandarin/Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley) in Iron Man 3. Although the twist was a reversal, where we’re led to believe he is the bad guy when in actuality he’s merely a distraction, Ben Kingsley managed to play both parts to hair-raising perfection and steals every scene he’s in. He is as terrifying as The Mandarin as he is hilarious as Trevor Slattery.

Does it do Wonder Woman justice?

Jenkins has managed on a lesser budget than her peers–another testament to the inequality of this world—to create something far greater than the sum of its parts. Something DC Comics’ had failed to do until Wonder Woman.

Judged merely as a superhero film, Wonder Woman is pretty good.

It doesn’t hold its own against the best Marvel has to offer, but it’s by far the best from DC Comics so far.

Judged as the first, well marketed, portrayal of woman unapologetically kicking ass and hopefully paving the way for more representation for women, Wonder Woman is pretty fucking fantastic.

And judging by the opening weekend box office results, where Wonder Woman beat the first two Thor and Captain America movies, as well as the first Iron Man, shows that having a female superhero works.

Give Jenkins the budget and say she should have in the first place, and grovel to get her to return for a Wonder Woman sequel.

  1. Supergirl (1984), Rachel Talalay’s fantastic post-apocalyptic punk flick Tank Girl (1995), Catwoman (2004) and Elektra (2005). 

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