Saturday, June 3, 2017

Wonder Woman: Finally, a DC Hero with Heart

Gal Gadot as the amazon princess Diana, a/k/a Wonder Woman
The 2017 film Wonder Woman shares a strong thematic vibe with Johnny Weissmuller’s first Tarzan movie in 1932 and Christopher Reeve’s first Superman movie in 1978. Once again, heroic innocence is pitted against the “civilized” forces of cynicism and murderous corruption, with the contrasts played effectively for both comedy and melodramatic pathos.
Wonder Woman’s origin story was contemporary when she was created in 1941, sending her off the amazons’ Paradise Island to fight for peace during World War II. This film does not update but backdates her origin to World War I, which in some ways works even better.
This independent, courageous superwoman is juxtaposed against the fight for women’s suffrage, and is determined to make good on the promise that this will be “the War to End All Wars.” We know what she doesn’t — that despite her impressive super powers, her mission is impossible, and that gives the film its poignancy.  Wonder Woman’s naiveté — her inability to understand why human beings would willingly slaughter children in a war, for example — stings because we also recognize it as the profoundest wisdom.
Wonder Woman’s tearing through the enemy trenches is reminiscent of Philip Wylie’s 1930 novel Gladiator, which was an inspiration for Superman.
Chris Pine’s low-key charm works perfectly for Capt. Steve Trevor. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman (a name never used in the film, btw) radiates the same shining, un-ironic goodness that Reeve projected as Superman (no easy feat for an actor, btw).
You know, it doesn’t really matter how “dark” a superhero film is, as long as the hero has heart. And that’s a lesson that the DC Comics movies finally seem to have learned after several misfires. Wonder Woman is as good as a Disney-Marvel superhero movie, and that's high praise indeed. This film is probably the best thing ever done with this iconic character, and a worthy successor Lynda Carter’s campy-but-earnest 1970s’ TV series. Like Reeve, Gadot made not only fantastic powers but moral idealism believable. In 2017, the latter is much the harder sell.


  1. Mitchell Brown said, "What I find interesting is the reaction of conservative/alt-right types to this film (Wonder Woman). Before it came out, many selt-styled conservative commentators were expecting it to fail: as they argued, 'liberals' weren't ready for a female hero who fights because we're wusses who can't handle seeing a woman fight and get hit. Also a female director can't 'get' superheroes and action movies, etc.
    "Now that the film is out and a big success by any measure, they're trying to focus on anything other than the message of the film: she's not American enough, a woman-only screening in Dallas is unfair to men, Gadot's Israeli heritage is upsetting anti-Israel liberals, pointing to some online grumbling about Diana's shaved armpits in a trailer and unironically noting how 'snowflake' liberals can't enjoy anything without getting political about it, etc.
    "In essence, they're trying to co-opt the movie and the hero as an endorsement for their side' while refusing to directly acknowledge the theme of the film — which seems as weird to me as them embracing Reeve's Superman as an endorsement for U.S. intervention in foreign conflicts, but what do I know. I'm just a snowflake, after all.
    "I mean, it's almost as if they're desperate to direct attention anywhere except on how the film throws the futility of their cynical, fear-mongering, me-first attitude right in their faces."

  2. Sounds like a film I'll see with my (nearly) 16 year old daughter. Sounds great. Thanks. PS... I was a huge Tarzan freak in the late 50s early 60s, when they ran on our local affiliate in Buffalo NY... but only the Weissmuller era — Johnny ruined me for other Tarzans ... not to mention his jungle call. Note — my first home in SoCal was in Sherman Oaks, one little berg over from Tarzana, CA... named because it was where much of the Tarzan feature serial was filmed. The police dept. emblem on the squad care doors with a chimp holding a man's hand. Or so the story goes.