Wonder Woman is a very overrated movie but it’s not without its enjoyable moments. For me, the best parts of the film were the fish-out-of-water elements; where Diana is intrigued, surprised, and dismayed with the real world. Like a mixture of Enchanted and Universal Soldier, seeing Gal Gadot’s character innocently navigate our shitty world was very entertaining. The scene where she tells an ice cream vendor “you should be very proud” after her first taste of gelato reminded me of a similar scene in Bernard And The Genie (“take out my eyeballs and fry them in ginger, that is unbelievable!”). From California Man to Terminator 2, there’s something very endearing about an “alien” dropped into our world but sadly these moments were fleeting and the film tried to be something it wasn’t: serious…
Wonder Woman is described by suspect critics and moronic fans as feminist and empowering. Some see it as making a great point about war, justice, and heroism. For me, these were the parts of the movie that were the most disappointing and shallow. Take war as an example. Director Patty Jenkins’ father was an Air Force captain and a fighter pilot in the Vietnam war and her husband was a firefighter. Add this to Gal Gadot’s military service and you have a bunch of people directly or indirectly involved with war and cliched heroism giving us their safe, mainstream opinion about it. Wonder Woman‘s stance on war was basically “it’s bad” but, err… humans are generally good and it’s all the fault of Ares, not corrupt, xenophobic leaders and profit-making megalomaniacs. But this brings its own issues. Presumably there was no Ares whispering in the ears of those responsible for World War II or Vietnam or any conflict since but those wars and the countless deaths they led to still occurred. Evoking real-life events in a superhero flick with the same disheartening conclusion is silly. I suppose since the story was co-written by Hack Snyder, I’m not surprised it was contrived and meaningless. A superhero wearing red and blue siding with and fighting for the USA – oh how original and modern.🙄
War aside, what about the so-called feminist aspects of Wonder Woman? According to the film, the Amazons were created to “influence men’s hearts with love” which could be translated to flashing some flesh to distract them from their violent tendencies, a horrid sexist image if ever there was one. The final conflict with Ares also alluded to Wonder Woman’s anger-induced power which could be interpreted as PMT or PMS. And what pray tell, is the point in wearing high-heeled wedges? Shouldn’t an “Amazon” be bare-footed or be wearing sandals? Or is that not sexy enough?
All this is of course by-the-by since many superheroes are intentionally or inadvertently sex objects. Superman’s red crotch is there so straight women and gay men stay fixated on this “perfect” man and his “super” package. And Aquaman, at least in his latest incarnation, has his tits out for all and sundry. The question is: is it fair to single out Wonder Woman and argue whether she conforms to the male gaze? Well, yes and no. Let’s not forget that this character was created by a man who despite being lauded as a psychologist, could be interpreted as simply being into BDSM.
“Diana” is a goddess of the hunt and the wilderness but also of fertility and chastity. She is youthful, tall, and beautiful. Take away the hunt element and this Roman goddess is the embodiment of a heterosexual male’s fantasies. William Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator, used this name on purpose I assume, which means this character is all about sex and power. On a side note, Marston is known to have had threesomes but because he was educated it’s described as “polyamory”. Regular folk are merely perverts but a scientist has some noble reasoning to his sexual fantasies.
So yes, “Wonder Woman” is simultaneously about female strength and man’s submissiveness but only because the man who created her thought of her as sexual. From her overpowering size and strength, along with her corseted torso, tiara, skirt, and whip-like lasso, Wonder Woman is a fetish for a man who wants to be dominated; it’s a watered-down, cartoonish depiction of S&M. That kind of genesis doesn’t lend itself to feminism, no matter what bullshit “intellectual” arguments you add to the mix. Female dominance at the behest of a male is not empowerment, it’s bondage. Whilst on this topic, it’s strange to see certain so-called Feminists turn on James Cameron because of his comments (he called Wonder Woman a “step backwards”) especially when he was the one who created Sarah Connor, a character who went from weak to strong without ever bringing sexuality into the equation. Since both of these characters were created by men, it’s strange that a Feminist would side with either, let alone bash the better concept over the obvious stereotype. For me there was lots of sexism in Wonder Woman. First and foremost: Lucy Davis is a beautiful woman, but because she’s short or curvy, she’s given the role of an unattractive side-character (Etta). And the evil Dr. Maru (played by the similarly beautiful Elena Anaya) is also depicted as short and “ugly” thanks to her facial disability which aside from being sexist (again) is obvious ableism. Add to the fact that the tall, skinny, statuesque woman is the object of the male character’s desires as they ignore all other “average” women, it’s so backward that it veers into offensive. So what was so wrong with Cameron’s stance? It’s odd that feminism is foisted onto a female character when it suits (Wonder Woman, Midsommar) even when there’s inconsistencies in their message but, it isn’t mentioned when it could or should be (Crawl, Greta). Patty Jenkins’ other overrated offering Monster, was again critically lauded simply because Charlize Theron, a tall, white, skinny, beautiful actor, was magically transformed into a short, pudgy, unattractive woman. Hollywood loves to perpetuate sexist tropes about the ideal woman but that’s okay because an average film that superficially tackles a subject is protected from criticism. But I digress.
Chris Pine’s comedic delivery, along with Lilly Aspell who is super-cute as the young Diana, raise this film’s rather mediocre aesthetic, heaving with TV-movie CGI and dodgy accents, into something watchable. There’s also women of colour in Themyscira and people of colour in early twentieth-century Europe which I guess is progress for Hollywood. The conversation Wonder Woman has with The Chief: “who took everything from your people?” to which he answers “his people” (motioning to Pine’s character Steve Trevor) was the best piece of social and political commentary in the entire flick. I also have to mention Gal Gadot’s somewhat impressive transformation into an action star from bit-part actor in the dire Fast And Furious franchise. Watching Gal’s Wonder Woman made me want to sweep kick people in slow motion, just like I wanted to grab a sword and slay vampires after watching Wesley Snipes’ Blade. Had the entire film been focussed on action and comedy, this film would have been far superior than it is.
Getting bogged-down in backstory is generally a bad thing for a comic book movie and Wonder Woman had far too much of it. Despite my overall enjoyment, I can’t ignore the slow pace and the lengthy runtime. Wonder Woman is an above average film with nothing new or intelligent to say about war and female identity. It’s not feminist enough if it set out to be and it’s not daring enough as a comment about war. I guess with such a low bar set by a post-Christopher Nolan DC, everything from their stable of characters is instantly overrated, especially when the newly-woke Hollywood can crowbar a social issue into it for more bucks.
I Wonder Why.