Did DC’s love affair with otherworldly characters ruin what could have been a very relevant and relatable film for women everywhere?
** SPOILER ALERT**
Gal Gadot did a brilliant job as the eponymous heroine in the latest offering from DC Comics. She was the perfect blend of strong, brave, and naïve which I – as a modern British Asian woman and an ex-Pollyanna – could totally relate to. But at points during the 90 minutes of action-packed drama, I turned away from the screen as the connection I had with the story and Wonder Woman herself was broken by the presence of a fantastical villain and a weak third act.
Don’t get me wrong, I knew what I was signing up for when I bought my ticket. Superman, Thor, the Hulk – these guys embody the modern-day thirst for something bigger than us; a force with the strength and conviction to put the world right again. But Wonder Woman felt like much more than one of the 2D, everyday superhero flicks of the past and, because of that, I feel that the fantasy elements ruined her otherwise very powerful story. Here I have to confess that when Diana left the Amazons and her mother told her “the world of men don’t deserve you”, I shed a tear in the cinema, something I have only done once before in a superhero film.
That level of connection is hard to achieve in any genre of film, let alone a comic book movie, so it’s a shame that the level of relatability dips by the end.
The film starts off with the best of intentions. We learn about Diana and her superhuman skills, as well as her insatiable appetite to right wrongs and help others. Her pull away from the peaceful world of the Amazons comes in the form of Captain Steve Trevor, who crash lands bringing news of a World War raging on beyond the borders of Diana’s home island of Miskira.
Understandably Diana feels duty-bound to act and save mankind from what she believes is the influence of Aries, the God of War, who has poisoned the minds of men to think in such a destructive and selfish way. Her naivety proves to be a source of both humour and frustration for the citizens of the world whom she meets, but her unwavering commitment to the noble cause of taking down Aries and restoring justice drives the story in unexpected directions.
A common theme throughout the story is that of a powerful woman constantly being held back by men. The men of Diana’s era – and to a certain extent, men now – think that certain things simply cannot be done and especially not by women, with little evidence to support their theories.
At one point, Diana speaks with a crying mother sitting with her baby in the trenches. The mother confides that her village across No Man’s Land has been ravaged by German soldiers and she has been left without a home. Diana is so touched by this that, despite orders to keep moving, she cannot be restrained any longer and takes decisive action to help this woman. She single-handedly runs on to the battlefield, deflecting bullets and defending herself in ways that she didn’t even realise were possible. Such is the power of her compassion.
As the film progresses, Diana and Captain Trevor fall for each other. They make love after Diana’s victory over the German soldiers, and this is portrayed tastefully and sensitively but I can’t help but question whether it is necessary. Does sex have to be part and parcel of a love story?
Diana’s self-revelation manifests after she has killed a General central to the German operation, yet she sees that it’s business as usual in their workshop. The realisation that maybe people being bad is not simply down Aries, but a person’s choice, is what hits her the hardest. This is a tender and touching moment, but instead of exploring and dramatising the consequences of this new-found perspective further, we are subjected to a battle between Diana and a character who admits that he is Aries. This is where the film lost both me and it’s edge.
Yes, I know superhero films are all about the epic face-off, but wouldn’t it have been nice if for once that was shown as an internal conflict, rather than an external one featuring a snarling, Greek God that nobody can really relate to? Wonder Woman could have been something really special if it hadn’t sacrificed it’s heart for a standard DC Comic Book ending.
Plus, to add insult to injury, when Diana appears to be losing the battle, Captain Trevor makes a choice to sacrifice himself for the greater good, and the emotion associated with this loss gives Diana the strength to defeat Aries. Is this how we, as women, truly feel? That our main source of courage comes from our feelings for a man? And what does this ending – consciously or unconsciously – tell our female children about their future relationships?
Don’t get me wrong, as a happily engaged woman, I understand, respect, and appreciate the strength which a loving relationship can give a woman, but by no means do I think that this defines her.
In this respect, I feel that Wonder Woman unintentionally minimises both the heart and capability of this very strong heroine, by focusing solely on her relationship with her lover as her source of courage in her time of need.
Overall I think that the story accurately depicts the obstacles faced by the everywoman when trying to be compassionate in today’s world, and I applaud it for giving us a voice in that regard. But when it comes to acknowledging and coping with the sad, heavy realisation that sometimes some people don’t want to be saved, I think Wonder Woman falls short.