So, over Pride weekend, I finally got to see Wonder Woman. I went in having already seen and read criticisms and reviews of the movie from folks who've seen the movie, from folks who decided to NOT see the movie due to comments lead WW star Gal Gadot made months ago via her social media accounts, as well as her formerly serving in the IDF, as is required of all Israeli citizens. I've read all nuanced reasonings which I understand, and am on board with, but as a longtime Wonder Woman reader and fan, I still wanted to see the film.
I had my own reservations when Gadot was cast for the role of Diana, and I'm ashamed to say, one of them was for aesthetic nerd-elitist reasons: I thought Gadot was too slim, and didn't have what I thought the body type would be great for Diana as an Amazon warrior. I also thought it was typical of Batman v Superman director Zach Snyder to cast a beautiful actor with model looks, instead of doing the work to find an actor with the body type (and acting skill). Once it became official that Gadot would indeed be Wonder Woman, I had decided to wait and see how she did in BvS. And man, I was blown away.
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman doing the prolific bracelet slam to Doomsday in "BvS"
And after seeing teaser photos and finally the trailer for "Wonder Woman", I was hopeful that it would be a great film and put DC/WB back in the running for making good comic book movies again. I'm glad to say that I think I was somewhat right: Wonder Woman is a pretty enjoyable film. I enjoyed the plot of a sheltered princess with superpowers, raised on an island with only women, going out into the world and being a TOTAL fish out of water during World War I, but wanting to help those who are in need. I enjoyed seeing this fierce and capable character that I've only seen in comics and animated features being bought to life on the big screen. I enjoyed the action scenes and the moments of levity when men like Steve Trevor trying to deal with such an "emancipated woman" in a time where women were really just beginning to fight for equality and equity.
Diana and Steve making their way to No Man's Land.
And yea, I squeed like a little girl when Diana climbed the ladder out the trenches up to No Man's Land. It was a symbol that the tide of the war was changing, that hope and help had arrived. I remember reading somewhere that WW director Patty Jenkins had to fight to keep that scene in the film, and I'm very glad she did.
Diana walking through No Man's Land.
There were some things that definitely stuck in my craw while watching Wonder Woman, though. I really like this movie a lot, but there are side-eye worthy misses with the story, plot, and even casting that need to be addressed. First thing that became all too obvious for me was the lack of women involved in writing the story. In fact, as the credits were rolling, all the story credits were to Allan Heinberg (writer of post-Infinite Crisis WW story arc "Who Is Wonder Woman?" for DC Comics), Zach Snyder, and Jason Fuchs. The lack of women being the pen behind the movie shows in every facet of the movie:
1. The primary focus of the Amazons being warriors, and the lack of time spent focusing more on Diana's life growing up in Themyscira. It's not like folks don't know what happened during WWI, so I think more time could've been spent developing Diana and the Amazons as fuller characters, fellow sisters she was raised by, grew up with, learned to love from, etc.
2. Diana's reaction to seeing a man for the first time after saving Steve. Like, girl, you've learned about "man's world" and various languages, and yeah, it IS one thing to see men in books and seeing them in the flesh, especially since you haven't seen men at their worst (or best) like your elders have, but still! It comes off as a man's interpretation of how a woman who's lived on an island inhabited by women all her life would react. It would've been better if written from an actual woman's lens.
3. No mention of Diana's bisexuality. Even though she grew up on an island full of women, with various sexualities. But okay.
4. The final dialogue between Hippolyta and Diana when Diana's about to leave Themyscira. Seriously, WHAT MOTHER CALLS THEIR DAUGHTER "HER GREATEST SORROW" AS THEIR DAUGHTER LEAVES HOME?
5. Having Diana's ultimate experience of being in the "world of men" be having sex with Steve Trevor. There wasn't enough of a buildup of chemistry between Diana and Steve, for one thing. When Diana arrived with Steve to London, it looked more like Steve was put in the role of babysitter and keep Diana in check according to the patriarchal mores of the times. Plus, he would go out of his way in physical situations to show that he was still capable as a man in the presence of a powerful woman, which reeks of insecurity on his part, and was annoying as hell. Also, having hetero sex as a marker of "childhood's end" in a way for Diana is a tired story trope. In utilizing the trope, the writers perpetuate tired purity tropes we've seen time and time again in women and girl characters.
Besides the aforementioned issues, other things that stuck in my craw about the movie is going with the NewNewNEWnewnewnewNEW 52 retcon of Diana's origin: Diana is the daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta, and the story of her being made from clay is a myth to keep the truth from Diana, or the other Greek Gods or whatever. Doing away with Diana's origin as established by George Perez, Greg Potter and Len Wein---that Hippolyta made her from clay, and bought to life & bestowed with gifts and abilities by Greek deities like Athena, Artemis, and Aphrodite---Diana essentially ends up doing the bidding of a man (Zeus) in endeavoring to battle and kill Ares. The story and film loses some of its feminist "umph" by the apparent need of the writers to insert a male figure as creator of the Amazons and of Wonder Woman. Not to mention, the pairing of Diana up with a team, which while I enjoyed in the film, feels as though the idea was put into the film because of a worry of Diana not being able to stand alone in her own movie. Such a concern is never given to her other two partners of the DC Trinity, so why have it for her?
Diana and...the Crew Et al??
I also wasn't rocking with the theme that all Diana needed to do was kill Ares to end WWI. It made no sense to place the responsibility for man's behavior on Ares, especially given that, well....we had a second World War, and with Ares gone, what god was to blame then? I understand there wouldn't have been that "payoff" of good triumphing over evil in the end that are essential for these types of movies, and Diana would eventually learn that while the gods can influence human behavior in their favor, human beings are capable of great good and great evil, but we only get that via her monologue towards the end of the film. It was a good idea that was written poorly.
And, of course, the lack of speaking roles for women of color in the film was a problem. Artemis and Phillipus were portrayed by Black women, Ann Wolfe and Ann Ogbomo, but I don't remember either of them speaking much. I was glad to see Themyscira populated diversely, with Florence Kasumba (one of the Dora Milaje from Captain America Civil War AND Black Panther), and Black women as Amazon Senators, yet Black women were also pretty much placed as "mammies" to tutor and train Diana at Antiope's side. So while Black women were THERE, we weren't PRESENT. Oh, and don't think that small scene with The Chief that touches-on-but-not-really-touches-on colonization, imperialism and racism went over my head, either.
All in all, the film was much better than BvS, and does give me some hope that Justice League will be good, or at least enjoyable. But DC/WB need to get it through their thick skulls that they need MORE women and more people of color behind the cameras and pens if they choose to go forward with a Wonder Woman sequel.