Wonder Woman has been perceived as a difficult character to sell to the mainstream since…well always. Her first movie arrives in her eighth decade of life and, depending on who you ask, the obstacles between her and a solo screen outing have taken the form of sexism or perceived silliness. Sexism in that no female superhero movie has ever managed to rake money in at the box office, or silliness in the way she dresses, her powers, and her origin.
Patty Jenkins doesn’t really give a shit about any of that. Diana steps out of our shared imaginations and onto the screen with the kind of confidence and ethereal magic I haven’t seen since SUPERMAN.
Like Dick Donner before her, Jenkins celebrates rather than deconstructs. Diana’s status as a feminist icon runs through the entire DNA of the movie as Jenkins presumably recognises that the audience rejected CATWOMAN not because the lead lacked a penis, but because it was terrible. She has made a movie which feels like an answer to every movie which portrays women as the tools or inspiration for the male leads. Diana is not here to be saved. She is not here to be romanced. She is not here to be avenged. She is first oblivious and then baffled by gender stereotypes which were constructed in her absence and so drives her own journey from start to finish. I predict this film will form a back drop to many a girl’s childhood, inspiring those who have rightly wondered where their ass kicking role models are. I know because I live with two of them and they keep asking me. Where I had Superman and Captain Kirk, my girls now have Rey and Wonder Woman.
Hey, this is not just for girls. Everything I love about superheroes is found in this movie. She is strong but kind. Iconic but humble. She considers her power only as a way to help those weaker than herself. She inspires humanity but, in turn, is inspired by it too. Fears that DC would try to ape Marvel are clearly unfounded: there is no attempt to make Diana relatable, more digestible, or more human. She is larger than life. The stuff of myth. She is pure DC. We aren’t supposed to see how she’s just like us – we are supposed to wish we could be like her.
Jenkins takes those “silly powers” and makes them epic. The gauntlets, the boots, and my favourite – the lasso. Jenkins is in no way embarrassed by this stuff and instead, leans on them to create action scenes which feel different to the kinds of things we are used to. And her lead is visibly having a ball using them all.
And that leads us to Gal Gadot. Having already walked away with whatever good will was available in BATMAN AND SUPERMAN MAKE A PORNO, she easily takes centre stage here, making light of fears that this part would swallow any actor brave enough to take it on. She is charming, and empathetic, as well as formidable and stubborn. She seems completely at ease with action and somehow manages to project both naivety and confidence at the same time. We are still learning how good an actor she is, but there are several moments in which she deploys an effortless shot of movie star magic which lights up the screen. Her chemistry with Chris Pine is fantastic and the latter does a great job of walking that line between cocky mansplaining alpha male and likable love interest, and in lesser hands, that character would fail.
The movie has flaws – some of the action scenes show their CGI too readily, and the screenplay is not as exacting as it could be when governing the rules around certain powers, foes, and objects. Probably others I guess. But I honestly couldn’t give a shit. When a movie is this much fun, this uplifting and this aspirational, the stress lines just don’t matter to me as much. This is the most fun I have had in a superhero movie since The Avengers, and for the very first time, the DCEU has me completely smitten.
Oh, and I want to be Wonder Woman when I grow up.
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