Wonder Woman (2017) by Patty Jenkins
Review by Paige Taylor
Have you ever sat in a theater full of people, weeping with unrestrained joy, because a superhero was just that badass?
This girl has.
I’m sure by now you’ve heard it a million times, but yes! This IS the first major motion picture led by a female superhero in over 10 years! And yes! This IS the first blockbuster comic book adaptation to be directed by a woman! And I swear by the lasso, I will never get tired of hearing it.
Before I go into gush mode (because I am most certainly going to do that), I’ll go ahead and agree with most audiences and say that it’s far from a perfect film. It has a solid beginning and middle, and then towards the end it gets a little muddy. The ending has an almost autonomous feel, like they are just kind of going through the motions of your standard hero vs. villain final face off. There’s also some questionable casting, and to be honest I instantly forgot every character that wasn’t Diana and Steve immediately upon exiting the theater.
There! I did it, okay? I covered why the movie isn’t a cinematic masterpiece. Are you happy?
The truth is, I’m not here to discuss the technical or problematic issues of this film. There are a number of people out there who have diligently picked it apart, comparing it to its source material, to other comic book adaptations, to other films with a leading lady as the protagonist. I’m not here to add to the pile. I’m here to discuss this movie’s impact.
Allow me to address something we’re all already aware of: The majority of superheroines in cinema are absolute nonsense. The roles they play almost always fall under forgettable support for the male protagonist, or erotic fantasy material for men. I’m sure you remember Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman in Batman Returns, crouched on top of Batman in her skintight, black leather bodysuit as she knelt down to lick his face. I’m sure you recall Jessica Alba as The Invisible Woman in Fantastic Four 2, and the scene where she catches on fire and whoops!!! She’s naked!! I’m sure you also remember Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, and her excessive amounts of quirky, edgy quips. And lastly, I’m sure you try to forget the movie Elektra entirely.
During the entirety of Wonder Woman, not once did the camera sensually pan down Gal’s body, nor give us titillating shots of her boobs or ass. On Themyscira, the women are muscular and sweaty, age lining most of their faces. They do not look like the women of battle we are familiar with, with perfect hair and makeup and an alluring outfit. They are portrayed like the ruthless Amazonian warriors they are, highly trained in sensible gear and heavy weaponry.
Seeing real-looking women practice for battle, and not a handful of Victoria Secret models in leather lingerie, was all it took to make me emotional. Straight from the beginning I felt like I was being offered something powerful for the first time, something I hadn’t realized I’d been missing.
I was emotional because Patty Jenkins gave me a world that doesn’t cater to the male gaze, and I was honored to have the privilege to temporarily live in it.
Throughout the movie, we are finally offered the familiar treatment that every male-led superhero film is entitled to: A thorough origin story, the discovery of superpowers, the decision to become the hero, the costume reveal, the comic relief hijinks, the epic battle sequences, and simply but most importantly, the hero as the central focus of the story.
I cried during every battle scene because I was so grateful to see Wonder Woman presented to me in a way that wasn’t packaged to appease a male audience. Diana’s costume reveal and slow-motion walk through No Man’s Land struck me hard, and I reveled in a new feeling of wanting to be strong and fearless, with no thought on my physical appearance.
Badassery aside, Diana is also incredibly likeable and sweet, with a personality that is refreshingly positive. Superheroes tend to have a self-loathing, bitter sense of justice, and they are rarely happy. Diana is introduced to the world with delighted curiosity, excited to see a baby for the first time, remarking that the man who made her ice cream, “should be very proud.” Patty Jenkins has expressed in numerous interviews that the world is afraid of being sincere and emotional, as these things are often seen as hokey or cheesy. She wanted to create a character who is driven entirely by love, and I was giddy to watch this desire come to life.
The overwhelming truth is that I absolutely adored this film. Not only is it entertaining, but it also showcases how vital it is for women to be seen both in front and behind the camera. Thousands of little girls watched this and they looked at Wonder Woman and thought “I want to be strong and brave and good, just like her.” And you know what? I bet little boys thought the exact same. Wonder Woman has introduced a brand new discussion that yes, we do want to see female-led superhero movies, and yes, women can direct blockbuster films. This one’s for you, ladies. Here’s to moving forward.