I’m conflicted about Wonder Woman. I left the movie feeling like I’d missed out on something. But perhaps this is what others have been missing out on for years, and now I’m getting a taste of what that’s like. My TL;DR review of the film is that it’s a solid B/B+, well made and well acted, and its faults (none of them significant) are more revealing of problems with the genre than with this individual film. But because of Wonder Woman’s arc in this particular movie, there’s one place where hitting the superhero movie beat really does put this story at a unique disadvantage: the part where the hero kills the villain in the final battle.
This trend in superhero movies has always rubbed me the wrong way. We’re always assured that the villains in these movies are being killed “heroically”, as if that somehow makes it better, like superheroes and murder have always gone hand in hand. I think back to the original Spider-Man trilogy: there was a poetic irony in the Goblin stabbing himself, or Doctor Octopus dying to destroy the thing he spent the whole film making. The hero-kills-villain trend got worse around Batman Begins, in which Batman smirks that doesn’t have to kill Ra’s al Guhl, but also doesn’t have to save him – effectively killing him by leaving him in a situation he can’t survive. And now we’ve arrived at the point where destroying your enemies is the logical and heroic thing to do, whether it’s snapping your nemesis’ neck with your bare hands or holding hands with your bestest friends and calling the villain a bitch before blowing him up. Just one more trend in the genre, so while Wonder Woman hits the very same beat, it’s far from unique.
And yet, I think the problem is more glaring here because the concept of “heroically killing” your enemy is so antithetical to Diana’s journey. Her arc was refreshingly different; The whole adventure set into motion by her naive plan to save the world by killing the bad guy. But over the course of the film, she discovers that real life is more nuanced. The fact that her point of view expands to encompass all of this and then her original, black-and-white plan is what works after all – this undercuts what made Wonder Woman unique and great. That sense of hope, the daring and bravery to fight for what is right no matter how flawed the people you’re fighting for.
Also, I loved The Matrix too, but let’s chill out on the bullet time, okay? It’s been almost 20 years.
But these are nitpicks, and pale in comparison to the impact the movie has had. My wife left the film crying. She’s never really cared for the superhero genre; this was the first one that got her not just emotionally invested, but to a point of catharsis. As if she always wanted this, but never knew it. In the lead up to this movie, anyone who I asked to describe it to me had difficulty explaining WHY it was good, rather than just blanket praise. And after seeing it, I understand. Looking at the individual elements of the movie don’t explain the importance of Wonder Woman as a whole. I hate to say it, but the whole thing reminds me of the Fearless Girl. You can look at and dissect the different elements of its origin, why this was considered a “risk”, and even how it changes the definition of superhero films around it. And yet, none of that compares to the little girl who wants her picture next to it. To the inspiration it has given to women and girls, to the point that they’re willing to fight for it. Both the Fearless Girl and Wonder Woman are products, as are all superhero films, and yet they mean so much more than that.
Wonder Woman has always served more as an icon than as a story in my view point. The character, as a character, never resonated with me. And yet, my feelings aside, that does not change what Wonder Woman means to others, the impact it has created immediately. And I hope…
I am fatigued by superhero movies. I’ve been at the all you can eat buffet for too long. I didn’t realize some people were still locked out, starving for that thing it used to give me.