In 2011, when Captain America: The First Avenger came out, I wrote a review that basically boiled down to: I’d watch the TV show but am bored with the pilot episode. Given my glee and love for Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War, I’d say that was about right.
I feel the same about Wonder Woman. I love Gal Gadot, loved her take on Wonder Woman as a figure of good and truth with a dash of whimsy and humor, and thought that the mythology built around her was compelling and intriguing – but thought that actual movie was a lot of set up with little actual import. Given that we know where Wonder Woman ends up, and we know that the majority of her adventures will not take place in the 1920s, there’s a “flash back episode” quality to the overall movie that just failed to connect with me.
Which, yes, breaks my heart. Because I have been dying for a Wonder Woman movie. Because I dream of Chris Pine playing rogueish-with-a-heart-of-gold pilots. Because I love women being handed the reigns of multi-million-dollar franchises. But at the end of the day, I enjoyed Wonder Woman (both times I saw it) but failed to love it.
And for the first half hour, I did love it. When Gal Gadot’s Diana was training on an island populated with interesting, muscle-y ladies and flirting with Chris Pine as he does his very best Little Mermaid impression in a pool of blue water, I was there for it. I was even there for it once they took off “for the war” and we were treated to a makeover montage subversion that should probably be handed the Oscar for “Best Use of An Over-Used Trope.” But when the movie started focusing on Aries and Diana’s emotional journey, it lost me.
Some of this was the plot, which was (in movie-typical DC fashion) half baked. Diana needs to defeat Aries to help free mankind from his influence. Yet her thematic journey was to realizing that there is darkness at the heart of men regardless of the gods, and she needs to love them regardless. Which is then immediately undermined when (spoiler alert) she defeats Aries, and the German soldiers take off their masks and start hugging our heroes. There’s also a subplot with a German chemical weapons expert that involves the world’s worst face mask and a completely failed attempt at thematic resonance.
Or the fact that the movie fridges Steve Trevor for no reason. Diana, who can fly could have easily saved her would be paramour from his firey death if she had just decided to focus on that rather than a (as previously mentioned) thematically useless battle against Aries.
I also resent movie climaxes where the protagonist just needs to believe in themselves more in order to unlock their super powers. It means that everything that happened before that was kind of the fault of the protagonist rather than a journey that needed to be taken so that the battle can be won. To watch Diana finally defeat Aries not through cleverness, or her new found power of love, or teamwork with her human allies, but because she’s finally figured out how to really access her powers feels – at best, cheap, and at worst, undermining.
All of this probably sounds pretty negative – but the truth is that Wonder Woman is a really enjoyable movie and by far the best of the DC Cinematic output. It sets up a future for the DC world that goes beyond its testosterone-fueled mayhem fests, and offers a star turn for the future of female superheroes.
In short, it’s a TV show I am excited to watch, with a pilot that I thought was “so-so.”
- That said, the action in the movie is top notch and I am grateful to the astounding stunts team
- I also really enjoyed the movie subverting a lot of lady-tropes in the piece
- Robin Wright is a goddess
- Chris Pine may always kind of seem like Captain Kirk, but I’m totally here for his Steve Rodgers – ugh I mean Steve Trevor.
- Also, This.