Friday, June 30, 2017

Movie Review: Wonder Woman (2017)

Wonder Woman (2017) directed by Patty Jenkins

A young girl named Diana grows up on the island of Themyscira inhabited only by women. But not any ordinary women, they are the Amazons of Greek legend. They've been granted a sanctuary by Zeus and a solemn mission to prevent Ares, the god of war, from corrupting and slaughtering mankind. The island is protected from the outside world by a mystical barrier that keeps it hidden from the sight of men.

Diana is the only child on the whole island and is beloved by all. Diana wants to learn to fight but her mother, the queen, is reluctant. Even so, all Diana sees is women training for battle with spears and swords and arrows and shields. She trains in secret, which becomes quite helpful when a World War I pilot crash lands just off the island. The pilot is Steve Trevor, an American spy who had infiltrated a German base where they were crafting a new nerve gas weapon. His escape from the base was not subtle and a horde of German boats come to the island right behind him. The Germans sail through the mystical barrier and a big battle ensues.

Once the Germans are dispatched, the Amazons find out about the war from Steve, who is definitely a fish out of water in their society. Diana wants to escort Steve back so she can help fight what is clearly Ares's work. Her mother is again reluctant but Diana goes. The world of men is a very different place from the paradise of the Amazons.

The movie then shifts gears as Diana becomes the fish out of water in Steve's world. She doesn't quite fit in to a world where women are secondary, but Diana stands up for herself and her beliefs. She and Steve work together to plan an attack on a German munitions base where the gas is being manufactured. Steve wants to stop the gas; Diana wants to stop Ares.

The movie works well as a popcorn action film with plenty of comedy relief to keep it popcorny rather than pretentious. It does flirt with pretentiousness. Weirdly, it both promotes and undercuts Wonder Woman's mythological origins. She's told the story about how she was formed of clay by her mom then Zeus gave the clay doll life. Her mother eventually undercuts that story. There's no film sequence showing Diana's creation, so it's left ambiguous. Given that other mythological elements turn out to be false, there's little reason to accept the story of her birth. Diana is shown to be naive in her understanding of the world, an idealism that she grows out of by the end of the story. I found that part disappointing.

On the other hand, the action is exciting and fun if a bit over the top at times (the final battle, as in most modern superhero movies, is a bit nonsensical and mostly a CGI light show). The tension between Diana's Themysciran sensibility and the "modern" 1917 sensibility adds some comedy, something sorely lacking in recent DC comic book movies, and inoffensive social commentary. Having the movie set in 1917 also gives it a nice "period drama" feel. Diana is her own woman and her ideals of love and compassion are inspiring even more than her fisticuffs and sword play.



  1. Is it suitable for 6 yr olds to watch?

    1. Yeah, not really. The World War I battles, injuries, and deformities are a bit intense (the weapons were a lot more effective than the medicine back then). Diana and Steve have a conversation about sex that could lead to an awkward conversation for that age.