First and foremost, apologies, Gentle Readers, for neglecting you for so long. I have sort of fallen off the blogging bandwagon, as it were. This past spring semester was a little rough for me: four classes, four preps, five days a week, not to mention research and service obligations. A lot of my writing fell away as I worked to keep my head above water.
But now, we are in June, summer is here–woe am I, so is the heat–and I have just seen the Wonder Woman movie.
I have waited my entire life to see this movie, Friends, and yes, it was well worth the wait. From my youth watching Wonder Woman: The TV Series and Challenge of the Superfriends and wearing Underoos and reading comics to this, my adulthood, at 40, still gaga for Wonder Woman, this movie brought to life a character I have cherished as long as I can remember.
I have posted much on Facebook today, and one comment said that for me, it was always Princesses: Diana, Princess of Themyscira, and Princess Leia. My two pop culture heroines. And today, I got to see one of those finally on the big screen in her own movie.
Beware, Gentle Reader, that from here forward, There Be Spoilers.
WW begins with Diana at the Louvre, looking at a glass photographic plate from WWI sent to her by Bruce Wayne. She thinks back to her life as a child on Paradise Island, and instead of wispy willows of women, we are treated to athletic and strong bodies, bodies of war and of peace, and a small child, the only child on the Island. Diana of course wants to fight, and her Aunt trains her in secret. When her Mother finds out, she demands that Diana be better and stronger than any warrior whose come before.
When Steve Trevor breaches the veil that clouds Themyscira, his plane crashes into the ocean. A now-grown Diana rescues him and sees, for the first time, a Man. Some of the differences are played for laughs–mostly his discomfort and her matter-of-factness–but there’s nothing funny about the Amazons when the Germans come. These are warriors, trained to fight, and despite the Germans’ “superior” weapons–they have guns while the Amazons have swords and arrows–they are defeated. The Amazons question Steve Trevor, who tells them about the War to End All Wars: WWI.
Diana chooses to leave Paradise to help save millions of lives, and she leaves with her mother’s blessing, the sacred weapons of the Island, and a heavy heart. When they arrive in London, via vessel, all she can say is that Man’s World is “hideous.”
And I imagine it would be, after living her entire life surrounded by bright skies and blue waters.
But Diana takes it, as she does all things, in stride. She meets Etta Candy (This Humble Author’s Personal Favorite–Woo! Woo!) and again, we have some humorous scenes as Diana navigates 1918 clothing and revolving doorways and misogyny (A woman? In the War Council Room?! The vapors that ensued!). She carries her sword and shield through London and revolving doors and entrusts them to Etta Candy’s capable hands while she bargains and negotiates. See, Amazons aren’t just mindless warriors. They’re strategists, too. They know the Art of War and the Art of Peace.
Along with Steve Trevor and his ragtag bunch of compatriots, and the secret blessing of one of the British High War Council (more on him in a minute), Diana heads to France and singlehandedly takes No Man’s Land.
Let me repeat that.
She singlehandedly takes No Man’s Land.
Oh, the British and the ragtag bunch help, of course, but not until Diana is mostly through the German gunfire. Not until she has taken more land, inch by inch, than the British Army has in a year. She defeats the Germans, and rushes to save the nearby village from their reign of terror.
While all of this happens, there is a German plot to advance a deadly chemical weapon heretofore unseen by any. Diana is convinced that the German General is none other than Ares, the God of War himself, based on bedtime stories her mother told her as a child.
Diana fights for righteousness and love and peace. She tears through the German army like the skirt fabric she ripped back at the dress shop. And when I tell you that I cried to see Diana on the frontlines of battle, supported by men (not the other way around), I tell you truth. In one scene, she takes down a German sniper by literally jumping off the backs of the men on the ground.
Yes, that’s correct. She launches herself skyward at a belltower literally off the backs of men.
Clever, clever writing and directing, that.
When she finally finds and kills the German Commander whom she is convinced is Ares in human form, she is surprised that the War doesn’t end immediately. Steve tries to explain human nature to her, but here, Diana’s purity cannot comprehend hatred, greed, violence, and the continuation of war. She is shocked, immovable, and Steve leaves her to contend with stopping the chemical attack headed for London.
This is when she sees the true Ares, the British High Command who secretly backed their trip to Belgium. He reveals himself as Ares, and when she comes at him with the “Godkiller,” the legendary sword she took from the Island armory, it breaks against his hand.
It seems that there’s no such thing as a God-killing sword.
There is, however, the ability for a God to kill a God.
Diana is a goddess, daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta, and she was created to be the Amazons’ greatest weapon against Ares. But he is strong and he is smart and he challenges her and seemingly defeats her as Steve Trevor sacrifices himself to save London.
But with that sacrifice, Diana comes to remember her true purpose: love, for humanity, for people, for herself. She fights back, harder than before, and manages to defeat Ares. She may have lost Steve, but she won the War for Good and Right.
This is a beautiful movie. It is a strong and powerful movie. I probably would have loved it even if it was terrible (which it’s not). Tom and Lorenzo discuss how many people are comparing Gal Gadot’s performance to Christopher Reeve’s performance as Superman. I see that: the good and right and just.
But there’s a darkness in Wonder Woman that there never was in Superman (at least, in most of his portrayals). Superman, above all else, wants to be Clark Kent. Diana of Themyscira needs no such masks. She is who she is, and decidedly not one of us. Of all the writers on Wonder Woman over the years, Greg Rucka got this the most: the foreignness, the strangeness of Wonder Woman. But she loves us, and of all the writers over the years, Gail Simone got that. Simone, and Allan Heinberg, who scripted the screenplay for this movie. We may not always be worthy of her love, but she will always love us, and protect us, even from ourselves.
This is a beautiful movie, and I cried with joy when she took on the Germans, and I cried in sorrow when Steve sacrificed himself. But mostly I smiled throughout this movie, for two hours, so much so my face began to hurt. She was there. She was finally there, my Amazon Warrior.
I write to you now wearing a Wonder Woman shirt, drinking from a Wonder Woman cup, in my room with my shelves of Wonder Woman action figures and paraphernalia. I write to you as a squee fangirl who’s read and watched and loved and lived. But also, lest you forget, I write to you as a writer, as a reader, as a critic. I am trained in literary analysis and reading texts, and further, I am trained as a Feminist New Historicist critic. I know what’s come before. I know the fight for Suffrage, for representation, against glass ceilings and misogyny and the struggle for equal representation.
This movie may not solve the issues of the world.
But it’s a start.