There is a specific thrill of anticipation I personally feel whenever I am sitting in a darkened theater waiting to see a DC universe film. Where comic book movies are concerned, for me, it does not get bigger than Batman and Superman. They were the heroes that towered taller than any others in my young mind.
So to say that I was excited to see, at long last, the final member of DC's Trinity on screen in her own standalone film would be an understatement.
While I personally have found many things to enjoy about the DC cinematic universe thus far, it is quite apparent that it suffers from some deep flaws. The glorious days of Nolan's superior, brilliant, and separate Dark Knight trilogy are behind us. The current iteration of the DC universe has had trouble finding its footing, constantly playing catch-up with Marvel's lighter-hearted and excellently paced MCU, which I love. But there is something about the weight and gravitas of the DC characters that speaks to me on a deep, personal level. I loved Man of Steel, and loved most parts of Batman V Superman. I see the potential for greatness in the DCCU, but it is a greatness it has yet to truly attain in the minds of many.
So the question is this: Is Wonder Woman the hero the DC cinematic universe needed?
Guys. She really is.
My hat is not only tipped, but taken off and tossed aside to director Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot.
In a cinematic universe dominated by male characters and heavy displays of physical power, she showed us that not only can Wonder Woman hold her own, but she can make a run at being the best of the bunch. And at this point in the DCCU, the Last Son of Krypton perhaps should take a page out of Wonder Woman's playbook. She is the kind of hero the heart longs for, full of nobility and optimism and courage. And those are the things I want to talk about.
But first, there are some weaknesses. The DCCU's curse of the third-act battle is present, but this film is ultimately able to overcome it. And Wonder Woman's struggle with the tension between her own philosophy and the brutality of reality is ultimately better than her struggle with the actual villain.
The film is visually stunning, the island paradise of Themyscira being an obvious highlight. The movie is also genuinely funny, the humor showing up at just the right moments without overstaying its welcome. The early show is stolen by Robin Wright's Antiope, who, if you'll pardon my language, kicks all the ass. The action took me by surprise; it is visceral, stylish, and powerfully inspiring. And watching Wonder Woman fight made me think, "This is how a hero should fight."
But her courage is just as defensive as it is offensive. She doesn't shoot bullets, she deflects them. She uses her shield just as much as her sword. Instead of turning an enemy's gun back on him, she destroys it. The action reinforces her character in a simple and beautiful way.
It is very apt that one of Wonder Woman's most powerful tools is the truth. In a film where I was expecting its philosophy to be its biggest weakness, it is that reliance on the truth that makes the core philosophy of the film possibly its greatest strength.
The role of the land of Themyscira and the Amazons is very much that of Heaven and the angels. And it is the intrusion of mankind onto the stage that sets Diana on a path that will take her away from her home and force her to confront the horrors of the world and the darkness of humanity. It is Paradise Lost, and Diana must learn the price that must be paid for mankind's redemption.
There is not a hint of cynicism in Diana, and it is simultaneously endearing and naive. Diana is so optimistic and idealist, watching her realize the very real terrors of humanity's world is heart-wrenching. In a very real way, we watch her lose her innocence, and it stings. It stings because it is an innocence that we all know we once had, destroyed at the expense of the darkness that lives with it side by side.
And Diana must learn that we are, none of us, good. We don't deserve saving. But as the film itself says, "deserve" isn't the point. The point is what you BELIEVE.
Just as Diana must choose her path, so this film also had to make a choice. In our contemporary culture, a film like this could take the high-road or the low-road; the high of elevating everyone by elevating Wonder Woman, her gender, and her fellow people, or the low of man-bashing and gaining ground at the expense of others. I am more than happy to say that for the most part, this film walks the high-road with its noble chin, and not its nose, held high. And that is the kind of feminism I can get behind.
Wonder Woman confronts what is worst and darkest in us, and encourages and inspires what is best in us. That is what a good woman does. That is what a good person does. And that is what a good hero does.
Wonder Woman is not a hero for young girls. She is not a hero for mature women.
She is a hero for all of us.