Renewed hope for DC Comics

Wonder Woman, Warner Bros. Pictures’ latest superhero movie, was released last month, transforming it from a long-awaited retelling of the superhero’s origin story for comic book fans, to a pop culture sensation thriving off of word-of-mouth recommendations. The movie illustrates Wonder Woman’s rise to prominence in the midst of World War I, but it also proves to be a journey of discovery for all. Longtime fans can rediscover the universe in live action, newcomers can familiarize themselves with her backstory, and even Diana—Wonder Woman herself—can embark on a daunting first adventure in the human world that leads to both self-discovery and worldly understanding.

The plot of the movie itself is rather simple: a sheltered and hopeful Diana endeavors to stop Ares, who she believes is the cause of the war. We follow her through not-so-humble island beginnings, to industrial England, to the epicenter of destruction in Germany. Though simple in nature, I personally appreciated the literary structure of it—the different stages of the movie loosely reflect Diana’s Hero(ine)’s Journey, and her acclimation to her newfound powers and role in the world of men. With both strong ideals and cinematography, I think that there’s something for everyone.

Overall, Wonder Woman is visually solid. The scenes and settings are varied, with island scenery, ocean sailing, bustling England, and war action. The movie covers a diverse range of cinematography that’s largely enjoyable, and it doesn’t become tiresome to watch—though I confess that the special effects were awkward at times, such as the lack of coordination between a supernatural attack and body movements. Each of those phases also projected a different atmosphere. Diana’s home island of Themyscira was peaceful, inviting, and familial; the ocean created a slight sense of wandering anticipation; her time in England was rather upbeat and whimsical; and the fight scenes and action shots brought the usual rush of adrenaline.

More importantly, I’d like to sing glowing praise for Wonder Woman’s strong ideals. The movie draws on hefty themes, such as altruism (helping those who can’t protect themselves), the human experience (“everyone’s fighting their own battle, Diana. Just as you’re fighting your own”), the rotten cruelty of humanity (the desire for war), and the idea of righteousness itself (“it’s not about [what humans] deserve, it’s about what you believe”). What sets Diana apart from other superheroes is that, in addition to having these themes incorporated in her story, she also lives by them. Her motivation to be a hero and the way that she handles situations are both facilitated by her deep sense of morality. Wonder Woman also happens to be a paragon of feminism—and not the petty social justice sort. It features a relationship that doesn’t overshadow the plot; that means more harmless eye candy for all! This leaves room for feminist subtext that healthily normalizes women as equals to men. Diana pulls her own weight, and her interactions with other characters are balanced. Even if she is met with slight surprise at first, she carries on so freely that she redefines the female role.

The movie built up to a classic Hero’s Journey climax that was narratively and emotionally intense. Though Diana does hesitate in a very human way, she presses on with her physical strength and ideals when she is needed most. And although it mellowed out, I thought the end was riveting. It brought tears to my eyes, which is essentially my equivalent of a full-on cry.

For a first installment, Wonder Woman set an excellent precedent. It brought just what was needed: boldness in many places, a sliver of doubt, a struggle that is universally relatable, and a sense of hope… for both viewers and DC’s box office performance. (I’m looking at you, Suicide Squad.) It may have had a plot that lacked depth, and the effects weren’t the smoothest I’ve ever seen; but in a few years people will say, “What were you expecting? It’s from 2017!” and it still serves as an enjoyable viewing experience in many ways. It’s varied, literarily sound, exciting, touching, and meaningful. Best of all, the Wonder Woman has become an exemplar for children who want to be her and have lunch boxes with her on it, boys and girls alike. I’ve watched it twice now, and one thing is certain: I can’t wait for more.