The long-anticipated “Wonder Woman” hits theaters this weekend, and the reviews are in. The great news: It appears to be better than “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”The main thing many of us have been wondering about Wonder Woman is whether or not Warner Bros was actually planning to release it. For months you could have heard a pin drop on the publicity front: not exactly standard procedure in blockbuster tradecraft.
Perhaps the mere fact of it being a female-led superhero film gave them jitters. Perhaps it had something to do with the abuse meted out to the cast of last year’s all-women Ghostbusters reboot. Studios want hits, not causes, and Wonder Woman is a cause in waiting. Of the 55 comic-book films produced by Hollywood in the last decade, zero have been centred on a solo female character: to put that statistic in its fullest perspective, that’s two fewer than have been centred on dogs. Girls in costumes can be one of the boys – one Avenger or X-Man of many – but for an unchaperoned heroine you have to go back to 2005’s Elektra, and no-one should have to do that.
Wonder Woman has a lightness and wryness that none of its DC predecessors could claim, but it’s still about philosophical crisis and a hero trying to find an identity. It’s still exploring the DCEU’s favorite themes: whether mankind truly deserves heroes, and whether it’s possible for one person to justly wield immense power. Director Patty Jenkins (Monster) and screenwriter Allan Heinberg explore those themes with a humanity that the franchise’s previous films were lacking. They take their protagonist’s natural superiority for granted, making it a joy instead of a heavy burden. In their hands, Wonder Woman questions her place in the world, but not her inherent identity. And it makes all the difference to the story.
Born to an all-female race of Amazons supposedly put on the Earth by Zeus to be a guiding light for humanity, Diana (Gal Gadot) knows from childhood that she wants to be a warrior, and she defies her overprotective mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) at every turn in order to get the training she needs. Martial leader Antiope (Robin Wright) initially tutors her in secret, but Diana becomes a powerful, confident fighter, undermined only by Antiope’s constant insistence that she’s holding back, that she’s more powerful than she realizes.