“May we get what we want, may we get what we need and may we never get what we deserve.” – An Irish toast
It’s been twenty-four hours since I watched Wonder Woman and I’m still reeling from the dazzling writing and performances. Starring Gal Gadot and Chris Pine, directed by Patty Jenkins, this film packs a perfectly balanced punch of entertainment, humor and one woman’s reckoning of the state of humankind.
Diana (Gal Gadot) is a warrior princess born and raised on the secluded island of Themyscira, the land of the Amazonians, a tribe created by Greek God Zeus to protect the world from his evil son Ares, the god of War. She is trained by her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) against her mother’s, Queen Hippolyta, (Connie Nielsen) wishes. All is well on this breathtakingly beautiful landscape inhabited only by women till pilot Steve Trevor’s (Chris Pine) plane crashes off the coast and Diana rescues him. Shocked to hear of the Great War happening beyond the bubbled protection of her reality, she is convinced that Ares is responsible and must be stopped to save mankind. Disobeying her mother’s warning about the world of men who are undeserving, she sets sail with Steve with her weapons- indestructible metal bracelets, lasso of truth, sword and shield.
The story line itself is quite simple and at several instances weak. Perhaps this was a deliberate effort to keep the focus on Diana and Trevor’s relationship and their navigation through a battle that is far too disturbing. Diana believes that German General Ludendorf (Danny Huston) is Ares and destroying him will end the war. As they sail together on the boat in darkness towards London, she tells Trevor her plan and with glowing ambition concludes, “And the world will be better, you’ll see.”
I must confess that my motivation at the time of booking my ticket for the film almost a month ago was to relish watching Wonder Woman kick some serious bad-guy butt. Sure, Black Widow has been around for a while as part of the Avengers, but for the first time in seventeen years comes along a massive blockbuster dedicated solely to the introduction and development of a female super-hero.
The action sequences do not disappoint, especially the first major battle on the island between the Amazonians and German invaders. Seeing the women in all their glory brandishing swords, leaping on and off galloping horses with utmost panache, plucking and releasing arrows while dangling mid-air, is sure to get your ovaries bubbling with pride. The leather skirts, Gladiator sandals, bronze armors and marvelous capes add to the stunning visuals of battle captured in slow motion.
But setting aside all the adrenalin flooding stunts, what sets Wonder Woman apart? What does Team DC do differently in terms of writing, direction and sculpting of characters?
It all comes down to the dynamic between Diana Prince and Steve Trevor. He is a man who is secure in knowing she is stronger than him, listens to her ludicrous beliefs and holds back the urge to correct her, loves her for sharing his burning need to change the world, watches her longingly with soft blue eyes and touches her only when she invites him quietly to do so. Even the complementary forces of the feminine versus masculine is depicted subtly yet beautifully. In a scene where Diana walks through a field with victims of war screaming in pain, she tells Trevor they must stop but he replies saying there is no point as they will die anyway and it is imperative to keep moving on. This is a moment that perfectly juxtaposes the woman’s rash empathetic and emotional reflex besides that of the rational man’s ability to be disconnected enough to make calculative decisions.
Gadot and Pine’s chemistry tingles with a non-clichéd sweetness. Her eyes dance with animated anger and passion. She is fierce, caring, vulnerable, fascinated by babies and ice-cream. Although Pine’s performance is crucial to her epiphanies of war and human nature, his endearing restraint helps her remain the core of our attention.
The closing face-off between Wonder Woman and her nemesis is nothing short of brilliance as we watch her disappointment and anger crescendo into an explosion of wrath. She walks through a field of golden flames, screaming with rage and hurling men who cross her path. The transformation is complete; naïve and hopeful Diana to tempestuous superhero who realizes her mother was right. Gadot shines with purpose and pain and it will take every ounce of effort to resist the tears.
Wonder Woman was created by the American psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston who described his motivation behind the character as, “Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who, I believe, should rule the world.” At a time when the comic industry was dominated by testosterones, she was introduced as a warrior with both physical strength and the ability to use love and truth to fight for those who could not defend themselves.
We ought to celebrate this film that has done justice to Moulton’s vision by fleshing out a modern Wonder Woman who is bold, compassionate and unabashedly in touch with her feminine instinct. It embodies a vital message for us women who struggle whilst treading the fine line between embracing an innate desire to view the world with our hearts and defending our spirits from being trampled upon by reality.