Steve Trevor might be above average, but Patty Jenkins’ ‘Wonder Woman’ stands head and shoulders above the rest.
One of the most difficult obstacles for DC to overcome on the live-action front has always been properly translating the majestic, larger-than-life mystique of the Justice League (especially Wonder Woman and Superman) from page to screen in a way that doesn’t compromise the realistic tone of the films.
Using Alex Ross’ art is probably cheating but I care less than Batfleck does about his no-kill rule | DC Comics
DC failed to capture the aforementioned majesty of Superman in both “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and the films suffered for it. I don’t think you could find a better actor to portray Superman from a visual standpoint—Henry Cavill’s physical stature is imposing, and his dimpled jaw looks strong enough to tank a point-blank, tag-team uppercut from Darkseid and Thanos (he’s not doing shit over in the MCU, so he might as well come hang out in the DCEU with the dude whose swag he jacked)—but he’s yet to mesh that “HOLY FUCK THIS GUY CAN KICK THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF US WITHOUT TRYING” image with the “wow this dude will save my cat from a tree and help my grandparents cross the street while inspiring me to floss my teeth daily” boy-scout bravado. Ironically, Tyler Hoechlin perfectly embodies the latter, but not the former on the CW’s “Supergirl;” can we just make them do the Dragon Ball Z Fusion Dance and have our perfect Superman already?
Their fusion name is “Superman” | Toei Animation
Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman’s” greatest achievement, aside from having the biggest domestic opening weekend of all-time for a female-directed film (#casual) and creating a blockbuster feminist narrative that will inspire and empower an entire generation of young girls, is Wonder Woman herself.
Gal Gadot is Diana Prince, and Jenkins’ direction allows her character to glow like the demigoddess that she is.
Wonder Woman with a fan | DC Entertainment
From a structural standpoint, “Wonder Woman’s” narrative is built on the backbone of a mantra of “show, don’t tell.” Gadot’s Diana establishes her character through her own actions, and not the forced exposition of supporting character dialogue. At no point of the film are we beaten over the head by Steve Trevor or any of his squad telling us how amazing (er, wonderful) Diana is, making every pivotal moment of her character development feel more organic and impactful. And, while we do frequently get cuts to his awestruck facial reactions, Steve never tells us what to think, cutting out a narrative middle-man to create a direct emotional connection between the audience and Diana, making everything she does that much more enrapturing. It also avoids the potential pitfall of having a woman’s worth validated by a man, which is both refreshing and crucially important.
No scene better demonstrates the power of this creative decision than No Man’s Land, where we finally see Diana ascend from warrior princess to superhero. And I mean, like, really ascend to superhero. Every superhero origin movie has that cliché defining-moment-type-thing where the hero puts on their mask or suit for the first time, but “Wonder Woman’s” absolutely destroys every single predecessor’s.
OH MY GOD IT’S HAPPENING! EVERYBODY STAY CALM! | DC Entertainment
And, even though we know her big moment is about to happen because Steve apparently just watched “The Lord of the Rings” for the first time and can’t stop referencing it, it doesn’t matter — and that’s what makes it even more impressive. I was holding back the public ugly-cry from the moment she says “fuck all y’all weak ass dudes; I’m doing this myself” and climbs the ladder to (I Am) No Man’s Land through the end of the battle scene. There was a real-life superhero standing in front of me (well, like a hologram of one or however the hell movies work), and I was completely in awe.
“Ugh why doesn’t the woman from an undiscoverable island not get my sweet pop-culture references?” — Steve Trevor, probably | New Line Cinema
But that moment was about more than just (retroactively) introducing Wonder Woman, superhero, to the world — it was about introducing Diana Prince, feminist icon.
Patty Jenkins did an incredible job of consistently putting Diana in situations representative of the everyday struggles faced by women in a patriarchal society without forcing the exposition (catching the theme here?). Whether it’s being made to cover her WARRIOR ARMOR in public because it shows too much leg, struggling to find clothes that she can actually, like, move in, having a bunch of old men say she shouldn’t be in a military meeting because she’s a woman (note that they didn’t care about whether or not she had security clearance…just that she had boobs) or just generally being told “no” by men throughout her travels with Steve, Diana is quickly baptized into the World of (Sexist) Man during the first half of the film.
Her decision to toss aside her robe in favor of her shield and step into the allegedly uncrossable No Man’s Land symbolizes her refusal to accept the subservient role this new society has pre-chosen for her, and catalyzes her development from a naïve newcomer to the take-shit-from-no-man dynamo who delivers what will probably (and deservedly) become the film’s most iconic line:
If you look closely, you can actually pinpoint the exact moment his fragile masculinity rips in half | DC Entertainment
Throughout the film, Jenkins shows her characters consistently making the same, sometimes fatal, mistake: underestimating Diana because she’s a woman. But, no matter how much of this misogyny she faces, Diana never crumbles, devalues or underestimates herself.
And that’s because Diana, Princess of Themyscira, can do anything. But it’s not the circumstances of her birth or a magical sword that make her Wonder Woman — it’s the belief that she has in herself, and in the goodness of those around her that make her who she is. Sure, being the daughter of Zeus and an Amazon gave her superhuman abilities, but her true strength and sense of heroism come from the purity of her heart. And if you think that’s cheesy, go to Hades.
Wonder Woman stands for the belief that love will always triumph, as long as someone stands to fight for it. She reminds us that, whether it’s with a sword, a pen or anything in between, as long as we fight for love, we can all be superheroes — and we can all be Wonder Woman.