Wonder Woman: A Dry-Eyed Account
Wonder Woman, convinced that Bad German Lieutenant Guy is Ares, fights him, overpowers him, and finally impales him with the Godkiller. Before I get to that, back to that name: Godkiller. What a name for a weapon, and to be wielded by a woman, the only person worthy and powerful enough to slay gods, particularly gods turned monstrous, is truly awesome. Even though the sword was nothing but metal and the wielder herself the Godkiller, it was sad to see it evaporate into junk after so much hype.
Back to when the Godkiller impales that Bad German Lieutenant Guy: at one point the blade is shown sticking out of the Guy’s body. Bloodless. Like Wonder Woman stuck it between a crack in the floorboards or something. There was nothing on that sword to indicate that death happened, that a long-awaited prophecy was fulfilled, that the stakes in this game came down to living or dead. I think of that bloodless sword when I think of this film.
It is important in the way everyone knows it to be important. It does the job it is supposed to do. It even slayed Tom Cruise in another dark universe. Is it better than any live-action offering D.C. has offered since Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight? Absolutely. Will it be better than Justice League? Most assuredly yes. But that’s relative to the DC universe, and to superhero films in general. Wonder Woman beyond the confines and expectations of its genre is no better than the worst offerings of its kind.
I had no expectations going into this film. None. I didn’t yearn to see Wonder Woman get the same Big Budget Blowout her fellow members of the Trinity experience on a cyclical basis (well, one member — Superman is a problem because he’s boring as hell). I was honestly more excited watching Wonder Woman straight killing people with peerless efficiency in Flashpoint, the animated DC movie, than I was the entire two hours and twenty-one minutes of Wonder Woman. And it has nothing to do with Gal Gadot. She imbues the character with charm, makes her feel human, relatable, approachable. And Gadot does something else that is hard to find in an actor, harder still to display in a Big Budget Blowout — she is artless, but not in that icky, girl-trapped-in-sexy-adult-woman way, but in the guileless, blindingly white hot way of pure conviction, absolute truth, sure knowledge, no bullshit. Gadot expresses the loss of that innocence nicely, without much ado. In terms of portrayal, Gadot’s Wonder Woman is close to that of the Wonder Woman of the animated DC universe. And I will admit my bias here: that Wonder Woman is the one I adore, because she is the one I grew up watching.
And I found myself waiting for that Wonder Woman to make an appearance, the one who just bowled everyone over, including everyone. Caustic, quick, lethal, practical, compassionate — Wonder Woman embodies every great quality to be found in the founding members of the Justice League, with the added bonus of truth, no matter how brutal. If that Wonder Woman got a live-action film, my cardigan sleeve would be damp.
Alas, we get the Wonder Woman, I suppose, we deserve. One who emergers pristine from trench warfare, with hair that billows in chemical breezes. A Wonder Woman who engages in slo-mo, sanitized action scenes, who has her chaotic, incoherent, final battle with another banal DCEU antagonist. One who inexplicably has the time to engage in romance with her handler/explainer of how this world works. One who basically does what the other dudes did, but with more critical acclaim.
And for all the things it is and it isn’t, for all that it does and does not, for all the minor quibbles I have (eons go by and it is a downed plane that brings Themyscira into the 20th century) and soft side-eyes I gave (Steve Trevor punctures Diana’s membrane of protective innocence so much so that her mother warns her that she can never return if she leaves), the only truly bothersome thing about this movie, more than that gratingly stupid love scene that made me eye-roll so hard, I blacked out for ten seconds, was the Love-Conquers-All-I-do-Believe-In-Fairies dribble sandwiched between Steve Trevor blowing himself up and Wonder Woman vanquishing Ares, or Bad Thoughts personified.
I hate this speech. I hate the impetus for this speech. I hate that Wonder Woman arrived at this speech and went through with it and harnessed her god powers and zapped Bad Thoughts because Steve Trevor said he loved her, and wished he had more time to be with her, but innocent people and the Right Thing called so he’s gotta jet. No. I wish Wonder Woman, before that unfortunate flashback declaration, recalled who she was and where she was from and why her mother and her auntie and all the Amazons invested so much time, love, and care into her upbringing, why they trained for war despite living in paradise. I wish the awakening of her divinity happened because she remembered the dead in that village, and not because Steve Trevor said he loved her before pulling a Captain America.
What makes Wonder Woman special isn’t her divinity. It isn’t her sense of justice, or her affection for ice cream, or her unflinching relationship with the truth. It isn’t that she can fly or can match Superman’s and Batman’s wit. Wonder Woman is special because she doesn’t divide herself like Clark or Bruce. She has no dual identity. Diana Prince is Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman is Diana Prince. Women are her Lois Lane, the world is her Gotham. She is not inspired to become great and to vanquish evil — she is the inspiration. It would have been sobering to see Wonder Woman invest that belief in the titular character.