Wonder Woman (2017)
Guest writer and film fan Ricky Manson discusses Wonder Woman, and why it’s release served more than just a cinematic purpose.
Why we needed Wonder Woman NOW.
As a keen lover of comic books and superheroes, I have been waiting for a Wonder Woman film for a long time. In a genre dominated by larger than life male characters like Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and the Avengers, it is rare that female characters get their time to shine, and if flops like Elektra (2005) and Catwoman (2004) are any indication, Hollywood isn’t keen on taking risks when the market is not accepting of female-led superhero films. But if any super-heroine deserves her dues, it is Wonder Woman.
I was anxious for the Amazonian warrior’s film debut: previous instalments in DC’s hastily assembled movie universe such as Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016) and Suicide Squad (2016) were met with mixed to negative responses. With Marvel continuing to offer more diverse and tonally unique movies year after year, I was certain that another flop would not only sink the DC ship, but miscommunicate to the film industry that the world does not want more films with female leads.
Fortunately, the film was rightly met with the critical acclaim it deserved, and I personally found it exceeded my expectations. But what makes Wonder Woman (2017) fundamentally relevant today extends beyond the basic feminist message and strong female characters that have garnered the film its well deserved praise, ensuring a potential future for more female driven blockbusters. At face value it’s an empowering story about the strength of women, but upon further analysis it’s incredibly accurate stance on the greyness of morality elevates the film thanks to the social climate it premiered into.
Wonder Woman premiered in the UK in June of 2017, the same month an Islamic Terrorist attack at the London Bridge left 8 dead. The attack was preceded two weeks prior by the bombing of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester that injured 250 people and killed a further 23, and just eight weeks after the attack in Westminster that killed five. It is no exaggeration that the social climate of the world (but specifically a Post-EU Referendum UK) was one of shock, anger, and most importantly further distrust in the Middle East and the Islamic Faith, against which no doubt a biased hatred was aimed. This was never more apparent than on June 19th when a fourth terrorist attack struck London, only this time the perpetrator was a Welsh father of four, who injured 8 with his van outside the Finsbury Park Mosque. As it often does ignorant fear bred hate, and in the eyes of many in the UK the line between terrorists and the Islamic faith was unfairly feathered into a blur.
The best films stay with you for days, perhaps even weeks, after the credits have rolled and you’ve driven back home from the cinemas, and it’s my firm belief that in periods of darkness like the one our country has recently gone through, the truly great films hold a mirror to society and force us to look at ourselves. What Wonder Woman does so brilliantly without even meaning to is provide commentary on the current social state of the United Kingdom, and the borderline ignorant idealism that plagues too many of the population.
Wonder Woman follows Diana, Princess of the Amazonian island of Themyscira which is exclusively populated by Amazonian warrior women. Growing up on this peaceful island, Diana’s only contact with the world of men and the carnage of war is in extremely simplified stories told to her by her mother; fables about the God of war Ares corrupting the hearts of men. When Diana finally receives her call to adventure, and travels with Chris Pine’s spy Steve Trevor into the very real horrors of WWI she is shocked by what she sees.
As I watched her struggle I came to the realisation that Diana’s stance on evil in the world is not at all dissimilar from that of Western Civilization: Diana is good at heart, she wants for good things in this world like peace and harmony. She wishes for mankind to be free from the pain and conflict that war brings. But she is ignorant: she concludes very early on that the destruction of Ares is all that is necessary to rid man’s heart of evil and stop any and all conflict forever.
Diana finally does meet Ares in the climax, confused as to why the war continues on, and learns that hate has always been present in the world of men even without his influence. He offers Diana the chance to kill Nazi chemist Doctor Poison, responsible for the suffering and deaths of hundreds of casualties, and join him in eradicating the inherently corrupt humankind completely, certain that with them hate will also die and paradise on Earth will be restored. But Diana spares the doctor, and though she acknowledges that all humans fundamentally possess darkness within themselves, she recognises they also have the potential for good, and that if we have any chance of peace in this world, we must fight hate with love.
Yes, Diana is Wonder Woman. She is independent, courageous, kind and a fantastic role model for young girls to look up to, especially when played as masterfully as she is by Israeli actress Gal Gadot. But Diana is also us. She is horrified by the violence that plagues her world, she wants to rectify it, but she does not recognise the truth beyond her basic idealisation of good and evil: you can’t fight hate with more hate, and wiping out one vilification be it Ares or ISIS will not purge hate from men. Humans are flawed, we will always have evil in our hearts, and truth be told the day may never come where we can all hold hands in unison and strive for a better tomorrow. But in the acceptance of each other despite our differences, and the attempt in recognising our similarities with respect and understanding of one another, we may have a chance.
In a time where superhero films are everywhere, and only just now being recognised as a genre capable of producing meaningful, nuanced and complex stories such as Logan (2017) or Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-2012) Wonder Woman was a pleasant surprise. I was expecting a progressive yet fun and action-filled popcorn flick with strong female leads, balanced humour and drama, and I got it. But I was extremely impressed with the questions it left me with about our attitudes towards evil in this world and our stance on how to combat it. Wonder Woman came into our cinemas at exactly the right time and it is a better film for it. Four Stars.
Author: Ricky Manson