[When you see the word SPOILERS there will be vague but pretty big spoilers for the end of the film. I don’t think it gives anything away, really, but if you want to be safe then stop reading at that point. The rest of this is pretty much spoiler free, except that it talks about the themes of the film. If you want to discover them for yourself then go away. You have been warned!]
There’s a fresh joy to seeing loads of badass women being awesome, and to having a DC superhero film that doesn’t suck, but to just talk about the reasons Wonder Woman is an important film doesn’t really do much to explain why it’s a good one. And well, yeah. It’s a pretty flipping good one.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the badass women being awesome for a little bit though. Holy shiz niz on a bucket full of pie I’ve not enjoyed action scenes like this in forever. The fighting reminded me of 300, with copious amounts of slo-mo and angry looking faces glaring at each other from across the battlefield. Watching characters leap off of horses, posing in the air like valkeries of death, and firing off arrows down faster than Legolas on drugs was just plain awesome. I don’t enjoy lengthy actions scenes usually, but there was something undeniably entertaining about the clashing of swords and guns near the beginning of the film. For a movie ostensibly set in the First World War there’s a decent chunk of time spent away from the guns and the screaming and the trenches. Still, it left me wanting more. The island was a place I wanted to see, with its impossibly blue ocean and dreamy sky. It takes on a lush vibrancy that represents the very best the earth has to offer, and the sheer beauty of it makes the action that takes place there seem that much more of a dance. A carefully choreographed, intimately physical dance that leaves us in grinning at how flipping cool it all is. The women do impossible things, but they seem plausible. The actors really sell their gravity defying acrobatics, and it seems effortless and intense all at the same time. The islands natural perfection lend the scenes a certain sense of heightened realism anyway, which certainly helps the believability of the crazy mid fall backflips and unreasonable arrow accuracy.
As a contrast to the war torn fronts of the First World War, there is no greater stand in, and the first time Diana, Wonder Woman, finds herself amongst the bleeding, traumatised soldiers and thunderous artillery shells she realises just how completely shit humanity is. To go from Themiskyra, that brilliant, lush island, to this… It’s almost a good thing that the movie didn’t spend more time there, or this reveal might have been a little too much.
I think there’s a certain simplicity to the portrayal of the war, only compounded by the ending and two rather cartoonish villains (one of whom has been given the gloriously pulpy name of Doctor Poison), in that for all the time spent sympathising with the British forces there’s barely a hint that this whole thing might be awful for the German soldiers as well. Nevertheless, watching Wonder Woman be, well, about as useless as everyone else for a few minutes, is extremely effective in getting across just how bad this whole situation really is. Gal Gadot’s performance shows frustration and sadness and shock, a depth of feeling evoked much too rarely in these sorts of movies, and repeatedly Wonder Women proves herself to be a hero worth watching, not just because she’s great at punching people in the face, which she is, but because she’s in situations we can truly care about.
And here’s the thing. By coincidence or design, for me, right now, this movie couldn’t be more relevant. I care about her internal struggle so much, because she has turned up in a world she can’t believe is happening, and if nothing else, that’s what the world is to me right now. A place I barely recognise. It’s of course not the First World War, nowhere even close. But it is scary, to see Trump in power, to see Brexit happen, to read each and every day about the latest bomb that’s gone off, kid that’s been shot, life that’s been ruined. Things suck. Human beings suck. It’s awful to look at the world and be angry, when that’s exactly what I’m angry about. Its hate breeding hate and anger causing anger and people being people, which, I guess, isn’t such a good thing.
Wonder Woman is a film about all of that. It’s a film about us, about awful little human beings, being judged by gods. It’s a story as a question, a question that asks, will she bother helping us? Do we even deserve the help?
There is of course a death by the end of the film, and the inevitable rage that follows. It was a different kind of rage, though, not the martha! screaming angry dude who wants to punch stuff rage like I’m used to. It was an anger born out of real, tangible emotion, out of love and hope for people and the world. I wasn’t that sad when the sacrifice was made, but the moment I heard Gal Gadot scream, saw her face, I was in the moment. It would have been cheesy but she sold it, she sold it so well. She seemed unstoppable and furious and so deeply sad. It’s a film about feeling and the feeling in that moment was raw and untamed. And in that feeling, that burning, destructive feeling, came her decision. Are we even worth fighting for?
The answer, of course, isn’t simple. But it’s not that complicated either. Which, in the end, is how it’s always going to be. This film is fun and exciting and inspiring in all the ways a good superhero film should be. What makes it more than that, though, is how it’s about something. It’s not subtle, but it doesn’t need to be, because what are superheroes for if not to help in tough situations? The world is in a pretty tough situation right now, and I think this film, in a small way at least, will help.