On My Shelves: Wonder Woman


(technically it WILL be On My Shelves but was On The Screen)

I recently had the opportunity to see the new Wonder Woman movie starring Gal Gadot. This means I get to post a review of something that ISN'T ten years out of date!

Short and unspoilery: This is what the DC-Cinematic universe has been waiting for, a movie with a superheroic main character who's allowed to be – who insists on being – a Super Hero, one whose conflicts stem from idealism versus the real world's limits, and that refuses to accept the real world's shades-of-gray.

I walked out of Wonder Woman feeling good, feeling happy, something that didn't happen when I saw, for instance, Man of Steel. This movie gives me hope that just maybe DC can pull out of its Grimdark Dive and give Marvel an actual run for its superhero money.

Now, on to the more detailed… and SPOILERY… review.











Aside from a very brief framing sequence in the modern world, we first meet Princess Diana as an absolutely adorable young girl in Themyscira, the land of the Amazons. For an at-that-time unexplained reason, she is the only child on the whole island. At the time we see her, she's playing hooky from her regular lessons so she can watch the Amazon Warriors at practice, and try to practice the moves on her own.

One thing that DC does immediately that Marvel has, thus far, shied away from, is to accept that in this universe there are GODS. Not "aliens with strange technology" or "stuff that maybe you call magic", but GODS. The Greek Gods are the foundation of the background of Wonder Woman, and always have been, and while Marvel decided to soft-pedal that aspect when doing Thor, DC didn't even blink. They don't even shy away from giving Zeus, ruler of the Greek pantheon, an apparent position of the Creator deity, having made mankind in his own image to populate the world.

According to the Amazons' stories, at least, Ares (God of War) then grew jealous of the attention Zeus paid to humanity, and went among them, corrupting their pure hearts and turning them to war. This led to conflict and eventually a war of the Gods – which, it turned out, was in Ares' favor, since war was his strength. In the end, even Zeus fell along with Ares – but not before giving the Amazons a safe haven from which they could emerge to save the world, if Ares ever rose again. And it was said that within that haven he also left them a weapon, the Godkiller.

Told this story, Diana of course insists on seeing this legacy, and is taken to a tower where the treasures of the Amazons are kept, including a great and beautiful sword in the highest tower of all: "Godkiller", Diana breathes in fascination.

Her mother Hippolyta at first heavily resists having Diana trained, partly due to some secret that neither she nor her right-hand woman Antiope want to discuss, but eventually Diana's determination, and Hippolyta's reluctant acceptance that Ares will return, wins out; the only way her daughter can truly defend herself is if she is trained, and she tells Antiope to train Diana harder than any other Amazon has been trained.

But even all the training Themyscira can give her cannot fully prepare Diana for what will happen when a strange machine plunges from the sky and she rescues its pilot, a living man – the first on the island – named Steve Trevor…


Wonder Woman really does pretty much everything right. One of the common tropes with the "Amazon land" where there are no men is to have the women utterly clueless about everything to do with men, leading to all sorts of embarrassing sitcom-like events. None of these are present in Wonder Woman, and the interaction between Diana and Steve remains mature in a way that was quite gratifying. Is Diana an innocent? Certainly, and at times she takes actions from her innocence that cause more problems than they solve, but her innocence isn't cluelessness, and despite her iron-hard resolve and convictions she is not unable to listen to others – and most of the other people she meets will also listen to her.

Certainly, given the fact that the movie takes place during World War I (the "war to end all wars") and that Diana has to follow Steve to England and later to the warfront, she has to confront totally alien societies and mores, including the sexism that's an ingrained part of the culture, but this is done in a pretty straightforward manner as part of the plot – and sometimes in a rather amusing way, as when she intrudes on a war council and the simple fact of a woman being in the same room leaves the council momentarily shellshocked, unable to grasp something so… unimaginable, even while they're calmly discussing war on a grand scale.

Diana's primary mission – handed down to the Amazons by Zeus himself – is of course to oppose Ares, the God of War; the Amazons believe that it is Ares' explicit influence that makes war possible, and that if the God of War is defeated, wars will instantly end.

As viewers, we know it cannot be that simple, and anticipating the moment when she is confronted by that horrific truth – that mankind is not so inherently pure as she hoped, that all evil does not stem from one easily-targeted source – is one of the most painful pieces of on-your-seat anticipation I've seen in recent years, and is of course also necessary for the evolution of Diana from the simple avenger to a true superhero who understands the world they will defend.

The relationship between Diana and Steve is handled… well, just about perfectly. They're allowed to grow close slowly, and come to the conclusion of what they want together. Steve is key to teaching her the complexity of what humanity is really like… and making sure that, ultimately, she will see there is something worth saving even when it becomes clear that humanity can go make war perfectly well without Ares' help.

Ares is involved, of course, but he is far, far smarter than Diana has given him credit for. She seeks a monster, a thug with brutal power and a thirst for destruction as her legends have painted him; the modern Ares is much more subtle, and leads her into a trap not merely of force but of mind, to break her will or even trick her into becoming his agent.

In that confrontation, she finally must learn how to be the Godkiller… and beyond that, to become the superhero Wonder Woman (though she is, in fact, never called that in the entire film!).

Oh, and the costuming on Themyscira is awesome. Amazons with armor actually patterned after real armor work REALLY well.

This was a wonderful movie and I highly recommend it to any fan of superheroes!


Your comments or questions welcomed!