July 24, 2017

Meg Farrough

After smashing the box office, Wonder Woman has received rave reviews from critics and fans alike. Considering DC Studios’ track record, that’s something to celebrate all on its own. The movie has drawn a great amount of attention, as it should. However, while Wonder Woman deserves attention, it shouldn’t be for the reasons it has.

Headlines and reviews have been repeatedly included comments about how it is ‘amazing for feminism’, finally a superhero movie created by a woman, starring a woman, has been successful. Good on it, well done Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot. But really, did we think that women couldn’t make superhero movies or something?

Apparently we did. Can we all take a moment to imagine what would have happened if the film had been a flop (like say Batman v. Superman)? The reviews would have been so incredibly scathing of the fact that women can’t make a good superhero movie, so thank our lucky stars it was a success. I wonder, did we notice those sorts of reviews after the male directed and led Batman v. Superman? I don’t recall anything of the sort actually, now that I think about it.

I’m not denying this is a great step in the genre, because female and male fans alike have been hanging out for good female superhero movies (still waiting on the Black Widow/Hawkeye origin story), and DC have finally delivered. But is it really that great for feminism in the sector? Will the next female directed/led superhero movie get horrible reviews about women if it falls short of this unexpected precedent?

Success for women shouldn’t have to hinge on the success of one single movie. We haven’t become equals in the box office, we’ve just shown that it’s possible. We’ll feel equal in the box office when we can make movies like Wonder Woman v. Supergirl (let’s assume, probably incorrectly, that it would be a flop – though I myself would certainly pay money to see the kick ass they could both deliver) and receive horrible reviews about writing, filmography, editing and general lack of enjoyable viewing, as opposed to reviews about why women should stay out of the superhero industry.

Feminism is a theme, and the movie does a spectacular job of showing unprecedented acceptance of very progressive feminism despite the time period. And let’s not forget the inspiration that all girls and women alike can gain from seeing a woman in control on the battlefield, particularly if they have their sights set on defending the country. I’m not saying that I dislike the feminism aspect, I’m just disappointed that we have to talk about the movie being a step forwards for feminism, rather than just an awesome movie because hey, who doesn’t like a good superhero movie that actually has a plot?

So why should Wonder Woman receive attention if not for the feminism clearly laced through the movie?

The very first thing that struck me about this movie was the costuming. Shall we talk about what’s not feminist about this movie? The fact that female warriors apparently have no need for armour on their legs or arms. But since they couldn’t stray too far from the comic depiction of the Amazons, we can’t blame them too much. Needless to say, skimpy or not, the costumes were spectacular, particularly for the warriors. While they may have been wearing poor armour for battle, the costuming department still did a fantastic job of making the attire tasteful. For the average human in the movie, costumes were on point with the time period, yet still were unique enough to be able to identify which characters were going to be important for the plot ahead.

As far as the plot was concerned, there actually was a story to follow, which is a nice change from the usual ‘superhero has nemesis, superhero beats up nemesis’ bore that DC have become known for. There was a classic ‘hero’s journey’ (as described by Joseph Campbell) plot, and perhaps some of the ‘twists’ were a little predictable, but I found the ‘big reveal’ to at least be sensible.

The one thing that really stood out to me was the ‘big sacrifice’, which, thankfully, remained a sacrifice, as opposed to some of the superhero movies where a character’s sacrifice somehow finds a way of being resolved without the character actually losing anything. While I may have been hanging out for that moment to bring a little joy to the tragedy, it was fitting, and it actually made the sacrifice notable.

The characters were relatable, and the character development was simple. Not in the way that the characters felt simple and two dimensional, but that the development was understandable and easy to grasp for the audience. The characters started in relatable positions, and continued on a steady climb, instead of starting at unreachable levels, and jumping between development moments.

My favourite part about the movie though? Those wonderful panned shots of scenery, because wow, talk about getting something right. In a setting of conflict, those wide shots have wonderful effect in helping the audience understand the intensity and scale of the moment. And those shots of the island were absolutely stunning. Beautiful screen work on the part of the film crew.

All in all, the film was a great piece of work all round. I’m not sure it quite hit Marvel levels of light-hearted dialogue and intense challenges that I personally love, but it has definitely risen my expectations for future DC movies. Hopefully, the Justice League boys club will be made a little bit better by the addition of the powerful Wonder Woman.

Four glowing lassoes out of five, and let’s hope that future movies directed by and starring women will start amazing us for the quality of the film, than the shock of having a good female superhero movie.


Meg Farrough

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