Film / Reviews

'Wonder Woman': A superhero blockbuster that stands apart from the crowd

by Kaori Shoji

Special To The Japan Times

The “Wonder Woman” comic was created by William Moulton Marston in 1941, an unlikely year for a female superhero. World War II was in full swing, and in the DC Comics world, Batman and Superman reigned supreme — then along she came, fighting with “love, instead of hatred,” according to Moulton Marston.

Imagine how new and refreshing the whole concept must have seemed to American women. It would take another 20 years for the feminist movement to kick in, and another 35 before we’d see actress Lynda Carter portray Wonder Woman on TV.

More than 75 years later, “Wonder Woman” the movie has reached our shores. Though there have been many adaptations, this one, starring Gal Gadot and directed by Patty Jenkins, most faithfully captures the spirit of the original comic — not necessarily because she fights “with love,” but because she doesn’t need an excuse for her own magnificence. Unlike her fellow male comrades in the DC Comics ranks, Wonder Woman has no massive chip on her shoulder or a traumatic past. She does what she does out of a fierce sense of justice. As the song goes, she was born this way.

Wonder Woman
Rating
Run Time 141 mins
Language ENGLISH
Opens Aug. 25

The film is set during World War I and the evildoers are the German Army and Dr. Isabel Maru (Elena Anaya), who is developing a biochemical weapon that could wipe out humanity. A U.S. spy named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) hopes to foil their plans but he ends up crashing in the ocean off Themyscira, a mythical island inhabited by demi-goddesses called the Amazonians. This is where Wonder Woman, aka Diana Prince, had spent her whole life, training as a warrior while honing her sensibilities for love and justice. Diana rescues Steve, and in doing so has her first encounter with a man. But — and this is important — she’s more interested in what Steve can tell her about the outside world, and informs him that women are just fine without men.

While that scene may sound radically feminist, it really isn’t. Actually, the most distinctive factor of “Wonder Woman” and Jenkins’ direction is the absence of feminist rhetoric in the movie, even though there are a million opportunities to deploy it. Instead, Jenkins and the four-man writing team (including Zack Snyder) sculpted the story into something big-hearted and warm.

The film’s first scenes on Themyscira set a tone that remains consistent throughout. The Amazonians share a real camaraderie, especially among the older women and women of color. They have real talks, share their troubles and curb their competitiveness while training to be strong and fearless. It’s the kind of utopia that many people long for and it’s to Jenkins’ credit that she lets us linger on the island and bask in its atmosphere of generosity and kindness.

No wonder Diana has no hang-ups; she has had an amazing upbringing with enough love to fuel her journey through life. A delightful surprise is that Jenkins, who directed the abrasively painful “Monster” (2003), could make something so charged with optimism. “Wonder Woman” is not a “woman’s movie,” but an action film with incredible relevance.