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Since the 1960s, the world has seen eight Batman movies, eight Superman movies, three Captain America movies, three Iron Man movies, and one Deadpool movie. This year, we will have to endure the third iteration of Spider-Man in his sixth movie in 15 years.
With just these heroes alone, only in their solo films, cinema screens across the world have played white male superheroes 29 times in the span of fifty years.
They have never once shown a live action female superhero in her own film — and this places Wonder Woman under an immense amount of pressure.
Wonder Woman is by far the most interesting and coherent DC film in a long time
On one side, the film has to prove to men that woman leads can be entertaining and sell tickets. On the other, there’s an expectation for it to be the Perfect Feminist film — the one women around the world have been eagerly awaiting.
To place the fate of women in films on one movie is by no means fair, but if there’s any film that should prove a feminist’s selling power, it’s this one.
Wonder Woman is by far the most interesting and coherent DC film in a long time. It stands in stark contrast to the likes Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, with their meandering storylines and character development rooted in the word “Martha.” Where previous DC films have confused, Wonder Woman assures.
The film is visually stunning, too, and its leads are hardly difficult on the eyes.
Themyscira, the island on which Diana grew up, adds colour and life to a franchise in desperate need of vibrance. Though the world only appears for the first half of Wonder Woman’s backstory, her character reminds of the warmth it brings.
Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) is a marvel. The actress is given the room to include a three-dimensional woman in the DC world, and she runs with it. At the intersection of innocence, intelligence, poise and power, it’s difficult to fathom how Diana has taken this long to make it to the big screen.
Perhaps the standout part of Wonder Woman is her sexuality.
Diana is a sexual being, but she is explicitly in control of her sexuality. The role of female director Patty Jenkins is obviously at hand here: she does not sexualise her hero for even a second. Yes, she’s wearing armour that shapes her boobs, and, yes, her thighs are out, but no, it is not for your viewing pleasure.
Acting alongside Gadot is Chris Pines, another actor called Chris playing a Steve in a superhero movie. He may not be Captain America, but Steve Trevor takes on the combined role of comic relief, love interest and frequent plot driver with a charming “vigour” that’s difficult to dislike.
At the intersection of innocence, intelligence, poise and power, it’s difficult to fathom how Diana has taken this long to make it to the big screen
Though the comic relief makes Steve likeable, it often feels out of place in the film. Scenes solely for the purpose of comedy are placed between sombre ones of war — and the viewer is pulled from giggling about Diana in a dress to being reminded of chemical warfare.
Steve Trevor is also the reason the film will never fit into the (arguably unattainable) mould of Perfect Feminism.
For much of the film, Steve is the one who drives the plot forward. It is only after he arrives that Diana enters the world of men, it’s only because of his mission that she is capable of being heroic. Eventually it becomes clear that his control over her serves a purpose, but not before he becomes her first love.
Its lack of diversity is also not something to be proud of — the only people of colour in the film are an “African” member of the core team (it’s never specified where in Africa) and a few black Amazonian warriors. It’s a shame, because one of DC’s strongest assets is its willingness to cast people from all walks of life, and the absence of them in Wonder Woman’s supporting cast is disappointing.
But sometimes we have to take the victories as they come, and this film still feels like a victory.
I walked into Wonder Woman as a PMSing woman who had, earlier in the day, cried in public while listening to a podcast. I had then been accosted by a man while walking to work alone. And just before heading to the press screening, a man shouted at me that I was begging to be robbed, “girly.”
I was having a rough day, and it was rough because I’m a woman.
But leaving the cinema, I was bursting with pride at the fact. I was allowed to watch Gal Gadot be strong, and funny, and smart and I knew she had, at some point during filming, felt the exact same things I’d felt that day. I saw her vulnerable and I saw her empowered, and I was reminded that I could be that too.
Women already are that (and more) every single day. It’s about time DC cottoned on.