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Don’t Mess With the Amazons: The Wonder Woman Movie

Sunday, June 11th, 2017 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

A lot has been said about Patty Jenkins’ movie Wonder Woman, pretty much all of it by people smarter and more qualified than I.

But given that I do a lot of comic books musing for Black Gate, and that I also reviewed Rogue One and Dr. Strange, I wanted to give Wonder Woman the attention it deserves.

Superhero movies are what they are.

Wonder Woman Super-villains and their fevered motivations-small

Super-villains and their fevered motivations

They all have to come to terms with the conceits of the form: the vigilantism and violence as a solution, the weakness of societal structures of justice, super-powers, secret-identities, and the fevered motivations of the villains, and occasionally the heroes.

I really enjoyed Wonder Woman as a superhero movie.

It had action, cool weapons and costumes, a heroic lead doing admirable things, real romantic chemistry between Diana and Steve Trevor, explosive special effects, and most importantly, it had a lot of heart. Real emotion was on the screen.

Wonder Woman disarms a soldier-smal

I put Wonder Woman squarely in the first tier of my list of superhero movies.

But Wonder Woman is a whole lot more than that. Meta factors that are being carried into Wonder Woman the movie, justifiably so, and no one can say with intellectual honesty that Wonder Woman is just another summer blockbuster.

The superhero genre continues to struggle (and occasionally, in Neanderthal pride, embrace) its history of sexism. Wonder Woman is one of the most recognizable superhero properties in the world, and yet it took 75 years after her first appearance for her to reach the big screen.

Patty Jenkins directs Wonder Woman

Patty Jenkins directs Wonder Woman

At least one previous superhero film led the leading lady to say “I’d like to thank the director for casting me in this shitty movie.” And the number of women directors, much less summer blockbuster women directors, isn’t hard to count on fingers.

So this film was being seen by many as the a risk-filled chance to make some progress at equality or to set the march of movie equality off for another decade. And I would venture to say all of North America at least was aware of the stakes, and rooting for its success.

Variety notes that Wonder Woman was the most tweeted movie of 2017 with 2.19 million tweets as of the weekend after its opening.

The New York Times covered it in a couple of articles like Wonder Woman is a Blockbuster that Let’s Itself Have Fun, The Triumph of Wonder Woman, and The Woman Behind Wonder Woman. Vox called Wonder Woman the best DCU movie since Dark Knight. Even the New Yorker got on the Wonder Woman train.

Gal Gadot in action as Wonder Woman-small

The numbers supported the attention. On opening weekend, Wonder Woman was riding as high as 95% in Rotten Tomatoes (compared to ratings in the 50s and 20s for Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman). And with its $223 opening weekend, it beat the opening weekend of a bunch of very successful movies including Iron Man and Dr. Strange.

And its second Friday only dropped 59%, which is less of a week-over-week drop than Dark Knight, The Avengers, or Iron Man.

As of this writing (8 days post-opening), the headlines are along the lines of Wonder Woman Charges to $420+ Million to Become the 8th Biggest Movie of 2017 possibly putting it on track to take the #5 spot for the year. That’s after 8 days in theaters… Patty Jenkins directed the whole movie for $150 million, so the return is going to make investors happy.

The enthusiasm went far beyond just the box office numbers. Twitter was filled with threads of little girls dressing up for Wonder Woman screenings.

Gal Gadot in action as Wonder Woman 3-small

The metafictional threads run well beyond the numbers though too. Social media and press articles went on about Robin Wright, the actress who played the agency-free princess in the The Princess Bride who in Wonder Woman was a bad-ass, kick-ass Amazon general, complete with muscles and wrinkles and attitude.

It was a giant feminist statement.

And a friend was discussing with others this week what it meant to her and her children that Wonder Woman was played by an Israeli actress. The director was having fun with both the form and the metafictional messages too, with one of the scenes harkening back to the famous Clark Kent/Lois Lane bullet scene in the alley from the 1978 Superman motion picture.

All these things got together to produce a perfect example of a good movie that appealed to everyone, but also, through real representation energized a lot of people. I read on Twitter (and I paraphrase) “no wonder men always feel confident — I just watched a single female-led superhero movie and I feel like I could do anything!”

Gal Gadot in action as Wonder Woman 2-small

I asked my ex-wife what she thought of it. She is very open about her allergy to exercise, but after seeing the movie, she said she’s really interested in taking self-defense classes.

I liked Wonder Woman, would see it again, and so would my son. And all of what I’ve been seeing as society’s reaction to the movie makes me wonder if Wonder Woman is the 1977 Star Wars inflection point for a new generation, or perhaps even for a whole gender.


Derek Künsken writes science fiction and fantasy in Gatineau, Québec. He tweets from @derekkunsken. His next publication will be his Asimov’s story “Flight From the Ages” which will appear in Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 34 in July.

14 Comments »

  1. The success of Wonderwoman might have also increased the chance for a Black Widow movie.

    Comment by peer - June 11, 2017 1:37 pm

  2. Let’s hope so!

    Comment by John ONeill - June 11, 2017 2:04 pm

  3. I hope so too! And more Wonder Woman movies!

    Comment by Derek Kunsken - June 11, 2017 3:07 pm

  4. What Brgit Nilsson was to opera Gal Gadot is to action films. Solid, grounded, lyrical. Btw the Nilsson reference reminds one that strong women are not a new phenomenon
    Jeff R

    Comment by huetenan - June 11, 2017 6:08 pm

  5. Don’t read too much into this. Wonder Woman did well because it was a great, fun movie. The Ghostbusters remake did poorly because it was terrible. But people insist on framing these facts using sexual politics. Unfortunately, people like you can’t see the world outside of a political lense. I feel sorry for you. Try watching a movie, reading a book, eating a sandwich, etc without the tainted politics. You will live a fuller, healthier life. I look forward to a second Wonder Woman movie and hopefully it will be just as good as this one.

    Comment by Tyr - June 11, 2017 6:28 pm

  6. Hey Tyr! I agree – its rating by critics and movie-goers is a giant factor. This wouldn’t have happened if the movie wasn’t good. But the politics of it isn’t a lens I chose to use at random. It’s a lens that most of the public and press are using because gender inequality is a current and relevant political issue. Wonder Woman the movie can certainly be watched and enjoyed independently of its social context, just like Star Wars. But you also can’t run through many comic or sf movie people without hearing that Star Wars was a major, major life inflection point for them. It was for me too. My point is that like Star Wars, Wonder Woman is having an social impact outside of just its cinematic narrative and I find that fascinating. I’m also enjoying being a participant in this social experience, even if I can only participate at the periphery. :)

    Comment by Derek Kunsken - June 11, 2017 6:43 pm

  7. Jeff: I am sadly Opera-illiterate, although I did see The Barber of Saville and one other opera (maybe Aida?) when I was living in Bogota. Both very well done, but no opera in the last 15 years for me, except space opera :)

    Comment by Derek Kunsken - June 11, 2017 6:47 pm

  8. It was a fun movie. I liked the World War I setting.

    I couldn’t get that guitar riff out of my head – the one they played whenever she’s enters God Mode. Oh, and now that I’ve mentioned it, there it is again…

    Did anyone else find it odd that the Germans always spoke English, even when they were among other Germans?

    Comment by Matthew Wuertz - June 11, 2017 7:27 pm

  9. Matthew, you are so right. However, they were probably speaking “movie German”- you know, English with German inflections.

    Comment by Violette Malan - June 12, 2017 5:50 am

  10. @Tyr: The consensus often was “Female Superheroe movies dont work, because women dont watch superheromovies and men dont watch female leads” (especially expresed by a Marvel executive IIRC). This has been proven wrong – Wonderwoman did not bomb. And yes, thats because its good, but the quality was not part of the original argument.

    @Matthew: This is a pet peeve of mine. After Inglirious basterds and Lost, I find it lazy. Doesnt affect the genral movie though, even if it bugs me somewhat

    Comment by peer - June 12, 2017 9:02 am

  11. Still haven’t seen WW yet, but I’m definitely hoping to, maybe next weekend.

    As for the “movie German” thing, blame American audiences who seem to be allergic to reading subtitles.

    (That was one of the things I appreciated about The Great Wall — the Chinese characters talked amongst themselves in subtitled Mandarin and only used English when talking to Matt Damon. But really, The Great Wall was a Chinese movie with an American star attached, so it’s very much an outlier.)

    Comment by Joe H. - June 12, 2017 9:13 am

  12. Just saw WONDER WOMAN last night. It was very enjoyable. Yes, there were the typical superhero stupidities and some idiotic plot points, but it was fun, the two leads were very good, the ending was well done, and it managed to be very moving.

    It’s not the best superhero movie of the year (that’s LOGAN, by a very wide margin), but it’s a good one.

    Comment by Rich Horton - June 12, 2017 9:40 am

  13. @Derek – I agree that there are some huge problems affecting women. However, none of them involve comic books.

    @Peer – since ALL of the female-led comic book movies before WW were bad to terrible, one could arrive at that conclusion, although it would be erroneous. Looking at upcoming super heroine movies, I think WW and its successors might be the exception. Dark Phoenix? Not promising based on the previous treatment on the big screen. Captain Marvel? Meh. Whedon’s Batgirl might have a shot at greatness but he is very hit or miss. How about making a Hathaway Catwoman movie. That would something to look forward to.

    Comment by Tyr - June 12, 2017 3:44 pm

  14. I saw Wonder Woman over the weekend. I’m still trying to decide whether it’s awesome or merely okay. The Themyscira scenes were wonderful. The moving images depicting the Amazons’ mythical history like something out of a Baroque painting were especially striking. And Gal Gadot was simply amazing as a strong, independent, courageous WW. The movie does have some yawning plot holes and glaring inconsistencies, but I think that’s mainly an effect of trying to cram too much into one film.

    I’ve been working through the George Perez sequence from the eighties, and I was a bit surprised at how casually movie-Diana kills. I guess that’s just the grim new DCEU: not the franchise we need right now, but the franchise we deserve.

    The language thing bothered me, too, especially since Diana has to spend time learning modern languages in Perez’s version. I thought it was funny that Edgar Rice Burroughs was mentioned at one point, since he was equally lazy about language transitions.

    I’ll go see the sequel for sure. I hope it combines Dr. Strangelove-esque nuclear crises with crazy mythological monster fighting, which is what the Perez comics do.

    Comment by Raphael - June 12, 2017 7:06 pm


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