Inspiring. That’s a big part of what we need our heroes to be. Oh, I know there’s a lot of talk about truly good heroes being unrelatable and uninteresting. Heroes who aren’t conflicted aren’t gritty enough, and when they always know the right thing to do, when they’re always so black and white without any gray, they’re too boring. Hence, even the Man of Steel has lost his way recently, to the point where Superman wasn’t even sure why he was trying to be Superman anymore. Dramatic? Maybe. More interesting to watch when even Superman is unsure, conflicted, darker and grittier? Debatable (personally, I’d say no). There’s enough uncertainty, doubt, ambiguity, and darkness in our world as it is, we certainly don’t need our heroes to descend to our level in that. If anything, we need them to help us rise above. Fortunately, Wonder Woman has arrived at just the right time to help us do just that. She’s the inspiring hero we needed, and in a landscape of conflicted, gritty, not always heroic heroes, she’s the shining beacon of hope, love, and goodness this world needs; in a word, she’s inspiring. Granted, Wonder Woman has its flaws as a film, but it succeeds in spite of that at easily being DC’s best flick yet. Admittedly, that’s a pretty low bar to surpass, so let me also say that Wonder Woman could also rank among the best super hero films made thus far.
Wonder Woman has always been an interesting character because she is both an extremely fierce warrior and she is known for her great capacity for love and compassion. Her film debut expertly taps into both sides of that character, showing us an upbringing that establishes where those character traits came from. In fact, one of the greatest strengths of this film is its willingness to dwell on character. We don’t even really see Wonder Woman in full costume until well into the film. However, this willingness to let the story proceed at a deliberate pace means when Wonder Woman does burst fully onto the screen, it’s earned, it’s powerful, and yes, it’s inspiring. Gal Gadot does a fine job of capturing both Diana’s fierceness and her softness. She also plays the comedic bits perfectly, and has wonderful chemistry with Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor. The depth of their romantic subplot could probably have been better developed to make it feel more organic and less rushed, but a lot of the heart of this movie comes from interaction between the idealistic but naïve and uncompromising Diana, and the pragmatic, world-weary, just doing what he can to help bring an end to the war Steve. The best parts of the movie are seeing how these two characters influence each other and help bring out the best in each other; it’s a moving and emotional experience.
There’s a lot of discussion about the nature of mankind in this film, which is something that feels particularly relevant despite the fact the film is set during WWI. One of the best traits of the DC films (aside from Suicide Squad), is there willingness to delve into deep, almost philosophical themes and explore them from the viewpoint of how having heroes walk among us might impact those philosophies. Is mankind good but corrupted? Do they have their own inner darkness that doesn’t need any corruption to bring it to the surface? Can they be saved, or will they always doom themselves? These are just a few of the ideas the movie explores as Diana’s desire to simply do what’s good and right conflicts with a complicated world where those two things aren’t always so clearly defined. However, I think one of the most powerful moments is when Diana realizes that it’s love that will save the world. That’s a statement that resonates powerfully because, quite frankly, it’s true. It’s the truth of John 3:16, that God so loved the world, that he sent his son so that whoever believed in him might be saved. God’s love, expressed through his son Jesus, saved the world. Jesus’s death and resurrection saved the world. The truth of the Bible, which is a story of God’s love, can save the world. Another great statement from this film is that it isn’t about what you deserve, it’s about what you believe. None of us should ever desire to get what we truly deserve, because if we were brutally honest, what we really deserve really isn’t all that great. However, through belief in Jesus Christ, we can receive grace, redemption, forgiveness, life, and yes, love. In short, all the things we don’t really deserve, but so desperately need.
While Wonder Woman does a fine job of exploring some fascinating themes, it does struggle in the same area all of DC’s films seem to do; bringing everything to a satisfying close. Once again, this movie gets bombastic with the climax, and while there are some key scenes in the explosive ending that are very necessary to the character and plot development, overall the final battle just seems to be spectacle for spectacle’s sake. It goes big because, well, that’s what super hero movies are supposed to do. Unfortunately, its reach exceeds its grasp and some of the final, climatic scenes struggle to maintain the tone of the film because, quite frankly, they look far too fake in a movie that up till that point felt very grounded. Some of it does indeed feel like watching a fight from Injustice 2 (DC’s latest super hero fighting game). Remove most of that and Wonder Woman is a movie that balances spectacular action with a great deal of heart and insight, thus becoming of the great super hero of all times. However, slight flaws such as the ridiculous final fight, and one or two other scenes that feel a bit strained keep it from becoming the best of the best, but its nevertheless worthy of being counted among the most enjoyable and inspiring super hero flicks to come along.
I can’t tell how refreshing it is to watch a super hero movie where the hero is determined to do what is right, and good, and true simply because that’s what they’re supposed to do. Such an attitude is a shining, inspiring beacon of light that for some reason find the darkness to be more dramatic. Wonder Woman provides all the action, humor and heart one could want from a super hero adventure, and does it far more ably than any of DC’s films have thus far, and better than many of even Marvel’s own movies. Comparisons have been made to Christopher Reeve’s Superman movie, which is high praise for any film to receive. However, those comparisons are indeed apt for Wonder Woman does indeed illicit the same emotions of excitement, fun and inspiration that the first great super hero film did almost 40 years ago. In fact, Wonder Woman might be even more powerful considering the day and age we live in. Regardless, this is one of those rare super hero movies that everyone should see not because it’s a great super hero movie, but because it’s just a great movie, that just so happens to have one of the most iconic super heroes of all time in it.
Score: 6 of 7 – There’s some innuendo and some pretty intense fighting scenes, but considering how dark most of DC’s films tend to go, this one is practically all brightness and light. Plus, it opens up the possibilities for more great biblical conversations than any super hero movie I’ve seen in some time.