The big-budget breath of fresh air in this summer’s exhausting and uninspired blockbuster season was undoubtedly DC’s Wonder Woman, which came out in June and grossed $103,251,471 in its opening weekend. The film, helmed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot, takes place under the shadow of World War I (which hopefully means we’ll able to see Diana beat up Nazis in the sequel, a.k.a.the one thing this cultural milieu really needs) and naturally, Wonder Woman has to stop the world from certain catastrophic destruction at the hands of Ares, the god of war. Wonder Woman’s mythical origin mean that the first section of the movie contains no men, only the fierce and terrifying Amazonian warriors. The battle scenes on the island of Themyscira inspire awe as female warriors shoot arrows while back–flipping off horses. It’s not hard to see where Wonder Woman gets it from.
The defining moment of the film occurs when Wonder Woman steps out onto the battlefield in No Man’s Land and everything seems to stop. Steve, the one man that actually has a hope of keeping up with Diana, tries to get her back on task (“This is not what we came here to do”) but Diana sees human suffering and takes direct action to help, no matter the potential consequences (“No, but it’s what I came here to do”). That’s what actually makes her a superhero, not her invincibility or super strength. And has there been a more satisfying four-minute action sequence in recent memory? Certainly not one that I can think of.
In the current political moment, Wonder Woman gives us a new model with which to look at the future. The dark, brooding angst of Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman feel particularly unappealing next to this hopeful testament to a better world. Trump is our president; do we really need more superhero films about men’s egos? Even with the overwhelming success of Wonder Woman at the box office, it took until this month for Warner Brothers to officially hire Patty Jenkins to direct the sequel.
Of course, this film, like most, is not without problems. The ending in particular feels overwrought at certain moments. The score and Diana’s monologue make very sure that you understand that Love is the Answer. The film would have better served by a final moment of quiet reflection, as opposed to the swelling score that settles for a moment of forced resonance. And the marked disability of the film’s villainess continues Hollywood’s long history of equating deformity to evil. Nevertheless, the sheer joy of watching Wonder Woman overcome every obstacle thrown in her way while maintaining her fundamental goodness is worth far more than the price of admission. Wonder Woman shines through the ugliness of 2017 and we can only be better for it.