My sister and I talked about the buzz around the new DC Comics film, Wonder Woman. We didn’t have any fondness for the Linda Carter Wonder Woman television series from our youth — too many mixed messages, and a tangle of tiresome plots. Wonder Woman, which opened this weekend, looked like just another loud, affects-driven summer movie.
We went and we loved it. In fact… we can’t wait to see it again.
The new and much improved Wonder Woman is a confident, modern woman, like the ones we know and that our daughters will grow up to be. She is strong and gentle at the same time, and at one point utters this phrase to her male counter-part: “What I do is not up to you”. She’s a role model, she’s badass, and we love that the movie flips the script on tired female stereotypes.
Wonder Woman is the super heroine the world needs right now. How do we know? The film grossed $100M in it’s opening weekend, the largest amount by a female director, ever.
All I can say is – go see the movie! Not only will you will love it, you’ll realize why insisting on diversity on screen and off makes a big difference. Little girls will hold up this WW as an icon, and that can only be a good thing. Better get those Halloween costumes ordered now.
Common Sense advises it for kids over 12, awarding it the Common Sense Seal, and applauding the positive role models, and traits of teamwork, courage, and compassion.
The film has perfect pitch for our time, and much credit goes to the film’s female director, Patty Jenkins (Monster), who clearly felt differently about the DC comics superhero that my sister and I did back in the day. Instead of being turned off by the Linda Carter depiction, she revered the idea of any female superhero, and carried a Wonder Woman notebook around in grade school.
And, Jenkins did her homework, studying the origins of the character from the man who created Wonder Woman in 1941 for DC Comics (William Moulton Marston). She returns to the original character’s mythic Amazonian origin story and locates the superheroine’s power in a feminine wisdom. Credit Marston with his vision of female power, and Jenkins and breakout star Gal Gadot for keeping true to these ideas in a kick ass summer action film that grossed more in an opening weekend than any film directed by a woman in the past.
We meet Wonder Woman as a child (Diana) being raised on an all female, hidden island populated by Amazonians, who train all day to be warriors. We’re given a lesson in classic mythology and see that from the start, Diana had an instinctual yearning to fight. The first section of the movie is particularly fun if you like mythology, with scenes of women sword-fighting and leaping on and off horses on an idyllic ocean-side cliff, their strength and determination on display, their beauty arising from these characteristics.
Diana is played by the fabulous Gal Gadot, a former Miss Israeli with holocaust-surviver grandparents, who trained with the Army. Talk about perfect casting. Gadot carries the film with strength and grace. She’s the mother of two daughters, the youngest of whom was born just a few months ago.
In the film, Diana rescues a handsome pilot from the sea (Chris Pine), who tempts her to leave her tribe, her mother, and the island, to head to the war front. The film is set in WW2, and it’s fun to see Diana react to civilization… not to mention, to the opposite sex. But, it is her reaction to the ugly war-torn world that drives the rest of the plot. The horrors of war shock and sadden her, even though she has been raised to fight. Her emotions are simple and pure, and she and Pine debate the best way to defeat their enemies. Their relationship works well, and although a rather typical action film rolls out, with brutal battle scenes and lots of fighting, in the end, everything adds up.
Wonder Woman’s ultimate weapon is love. It sounds cheesy, perhaps – but it totally works. Here is director Patty Jenkins’ reaction when asked about cheesiness by the NYTimes:
Did you say cheesy? Cheesy is one of the words banned in my world. I’m tired of sincerity being something we have to be afraid of doing. It’s been like that for 20 years, that the entertainment and art world has shied away from sincerity, real sincerity, because they feel they have to wink at the audience because that’s what the kids like. We have to do the real stories now. The world is in crisis.
I wanted to tell a story about a hero who believes in love, who is filled with love, who believes in change and the betterment of mankind. I believe in it. It’s terrible when it makes so many artists afraid to be sincere and truthful and emotional, and relegates them to the too-cool-for-school department. Art is supposed to bring beauty to the world.
Conversation starters from Common Sense:
- Families can talk about women’s roles in comics and superhero films. What makes Diana a role model in Wonder Woman? How does her intelligence shine throughout the movie? What about the rest of the Amazons? What did you think about all of them being thin, conventionally beautiful, and wearing tight-fitting outfits?
- How do the characters in Wonder Woman demonstrate courage and teamwork? What about Diana’s keen sense of compassion and empathy? Why are those all important character strengths?
- What do you think about the way superhero movies depict violence? Is there a difference in the way you react to realistic vs. stylized violence? What’s the impact of media violence on kids?
- Wonder Woman, the character, was created in 1941 and has always been very popular. So why do you think it took so long for her to get her own movie? What about today’s culture welcomes such a role?
- How is Wonder Woman similar to and different from male superheroes like Superman, Batman, and Iron Man?
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