“I used to want to save the world; this beautiful place. But I knew so little then…”
So, it’s been a year since Wonder Woman charged into theaters, breaking many records along the way. It was the first modern-day superhero film since Marvel’s Elektra to feature a female superhero in her own solo movie – something that I believe many had waited decades for. While I enjoyed the film (for the most part) and was more than elated to write the review for GoC, this retrospective will highlight the good, the bad and what can be improved upon for the upcoming film which is said to begin production this month. Now, without further ado, let’s get into this year in review.
While many of us had been wishing, wanting and waiting for a solo flick that featured the Champion of the Amazons, especially after the character made her feature debut in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice back in 2016, the way the character would be handled left many with a big question mark. In BvS, we got a Diana that seemed devoid of much hope for humanity, although she reluctantly fought for them regardless. When it was announced that director, Patty Jenkins, would take the reins of 2017’s Wonder Woman, it was clear from the start that she would take a more traditional approach to the character and give the audience a Diana that was more in-line with Diana’s original comic book characterization.
It was easy to tell that Jenkins, who stated she’d wanted to work on a film about Wonder Woman for 10 years, put much thought into the character. Jenkins managed to maintain focus on Diana’s strengths and weaknesses equally, bringing Diana’s relatability and humanity to the forefront. There were no details spared in bringing the Princess of Themyscira to the silver screen with poise, grace and care – and in this, Jenkins succeeded. Not only did this demonstrate Jenkins’ knowledge of the character herself, but the importance of the film and the potential impact the movie and Diana could have for many across the globe.
Now, I know this could be contested as a ‘bad’ part of the film, as many believe that the film was too male-focused at times, but I enjoyed Steve, Chief, Sameer and Charlie. All four characters were extremely different from one another, well-crafted and complemented Diana well. Diana would never surround herself with people she believed were bad people and in Steve (Chris Pine), Chief (Eugene Brave Rock), Sameer (Said Taghmaoui) and Charlie (Ewen Bremner), she found a group that she can share her struggles with, rely upon if necessary and who are also willing to fight and help stop the war. The quartet never saw Diana as less than because she was a woman and they allowed her into their world where they had struggles of their own, but were still willing to lend a helping hand. In the film, Sameer aptly pointed out, “We’re all fighting our own battles, Diana. Just as you are fighting yours.”
However, as with anything in this world, there were some doubters who did not have much love for Jenkins’ vision. You had those who didn’t believe that a woman could be both beautiful and flawed like director, James Cameron, or those who clearly did not get the character at all – yes, I’m looking at you, Joss Whedon (with that terribly sexist script and don’t even get me started on what you did to Diana in Justice League). Basically, thank the gods for Patty Jenkins. She believed in the character and what she could be, putting her heart and soul into giving us a version of Diana that was worth the 75 year wait.
Of course, we cannot talk about the good without pointing out the bad. Many of the negatives I had in regards to the movie were ones that I’ve seen multiple times in various op-ed pieces and voiced by those I follow on social media – but the most glaringly would be the lack of diversity, particularly as it pertains to the women in the film. Yes, it was obvious that in our short time in Themyscira there were Amazons of various ethnicities on the island, but the few who did have speaking roles simply had one liners or had their comic canon roles reduced. This can be seen with Artemis (portrayed by Ann Wolfe) – whose name is never uttered in the film and yet, is one of Diana’s greatest rivals on the island, once having won the mantle of Wonder Woman from Diana in past comic lore. The film also gave us the briefest glimpse of Philippus (Ann Ogbomo), who is the captain of the guard in the comic books as well as Diana’s trainer, not Antiope.
Now, while I understand that the time spent in Themyscira was unfortunately limited (I do wish we spent more time there than we did in Man’s World), this is also no excuse for the erasure of a character’s role, especially when that character is a woman of colour. If we look at the all the superhero films we’ve gotten over the last two decades, there haven’t been many with prominent roles for women of colour and when there are, they are usually relegated to the villain role i.e. Viola Davis as Amanda Waller in Suicide Squad or the anti-hero who gets zero to one line, like Katana in Suicide Squad. Then you have the subservient trope in BvS, where you have Mercy (Tao Okamoto) blindly following the whims of Lex Luthor, inevitably getting killed (by way of explosion) by Luthor in the process.
Of course, there are exceptions and we saw this with Tessa Thompson cast as Brunnhilde/Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok and Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira and Lupita Nyong’o as Shuri, Queen Ramonda, Okoye and Nakia, respectively in Black Panther. It would have been amazing to have similar representation in Wonder Woman, not just diversity in the background for the sake of it, especially as Diana is inclusive of all people. In my opinion, Wonder Woman was the last film I’d think would sideline women of colour the way it did and yet, here we are.
Diana’s interactions with women as a whole, aside from her mother and aunt, are limited. I loved Etta Candy (played by Lucy Davis) in the film and wished that the pair had more time on-screen together, aside from the shopping scene. While that scene is probably one of my favourites in the film, it would have been nice to see Etta and Diana spend more time bonding so we could truly see their friendship blossom much like in the current comic books. However, I am hopeful that this might be addressed in the sequel, if Diana’s relationship with Barbara Minerva a.k.a Cheetah is anything like it is in the comics.
As details about the sequel are being kept under wraps (aside from Jenkins coming back to direct, Kristen Wiig in the role of Cheetah and Pedro Pascal in an unspecified role), it’s hard to say whether or not any of the previous film’s negatives will be addressed. However, I do hope that the feedback and constructive criticism voiced by many have been seen by those writing the screenplay for the second movie. Whether it will be addressed or not is another topic altogether but I remain hopeful until there’s something that shows me otherwise. I mean, if the writers need any hints or tips, Nubia appearing would be a great start and a no brainer (wink, wink, nudge nudge).
With what little knowledge there is on the next film thus far, it does seem that there will not be as much male involvement with Pedro Pascal being the only male member of the cast confirmed thus far. So, for those who did not like Steve Trevor and his comrades spending most of their with with Diana, it looks like you may be in luck. Perhaps this means that there will be more female-driven plot points, especially given the nature of Diana’s relationship with Cheetah. But again, we will have to wait and see how that turns out once more details become available.
Looking back at the film one year later, it’s clear that there is room for improvement and while I did enjoy Wonder Woman, the movie was not without its mistakes. Clearly, the main issue that should be tackled for the next movie is the diversity, or lack thereof in terms of significant roles. Inclusivity is important and should not be taken lightly. Like I said earlier, we cannot continue to place people of color in the background and call it diversity. That being said, I still did enjoy the film for what it was and I did enjoy how they brought Diana’s character to the big screen. She was kind, compassionate, graceful, stubborn and curious which is what I’ve always loved about the character since my dad introduced me to her when I was young.
As an avid lover of Wonder Woman and all that she stands for, I am glad that she finally found her way onto the big screen in such a huge way last year. I’ll be forever grateful to Patty Jenkins for taking her time with this process and giving us one of the best superhero films of the last two decades. I am hopeful for the sequel and for what it could be.
[P.S. If you loved, Wonder Woman, don’t forget to enter the GoC Wonder Woman Anniversary contest.]