Wonder Woman Was… Weak

SPOILER ALERT: I’m going to write this with the assumption you’ve seen the movie. If you haven’t, you might want to go watch it and see if you enjoy it, because I seem to be in a tiny minority.





Let me start by saying I wanted to love this movie. Rebecca and I got luxury seats for a matinee showing on Friday, and I’ve kinda loved seeing every weasel out there who feels afraid of empowered women.

I still consider myself a burgeoning feminist. I’m tripping over old preconceptions all the time, but I have three daughters whom I want to raise to be strong women. What do I mean by that? I’m not sure. Maybe strong enough to demand higher pay. To demand to be treated with respect from the men they choose to date. To not be afraid of being called a “bitch” if they aren’t docile. To not be trampled by oafs like me.

I want them to be strong and kind, centered in Christ, unshakable in the knowledge that they are daughters of God – queens in embryo – with power to be more than just what is allotted to them by a patriarchal country and world.

So that’s me. I really thought I’d love this film.

But it has problems. Some are technical, some are artistic, and some are thematic.

Technically, it did a lot of very cool slow-mo action sequences, but those were often interrupted with shaky-cam that made me lose my place in the action. I hate shaky-cam. (See my PhD dissertation titled “Bourne Movies Are Blurry and I Hate Them”, and the class-action lawsuit I started,The People vs Michael Bay).

Some of the CGI was terrible. I mean, it would have blown us away in the 90s, but now it was smack-dab in the middle of the Uncanny Valley, making me uncomfortable when I should have been cheering. Queen Hippolyta jumping off her horse was the first time I noticed – did they paste her face onto a 3D model?

But most of the F/X problems seemed to be in the physics: flying objects and people didn’t arc correctly through the air. I get that Wonder Woman can jump really high, but there didn’t seem to be any slowing at the top of her arcs. Or at least the slowing wasn’t the right speed. Something was off.

All that is totally forgivable in a fantastic movie, but I’m not done.

This one. "Ooh, you're strong. Well here I go again."
This one. “Ooh, you’re strong. Well here I go again.”

Gal Gadot, while impressive in the fight scenes, still didn’t seem to be an amazing actress. I lost count of how many times she did the little renewed-determination-head-tilt. Maybe just three?

I never felt what she felt. When Steve dies, I didn’t weep with her. Was that her acting? or just flaws in the screenplay that made him less than her true love? Maybe it was both. (Or was it just me? Well, no, because Rebecca didn’t like the movie either.)

Which brings us to the screenplay. I thought it started strong enough, but the dialog… it was always kinda first-level. Bland. Predictable.

That’s not quite true… Etta Candy (Lucy Davis) had some fantastic lines, and I think she really gave the movie some of its best humor.

So weak dialog was a general problem. Here are some others:

  • Steve gets out of the bath as Diana enters, and rather than sitting again to conceal his nudity, he just sorta stands there. Why? So that they could make a penis joke that wouldn’t have worked otherwise. I don’t care how fit you are – unless you’re a flasher, you’re going to be modest. Especially given the era in which it took place.
  • Ares says he’s only suggested how to make weapons to mankind, but never poisoned their hearts – yet when he dies, suddenly all the Germans are chummy-chummy with the quartet of invaders. You could say, “Oh, well, he was lying,” but then that robs the movie of one of its central themes, that man is complicit in the evils of war. Steve states that theme on the tower as he begs Diana to come help him. So, the movie couldn’t make up its mind.
  • How did German ships catch up to Steve’s plane?

Thematically, there’s little difference between Wonder Woman and any other superhero. There are overtones about Diana fighting not for revenge or hate, but for love. Um, no. I mean, she does on the battlefield and in the village, but there is zero love in her eyes as she fights the final battle. If anything, losing Steve is the spark that sends her into a frenzied fury, empowering her with a desire for revenge, giving her the abilities necessary to take on Ares. Shouldn’t she have learned he was her brother, and felt compassion for him, and ached as she took his life, her love for mankind having to override her love for a lost sibling? That would be someone fighting for love, I tells ya.

Wonder Woman needed to make some sacrifice for the story to make her a heroine to me. Instead, Steve(!!!) makes the final sacrifice, giving his life to save the world. THAT’S HER JOB!

No, of course she can’t actually die. We need her. But to many storytellers, it’s an obvious misstep. She needs to give up what she wants more than anything in exchange for the greater good… and then still get what she wants. (I don’t know what she should want more than anything. Love of a man shouldn’t be it, though, because that’s weak sauce, especially if we’re trying to say women don’t need men in order to be of value.)

And here’s the biggest problem of all: this ended up being Steve’s movie. We see far too much from his perspective, making Wonder Woman an object of fascination. She’s so strange, so different, so beautiful! When in reality we should have been seeing more of HER viewpoint, how strange and different the world of men was.

Take her moment with the car. We don’t zoom in on the details of the car, it’s smelly exhaust, any of that – we just see Steve pulling her out of the way, and her glancing back. It felt like the writer was determined to derive humor from the situation by making her the fool, the one we laugh at for her naivete.

Too often Diana is the butt of the joke, rather than the one telling it. As a result, she becomes the object, the prop in a movie about Steve falling for a mysterious Amazon princess.

I wanted to love this movie, but it let me down.

I don’t hate this movie like I did Man of Steel – that movie left me angrily searching for Zack Snyder effigies to burn – but I wanted something better.

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