By Travis Trombley
Relying on the tried and true origin story format, this film - penned by Allan Heinberg, Jason Fuchs, and DCEU staple Zack Snyder - astutely blends familiar ingredients like self-discovery, humor, over-the-top action, and philosophical inquiry, but Jenkins presents and balances these genre standards in a way that’s refreshingly coherent and entertaining. While an unnecessarily gaudy third-act-throwdown drags the film back to an unfortunate familiar, most of it’s two-hour-and-change runtime effectively weaves some exploration of human nature between inspection of the superhero genre itself, stunning moments of spectacle, and the development of a strong, lovable central character.
As always, our reviews contain more analysis than blunt judgement, so know that reading on means leaving the insular safety of Themyscira for the spoiler-filled world of mankind.
Narrative / Theme
Naturally, when the British-borrowed American spy Steve Trevor crash lands on the secluded island of Themyscira and relays the news of World War I, the innocent Diana attributes the horrors to Ares’ influence and resolves to accompany the pilot back to the front so she can defeat the god of war and thereby save mankind.
The premise works on a number of planes, but perhaps most interestingly in the sense that it establishes a parallel between Diana’s character arc and our own relationship with the superhero genre. It’s telling that Jenkins relays these myths to us in motion-comic form, an artful homage to both Renaissance and Neoclassical style paintings of Greek myths and the sequential artform in which superheroes originated. Beyond the pomp, there resounds a similarity between this story, literally read to a young Diana from a picture book, and the stories that can define our early worldviews, like Old Testament tales and, you know, Saturday morning episodes of Batman, Superman, and - perhaps my personal favorite - Static Shock.
In other words, the movie uses the Greek myth as a stand-in for the superhero genre to comment on its role in the contemporary culture. As the myth shaped Diana, so too did these adventure tales provide for many of us a simple moral framework as children. And as we matured, we either outgrew or demanded more from these stories, just as Diana’s understanding of her story changes when she’s forced to ‘grow up’ and confront a more complex reality. The prevalence of superheros in the culture now makes it a poignant parallel. Ultimately, there’s a recognition of simplicity, yes, but instead of a rejection upon maturity, Wonder Woman opts for a sort of humanistic embracing of the superhero ideology - maintaining the desire to “do something,” while acknowledging that the world’s ills will never be easily solved.