Why We Want Wonder Woman

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Written By Leslie Koh, Singapore

Okay, the bottom-line first: Wonder Woman is watchable. (Oh, and the movie’s great too.)

If you haven’t seen Gal Gadot, the Israeli model-turned-actress who debuted on the big screen in 2009 (Fast & Furious) is good looking. Extremely good looking. Her ancestry is said to include an exotic mix of Jewish, Polish, Austrian, Czech, and German heritage, which explains her unusual beauty (she was Miss Israel in 2004). It’s hard to watch Wonder Woman and not get distracted by er, Wonder Woman.

Okay, okay, back to the movie. It’s got all the usual elements for entertainment, with great sets, good actors, a couple of mind-blowing action scenes, a touch of romance, some attempt at philosophy, and more than a dash of humor. If you’re a girl—I’m guessing here—you might like how the movie puts Amazonian woman power on center stage. And if you’re a guy, there’s, well, Gal Gadot.

As for the plot, some of it is, at least to me, a tad cheesy (apologies to all DC Comic diehards). If you’ve watched the trailers, you’ll know this much already: Diana, an Amazonian princess and warrior, has been raised on a paradise island where her mother has been sheltering her from reality. After rescuing a drowning World War I pilot, however, Diana decides to leave the island and join the war to rid the world of evil.

Through the 2 hours 20 minutes, we see not only how she accomplishes this, but also how she matures in her view of life and humanity, as well as in her understanding of the true sources of good and evil. Can someone really be so naïve? And so simplistic in her belief that she can counter the world’s evil with a pure heart? It’s a little hard to believe, though Gadot’s wide-eyed innocence just about carries it off.

What’s less debatable, perhaps, is that Wonder Woman brings a touch of humanity and humor to a movie world that has been dominated by dark, brooding heroes. When she first made her surprise appearance in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, accompanied by her now-signature tune—an explosive riff of electric guitars—cinema goers cheered. No wonder: it provided a much-needed touch of femininity and humor in a movie that was otherwise rather masculine and gloomy.

Then again, it should come as no surprise, because that was what Wonder Woman was meant to be all about. She was created in 1941 by psychologist William Marston, who was inspired by feminists of that era when he shaped a character who truly believes in the power of love and peace to conquer evil. So Diana Prince, as she is called when she is not wielding her sword, shield and magical lasso, is loving, kind, and sensitive. Naïve? Perhaps—but charmingly so.

But here’s the intriguing thing. From early in the show, we can tell that Wonder Woman is not entirely human; she has some measure of invincibility, even to the passage of time. No spoiler alert needed—Batman v Superman made that pretty clear, and Wonder Woman confirms it.

Is that why the world needs her so much? Is this a tacit acknowledgment that in the fight between good and evil, victory is impossible without help from a superhuman? Are we quietly admitting that while we all have an innate desire for good to prevail, evil is more powerful than we are, and there are just some things that humans can’t do on their own?

At the same time, it would seem that we want our superhuman heroes to be human, too. We want to identify with a Superman who can feel pain. We love Wonder Woman because her feelings can be hurt, and because she can love just like we do. Yes, we want our saviors to be more powerful than we are, yet as vulnerable.

Sound familiar?

I suppose you could over-analyze what is after all, a movie. But it’s hard to avoid seeing hints of an attempt at a Christianity-meets-Greek mythology-meets-DC Comics philosophy. Diana is well aware that the fight between good and evil is a cosmic battle that goes far beyond the wars of men, never lets go of her hope that good will ultimately triumph, and is determined to do her part, knowing that it will take both human and godly will to win this battle.

Why do we need superhuman heroes? Because while we want good to triumph, we know we can’t win the battle on our own. Because we need to hope in a hopeless world. Because, in some ways, we all need a Wonder Woman.

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