The last couple of weeks have been unofficially dedicated to the horror genre, and with October being Halloween month, I think this is appropriate. However, Cinephile in Decline is not a genre-specific blog, and I want to remind my readers that I watch and appreciate all kinds of films. Today I want to talk superhero movies, but not the over-saturated hyper-masculine variety. Instead, I want to talk about my favorite comic book hero, Wonder Woman, and what I think a Wonder Woman feature film needs. Rainfall studios created a short film that went viral several weeks ago depicting what a potential WW movie would actually look like. This is very good press, and the hope is that the short film could create some momentum and push Warner Bros. to pull the trigger on a feature, or at the very least inclusion in the eventual Justice League collaboration. However, I am not sold on the film or its interpretation of the character. The movie is roughly two-and-a-half minutes long, so take the time to watch it for yourself:
Up to this point, the biggest obstacles to a Wonder Woman film getting made deal with the complexity of the hero’s mythology and how that mythology can translate into the more realistic Nolan-esque interpretations of the DC universe. Screen Rant does a good job showing how the Rainfall production resolves this by inter-cutting between New York City and the mythological Themyscira. Their argument is that this approach is perfect for Zack Snyder’s movie-making style. Snyder is responsible for this year’s Man of Steel and 2015’s Superman-Batman collaboration project, and looking at Wonder Woman through this particular lens is helpful when determining the possibility of getting Diana to the big screen. Yet, I am not sure this is the right direction for the Amazon princess. I want to look at one small moment in Rainfall’s film that could have nailed what makes Wonder Woman such a special character, but instead goes a more traditional route. The moment occurs around the 1:40 mark after WW has dispatched all but one of the city thugs. He is pointing the gun at her and she gives a slight shake of the head, indicating that it would be wise if he laid down the weapon. A few moments later, we see him fire a shot that Wonder Woman easily deflects with her bracers, and this is where the film’s interpretation of the character went awry.
What sets Wonder Woman apart from the rest of the superhero pantheon is that she is ultimately a symbol of peace. She is physically powerful and will use those powers when necessary, but her power is also pyschological and spiritual. Her primary weapon is a lasso that forces people to tell the truth, and while it is understandable that such a seemingly silly tool would be downplayed in any contemporary mainstream production, the essential truth about the character that the lasso represents is vital. Wonder Woman can not only beat you with a punch or a kick, but also with an uncompromising look into your soul. She can make you see things you otherwise wouldn’t; the truths about your own motivations and insecurities. She also makes you see the life-changing powers of love, peace, and compassion. In the aforementioned scene, the thug should never have fired his weapon. Instead, after gazing into Diana’s eyes and seeing the truth of himself there, he should have dropped the gun, fallen on his knees, and wept.
A lot of feminist interpretations discard these pacifist values in favor of more masculine ones, but I think this does Wonder Woman a disservice. Non-violence and peaceful reconciliation are not weak. They are strong and powerful tools in the fight against evil. I don’t think this works in the dark, violent, and perhaps overly simplistic Nolan and Snyder superhero universes. The “dark approach” to superheroes is supposed to add more realism and depth to what are often seen as trite and silly characters, but the problem is that these interpretations are often shallow and one-dimensional. I think Wonder Woman deserves a film that will treat her as a rich, complex, and multifaceted hero. As a huge fan, I would love to see her on the big screen, but not if it sacrifices her integrity.