For this, and for many other reasons, it is fair to say that Wonder Woman (2017) is one of the most anticipated movie releases in film history. For many decades now, boys, girls, men, and women alike have wanted to see the entertaining superheroine in action in a big-budget action movie. And positive feminine role models are in shockingly short supply at the movies anyway.
Audiences have been starving for this movie for decades and to the credit of director Patty Jenkins, and producers Zack and Deborah Snyder, they managed to deliver a massive big-budget blockbuster that delivers a satisfying and nutritious viewing experience to sate our appetites for it. The film stands out as a monumental achievement..
Although, to be fair, no discussion of the history of this character is complete without discussing small screen success of Lynda Carter's iconic performance as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman in her classic TV series The New Original Wonder Woman (1975-79). In fact, any live-action screen incarnation of the character of Wonder Woman would always have to face comparison with and live up to that original TV role brought to life by the bright and talented Lynda Carter.
Lynda Carter's portrayal of Wonder Woman was not only very popular at the time her TV show ran, but also remains well-watched and appreciated in reruns and on home video by younger generations up to this day. The TV show was definitely made as family friendly fare during a slightly more naïve, more positive, and less sophisticated era of TV storytelling in general, though. Both for the better and occasionally for the worse. But it is an exceptionally fun and creative TV program that still stands up well for family viewing today.
This is exemplified in the dichotomy of the particularly evil woman Dr. "Poison" Maru (Elena Anaya) and the morally complicated yet still heroic man Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Each has done acts that on the surface could appear evil to the outside observer, Diana, yet it is the man seeking a free world for others who ultimately wins her over in the end.
In Aries's final test of Diana's character, he points to weak, broken Dr. Maru and tells Diana to kill her. Diana winds up lifting an armored vehicle into the air and was about to slam it down on this woman who has dedicated her life to creating chemical weapons and combat-enhancing drugs. In Diana's grief over Trevor's sacrifice, we glimpse a dark side to Diana as she tears through a group of German soldiers.
But as Diana becomes more collected she realizes that just killing off evil humans is not her true mission, nor is it her calling in life. Diana chooses to spare Dr. Maru and instead focus on her true enemy, Aries himself. In this moment, I was reminded back to a pivotal moment in the first film that began this whole DC Cinematic Universe, Zack Snyder's origin story for Superman in Man of Steel (2013).
ike Clark Kent in Man of Steel (2013) before her, we see that the evils of the world can be difficult for her to reconcile with Diana's formerly default positive view of humanity. Like Clark, she has to determine whether mankind as a whole is worth risking her life to save.
The interesting thing about Snyder's DC Cinematic Universe is that it is not enough for the superheroes to gain super powers, but there must first be a conscious decision to confront the reality of what humanity is, both the good and bad, and only then can the hero within finally be born.
They must learn to love humanity enough to be willing to give up their lives to try to save it. And for nearly indestructible beings like Clark and Diana, whose natural lifespans are several orders of magnitude greater than a normal person, this is even a far greater sacrifice than is typically possible.
And it is that sense of innate goodness to the character and sense of earned sacrifice that helps set apart Man of Steel (2013) and now Wonder Woman (2017) from the pack of most superhero films. And it is why they will continue to be enduring classics into the future. Wonder Woman stands toe to toe with Superman as an excellent role model.
And part of the joy and delight of watching Wonder Woman is to see the skeptical looks in the men around her transform from doubt to faith in her ability to cross a barrier where no mortal man could cross for years and bring a seemingly impossible victory to the men who eventually follow her gladly into battle to liberate the countryside as they attempt to bring a swift and absolute conclusion to the war.
It is remarkable that in the process of modernizing Diana's character and origin story to appeal more to modern audiences, Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot never lost sight of the basic qualities that have always made Wonder Woman a favorite hero of both women and men alike. And while the world has waited several decades for this film version of the character to be made, I am happy to say it was well worth the wait.