Maybe it’s the result of being in a huge room and watching the movie with hundreds of other people, but the battle scenes in this movie make you want to stand up and cheer. That is, when they don’t make you want to turn your head away and wince. Director Lauren Montgomery said that the first cut of this movie earned an R rating, and it doesn’t surprise me one bit. I cut my teeth on the kid-friendly Batman: The Animated Series, and am therefore not accustomed to see that many bodies on the ground in a kid’s animated movie. Still, the violence is done with style, giving the battles energy and weight, rather than just gore for the sake of gore.
The movie is also the kind of epic that it’s hard to find in animated movies. Only Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Justice League: New Frontier, have that same grandiose sweep. The movie begins in ancient Greece, where the newly-freed Amazons, led by Hippolyta, are trying to keep Ares, God of War, from taking over the world. After an idyllic interlude in Themyscira, the movie careens through New York and various military installations before ending in Washington DC, where the Amazons battle for control of heaven itself.
There are a few weak points. I’ve never bought the love story between Steve Trevor and Diana, and it doesn’t help when Steve is depicted as a posturing idiot. Also, some of the speeches about gender roles are bizarre. It’s not that I don’t think the subject would come up. How could it not? The problem is that the characters who make the speeches seem to be speaking to people who aren’t there, or responding to accusations that haven’t been made. When Steve rants about how it’s not insulting to open a door for a woman, I might understand his argument, but since he hadn’t opened a door at all for Diana, let alone been upbraided for it, I didn’t understand why he was making that argument right then.
However, some of the points that the characters made rang true, including the obvious one that Themyscira’s strict isolationism and ‘no boys allowed’ policy is both sexist and useless. Diana’s reaction to sexism in the outside world is also fun. In one scene, when she observes a woman and a man flirting ridiculously, she gazes levelly at them for a moment before asking, “I was just wondering, is there something wrong with you?” Her tone has a mix of curiosity and contempt that can’t help but bring a smile to a feminist’s face.
But it isn’t the sharpness of the intelligence involved that distinguishes this movie, it’s the depth. Someone took the time to really consider the trade-offs to Amazon existence. Someone thought up motivation for villainy that wasn’t just routed in general mischief, and then someone thought up a fate so cruel that the watcher feels real sympathy for the villain. And then they thought up a fate worse than that.
Wonder Woman is a movie of intelligence and style, with a remarkable ability to use the battle scenes that we’ve seen in a hundred movies and make them emotionally resonant. It comes out on March 3rd, and I recommend it to anyone interested in what superhero movies should look like.