Sound Off! Wonder Woman

Welcome back to Sound Off!, a semi-regular column where members of Speculative Chic gather together to chat about the latest BIG THING in entertainment. This time, don your disguising eyeglasses and discuss Wonder Woman, which premiered in the United States on Friday, June 2, 2017.

Sound Off! is meant to be a reaction, but not necessarily a review. After all, while we are all individuals, even mutual love of something (or hate) can come from different places: you may find everything from critique to fangirling to maybe even hate-watching.

Now, join J.L. Gribble, Lane RobinsCasey PriceShara White, Nancy O’Toole Meservier, Carey M. BallardMerrin, and Sherry Peters as they talk about Wonder Woman! [Note: If you’ve seen the trailers, there are no major spoilers. Other minor plot points are hinted at, but the ending is safe. Until the big red letters! Then the ending is not safe.]


J.L.: During Batman v Superman last year, there were only two parts of the movie that I genuinely cared about. The first was the utter joy of watching Wonder Woman in combat at the end of the film. The second was the realization that all I wanted was the full story of the historical photograph featuring Diana and an unknown group of men during World War I. The intricate and mysterious past of this fascinating woman was much more interesting to me than the drama and mommy issues of some overpowered white dudes.

For the past few months, every time I’ve seen the trailer for Wonder Woman in the theater, I’ve chanted, “Please don’t suck. Please don’t suck,” under my breath.

I’m so incredibly happy. Not only did this movie not suck, but it has single-handedly saved my future interest in the DC cinematic universe (even if I really only intend to watch Justice League for Wonder Woman and Jason Momoa Aquaman).

I’m a ridiculous sap, so I cry at a lot of movies (and television shows, and books, and the occasional commercial). But I’ve only cried for the sheer joy of what I saw on the big screen twice in my life. The first was the Quidditch match in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The second was the utter beauty and prestige of Diana traversing No Man’s Land.

There were many spectacular shots and sequences in this action-heavy movie, and the Amazonian battle near the beginning of the movie also took my breath away. Seeing women kick ass in a training sequence was impressive. Seeing women kick ass in full combat on the big screen, not because they are the exception, but because they are the rule, was something I had no idea I’d been waiting my whole life for. But while that battle was reactionary, Diana climbing the ladder to No Man’s Land and pressing forward was pure action and motivation.

It was also incredibly refreshing to see a true romantic partnership between a superhero and her lover. Steve Trevor is a badass in his own right, and I loved that Diana’s power did nothing to diminish his own skills or character arc. I would love to see more of this in any story, not just superhero or action movies.  Bonus points also for Steve’s “above average” humor and charm. (If you haven’t seen the movie yet, that’s a fantastic joke you’ll get later.)

It’s easy to focus on the diversity of the men in the photograph and miss the quiet diversity that also exists in so much of the movie, from the women of Themyscira to the civilians and soldiers alike in London. That touch did not go unnoticed or unappreciated for this viewer.

This was not a perfect movie. The villains could have been more fleshed out, and though I had partially predicted a twist at the end, I was happy to not be 100% correct about it. Some of the closing narrative was also on the heavy-handed side, but I suppose some viewers need a heavier clue bat. On the whole, however, this was a thoroughly enjoyable movie. Definitely the best from the DC cinematic universe so far, and easily in my top 5 of all comic book superhero movies to this point.


Lane: Wonder Woman was my first hero. The one that I wanted to be. The one that made me make my poor mother stop what she was doing to create bracelets “Just Like Wonder Woman’s” for me to wear. Over the years though, I kind of forgot about Wondy as she went through change after change in the comics. My first reaction when hearing about her being added to the Zack Snyder so-called “Murderverse” was, “Oh god, why?”

Then I saw a trailer and my dormant fangirl woke up and shrieked in insane delight. I got goosebumps. I cried. My reactions shifted to, “Please don’t screw this up, please, please, please. Just don’t be bad.”

Thankfully, Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot did not screw this up and avoided “not being bad” by a very large margin. I went opening night (fangirl insisted!) and stayed in my seat the whole movie (nearly unheard of).

Was it absolutely perfect? No. There’s a whole lot I could unpack about gender and race, and another pile of stuff I could complain about as a writer. The movie was great anyway. I loved Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. She brought the charisma, the charm, and the utter sense of self-confidence needed for the role. I loved the Amazons. I adored Diana as a small girl, so adorably eager to learn how to fight. I loved that even though she was an incredible fighting force, she also got to be cheerful and friendly and excited about the world. Usually, when we have the badass heroine, she’s stoic and grim. Wry at best. (Hi, Alice from Resident Evil! I still love you!) Diana gets to be openly excited about the good things she sees, openly horrified by inhumanity, and entirely independent.

Overall, I went, I saw, I squeed, I will go see it again, I will purchase when available, and I have already appeased the inner fangirl by ordering a Wonder Woman T-shirt. Or maybe two.

Marvel, I’m ready for my Black Widow and Captain Marvel movies now….


Casey: Four. That’s the number of times that I cried during Wonder Woman. It’s not hard for me to pin down why I got so emotional over this movie. It was a joy to watch Diana of Themyscira face down everything from her own mother to the god of war himself and then win her battles. One word kept drifting through my mind as I watched this glorious movie: finally. Finally, Wonder Woman in her own film. Finally, an excellent DC movie. Finally, a female villain that is neither disrespected nor hypersexualized even one time during the course of the film. Finally.

It’s too tempting to climb on my feminist soap box and start extolling the film’s virtues, so I will attempt to keep this brief. I wanted to cheer at so many things that this movie gave us. I don’t have the space to list them all, so here are some highlights: the Amazons defending their home from would-be German invaders, Etta managing to stop the German spy from escaping the alley, Diana climbing out of the foxhole and making her way across No Man’s Land (such a metaphor!), and even that quick little comment that Diana made about men being unnecessary for pleasure (to which I did snort in amusement). There were so many things that this movie said and did that I desperately needed to hear and see. I didn’t know how much I needed Wonder Woman in my life until it was over.

I want to take a moment to look at Isabel Maru/Doctor Poison. Her intelligence is both feared and respected by everyone that encounters her. Nobody looks down upon her and chuckles at the lady who thinks that she can do science. She is deadly and brilliant, and she never once even considers using her sexuality as a weapon. She scorns Steve’s somewhat ham-handed attempt to woo her. She knows her worth as a scientist and the film lets her be that woman without an over-the-top costume or a vengeance quest to drive her. She is simply a woman who is competently doing her (horrifying) job. This is inspiring and refreshing in its own way.

Wonder Woman contains the perfect amount of hope and inspiration without being sappy or melodramatic. One aches a little for Diana as she learns the ugly truth of the outside world. Then, happily, one also gets to watch Diana go ahead and save the day anyway, because that’s what needs to be done. I loved it, and I can’t wait to watch it again.


Shara: I’ve got to be clear: I’ve never been a Wonder Woman fangirl. I was born too late to be raised on the Lynda Carter television series, never saw the reruns, and never read any comics until the New 52 launched. I was rather lukewarm on the character, but at least by then, I’d read enough about her that I understood her importance in genre history. This movie felt especially important, because prior to Wonder Woman, the female-led comic book movies had done abysmally, no doubt due to horrendous scripts. I wanted to see this film opening weekend due to my role here on the blog, and because Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was the only bright spot in the rather bloated and boring Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

I wore my Agent Carter t-shirt because I wanted to be ironic and I think Peggy would approve, but I also went with a good friend who cosplayed as Wonder Woman at our 11:40 am showing. We settled in to enjoy the show, and let me tell you: what a show that was.

For starters: I know when Gal Gadot was originally cast, I had my own grumblings because I thought she was too skinny (shame on me: body-shaming goes both ways, and I admit my own guilt here), and I’d thought Gina Carano had a better look for the part. Any doubts I had about Gadot’s ability to play this role were wiped away immediately. She’s a wonderfully expressive actress, and her face conveys volumes. Not just badassery, but joy, sorrow, anger — the whole spectrum of emotion. I empathized with Diana Prince, and I can’t stress how important that is when it comes to the conversation of “strong female characters.” People seem to think that this means women can’t show femininity or vulnerability, but that just isn’t so, and I loved Diana for all of her expressive range: from wide-eyed innocence to hard-edged cynicism.

The humor was wonderful, and she played well against Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor. I loved how a lot of the humor was derived from Diana being a fish out of water and not understanding how the world works, but that humor also had a more poignant edge: once she left Themyscira, she was confronted constantly with the culture-shock of London — specifically, with how women were supposed to act. It was funny because it was true: how they dressed, how they spoke to men, how they were supposed to defer. Diana has none of it, and the moment that really got me, the moment that really got a lot of people, was when she decides to step up at No Man’s Land.

I won’t spoil anything, save to say that this sequence in the movie brought me to tears, and it was far more powerful than anything the climax had to offer, which started paralleling Captain America: The First Avenger a little too close for comfort (though I have to say: I think if the Marvel and DC universe crossed over, Peggy and Diana would make fantastic friends). The No Man’s Land sequence represents what it means not just for Diana to stay true to herself and her ideals and goals, but in many ways, it asks those in the audience: what would you do in her shoes? It’s no accident this battle takes place in “No Man’s Land,” and I was immediately reminded of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Eowyn’s defeat of the Witch King, but that’s a separate essay for another time. The point is this: we get to see our Captain Americas and our Supermans do the right thing all the time. How often do we get to see a female superhero get to do the same thing, in the face of more opposition? Steve wasn’t trying to oppress Diana when he stressed that they focus on their mission. He looked at the situation and called it like he saw it. I’d like to think he’d say the same thing to Captain America or Superman, but who knows? The Mary Sue makes a great argument for Steve Trevor being an equal partner in the relationship, so maybe he wasn’t trying to protect her here, and he really was just focused on the mission at hand.

Still, I loved this sequence. I also loved the absence of the usually present male gaze. Yes, the male characters constantly talked about how gorgeous Diana was, but when it came to the camera work, no one was ogling Diana’s body. When it showed her fighting, it showed her fighting, not just close-ups of what her boobs or butt were doing in costume, a fact that some critics don’t seem to understand, but you can’t please everyone, can you? For my buck, as a viewer who sees the majority of superhero films, let alone a good number of science fiction and fantasy films and television, I was thrilled with this movie, and I hope that Wonder Woman heralds more female-led properties in the future, both in front of and behind the camera. The film was filled with wonderful women (Robin Wright as an Amazon? That was freaking fantastic!), and as for the future of Diana Prince in the DC universe, I hope to see more stand-alone features. Don’t get me wrong: I look forward to seeing her in the new Justice League movie, but they better do right by Wonder Woman there, too. And given how many films that have been dedicated to Superman and Batman over the decades, I think it’s finally time Wonder Woman get a real chance to solidify her own franchise. It’s long overdue, and there’s no doubt that Gal Gadot can handle it.


Nancy: There have been few films that I have faced with a stronger mixture of excitement and dread then the Wonder Woman movie. The excitement comes from my love of the character. The dread from the fact that before Wonder Woman, the films of DC Entertainment Universes (DCEU) were — at best — radically uneven and — at worst — a dumpster fire. I knew that if Wonder Woman let me down, not only would I be incredibly disappointed, but it would be very difficult to talk me into seeing another DC movie in the theaters again.

Fortunately, with Wonder Woman, DC did something that I was starting to worry was beyond them: make a good movie. And what a damn good movie it is, too. Wonder Woman succeeds on pretty much every level. The casting is fantastic, with Gal Gadot portraying a younger, more innocent version of Diana than we saw in Batman v Superman. Being a huge fan of Chris Pine, I knew that he was a perfect choice to play Steve Trevor, but I didn’t realize how much I would fall for the smaller characters, including Lucy Davis as the scene-stealing Etta Candy.

But there’s plenty of talent going on behind the camera as well. Patty Jenkins skillfully directs, crafting a film that is visually very much her own, but still feels at home in the mainstream superhero genre. The script is also quite well-balanced. One of my biggest complaints about Batman v Superman was that I often felt as if I were looking at the third of every scene, the big emotional moments without any of the proper build-up. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, takes time to build relationships and emotional arcs. So when those big heroic moments do happen, they’re that much more satisfying.

Wonder Woman, of course, has flaws. For 95% of their screen time, the action sequences and set pieces are immersive, and exciting, but during that remaining 5% the CGI can be a little too obvious. And while Wonder Woman is very much its own film, there were a few instances when it felt distractingly similar to Captain America: The First Avenger. But much like the recently released Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the strengths of the film more than make up for its weaknesses. Wonder Woman is a fantastic superhero film that serves as a satisfying course correct for the DCEU. And I can’t help but be pleased that, in world where female-led superhero films and female-directed blockbusters are a rarity, that it was with a movie that had both that DC finally managed to make a good movie. No, a damn good one.


Carey: I had to see Wonder Woman twice for all of it to sink in. I have waited soooooo long for this film that I can’t believe it happened! I watched every preview, read nearly every tidbit, and crossed my fingers this wouldn’t be another Elektra, or another Catwoman. I worried the film would suffer because Patty Jenkins was trying to cram too much into it. I initially didn’t like Gal Gadot for the main role; I’d been holding out for Jaime Alexander (Blindspot; Sif in the Thor films). I didn’t want Chris Pine as Steve Trevor because I can’t stand his Captain Kirk (sorry, sir!). I kept hoping, even as I told everyone that if The Powers That Be messed this up, I’d never, ever, forgive them. I needed to see Wonder Woman on the big screen in a long-format story, not just a guest appearance — as, I suspect, a lot of people did.

And Jenkins delivered. So did Gadot. And Pine. And Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright and everyone else. I needed a superhero movie with a lot of heart and compassion mixed with action and justice and that is what I got — and more. I can’t imagine anyone except Gadot in this role. She was perfect! Pine as Steve Trevor was also perfect (“above average,” ahem). Their chemistry and humor were spot on, and their characters learned from each other in a very balanced narrative. Gadot as Diana nails the role, and as Wonder Woman, she doesn’t let anyone limit her. Jenkins delivers a perfectly balanced origin story that reverses sexist tropes from everything from fighting to fridging, and hinged it on top-notch performances. The ultimate action is kind of flat — once you pitch one god against another god, what else is there? But the manner in which it is resolved? That’s pure Wonder Woman. All the way. It is the first DCEU film I wanted to rewatch right after I left the theater.

So I did.


Merrin: Basically this entire movie can be summed up this way:

Everyone: Diana, no!
Diana: Diana, yes!

I really loved this movie. I loved it so much I saw it twice in the same weekend with no regrets. Saturday morning, when I sat down for my first viewing, I spent much of the first twenty minutes or so crying at all of the incredibly awesome and powerful women on screen. I can’t remember a time I’ve ever seen a movie opening like that, with nary a man in sight.

The standout performance in this part of the movie was from Robin Wright, who is practically perfect in every single way. I didn’t actually know she was in this film until she sauntered on screen, every inch the battle-scarred warrior, greatest general of the Amazons. If I’d known, I don’t think I would ever have anticipated how great she could be in that role.

I can’t remember a time I’ve seen a woman wearing an outfit like Diana’s where her body was not focused on, where nothing was framed for the male gaze. She climbs a ladder to go out into battle and the focus is on her shield, her boots, her lasso, and her hands, basically in that order. Can you imagine that shot in any other movie? Or at least, any other superhero movie?

Little things became so important to me during this film, like that fact that when Diana kisses someone (I mean, it’s probably obvious but still no spoilers), she’s the one that leans in, she’s the one that takes control. At the end of the film, Steve comes to her, begging her to come into battle with him. She’s in the position of power and Steve knows it.

If I have one criticism at all, it’s that I’m a little tired of the “let me protect you,” woman protects herself, “oh, I see you are different and can handle yourself” mentality played out over and over. And the fact that it didn’t just happen in the beginning of the movie in the alley but several times throughout the movie got a little tired.

But honestly, that’s it, that’s my criticism, and even that can be gently explained away by the fact that the movie is set in the 1910s.

Wait — if I have two criticisms at all, it’s that and the villain. I had zero problems with the reveal. My problem was with who they got to play the villain and how I couldn’t concentrate on them being a villain because I couldn’t stop laughing at them being the villain. So. That’s as much as I can say without ruining everything. Find me when you’ve watched it.

But seriously, neither of these criticisms came close to ruining anything for me. I can’t wait to own this movie for myself.


SPOILERS for the very ending past this point!

Sherry: I grew up watching Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman. I don’t remember much about the show except that she spun really fast to change into her superhero uniform, she fought crime, and she was amazing. Underoos were a big thing, then: your favorite superhero costume printed onto an undershirt and underwear and advertised to kids at a ferocious price. I desperately wanted the Wonder Woman Underoos so that I, too, could be a superhero. I didn’t get them. My friend had them, though, and I was super jealous. We would play Wonder Woman in her back yard. I never got to be Wonder Woman though, because I didn’t have the Underoos/costume. As I grew up, I forgot about Wonder Woman. Over the years, I’ve been tempted to buy a Wonder Woman costume for Halloween, but the temptation fades pretty quick. When the movie trailers came out, I got excited again. They looked amazing. I knew for sure I was going to go. But as the release date came closer, I became more reluctant. In part, my reluctance was due to my hermit-like tendencies. Having just moved, I’ve been under a lot of stress lately and having to do something, even just going to a movie, was not really what I wanted to do, regardless of the movie. I am, at the risk of ruining my geek cred, not the biggest fan of superhero movies. I like some of them, I’ll even watch some of them more than once, but maybe I would just wait until Wonder Woman comes out on Netflix. I debated long and hard, and in the end, going to see the movie won out.

I am so glad it did!

There was a moment during the movie, when Wonder Woman jumps out of the trench and takes on the gunfire from the German army, blocking the bullets, leading the fight, that I felt the impact of that moment, of the movie, of what I was seeing. We finally had a female superhero that took the lead, who wasn’t looking for a fight (except with Aries), who defended, who saw through all the horrible things humanity did to each other, and saw the good in us. I knew then that it was going to take me some time to compose my thoughts about what I saw. I’ll probably need to see it several more times and continue to unpack the meaning behind it all.

I’ve always believed that Princess Leia was an incredible female lead who showed me how strong and powerful women could be. Rey from The Force Awakens carries on that mantle. We have female superheroes, but the ones I have seen have been side-kicks, not the leads. They are reduced to their gender or the relationships they are in. There were times I thought the writers had done the same to Wonder Woman. Each time the writers proved me wrong. Every time Steve Trevor told her to cover up because she was “too distracting” was a reminder of how we are still told to cover up so that men and boys aren’t distracted. Diana Prince refused. She refused to fight covered up. When Steve Trevor dies, yes, she is upset, but she doesn’t fight or defend just out of revenge for her loss, she does so because she saw the good of humanity in him, and in others, confirming what she had believed from the start. This wasn’t just a superhero movie that is entertaining. Director Patty Jenkins knew she had a job, to make a statement that female superheroes are incredible, but also a statement on gender equality in today’s society — we don’t have to cover up, neither our reproductive bits nor our timepieces have to dictate what we do and when, we are strong and compassionate at the same time, we should not be pushed aside — and I think she succeeded.

I want to be Wonder Woman again.

12 Comments

  • Sherry Peters June 6, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    Ha Ha! I left off that I cried because I thought I was just having a weepy day. Turns out I was wrong! I started crying during the No-Man’s-Land scene. That was the moment I thought we finally had the female superhero we’ve been waiting for, and I didn’t even realize it’d been waiting for her too. And now that’s making me so incredibly sad, that we’ve had to wait and been so silenced for so long, that we are essentially crying out of relief and joy.

    Reply
  • Nancy O'Toole Meservier June 6, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    2017 has been a GREAT year for Superhero movies so far

    Reply
    • J.L. Gribble June 6, 2017 at 8:27 pm

      It’s only going to get better! I’m excited for Spider-Man, but I can’t WAIT for Thor!!

      Reply
      • Shara White June 6, 2017 at 8:37 pm

        I keep forgetting Spider-Man exists. Don’t get me wrong, I like the casting, and the trailers do look promising, but I am SO TIRED OF THAT CHARACTER. But Thor? BRING IT.

        Reply
        • Carey Ballard June 7, 2017 at 10:46 am

          Yes–why are they rebooting Spiderman AGAIN? It feels like H’wood is going for some kind of reboot record.

          Reply
          • Shara White June 7, 2017 at 11:15 am

            At least here I get it: Marvel finally has the rights back in their hands, and they’re bringing Spidey into the MCU. I just wish they’d chosen Miles Morales to give us someone NEW, you know?

        • Tricia June 7, 2017 at 11:18 am

          I think everyone is tired of Spider-Man.

          Reply
      • Nancy O'Toole Meservier June 6, 2017 at 8:38 pm

        As probably the only person on the planet who enjoyed the hell out of BOTH Thor movies, I concur!

        And thanks to Wonder Woman, I’m also excited for Justice League. Who would have thunk it?

        Reply
        • Lane Robins June 7, 2017 at 11:39 am

          I really enjoyed both the Thor movies, the second more than the first I think. I think the tone was a little uncertain, but I have high hopes for Thor Ragnarok or whatever it is. I think they’ve finally gotten Thor’s character right.

          Reply
          • Shara White June 7, 2017 at 12:46 pm

            People sneer at the second Thor movie, but I loved it. I wasn’t a Loki fan until THAT movie.

  • Carey Ballard June 7, 2017 at 10:46 am

    I finally watched Batman v. Superman on DVD last year, and fast forwarded through most of the parts. Except where Wonder Woman/Gal Gadot showed up onscreen. Those were all the best parts.

    This Wonder Woman film was just so amazing in so many ways. I am so glad it finally exists! And, seemingly unlike the other DCEU films, IT’S REWATCHABLE.

    Reply
  • Tricia June 7, 2017 at 11:20 am

    Great post, you guys! Enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts. I’m also hoping for a slew of Wonder Woman movies!

    Reply

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