Wonder Woman Takes on the Germans, the God of War and Any Villain She Can Find in WW I

Culture Watch
tags: WWI, Wonder Woman



Bruce Chadwick lectures on history and film at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He also teaches writing at New Jersey City University. He holds his PhD from Rutgers and was a former editor for the New York Daily News. Mr. Chadwick can be reached at bchadwick@njcu.edu.


Related Link Wonder Woman  –  as scholars like Jill Lepore see her.  =  

  Wonder Woman, the Amazon warrior with the golden lasso, bullet reflecting wristbands, magical headdress, non-stop bravery, lightning-quick reflexes, enormous power and good looks, is out on the battle field again, this time in World War I. She fights for the allies against the very, very evil Germans and the God of War, too, and does it in dramatic and thrilling fashion.

   The movie Wonder Woman, that opened over the weekend, is a superb, action packed emotional story of a trained killer, Diana, from a lost island of women soldiers who sails across an ocean to the world of men, a world on fire, and fights for the good guys while falling in love with one good guy in particular, British army spy Steve Trevor.

       The Hollywood box office record book has been filled with the ticket sales of lots of super hero movies, from Batman to Superman to Thor (Marvel Comics now has its own studio to bang out stories about its characters). Americans are crazy about super heroes. But Wonder Woman?

    Well, this movie shows that not only are girls smarter than boys, but they can crack heads better than them, too.

      The strength of this impressive Wonder Woman, though, is not the dazzling scenes in which she single handedly kills a few thousand German with her magical sword and sensational moves, but the deft writing, solid humor and sharp direction that make it a pretty interesting human drama. Patty Jenkins, the director, has created an action-packed story with all the necessary bells and whistles, but at the same time given us a tug-on-the-heart emotional tale in which a hard-nosed marble goddess Diana becomes a gentle woman who loves her man more than she loves her sword. Added to that is a superb script in which a half dozen admirable and lovable characters take over a basic war story and turn it into something special.

     For those who are not Wonder Woman fans, she is a unique creation. Her mother made her out of clay and the Amazon generals trained her to be the greatest warrior of them all. General Antipode is played by Robin Wright, of blood throat House of Cards fame. Her general is the glamazon in charge. Diana is a direct descendant of the Gods and. with her women soldiers, was destined, lore had it, to someday save the world from war.

      The story starts with a bang when, after the story of Diana’s upbringing, a British spy, Steve Trevor, chased by the Germans, crash lands off the shore of the Amazon island Themyscira and the warrior princess rescues him. She and the all-female army defeat the Germans in a pitched battle. A few days later Diana leaves with her soldier boy to join WWI (after a very funny scene in which the British spy gets out of a bath and our heroine discovers that boys are, well, built differently than girls), to get to Europe to slay the War God, Ares, and end the “war to end all wars.”

     Traveling with a small band of odd characters, friends of Trevor’s, she winds up in an allied  trench and leads a heroic charge across ‘No Man’s Land’ and defeats the Germans. Then it is on to a small village that had been ransacked by the Germans. There, going from street to street and building to building, she whips the wicked enemy and saves the townspeople.

   That’s just the beginning. Dressed in her special gold headdress and wearing her magic wrist bracelets and whip-ass boots, and packing her mercurial sword, shield and golden lasso, that not only ties you up, but makes you tell the truth, leggy Diana races off to try to end the war and finish off the mighty Ares in sensational final few scenes.

     The acting in the film is impressive. Gal Gadot, a former Miss Israel and Israeli army soldier, is a wonderful Wonder Woman. The Israeli actress does look at bit like television’s Lynda Carter, star of the 1970s TV series. She is not only an acrobat, but a sensual heroine and makes you cheer for her. Chris Pine is just as good as the heroic, but very tender, British spy who, battle after battle, falls for the island warrior. Other fine performances in the movie are from Danny Huston as the evil German General, Elena Anaya as the wicked poison gas maker and Trevor’s sidekicks, Said Taghmaoul, Ewan Bremner and Eugene Black Rock.

    The cinematography is sensational, especially the slow-motion shots and the scenes of the heroine racing through a hail of bullets on the battlefield.

    The movie is filled with the history of the conflict, covering the views from both sides plus the stories of villagers, diplomats, members of Parliament, soldiers and, of course the Amazon women with their trusty swords.

     Screenwriter Allan Heinberg went out of his way to have Trevor explain to Wonder Woman that wars are not all caused by one country but, over the centuries, by all countries. Somehow, some way, everybody is a villain. Politics bring out the worst in people and millions die for that, he said. It is a powerful speech. So is Diana’s line at the end, that love stops wars.

     The movie is as much about comic book history as it is about World War I. Diana, the Wonder Woman heroine, was created as a character for All Star Comics in 1941 by psychologist William Moulton Marston and artist Harry G. Peter. Marston based much of his 1940s character on feminist leaders of the day, such as Margaret Sanger.

    In later comics (she is with DC Comics now), artist made her more muscular and suggested that, sexually, the heroine was bisexual. She was created to fight the Nazis in World War II but later took on a long line of villains and in 1960 Joined the Justice League and appeared in numerous stories there.

     From the start, the character of Diana Prince, her civilian front, was sexual. She was created and drawn as the forceful, dominant woman who was, at the same time, the warrior, the sweet and loving woman and a sex goddess. Hence, the beach babe look. “The obvious remedy (to the problems) is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman,” wrote creator Marston in The American Scholar magazine in 1943.

    Actress Gal Gadot said that “she’s a woman with a lot of emotional intelligence.”

   All of these qualities, and her powers, have served her well over the years and kept her popular. Sales of her comics, over seventy years, are up there with Superman and Batman.

     Great movie. It did well at the box office too, taking in a whopping $100 million to be the weekend box office champ and one of the big films of the year.

 One gripe – weren’t any American soldiers involved in World War I ? Here, it’s all Brits, all the time.

   There is a lot of emotion, tenderness, speechmaking and intellectualizing in the film, but the bottom line is that Wonder Woman kicks ass.



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