The new ‘Wonder Woman’ film is getting high praise from critics, and deservedly so: it’s got action, drama, and humor all in the right places, along with strong characters and a fairly solid plot (as far as superhero films go). Beyond this, of course, it has the distinction of being the first major studio release to focus on a female superhero as its “standalone” main character, and I definitely echo the sentiments of many when I say “it’s about damn time.”
Even further beyond that, however: DC and the film’s creative team hopes that ‘Wonder Woman’ resonates with female and male fans alike and a lot of the burden to get the “finished product” of the film to that point lies on the shoulders of its director, Patty Jenkins. The film garnered a PG-13 rating, mostly for depictions of violence – the film does take place in the midst of World War I, after all. And also understandably, lots of little girls are going to want to see this film, and lots of parents are going to be wondering if it’s appropriate for them to do so.
I have a seven-year-old daughter, Amelia, and she has been particularly excited to see the movie. Growing up with me as her Dad, she’s been exposed to all things pop-culture for pretty much as long as she’s been around; she is in part named after a famous female aviator, after all. On particularly sleepless nights in her first year, I would rock her to sleep in my arms while watching black-and-white zombie movies (I read somewhere that young babies focus more on monochrome than color, although in retrospect the content of the films may have been iffy if she was truly focusing in), and her first word was “BoBo” after watching copious amounts of SpongeBob and recognizing that dapper little fellow wherever she went.
More importantly, as she’s gotten older, I’ve striven to help her understand that she can emulate males or females; of course, she identifies strongly with many characters that are girls and women, and I do love that about her. She loves her some Disney princesses. She’s got all the DC Super Hero Girls Lego sets. She’s got pajamas with logos and likenesses of My Little Ponies, Batgirl, the Powerpuff Girls, and of course, Wonder Woman. She plays Disney Infinity with me on our Wii U and loves to choose characters like Ahsoka Tano from ‘Star Wars,’ Gamora from ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ Black Widow from ‘The Avengers,’ Vanellope von Schweetz from ‘Wreck-It Ralph,’ and so many more. She loves a strong female role model.
I decided early on that I was going to take her to see ‘Wonder Woman.’ My wife, Emily, was a little more reticent than I on the matter, but she left the decision to me; when the time came for our press screening early in the week, Amelia and I were pumped and ready to rock. I didn’t explain anything about the movie to her, beyond the fact that Steve Trevor was also in the film (she knows the name because he’s a Lego character in one of the DC Super Hero Girl sets who, oddly enough, comes packaged with Harley Quinn in a set and not Diana Prince, like you’d imagine); she had seen some commercials for the movie that gave her some basic plot info, but that was it. As the film started, I was a little pensive, given the film’s rating and the DCEU’s propensity for the “darkness” label, but I let it ride.
Thank goodness I did, because watching ‘Wonder Woman’ with my daughter was an amazing experience. Amelia has, on more than one occasion, mentally checked out of a film she was watching with my wife and/or I if she wasn’t into it – you know how kids are when they couldn’t care less, flopping about in their seat and making pained expressions like someone was trying to remove an organ from their bodies. This was most definitely not the case with this film, though: the seven-year-old sat enthralled throughout the entire movie, only taking her eyes off the screen long enough to turn to me while whispering a few plot-clarifying questions or to make sure I saw the “really cool” thing that had just happened.
As the end credits rolled, there was no question: she loved the movie. She got excited and cheered through the “victorious” parts, bit her fingers and pulled her knees up to her chest during the “tense” parts, and was wide-eyed and attentive from start to finish. As we were walking to the car, I asked her what her favorite part was, and she couldn’t name one – I see this as a testament to how well the film flowed and how integral to the overall plot each scene was, instead of one big fight scene or one shoehorned funny moment standing out over the rest of the movie. During the car ride home, Amelia asked me intelligent questions about why World War I happened and what the opposing sides could have done differently. Needless to say, I was floored that she was processing the “bigger picture” aspects of the film so effectively – and I feel that is directly owed to Patty Jenkins and her meticulous care in crafting this film as a true story of humanity, not just another bash-em-up superhero movie.
Is ‘Wonder Woman’ the perfect movie? Of course not. Have I seen what I would consider the “perfect movie” ever? Definitely not – so let’s understand that all films have criticisms of some degree, and that’s okay. It’s our nature as audience members to individually take different things from stories that feature a wide range of emotions, characters, actions, and reactions. The amount this film did right in relation to what it did “wrong” is so skewed in the former’s favor – and that’s what makes ‘Wonder Woman’ an important film, especially to females, who so definitely deserve to see a role model like this come to life in our current age of superhero-movie-overload. It’s also an incredibly important film for males, but only the strongest of males: those who aren’t afraid to get in touch a bit with their “softer” side and understand how emotion and masculinity don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Movies like this truly have the “it takes a village” mentality to bring them to life, and so many people worked so hard on this film, they should all be so very proud. As I mentioned at the beginning, however: for a film tasked with such heavy responsibility – to be a “good female superhero movie,” on which the fate of all other future female superhero movies (unfairly) rests – it would take a director with an incredible eye for detail, an uncanny knack for satisfying geeky fans by riding the fine line of balancing plot development with action and adventure, and attention and appreciation for the source material to have any chance of succeeding.
Thankfully, ‘Wonder Woman’ had just that. So, Patty Jenkins, even though you will likely never read this: THANK YOU. From a fan… from a parent of a young fan… and from a person who understands how unfairly important it was for this film to succeed… my hat is absolutely off to you.
I want to say something like “go talk to Joss Whedon and make sure he doesn’t mess up that ‘Batgirl’ movie,” but I think you’ve helped me mentally move beyond tunnel-vision stereotypes that would have me assume that you have to go get right to work on another gender-specific film, so instead, Patty, I’ll just say: good luck on your next directorial endeavor. Count me among your new fans who will come and see it, whatever it might be about, and whatever gender the main character is.
Tony Schaab wonders where Green Rangers come from – I guess if a Yellow Ranger and a Blue Ranger love each other very much… A lover of most things sci-fi and horror, Tony is an author by day and a DJ by night. Come hang out with Tony on Twitter or follow him on Facebook to hear him spew semi-funny nonsense and get your opportunity to finally put him in his place.