Praise Zeus, Wonder Woman is finally here and it’s even better than we hoped it would be. While it’s a standout superhero film all on its own, there’s something inherently special for women to see Diana of Themyscira, an iconic female and feminist role model, onscreen for the first time.
io9's Katharine Trendacosta, Alex Cranz, Cheryl Eddy, and I sat down to discuss every aspect of this groundbreaking superhero film, including Steve Trevor’s role as a male ally, and what the film’s success could and should mean for the DC Expanded Universe. No boys allowed! (Except in the comments.)
Beth Elderkin: All right, ladies. Welcome to Themyscira! How’s everyone feeling?
Katharine Trendacosta: I am feeling great and not like I need those hours back again, which is such a relief.
Cheryl Eddy: I agree with Katharine... I don’t think it was a perfect movie, but I had a really good time watching it.
Alex Cranz: Yeah, I was genuinely concerned before the premiere that people were so eager for a success for DC—and for women superheroes—that people were being unnecessarily kind to Diana. They were not! Her movie is good!
Beth: I mean, it’s a huge deal. This is the first time we’ve gotten a superhero movie of this magnitude that stars a woman. Going beyond your experience as a moviegoer, or even as a comic book fan, how did it feel as a woman seeing this character in her own movie on this scale?
Cheryl: It was very satisfying.
Alex: It’s not the first time. This is just the first good film.
Katharine: Yeah, I present to you... Catwoman.
Beth: True, that movie did have a $100-million budget.
Alex: Katharine, no. Shh. But yes, Catwoman, Elektra, Supergirl, and Tank Girl, all comic lady movies. And all films that were disasters either critically, financially, or both.
Katharine: It is shocking and upsetting, though, that all of those characters got movies before Wonder Woman.
Alex: But where Wonder Woman really sets itself apart is how gleefully violent it is. I love that this was a superpowered woman just fucking shit up for a big chunk of the film’s two-hour running time.
Cheryl: I think it was longer than two hours? That’s one of my few complaints, that it was too long. But that’s par for the course.
Katharine: Yeah, I don’t know for sure what Zack Snyder was involved in, but that really long fight scene felt like the end of his last two DC Expanded Universe movies.
Alex: Only you could tell what was happening.
Beth: So, obviously we have to talk about the core of the film, Wonder Woman herself. I liked Gal Gadot in Batman v. Superman, though you don’t see much of her in it… but I’ll admit I was worried how she’d do in the starring role. But to me, she was Wonder Woman, mind, body, and soul. I was thoroughly impressed. What about y’all?
Cheryl: I thought she nailed it, really and truly.
Katharine: It was a good idea not to go with a really recognizable actor for this.
Cheryl: Completely agree.
Alex: Gadot has so much damn charm.
Katharine: I loved that they made the other Amazons mimic her accent, instead of making her get rid of hers.
Cheryl: ME TOO OMG.
Alex: It was a true delight. And I liked how young Wonder Woman was for much of this film.
Beth: One thing I loved about Gadot’s performance was how earnest it was. Diana was innocent but not naive. Like that scene in the street, where she’s taking everything in with a combination of disgust and wonder… and then she spots the baby!
Katharine: I liked that moment and I thought they did just the right amount of fish-out-of-water stuff. It would have been really easy to go overboard on that stuff.
Beth: Which would’ve fallen into the “Born Sexy Yesterday” trope.
Katharine: Or just turned this movie into Thor.
Beth: What were your favorite fish-out-of-water moments?
Cheryl: I liked the shopping scene with Etta Candy, and also when she sees snow for the first time.
Katharine: It’s the baby moment for me.
Alex: I just loved her entirely foreign concept of war and why it was waged. It was so beautifully naive, like you wanted to wrap her up and kind of protect her from the awfulness of the world... until she beat a man with a tank.
Beth: This is the first DCEU movie where the lead character is allowed to be joyful. And it feels so overdue.
Katharine: Joyful, but the movie wasn’t devoid of darkness. It actually balanced that stuff.. My god, why did it take this long?
Alex: Because girls are icky, Katharine.
Beth: Anyone else feel an extra tinge of happiness when Diana spared Doctor Poison? Different circumstances than Man of Steel, but still… I don’t think I’ll ever be okay with Superman murdering Zod.
Alex: Completely different! And I mean, Diana kills people.
Katharine: I’m sorry, Beth, I was busy getting mad that they had decided Diana was the Goddess of Love instead.
Alex: Let’s talk about the erasure of Greek goddesses in this film. Because Diana has always been an embodiment of the Pantheon right?
Katharine: And specifically truth.
Alex: But this film kills them off screen, and never acknowledges that she’s supposed to be representative of all of them. Instead, she’s just another god.
Beth: I mean, she’s technically the last one right? If Ares is dead now.
Beth: I don’t know if I’d classify her as a love goddess. Her strength came from her love—not for Steve, though that was surely part of it—but it was her love of humanity and her need to do the right thing.
Katharine: I’m still mad, because Hollywood has one setting for goddesses and it’s always love.
Alex: Whatever Katharine, I loved her line about love. I didn’t interpret it as her being the Goddess of Love, but simply as her saying there are alternatives to war.
Katharine: I gave them the first moment, but once they went back to that well, I was very worried.
Cheryl: I wasn’t mad at that, but I think it’s because my first exposure to Wonder Woman was the 1970s TV show, and it’s there in the theme: “Stop a war with love.”
Alex: Well, I think they make it very clear she’s a goddess of compassion... of compassionate love.
Beth: Exactly, being a goddess of love and a goddess of compassion are two different things. Love just has fewer syllables.
Alex: Yeah, her saying compassion would not have had the same impact.
Beth: Let’s shift gears for a bit and talk about Steve Trevor. I loved Steve in this film, and Chris Pine’s performance was, in my opinion, kinda revelatory. I’d argue this might be one of the best portrayals of a male feminist ally that we’ve ever seen in a mainstream film—especially a superhero film.
Katharine: I forgot that Chris Pine was that charming. He’s basically just been famous for doing a great Shatner take for so long, I actually forgot there was another actor there.
Alex: I confess to hating Chris Pine for over a decade, so I was really surprised to like him in this. He knew when to take a back seat.
Katharine: He’s leaped ahead in the Chris rankings.
Beth: Oh, he’s miles ahead of Chris Pratt for me now. It’s almost like the two of them have had a Freaky Friday situation, where Pratt is the typical leading man dick and Pine is the supportive male hero.
Katharine: Chris Evans better keep an eye out. When Pine tried to seduce Doctor Poison, I was like, “Yes. This is your role, Steve.” Diana does the fighting, you are the Honey Trap.
Beth: And he did such a good job of it too. I love how he wasn’t bumbling or incapable, nor was he cocky about his skills.
Katharine: Or all angsty about it.
Alex: He was that hyper-competent love interest that usually falls in love with Chris Pratt.
Beth: That “shield” moment in No Man’s Land was my absolute favorite in the entire film. Steve wasn’t forcing Diana to change her fighting style to suit his needs—he recognized what she needed and provided it for her, no questions asked or thanks needed.
Alex: I mean, Steve had his moment of fuckery, but I loved that Diana was immediately like, “I AM DONE WITH YOU.”
Katharine: The fact that their conflict was based pretty much entirely on them having different world views actually made it interesting. Rather than him being, “The world looks like this, put this dress on and shut up.”
Beth: He recognizes that just because his worldview is different doesn’t make it more right than hers. In fact, he knows that his world is screwed up.
Katharine: I did love that for once it was the dude’s backstory that was cut. Because he briefly mentions having run from the war for too long and then says something like maybe he and the rest of humanity doesn’t deserve to be saved. Like, clearly there was something in his past they meant to bring up to make that hit home better, but, eh. He’s just Steve Trevor, so who cares.
Beth: I kind of like it better without it. I feel like I knew just enough about him to understand his conflict.
Alex: You know what was really revelatory about Steve Trevor? The moment she saves him from the plane. Any other film it would have been his story from then on. It would have been about him using these women to win the war, and teaching them how everything was different. And the movie never ever ever went that direction.
Beth: That reminds me of my next big talking point: Patty Jenkins’ direction. In particular, how she handles “The Gaze.” There are a lot of shots in here that could and likely would have been exploited for titillation in the hands of another director, like Zack Snyder with Sucker Punch. But I admired how Jenkins handled the fight scenes and choreography, as well as Wonder Woman’s superhero poses. Jenkins didn’t subvert the male gaze, apart from the Chris Pine bathing scene, because she didn’t need to. She simply made it not matter.
Alex: This was not a sexual movie at all—despite some Grade-A off-screen banging. We never see unbridled lust on screen.
Beth: To me, and this might sound weird on its face, the movie felt like the difference between stripping and burlesque. Both of them have similar elements, but they serve different purposes. A character like Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises is shot one way, focusing on her assets for the audience, but Wonder Woman was thankfully never exploited. Her body wasn’t hidden, it was celebrated—as well as her looks, because come on, she’s a gorgeous woman—but it was on her terms and for her purposes, not for the male audience. And I think Jenkins was a big part of that.
Alex: I know a lot of people were concerned about Jenkins because her last film was small and not about action at all. But the woman shot really good action and it wasn’t just all in the hands of animators. I mean the final fight is just a cartoon, but the Amazons versus the Germans was not!
Cheryl: Her direction of the actors, especially Gadot’s performance, as well as the “moments” like the baby and the fight with the shield, were great.
Katharine: This was a movie which embraced the simplicity of its story for the sake of its characters.
Alex: I think we’re gonna see a lot of comparisons, inevitably, to Snyder, and what I loved is Jenkins can actually direct actors and bring emotion into a film. But she also can nail those loving straight from a picture book shots that are Snyder’s bag. She out Snyder’d Snyder in the best possible way.
Beth: Snyder’s contribution to the film appears to have worked out well, as a story creator and producer, and his recruitment of Gadot was spot-on. I feel like putting him in the director’s chair is where the problems arise, as well as when his direction overly inspires other films in the franchise.
Alex: No doubt that final fight was in the works long before the film was tinkered with, but you can see Warner Bros/DC’s attempt to keep Wonder Woman from being as dour as Batman v Superman. Like the great ice cream gag—that’s a moment that was clearly shot after the rest of the film to brighten things up. And it worked.
Katharine: Ice cream and superheroes have been a fruitful pairing in live-action.
Alex: If Batman v. Superman had to happen so we could get Wonder Woman enjoying an ice cream cone, I am okay with that.
Beth: Speaking of awesome scenes: No Man’s Land.
Cheryl: People in the theater were cheering so much.
Beth: I love how Steve’s like, “You can’t go over there, it’s No Man’s Land.” And Wonder Woman basically replies, “I AM NO MAN!” I’ve seen people saying that might go down as one of the best scenes in a superhero film we’ve ever gotten, and honestly, I agree.
Alex: It didn’t end! It was a constant WONDER WOMAN SMASH, which is all I wanted.
Beth: I never wanted it to end!
Alex: Though admittedly things slowed down so much immediately afterwards that I got a little whiplash. There was a pacing problem in the script that the director just couldn’t resolve.
Beth: I don’t know, I liked the drinks and dancing. It made the tragic bombing of the town so much worse.
Alex: I liked it, but I still felt a little snoozy.
Beth: What else do you wish had been done differently? My biggest beef was Ares, because I didn’t feel like the big reveal was earned.
Alex: Ares is a bad villain rooted in Christian symbology that makes no sense, but that’s a comic problem.
Katharine: I liked the shape of the villain. Yes, the weird Christian-Greek mashup is a comics problem and I don’t like that, but I actually did like the idea of Ares not being who we thought. I didn’t like... his entire speech at the end.
Alex: You know what was actually bad about all the Greco-Roman stuff is how firmly they shut the door on all of it. Diana is banished from Paradise Island, her entire god family is dead, it’s just done. Now she basically exists for Justice League.
Katharine: The best thing about this film is that it stands on its own almost entirely, unfettered from the baggage of the rest of the DCEU.
Cheryl: Setting it years in the past was a good choice.
Alex: Yeah, it didn’t fall into the Captain America: The First Avenger trap. Ares didn’t even do a “worse is coming” death croak.
Cheryl: I get why they framed the story with the photo seen in BvS, so I was okay with it even though it was so obvious.
Katharine: The fact that Bruce Wayne wasn’t literally there was nice. Honestly, I kept expecting the camera at the end to pull out and the rest of the goddamn Justice League to be sitting there listening.
Beth: I’m so glad it didn’t.
Katharine: So glad.
Beth: I’m also glad there were no post-credits scenes. I don’t care about the rest of the Justice League, I only care about Diana.
Alex: Well, I care about Aquaman.
Beth: I’m hoping I do, too.
Beth: Speaking of which, how does this movie make you feel about the future of the DC Expanded Universe?
Cheryl: Will that future include Wonder Woman 2? Because otherwise...
Alex: It better.
Katharine: I think that this is proof that the DCEU should have been doing standalone movies with other directors the whole time.
Beth: I’m honestly shaky about Justice League. I already feel like it could be a lost cause, and we’re simply having to look beyond it at this point. The trailer gave me little confidence.
Katharine: Yeah, I’m mostly looking forward to Aquaman. He and Wonder Woman are the ones having the most fun in the Justice League trailer.
Alex: I have hope. Slap a Blue Lantern Ring on Diana, because Wonder Woman gave me hope that the ship can be righted, and we can get some good damn movies out of the best superhero comics.
Beth: This has been so awesome, and I’m hoping/betting this movie does well enough to keep DCEU going on the right path… with a sequel. In closing, what one word would you use to describe Wonder Woman? Mine is “refreshing.”
Katharine: “Punchy,” in both senses of the word.
Cheryl Eddy: “Love!” Just kidding... I would say “entertaining.”
Alex: She fucks.