This past summer, which was particularly disappointing in terms of blockbusters, critics and audiences surprisingly came together to praise Wonder Woman. The movie apparently achieved the impossible for a superhero movie: it featured a woman in the title role and was not ridiculously stupid.
Naturally, some feminists quipped that the movie relies on objectifying an unusually attractive woman with super powers (which, to be fair, it does), thus mischaracterizing normal women’s humdrum struggles. Conservatives and comic-book fans naturally took issue with this and defended the movie vigorously on principle. Even those without a particular agenda decided throw their support behind Wonder Woman, seeing as an opportunity to bring polarized audiences together to enjoy a fun movie.
Unfortunately, as beautiful and amazing as Gal Gadot is—who really could be Wonder Woman in real life—Wonder Woman is not a good movie. The characters are paper-thin, even for the comic-book genre; the dialogue is flat and boring; the plot and pacing do not make much sense; and even the special effects and action sequences are generic and unsatisfying.
Perhaps in comparison to other Wonder Woman adaptations in the past as well as other superhero movies featuring female superheroes (like Cat Woman and Elektra), the new film can stand tall. However, compared to other comic-book movies and action movies in general, it fits in with the most mediocre ones, specifically the first two Thor movies.
For some reason, Hollywood producers have not yet figured out that movies about superhero gods do not succeed as gripping stories. There are few things more futile than seeing a god fighting evil (usually another god or some monster) while everything and everyone around them falls away in death and destruction. Like Thor, a Norse god who inevitably dukes it out pointlessly with his divine brother or some army he unleashes, Wonder Woman, a Greek goddess, does the same with Ares after some easy sparring with a few hundred WWI soldiers.
Because her struggle means nothing, she clearly lacks an actual conflict; she hates war and destruction, so she seeks out the source and fights anyone in her way. Her weak yet handsome male sidekick (Chris Pines) actually does have limits, making him a little more interesting. While she slaps away rockets and bullets as she struts confidently through a battlefield, the viewer starts worrying if his character will be able to follow.
And as one might expect from a movie with female protagonist, Wonder Woman overdoes the pro-feminist dynamic that pits overpowered women against weak men. Like the new Star Wars film, the new Mad Max movie, the Hunger Games and Divergent series, and every Disney princess movie for the last ten years, Wonder Woman’s heroine needs a man like fish needs a bicycle. She tolerates her male sidekick but effectively keeps him in his place despite all the work he does in finding the villain who will most certainly be a man. Far from making a case for women’s equality, this obvious overcompensation more often betrays a deep insecurity with feminism than actual pride.
Therefore, if people want to find a good superhero movie or a good movie that happens to have a strong heroine, they can pass on Wonder Woman. It is overrated and only reaffirms the negative opinions people have of such movies.
Fortunately, for those hoping to watch a good superhero movie, they can enjoy the new Spiderman movie released a few weeks later this past summer. Michael Keaton plays a great villain (an arms dealer trying to contend with society’s elites who hold him down) and Tom Holland, unlike the sulking Andrew Garfield, is a charismatic young high schooler coping with that entertaining combination of super powers and adolescence.
For those wanting some strong female action heroes, they should re-watch Alien and Aliens with Sigourney Weaver. Weaver’s Ripley does not fight with men, but with acid-spewing aliens, and she does all this without sacrificing her feminine dignity.