My husband and I went on a date tonight to see the Wonder Woman movie everyone's been talking about this summer. Surprisingly, it was still in theaters. It's not hard to understand why. Pretty decent movie, as superhero movies go.
There was plenty to complain about, and it does get slow midway as the animated fight scenes get repetitive. A lot of the film is taken up with Diana’s poses. She is very pretty, mind you, but it gets dull. The emotional points were too frequent, and I just didn’t care for them. That wasn’t entirely the movie’s fault though. In hindsight, Diana’s passion was well-expressed, and it would’ve made me uncomfortable. And it likely did. My discomfort may have showed in disinterest. Or perhaps it was really cheesy. It was probably a bit of both.
This is what I loved: “It’s not about deserving.”
I came away from this movie thinking deeply about the Lord Jesus and us, humans. Usually, superhero movies get it wrong about us. They conclude, as is explicit in the Superman story, that man is good at heart and deserves defending because of that goodness. We have a great "capacity for good1" according to Jor-El, and this basic "goodness" is the reason he sends his only son to us. This, obviously, is a mockery of the Gospel.
Usually, superhero movies get it wrong about us. They conclude that man is good at heart and deserves defending because of that goodness.
Wonder Woman seems as though this same old, feel-good, heretical point will be made, and then, it turns and makes the opposite assertion — that humanity is not good, though it was good at first, and does not deserve anything.
“What you say about them is all true…”
The men were all flawed in this film. No one was absolutely good, except Diana of course. It was a nice surprise to see the men not depicted as useless fools, as Steve is in the TV series from the 70s, but it was also a pleasure to see them be imperfect — not simply because it is more dramatically realistic, but because it’s true. We are not good, heroes included.
“There is darkness in their light.”
Even at our best, we are hopelessly dark and are rightfully to blame for all sorts of evil. Even at our best, we need rescue; we need some kind of help from the outside — some kind of extraordinary aid well-beyond our understanding. In the movie this aid came from a “god” character who left paradise, lived as a human, and defeated their greatest enemy. From then on she lived among humans as one of them, adopting both human and extra-human natures. There are differences, for sure — it’s not an allegory per se — but this is more-than-a-nod to the one good Story in which the Son of God left heaven and lived among us, died at our hand, and defeated the Enemy.
It is hard to say more about the movie without ruining the experience for anyone who lives under a rock — I mean, who hasn’t seen the movie. With all of its flaws, it’s worth seeing once. It is worth the reminder and the pleasure of hearing of your own depravity and the grave depravity of your race.
The movie ends up on a hopeless sort of note for me with Diana fighting endlessly alongside humans, forever. You know as the viewer that the war — the war to end all wars — was just one of many. War continues. Evil continues. Death and suffering continue. I was reminded of the Flood and how those waiting for it to come and end must have hoped for and expected the post-flood world to be clean and hopeful. But, God knew it would be just as evil as before — that is we, humanity, would be just as evil as before.
The great war was not decisive, neither was the great flood, but a world with no decisive and complete end to evil is not good. It is all we have to hope for — that this evil, this darkness we’ve grown accustomed to, will end. Without this hope that our fighting is not entirely vain, there is only dark. The light we perceive is just our eyes playing tricks; it’s not really there.
In truth, hope is natural and good. Jesus has brought about what the fictional Wonder Woman could not, such that one day the evil that colors everything right now will never touch us again.
Decisively and forever. This is hope.
If you're deciding about whether to see this film, let me give a quick purity review. Wonder Woman is rated PG-13 and falls squarely in that range. I wouldn't recommend seeing it with non-teen children; I wouldn't call it a family flick. That said, violence, foul language, and sexuality is kept to a reasonable level throughout. Most of the fight scenes are plainly animated, with the Amazons flipping around like elves in the Lord of the Rings, and none of it is gory.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from the movie Wonder Woman (2017) and are from memory.