Posted on August 23, 2017.
A Reflection on Wonder Woman (2017)
By: Nathan Alley
In case you haven’t noticed, comic book movies are exceedingly trendy in Hollywood! The formula is artless. Introduce a new protagonist within another character’s story. Add a side plot to sprinkle in some intrigue. One year later, release an origin story movie for the new protagonist. Put all the characters together for three more movies. Rake in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Hollywood is releasing these movies at an astounding rate because we watch them and we love them. The heroes excite us. They always win! Why would one subject themselves to the musing and miserable, Shakespearean tragedy when they could choose to leave the theater soothed and happy after watching their old (or new favorite) hero beat down the bad guy?
I read that between 2015 – 2020, Hollywood will have released 30 comic book based superhero films. (This doesn’t include Star Wars) What a tremendous amount of #herobeatingdownthebadguy. I wonder how much of this same repeating narrative our culture is willing to consume until we stop compensating Hollywood for producing these movies. On the other hand…
Perhaps I am looking at this the wrong way. Has Hollywood tapped into such a deeply-rooted social fixation that they literally cannot fail on superhero films? What if we are hardwired to love these movies like we love Doritos or Dairy Queen ice cream cakes? Maybe we are so tired of the mind-numbing social, political, educational, and religious bullying that we need to see the bad guy lose as much as we like to see the good guy win.
Let us consider Wonder Woman (Dir. Patty Jenkins, 2017.) This comic book based, superhero film has imagined an ultra-awesome, unstoppable woman, Diana (Gal Gadot) to reinvigorate the failing Batman/Superman reboots single-handedly overthrow the mystical forces causing World War I. Jenkins leads the audience through a series of captivating atmosphere-building shots, each one seemingly detailed like a comic book page. Always present is the plot of a nefarious power causing all the war and suffering in humanity which is Wonder Woman’s quest to overcome. Audiences must cue into the clues to determine who is causing the evil and are kept guessing up until the reveal. Disregard for a moment that once we see the villain Ares in all his grandeur, he is so overwhelmingly CGI that watching him fight is downright unpersuasive; I have seen more believable cartoon villains (watch Fantasia, 1940). This evil force, the God Ares, is angry at the God Zeus for creating humans “righteous and good” and works at getting back at him through the corruption of humanity. (This dude is really evil, right?)
Diana allies with the charming Steve Trevor (Chris Hemsworth Pratt Evans Pine), a United States spy who introduces her to his rag-tag group of fighters. Together, through the power of sacrificial love and teamwork (And Wonder Woman’s awesome theme song), they overcome the present crisis to foil Ares sinister plan to destroy humanity through warfare. But wait, evil still exists because World War I didn’t end when Ares died. And what about World War II? (Captain America lives in a different universe called Marvel) We know that Wonder Woman did not defeat all evil for all time because 100 years later she helps Superman and Batman salvage the film from its convoluted plot defeat the hideous creature, Doomsday, in the Batman v. Superman (Dir. Zach Snyder, 2016)
Wonder Woman gives us what we want! Diana finds her destiny, defeats the evil and finds love. Steve Trevor takes the moral high ground (mostly), her cohort of warrior’s band together at last and fight for good! All of the bad guys get what’s coming to them. Diana’s theme song rocks the house! It’s like they say “all’s well that ends well.” Everything feels right. Except life is not like this.
The teacher from the book of Ecclesiastes proposes a perspective on this breath of life that we are given. We don’t always see the good guys win and the bad guys seldom lose. No matter how hard we work at justice, it seems to be out of our control. “There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing. Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time? It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them.” (Ec 7:15-18, ESV)
We go to these movies because we are sick of seeing righteousness succumb wickedness. Why do the wrong people succeed and injustice remain? Evil is present in our world today; we can all feel it. Each of us, like the film’s audience, are looking for the bad guy. Where is he? Is she going to cause me harm? We look for ways to blame evil for the problems we face, and we want someone to defeat the wickedness and make our fears go away. We watch superheroes because they accomplish in the “reel” world, what we desire to see in the real world.
So see Wonder Woman and enjoy it! These superhero films speak to our world to help us remember the good things and know what is evil. Remind yourselves of good, honorable, pure, just, commendable, excellent, praise worthy, true things. However, please do not finish the movie soothed and happy, but ask yourself “Does Jesus Christ see me as a minor character or as the superhero?” The way you answer that question will convey what you do after that.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (Jn 14:12-14, ESV)
Photo was taken from “IMDB.” IMDB, www.imdb.com/title/tt0451279/mediaindex?page=6&ref_=ttmi_mi_sm.