“That was a true work of art.” So said my 12-year-old son, doing a 180 on the new movie, Wonder Woman. He had been reluctantly dragged along with the family to see the best blockbuster of the summer, but Gal Gadot and the power of love transformed him. As they can transform us all.
I was surprised by my own strong reaction to Wonder Woman. I am not generally a fan of big, summer blockbusters or super heroes. Any time the phrase “The power of love” is mentioned, I cringe remembering the old Huey Lewis song that got way too much airtime back in 1985 (In the soundtrack of another summer blockbuster, Back to the Future). The Wonder Woman comic book character springs from a checkered past, including a creator who lived with his wife and mistress, the niece of Margaret Sanger. I was also around for the Lynda Carter version in the seventies. I love her but found the show itself a bit hokey.
This summer, though, they got Wonder Woman right. She is smart, athletic, and still gorgeous. Her leather outfit is a tastefully muted red, white, and blue. Wonder Woman and feminism may finally be coming of age. First, let’s take the Amazons. Gone are the bouncy models of the seventies. Female role models abound. Many of the Amazon extras are former Olympians, and it shows. The battle training scenes are impressive. Almost stealing the show from the impeccable Ms. Gadot, is Robin Wright as Diana’s aunt and trainer, General Antiope. Older women rejoice! She is so cool. Our former Princess Bride executes breathtaking fight scenes, which Wright said were choreographed like ballet. Did I mention she is so cool? She is awesome – even if it was a little hard for me to switch gears, as I was watching Season 5 of House of Cards the same week.
In the fantasy world of Wonder Woman, women and men complement each other, rather than being engaged in a constant battle of the sexes. The Amazons are tasked with defeating the god, Ares, whose evil power is causing men to go to war. As his character says, “… war gives man purpose. Meaning. A chance to rise above his petty mortal little self. And be courageous. Noble. Better.” It is the Amazons’ mission to defeat Ares and end war. However, eras and worlds collide as Steve Trevor (charmingly played by Chris Pine) lands on the Amazons’ island. Diana decides she must leave her idyllic island for male-dominated WWI-era London to achieve her mission. She and Steve form a true partnership to accomplish the mission. One is not necessarily greater or more heroic than the other. Also worth noting, the lead evil scientist is female. Yay.
The basic themes of the power of love, good versus evil, the importance or truth, and self-sacrifice will reignite your interest in the daily battle of life. Wonder Woman is a champion of peace, albeit with a sword and shield. Some of her greatest powers, like her bullet-deflecting bracelets, are defensive. What girlfriend, wife, or mother among us would turn down a Golden Lasso, which requires those bound in it to tell the truth? I wonder if it works on dogs? “Who chewed my power cord?”
Throughout the movie, Diana questions herself, in ways that women will recognize. Most women have felt underappreciated at one time or another. We do a lot of hard work that isn’t recognized. A scene that resonated with me was at one point when a discouraged Diana says, “My mother was right about the world, she said they didn’t deserve me…” Steve stops the pity party right away, coming back with, “Maybe it’s not what you deserve, but what you believe.” Hmmm, it’s about what you believe. What we act on reflects what we believe, regardless of the acknowledgement or understanding of others. This is so Catholic!
She is also a rare hero who comes to understand that the struggle is not just about her. She realizes that, despite what she does, men still have to choose good over evil every day: “I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then, I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. The choice each must make for themselves – something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know… that only love can truly save the world.” Choosing good is an act of love. Free will, anyone?
Watching this fierce warrior for the power of love made me think of another strong woman whom we often look to for help saving the world. Love, truth, self-sacrifice, choosing to do good, that all sounds a lot like Our Lady. For what it’s worth, I think she’s a pretty cool role model, too. This summer gives us a great opportunity not only to enjoy a little fun at the movies, but examine ourselves. It’s about what we believe.
Two enthusiastic thumbs up,