Looking Back: Wonder Woman (2009)

“You may be the queen of the Amazons, but I am the god of war.”

Within the first few minutes, this film establishes the relationship between Ares and Hippolyta through their battle and banter. For me, it symbolizes the ongoing struggle that two equally powerful but distinctively different entities can have with one another and thus transfer it down their respective lines. In life, we come across facets that can feed off of our greatest attributes and thereby turning them into a weakness. Nothing worse than to be humbled when you are a headstrong, self-reliant individual. We also see this battle’s climax use this same duality with Zeus (commanding that Ares be spared after Hippolyta just slayed Thrax; their “supposed” son) and Hera (who circumvents this by binding Ares’ power and making him a prisoner of the Amazons) I forgot to mention Persephone’s maiming due to Alexa’s lack of Amazonian instincts as it were. All of this interplay sets up the film (and the Amazon backstory I might add) very well and gives reason and motivation behind all of these different characters.

It has nothing to do with this, but I personally liked that in Justice League (the Cartoon Network animated series) it was presumed that Wonder Woman is a result of Ares and Hippolyta’s time together and while this movie goes the more traditional route with Diana’s origin; it’s nice that Thrax was used (or rather referenced) in place of this.

Something else that Hippolyta says later on in regards to the outside world struck me as interesting. She takes Diana down beneath the island to show him Ares…behind bars. She says the nature of man is what it is; wicked, disloyal and untrustworthy. To me while Ares did feed on these energies through acts of war, Ares is a god after all. Shouldn’t man not be held to the same standard as divine beings or should they be called upon to be better?

Considering all the acts of violence we got in this; Amazons being a warrior race, Ares being the personification of war itself, even the jets in the skies going at it…I find if funny a low blow from our titular hero is what gets us to next act of the story. Speaking of funny, Steve Trevor’s interaction with the Lasso of Truth makes me think of another Justice League Callback (I think I’ll refer to references with this). In the Justice League Unlimited episode: The Balance, Wonder Woman uses it’s power to force a demon to reveal the location of Felix Faust. The demon didn’t feel particularly pleasant after said experience and considering Trevor shows a similar disdain, it gives further credence to the “nature of man” that Hippolyta was talking about earlier. Trevor literally is forced to explain what “crap” means to the Amazons. I like that the need for an emissary to send him back to where he belongs serves as the narrative to bringing out “Wonder Woman” and to further the dynamic between Trevor and Diana.

I just thought about this. When Trevor crash landed, he had a clear shot of the island because someone punched the mirror. (Earlier when Hippolyta was reminiscing, she placed her hand on said mirror thus temporary revealing Themyscira from it’s mystical protection.) Never did find out who did that. Also, do you think that Ares’ plan was to have Persephone kill Diana as it was her who was supposed to be on guard duty, not Alexa? Though to be fair (and I use that term loosely), this does bookend the film’s earlier relationship between the two Amazons.

Funny and violence seem to go hand and hand with this movie. Wonder Woman, in an attempt to re-establish gender roles, teaches this little girl how to sword fight against her male counterparts. Nothing like the Princess of the Amazons telling a girl to “unleash hell” on some unsuspecting little boys. Cute.What Diana didn’t find cute was more of these gender roles appropriating themselves in the event of Etta Candy needing a man to move a table for her. While it can come across as a bit “preachy” and pushes that female empowerment that is all throughout this movie, I do appreciate Diana’s assertiveness when it comes to Steve’s tendencies to “be a man.” Also, her being able to see right through Steve’s attempt to use tequila to get her intoxicated…classic stuff. “As if you could outdrink an Amazon, you pathetic lightweight.”

Personal note. It might have been a throwaway line, but Diana mentioning the concept of hubris being important to many of the Greek tragedies is much appreciated. I am big on hubris being one of the great destroyers of people as I have had to (and still do this day) battle against my own arrogance.

This film portrays Wonder Woman as both a powerful and sympathetic character. She is so confident in situations that require her to be and yet vulnerable when the odds become greater than she anticipated; also amidst her interactions with her fellow Amazons. Now to be fair, I felt the back and forth between Steve and Diana over the two sexes and what their place should be seemed a little forced. No, all men are not misogynistic animals who only see women as a means to further their own agendas. No, all women are not damsels in distress and need to be coddled by some man. The only way the relationship between men and women will ever improve is if we keep communication lines open in hopes that we can both take steps in trying to understand the perspectives of the other.

Something else, Hades was amazing in this. Remember what Hera said at the beginning, only another god can remove Ares’ bands that bind him. So the fact that he goes to his uncle to achieve this made me think, “ok this is how we service the plot.” But Hades makes his point about how Ares acts without regard for any of his brother and sisters and that Hades himself will obey any command because he is so easily manipulated. Also, the “like a dog” line with such anger was a nice touch considering who Hades has guarding his underworld (Cerebus). I say all this because in what I thought was great storytelling, Hades is well aware that Ares’ role (being the god of war) serves as a means to an end for him (being god of the dead) and that Zeus (who let’s not forget ordered his son Ares to be spared, yet did not escape punishment) begged him not to help Ares (or so he says) because it might affect the Olympus power balance. Though in my opinion, if anything were to affect Zeus’ position, he would just get involved himself. Hades then brings out his “slave” to feed him grapes…Thrax, Ares’ son.

Lastly, Persephone’s death at the hands of Hippolyta sheds light on one more point. Does our need to fulfill a purpose replace our need to fulfill a role? For the Amazons, is the cost of being a warrior more so than to be just a woman? For Ares, is the cost of godhood worth it at the expense of servitude? God or mortal, man or woman, our humanity is the vehicle that drives the point home that a better day can never come without trying to understand what it takes to get there.

Let’s hope the live-action interpretation does justice for the Amazon, for Wonder Woman.

 

justTerry

 

 

 

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