Monday, 3 July 2017

Wonder Woman (5 Stars)

First and foremost, I'm a fan of Marvel comics. As a child I bought comics by both DC and Marvel -- or rather, they were bought for me by my parents -- but as I grew older I realised that Marvel comics were better founded. DC comic book titles were all standalones, i.e. every DC hero lived in his own world and never communicated with any of the other DC heroes. Usually they were fictional cities, like Metropolis, Gotham City, Central City and Coast City. Marvel comic books were set in New York, a real city that the readers could relate to, and because the different heroes lived in the same city they occasionally met one another. The key word was continuity. Apart from that, Marvel's biggest asset was Stan Lee. He single-handedly created the Marvel universe, writing most of the comics himself. Even when he gave up writing individual comic books he was still in the background as a guiding influence to maintain his writing style and the continuity he had created.

By the mid-1970's I was buying most of the Marvel comic books every month. I had a remarkable collection. There was only one DC comic that I bought every month: Wonder Woman.

The reason for this was simple. Marvel had no comics about a powerful woman. There were super-powered women as members of groups, such as the Invisible Girl in the Fantastic Four and the Scarlet Witch in the Avengers, but none had their own comics. The first was Ms. Marvel, but that wasn't until 1977. Wonder Woman had had her own comic since 1942. That was feminism way ahead of its time.

When Wonder Woman first appeared her stories were set in the Second World War. That's what was happening in 1942. She came from a mythical island called Paradise Island, but her costume bore an uncanny resemblance to the American flag. Without being American she was an all-American hero. Paradise Island was the home to the Amazons, a race of female warriors, and Wonder Woman was the daughter of Queen Hippolyta. There were no men, because women were formed out of clay. I suppose that motherhood is determined by who did the clay modelling.

Wonder Woman, whose birth name was Diana, decided to leave the island after falling in love with Steve Trevor, an American fighter pilot who crash landed on her island. This caused her to enter the Second World War on the American side. We can be glad  that it wasn't a charming German pilot who crashed on her island.

The film changes the story in two significant respects. First of all, the film takes place in 1918, near the end of the First World War, known at the time as the Great War. Secondly, Steve Trevor is an English pilot who has been spying on German inventions. I don't know what the reason is for these changes, they seem rather random, but the resulting story is very good. The battlefields of WW1 are said to have been more horrific than the battlefields of WW2, and the film's scenes in wartime Belgium are horrifically realistic.

This is one of the best films I've seen this year. Despite the changes I've mentioned, it's faithful to the spirit of the comic books, unlike the television series of the late 1970's. It keeps a balance between mythology, super-hero action and period drama. Gal Gadot plays her part so perfectly, she's more Wonder Woman than Wonder Woman. I just hope that the next film will be set in the present day and bring her costume up to date.

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