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Age of DCAU: Wonder Woman (2009)

With The Killing Joke around the corner, now seems like a good time to look back at some of the best of DC’s animated movies. But being that I am a sadistic misanthrope, I chose to review what I believe to be one of the WORST animated films DC have ever done. It’s not quite Justice League War, but it’s up there. Oooh, boy is it up there.

So, with that in mind, let’s talk about feminism. HEY! Where are you going? Get back here! *Grabs you by the leg and drags you to back to the review* You’re gonna sit here and learn something, dammit! See, here’s the thing. We need strong female protagonists in superhero media. We’ve gotten one or two recently, but it’s not enough. There are a plethora of interesting female characters that deserve their time in the spotlight. And Wonder Woman is one of them. I actually liked Gal Gadot‘s portrayal of the Amazonian warrior in the mess that was Batman v Superman: Dawn of the Subplots, so you might think that I’d like this movie here. Wrong-o!

See, I believe that the best way for a female character to be good is to simply have depth, strong characterisation, and be relatable. I.e., the same thing male characters have. This is why I like Jessica Jones so much. The fact that she’s a woman is incidental. There aren’t a ton of people going “Oooh, look at her! She’s a woman but she’s kicking ass! How cool is that?”. They’re just going “She’s kicking ass! How cool is that?”. Nor does a woman have to sacrifice her femininity to be a good character. She doesn’t have to act in a masculine way or even a gender neutral way. She don’t have no time for your preconceived notions of gender, buddy boy! She’s got people to save!

Wonder Woman ’09, however, feels the need to draw attention to the fact that she’s a woman ALL THE DAMN TIME! The whole film is trying to make some kind of feminist statement. Which would be fine… if they were in any way competent! The result is a very uncomfortable, very mean spirited, very ignorant movie that frankly should be left to languish in the pits of Tartarus!!! Let’s take a look, shall we?

So we begin with a massive battle between the forces of Hippolyta (Virginia Madsen), Queen of the Amazons, and Ares (Alfred Molina), God of War. Turns out these two were an item once, but had a domestic and now are at war. Not only that, but they had a son who’s doing quite a bit of damage on the battlefield. So naturally Hippolyta does what any concerned parent would do and CHOPS HIS FREAKING HEAD OFF!!! Yeah, apparently he was a product of rape, so she’s not too attached to him. Much like his head is now.

She’s about to do the same to Ares but Zeus and Hera call time out and imprison him, making him mortal, and also giving the Amazons the island of Themi- Themys- Themiskee- I don’t know. It makes them all immortal, that’s all you need to know. Then Hippolyta makes a sand baby that comes to life. Don’t question it.

Fast forward a few millennia and the sand baby has grown up into Diana (Keri Russell), who, like a few other Amazons, is tired of their isolation from the rest of the world. And as luck would have it, fighter pilot Steve Trevor (Nathan Fillion, squee, squee) crash lands on the island. Now, what could I say about Steve? Well, how about the fact that he’s an ARSEHOLE!!! After capturing him and interrogating him, he says to Hippolyta, and I quote, “God your daughter’s got a nice rack.”. Yeah. He says a lot of stuff like that throughout the movie. And he constantly tries to justify it. But the fact remains that he’s a creepy misogynist that not even Nathan Fillion can make charming. And that’s saying something!

Needless to say, the Amazons declare him perverted, but harmless. So the decide to take him back home, with Diana escorting him. But, oh no, Ares escapes with the help of an Amazon, so Diana resolves to track him down and go all Kratos on his ass! They leave on her…*sigh* invisible jet. Which they don’t even explain. It’s just sort of… there.

They land in New York and there’s a surprisingly touching moment where Diana teaches a little girl how to sword fight. How long before they cock it up? Less than literally one minute later Diana and Steve bump into Etta Candy, a flirtatious co-worker of Steve, who is openly hostile to Diana for no reason. She asks him to move her desk for her, obviously appealing to his misogyny, which prompts Diana asks “What’s wrong with you?”. This scene is a microcosm for nearly everything that’s wrong with this movie. Etta is a stereotypical bimbo who flirts with men and hates other women. Bad, right? Absolutely. Steve accepts this and even likes it. Also bad. But Diana judges the hell out of her, despite only having just met her. In the end, I can’t like any of these people. My choice of characters are Stereotype McGee, Pervert Schmervert, and Judge Judgey Judgerson the Third. See where I’m coming from?


Well, after that… delightful scene… Diana and Steve do the sensible thing and go to a bar to get good and hammered. Of course. Steve clumsily hits on her, which naturally Diana isn’t happy about. But then she goes off on a tirade about how man’s world is evil because we’re all sexist douches. Um, Di? You’ve been in the outside world for all of five minutes and have met exactly THREE PEOPLE!!! I’m not sure that’s enough data to declare us all horrible people! God, could I please have a scene where something cool goes down? As it happens, after leaving the bar, they get mugged by a gang of ruffians and Diana kicks the holy snot out of them. Alright! Now we’re talking!

They’re then attacked by guy with tentacles for a beard, which leads them to a gateway to the Underworld, where Ares and Persephone, the Amazon who helped him, defeat Diana and gain an audience with Hades (Oliver Platt), who annoyingly looks more like Dionysus. Oh, look him up!

After waking up in the hospital, Diana berates Steve for helping her and not killing Ares when he had the chance. A fair point. She goes on to say that she thinks he wouldn’t have saved her if she were a man. Okay, another fair point, just try and keep a level head, movie. Steve retorts that he’s sick of her man hating attitude (despite the fact that he’s the main reason for it) and that the Amazons made a mistake isolating themselves, saying “Like less communication between men and women is what the world needs!”. *Sigh* A good point, but coming out of his mouth it seems really disingenuous. It’s like if Donald Trump said: “We need to be nicer to Mexicans”. I just don’t buy it!

Still, he admits that he saved her because he didn’t want to abandon his friend. Okay, alright. You’ve bought yourself a little goodwill, Steve. Maybe this could be the turning point for his character. Maybe he’s learned something by being with Diana. Maybe he’s finally learned to respect- aaaaaaaaaand he tries to kiss her. She slaps him. I hate these people.

Ares, godhood restored by Hades, attacks Washington D.C. Diana, Steve, and the rest of the Amazonians defend the capital, with Hippolyta killing Persephone and Diana killing Ares. *Unenthusiastically* Yay. Diana returns home, but misses the outside world, so she’s allowed to leave and meets back up with Trevor. Whhhyyy??? He’s a colossal pillock!!! Then a cat lady turns up, Diana leaps into action, and I wonder how I’m going to get the last hour of my life back. The bloody end. No, I’m not going to explain the cat lady. I don’t have the energy.

This film, bless it, is trying to make a feminist statement. But it has absolutely no idea how to do it. And in the end, it makes nearly all it’s characters look awful because of it. It thinks it’s being clever, but it’s not! Giving Wonder Woman snappy comebacks like “It’s not polite to hit a lady.” (genuinely what she says to Ares before she kills him) is not feminist. In fact, it’s the opposite.

Wonder Woman isn’t being defined as a warrior, or a superhero. She’s constantly being defined as a woman first and foremost. Which is fine, but not what should be important. Nobody goes on and on about how Captain America is a man, or Wolverine, or Batman. And the word “man” is literally in his name! Why? Because it’s not important! I don’t care that Wonder Woman is a woman, I care that she’s a superhero! You want to know how to make a feminist superhero? Just make a superhero who happens to be female. THAT’S IT! Job done! Well done you!

I think that if they got rid of the misconceived gender politics of this movie, I might like it. And I’m not saying that there isn’t a lot of sexism in our society. Because there is, and it sucks. And it needs to end, like, yesterday! But movies like this aren’t going to change things. If anything, they’re just going to make things worse. We need female characters, specifically female protagonists, that have depth and are subtle! I can only hope that the live action Wonder Woman movie is made with at least a bit more thought put into it. But then again it’s DC, so I won’t hold out hope.

Oh, and the animation was decent, the action scenes were fun, and the voice acting was good with the exception of Keri Russell who was barely okay. Can I go home now?

But what do YOU think of this movie? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter! In the meantime, I’m going to rewatch Jessica Jones season one, so I can enjoy a GOOD female protagonist. Still not enough though. *Sigh* It’s going to be a long wait for Captain Marvel.

About the author

Scott Meridew