For parents willing to process its themes with their older teens, Wonder Woman‘s positive messages overshadow its flaws.
by Ryan Langr
A Hero for our Age?
I am a lover of fantasy and superheroes. The imagery I find in movies and books lifts my mind to greater truths.Having a young daughter, I’m also a lover of anything that empowers women. So when I saw that Wonder Woman had a 93% rating on Rottentomatos.com, I was excited to see what all the hype was about.
You can find a summary of the movie (as well as a “second opinion” on the movie) through Catholic News Service. They have an excellent overview of what the movie is about, so I won’t go into it here. What I do think is notable is that, amid all the superhero movie craze lately, this is the first one that both features a woman and is directed by a woman. That alone is historic, but after its first weekend, it grossed $100 million—the highest grossing debut for a woman director. Ever.
It is one of the best films I’ve seen, and I believe all adults should see it (I’m probably a little biased), but let’s take a critical look at it.
For all its grandiose, emotion-evoking battles, Wonder Woman is still a movie that plays on many tropes of its genre. The story was predictable, even though I am not familiar with the “DC Universe,” and the frequent overuse of slow motion scenes gave it a comic book feel that many may find off-putting. Wonder Woman seemed invincible, taking me beyond any willing suspension of disbelief, leaving me to wonder if she was ever in any real danger.
The movie was funny, though a few of the jokes were a bit forced. The cast was excellent–including familiar names such as Chris Pine, and David Thewlis—and Gal Gadot was cast perfectly in her role, though she was occasionally a bit wooden in her more vulnerable moments. Overall, the few technical failings are overshadowed by the film’s good aspects, especially when we consider its message.
Although Wonder Woman is a World War I story, it doesn’t really operate from a Christian worldview. The story assumes the existence of the mythological (and pagan) Greek gods, and many of the characters are probably agnostic at best. There is minimal swearing, one scene of implied premarital sex (I actually didn’t catch it, but my wife did), and one rather candid discussion about sex. In my mind, this falls into the same potential danger as the Harry Potter series did—while many of the themes could potentially lead unguided children or vulnerable adults astray, the overall message of the movie is a Christian one.
I will say that I agree with the MPAA’s suggestion that children under thirteen not see the movie. But I think that every child is different, and we need to examine what they can process, and what we can help them process. Movies, no matter what they are, should never be a passive experience.
Wonder Woman says a lot about the depravity of war. In many intensely moving and frequently dark scenes the movie wrestles with the senseless deaths of civilians, the motives humans have for war, and the responsibility individuals have to save people they may not even know. The fundamental question is whether humans are inherently good, and whether they are deserving of salvation. These are distinctly Christian questions at their core.
Despite its brief sexual references and pagan worldview (which earned it a rating of A-III, adults only, from Catholic News Service), themes of self-sacrifice, conversion, duty, genuine female empowerment, and the power of choosing love combine to produce an emotionally powerful and intellectually stimulating movie.
Skip or See?
This was everything I want in superhero movie. It was everything I want for my daughter (and any future sons) to understand about the world—but maybe not until they’re old enough to understand many of the weighty and intense themes involved. It is a must see for every adult, however.