Wonder Woman was a huge success at the box office and no one can dispute the impact the film has had on our culture. In an industry oversaturated by superhero movies, this strong female protagonist was a much-needed breath of fresh air and fans rightly hailed the movie as one of the finest superhero outings of recent memory.
But I don't believe the film is without fault and there's one issue in particular that I think stands out head and shoulders above the rest and which speaks to the wider issue in the franchise. The issue I refer to is the fact that physically speaking, she's too strong! She's the perfect warrior and there's a distinct lack of personal growth in the protagonist as well as the lack of a well-developed antagonist.
And this is the problem with most DC superheroes, at least in the way they are depicted in the DC Cinematic Universe. Their sheer strength or power, whether physically or mentally and the lack of relatable human flaws in these characters means that there's very little drama to be extracted from their ordeals. What we are left with is an adventure that feels like we are playing a video game on an easy difficulty.
Wonder Woman follows Diana Prince as she is drawn away from her peaceful home to the front lines of the first world war. She is horrified by the violence and the murder of innocent civilians and takes action to bring an end, not just to this war, but to all war, by defeating the god of war, Ares. That sounds all fine until you realise that throughout the film, there's very little conflict - for, what is essentially a movie set during a war.
It's difficult to remember the moments where she falls and struggles to get back up again. Or the moment where she is emotionally broken or exhausted. There are few, if any, moments of failure or desperation, and no meaningful moments of uncertainty or doubt. Are there any moments where she is actually at risk because of some character flaw? I could go on. Imagine a Rocky film where Rocky Balboa never gets hit, where he never doubts himself or thinks about throwing in the towel. That's precisely what we get with Wonder Woman. She might have a naive understanding of how the world works, but who cares? It's not like that naivety is going to get her killed. For such an incredible character - and she is incredible, let's face it - we should be treated to something more interesting than simple naivety.
Let's do a comparison to a similar Marvel character, Thor. They are both Gods of sorts, come from other realms (for lack of a better word) and play heavily on ancient mythology. They both answer to a King or Queen and they partner up with a mere mortal with a heart of gold who helps them acclimatise to an unfamiliar world.
Thor loses his power due to his severe arrogance and his inability to be a leader or a protector of his people. He's not ready to sit on the throne and through a rite of passage and great character development, he regains his power and earns the right to be a God again.
There's no moment for Diana Prince where she grows or develops as a character in such a significant way. It doesn't have to be specifically the loss of her power of course but there should be something. She might be wiser to the world by the end but that's hardly a compelling journey for one of pop culture's most enduring superheroes. Sure, she falls in love and suffers a personal loss, but I don't think it holds as much weight as the filmmakers would like - she only knew that character in question for a very brief moment remember. In fairness, she does have an awakening at the end when is told that she is actually more powerful than she believed - she's the God Killer - but that only further's the problem by making her even less susceptible to weakness or flaw.
It seems to me that the producers of this DC cinematic franchise are more focused on how they can bring these characters together in a fast and effective manner for those Avenger's style moments, rather than developing them into well rounded and relatable figures. Marvel took its time and showed great patience by giving the characters their own rites of passage that included learning how to walk before they could run. Diana Prince runs pretty damn fast from the very beginning and doesn't slow down or even stumble until the very end. Superman and Batman are no different. After a while this just gets boring.
Hopefully, the upcoming Aquaman film will break this trend. But the danger with these cinematic universes is that what happens in one film directly impacts the others. They did a great job with Wonder Woman, despite the issues I have with it. But if they don't start elevating these characters to something more than god killers, I fear the other films in this wider universe will never survive and they'll just end up unravelling the positivity that currently surrounds Wonder Woman. I think a lot of fans out there would be devastated by that move.
There's a lot to be learned about screenwriting from studying these movies so I'll be revisiting this topic again soon. And I hope people continue to support the franchise because I like these characters. We just need to see these characters come through more. They are so iconic and they deserve better.
(Image copyright: Warner Brothers/ DC Comics)