‘Wonder Woman’ Review: Why I am still reeling over Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins’ powerful display of femininity

Director Patty Jenkins’ ‘Wonder Woman’ celebrates femininity at its best with Israeli actress Gal Gadot at the helm. (Photo: Facebook/Gal Gadot)

I don’t geek out over movies often — let alone a superhero or comic book movie — but Wonder Woman left such a strong impression on me that I couldn’t let it pass me by.

The opening sequence in the film was enough to make me emotional: On the enchanted island, we enter the training ground of the Amazonian women. Warriors are engaging in hand-to-hand combat as fists clash, bows-and-arrows are thrown and horses are mounted. Slow motion captures the women flip from their horses, propel themselves back up and smash each other into the ground. Their armor shines and breast plates clink as their muscular builds and braided hair whirl around the clear skies.

Rather than sexualizing their femininity, we are simply shown an impressive display of beauty and strength — women warriors of multicultural backgrounds and diverse builds. A whole minute is dedicated to these powerful, highly trained soldiers who knew what they were doing. And the film took them seriously.

The Amazon army is full of physical diversity that captures their focus on function over form. (Photo: Inverse Entertainment)

As a woman, it’s impossible not to feel a sense of kinship to Gal Gadot as Diana Prince. It’s also impossible to not feel a strong sense of relief that her character carries her femininity with the same pride and poise through beauty as she does armor. And we have to thank director Patty Jenkins for bringing Diana’s best aspects to the big screen.

This is a world where the Amazonian women are raised to fight; they are raised to seek truth, justice and to remind a corrupted world that love can and will save the world. Some may argue that ideal is too “feminist” for a superhero movie, but it is simply what a world looks like with women at the helm. We don’t need Gadot’s Wonder Woman to be justified or complex, abiding by a man’s plan or waiting for his “okay.” Rather than fighting just to fight, the Amazons fight from a maternal instinct — to protect their sisters and daughters and prove their love to their kin. They fight for a better world.

It’s refreshing to see a movie that doesn’t display bombs, bullets or backhanded deals as the answer. And as much fun as it is to watch Diana explore the “real world” — holding her own as warrior princess in a world driven by governments, beliefs, customs and men thinking with their “equipment” (and more interested in Chris Pine’s wristwatch than his “junk”) — her curious eyes and relentless focus on the good in people is inspiring.

I didn’t expect to feel as many emotions as I did while watching the movie — let alone did I not know how emotional it would make me to see such a strong female hold her own, kick ass and still look beautiful at the same time — but I think that’s what happens when you realize how much we don’t have that kind of representation in Hollywood. When we’re so used to our princesses waiting and being saved by these heroic princes, both boys and girls can look up to someone like Wonder Woman and see someone they identify with.

“That’s the challenge — how to tell a story of a woman and make it universal,” Gadot said in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter. “We are all used to having male protagonists in movies [directed by men]. But the way Patty has captured the Wonder Woman character, she is very relatable to everyone. Boy, girl, man, woman — everyone can relate to her.”

There are lots of moments that made me smile — Diana’s mermaid effect on the men around her; her distracting Amazonian beauty and bodysuit; her genuine joy in people and ice cream (“You should be proud”). Pine’s Steve Trevor is a charming contrast of the “real world” to her, as corrupt, hideous and sometimes magical as it presented itself to her.

But Diana’s real power is not in her swordplay, bullet-repelling jewelry or electric-shock armor. It is simply in her empathy.

She fights because that is all she knows to do; she speaks up up because she doesn’t come from a world where people sit in their chairs like cowards; she doesn’t let anyone’s plans get in the way of her own; and she knows she doesn’t need a man to survive or satisfy. And I find that is quite the empowering example for our girls to look up to today.

“It’s not about what they deserve. It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love.”

In that moment where Wonder Woman runs into no man’s land blocking bullets and rallying the men behind her without fear or hesitation — after having been met by “no” from every person she came across, being told they can’t save everyone because “it’s not what we’re here to do,” to which she replies, “You’re right, but it’s what I am going to do” — you tell me that spectacular moment doesn’t put you to tears.

With a record-breaking opening weekend, go out and support Wonder Woman -- not only because of its female lead, female director or sense of "female empowerment" -- but because it is a damn good movie, regardless of gender, race, sex or identity.

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