Friday, 27 February 2015

Wonder Woman: Warrior Princess

Wonder Woman is amazing. I'm just putting that out there. She just is. She is one of the greatest superheroes ever. One third of DCs Holy Trinity with Batman and Superman, she unfortunately has never got her proper due in terms of adaptions across other media the way Bats and Supes have.

Both of the World's Finest, particularly the Dark Knight, have starred in a multitude of solo cartoons and live action movies while Wonder Woman has never had a solo cartoon TV show or live action movie. She has had a solo cartoon movie though.

Praise Hera.

That was 2009's Wonder Woman and it was a origin story for the character, introducing her rich backstory as an Amazon princess from the isolated island of Themyscira, and how she was formed from sand, blood, and lightning by her mother Hippolyta.

Yes, you read that right. She was formed from sand, blood, rain and lightning. Hippolyta molded her infant body out of sand, cut her finger and bled on her sandy mold, raise it up towards the heavens in the rain, and it was struck by lightning causing Wonder Woman to be born.

I'm sorry but that is the most epic and mythic origin of any superhero ever. Now, I do understand that Superman and Batman's origins may be more iconic due to their simplicity, last son of dying alien planet sent to save humanity and a son sees parents murdered in front of him so he decides to dress up as a bat and punch crime in the face, but seriously they don't really compare.

"And then my mother hold me aloft, her blood mixing with the sand, as I was struck by lightning and given life."

Be honest with yourself, Wonder Woman's origin is steeped in classic mythology going back to Ancient Greece and is far more badass than nearly any other superhero's. She was born by literally being struck by lightning! Lightning striking things is still cool, right?

But here's the thing, since her story has been told less often and across fewer forms of media as Batman and Superman, it's less known and therefore is less embedded in the popular consciousness. Also, that is only the story of her birth, not how she became a superhero.

Unlike Superman or Batman, Wonder Woman's superhero origin isn't steeped in tragedy in the same way Batman's parents were murdered in front of him and he spent his life training to become Batman, or how Superman's home planet was destroyed along with his entire race, leaving him the sole surviving member of his people.

You can tell that it weighs heavy on his soul.

Wonder Woman was sent as an ambassador from Themyscira to the outside world, to serve as an emissary to foster understanding between two vastly different cultures, and fight on behalf of the Amazons for mankind. She became a superhero, not because she was traumatised by a tragic event into devoting her life to fighting crime like Batman nor because she was sent to be a beacon of hope to show humanity the way like Superman, but because she wanted to see the world of man and become its protector.

While Wonder Woman was sent to be beacon to humanity, it was not to be a symbol of hope really. Rather, she was sent to be a bridge between two isolated worlds, a beacon of understanding and strength. Both an emissary and a warrior, she serves to broker peace but to fight with force if that peace is broken. Not really a tragic superhero origin either.

I mean, her mother was raped by Ares, gave birth to his son, and then beheaded said son in battle, causing Ares to become an eternal enemy to the Amazons, and one of Wonder Woman's most bitter foes. So, one of her greatest enemies is the man who forced himself on her mother and who could have been her father if things had been different. However, I don't know if that is quite as tragic as your parents being shot in front of you after watching the Mark of Zorro.

"Leaving the theatre before the Mark of Zorro finished was the real tragedy that night."

Now, you might be asking yourself why I've been talking so much about Batman and Superman in relation to Wonder Woman. That's because where Superman is hero of light, symbolising the best qualities humanity can aspire to, and Batman is a hero of darkness, the shadowy guardian of a corrupt city, Wonder Woman is the perfect balance between both. A hero that embodies peace, justice and love, yet is a born warrior with a strong will and is not afraid to resort to violence if required.

However, after watching a couple of DC Original Animated Movies I noticed that Batman and Superman's characters are pretty consistent across the both films although they were made with different writers and directors. But Wonder Woman's wasn't. In fact, the way she was depicted in the films differed quite drastically.

In Justice League: War, a retelling of the Justice League with the New 52 reboot of the characters, where the rebooted Superman is possibly more overconfident than he usual, he is still Superman and Batman is still very much Batman, Wonder Woman is quite different to the poised superhero depicted in the Justice League animated series.

Rather she is kind of flighty and wild, lacking a sense of protocol or responsibility to her more diplomatic duties as an ambassador. While she does show the compassion and desire for justice associated with the character, since she delights only in battle, when she's not in the middle of a fight, she seems unable to pay attention to anything for long.

Although the scene where she has ice cream for the first time was brilliant.

The other film, 2009's Wonder Woman, is also an origins story, and for the first half of the film, Wonder Woman isn't Wonder Woman but Diana, princess of Themyscira. However, in this film, although she's young and headstrong, wanting to strike out and gain her independence, at the same time, she is skilled beyond her years and gifted with a grace and nobility rarely found.

She is what I would call the most true depiction of a young Wonder Woman I've seen, still learning and maturing but definitely growing into the superhero we know and love. All the qualities that make define her character are there, her compassion, her determination and refusal to give up a fight, her wisdom and intelligence, her physical strength and poise.

She's also badass as hell in this movie. Did I not mention that?

And I would say that vast difference in the depictions is as much because of that balance between light and dark which Wonder Woman embodies as it is the writers having fun showing different takes on the character. Whereas Batman and Superman are pretty nailed down in terms of their personalities and the types of heroes they are, Wonder Woman is slightly less defined as a character, allowing for different interpretation.

As long as you get her compassion, regal bearing, and sense of justice down, everything else is fair game. She can be a bit overzealous or brash, impatient or impulsive, composed and collected, soft spoken and intimidating. Whichever version of Wonder Woman you wish to tell will be true to the character if she bears herself like the warrior princess of a mythic people, displays empathy to those in need, and has an unwavering sense of what is right.

And that's awesome since it highlights how much she compliments the other members of the Holy Trinity by occupying the middle ground between two extremes, between light and dark, between ideals and gritty reality. That balance really is a core aspect of the character and a huge part of what makes her one of the greatest superheroes ever.

So, yeah. Like I said, Wonder Woman is amazing.

References:

Wonder Woman in other media Wikipedia page

Wonder Woman (2009 film) Wikipedia page

Justice League: War Wikipedia page

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