Why Wonder Woman can never be me
Wonder Woman is another superhero origin story, yet manages to be fun, fresh, and enjoyable.
Wonder Woman, originally from an island of Amazons, finds herself in London and Europe, during World War I. Surrounded by a bunch of misfits, she plays a fish-out-of-water character, who is puzzled by humanity’s perpetual propensity for warfare.
Wonder Woman is a breath of fresh air, in contrast to other tired and well-worn superhero storylines. Unlike Batman, she is not troubled and tortured. Unlike Iron Man, she is not frivolous and immature. Unlike the X-Men, she is not marginalised and misunderstood. For heaven’s sake, she’s an Amazonian Princess!
What’s puzzling, then, is the ending to the movie. Spoiler. The movie ends like every other superhero movie before that. Do I need to say CGI?
Because, for a story to be a story, there needs to be conflict. Otherwise we just have an event. Or a series of events. But not a story.
Conflict requires purpose and thwarted purpose. Conflict requires the existence of good. And the existence of evil.
Superhero movies are forced to construct evil as an external force – usually through a CGI created mother-of-all bad guy. Hence the paint-by-numbers climactic fight at the end of all superhero movies.
But this is where superhero movies jump-the-shark. We can suspend disbelief for almost anything – an island of Amazons, bullet-repelling bracelets, a golden lasso – but we can’t suspend disbelief for CGI fight scenes.
In contrast, movies, with mundane, normal, everyday people, who discover the evil within themselves are so much more believable and disturbing. The story becomes one where the hero looks for redemption. The hero isn’t trying to save the world. The hero is trying to be saved.
The key moment is where the hero realises that they are actually they’re own worst villain.
Superhero movies are by nature escapism. They are fun. But, in the end, none of us can identify with a larger-than-life superhero who fights to save the world.
But movies with mundane, normal, everyday anti-heroes are realism. They are gripping. We identify with a person who needs to be saved. We see the villain inside all of us.
In the Bible, Jesus doesn’t welcome saviours. He welcomes those who need saving.
That’s why Jesus tells a story to warn those who are confident of their own righteousness and look down on everyone else (Luke 18:9-14). He warns those who judge others, not realising that they themselves deserve just as much judging (Matthew 7:1-5).
Or as Jesus once summed it up: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)
Or maybe Jesus should have said, “It’s not the heroes who need a hero, but the villains. I have not come to call the heroes, but the villains.”