Finally saw Wonder Woman with friends last weekend. Exciting stuff; but beyond the preternatural reflexes, bullet-deflecting bracelets and gender politics, I was intrigued by its vision of a realm of powers and possibilities behind our humdrum human existence. Where there’s more to life than just meets the eye…
Don’t get me wrong. A superhero flick is fun for the spectacle alone. To see armour-clad Amazons leaping off cliffs, Matrix-style martial artistry and the slow-mo trajectory of speeding bullets being stopped in the nick of time, entertains me as much as the next punter. But where larger themes and questions are raised, that’s when I really get riveted.
To outline the plot… Diana, played by Vulcan eye-browed Gal Gadot (alliteration covered), is called away from her women-only paradise, to help a stricken US spy to foil a plot involving some particularly nasty poisonous gases in World War I. Cue much fish out of water hilarity including first impressions of London (“It’s hideous”), negotiating 1940s fashion, getting along with dumpy secretary played by Lucy Davis from The Office, and trying to get through a revolving door wielding a very big sword. She’s more in her comfort zone once in the trenches – wandering into no man’s land with little more than a blingy bandana, some tough bracelets and Amazonian attitude (there’s a shield too – I’ll come to that).
But the primary point that piqued my interest and prompted this post (beside my evident penchant for p’s)… It transpires that the god Aries whose reality she fervently believes in, against her companion’s scepticism, is indeed real, a malevolent orchestrating power behind the scenes, bent on humankind’s destruction. Our super-heroine wants none of his twisted vision of an Eden-like utopia free of human messiness. A clear-eyed recognition of humanity’s capacity for both good and evil – essential fallen-ness – doesn’t dampen her resolve to stand with them. “It’s not about ‘deserve’ – it’s about what you believe; and I believe in love”. The notion of grace – unmerited favour – right there.
Another scene earlier in the film – one of its most arresting, (others included here), both packs a powerful emotional punch and has spiritual resonance to boot. Having ventured into ‘no-man’s land’, she strains to hold her shield steady to deflect the ferocious onslaught of the enemy’s firepower. This vision of a lone warrior resisting everything that’s thrown at her is enough to bring a lump to the throat – not least for what it represents. We can all appreciate the strength of the human spirit to find resources to resist insult and all manner of ‘bad stuff’. For a Christian it also brings to mind the deeper idea of drawing on the power of God, taking up what Paul calls the ‘shield of faith…with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one’.
You may want to bracket that as a mere private ‘religious’ view. But if you’ll permit me a (tongue in cheek) Wonder Woman moment, I’d send the challenge ricocheting back. Which worldview is more fantastical… that all our human experience, the depths of horror, the heights of love, amount in the end to dust, to no more than Humphrey Bogart’s ‘hill of beans’ (in ‘Casablanca’)? Or that there is indeed more to reality than meets the eye – that the spiritual is real? In our materialistic and often trivial culture, maybe depicting the idea in a superhero blockbuster is one way to give it wings.
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