Imagine never having seen a man before. Imagine that. Can you even? And then imagine that the first man you ever encountered is a well-built, woke Chris Pine, all helpless and wet on a beach.
Okay, but before you go too far into that erotic fantasy, go back to imagining living on a beautiful island with absolutely no men, surrounded by fierce, beautiful women who ride horses on the beach and swing swords and govern a peaceful, harmonious community together.
Welcome to first 20 minutes or so of the new Wonder Woman reboot — for my money, the best 20 minutes of the whole movie.
Wonder Woman, a.k.a. Diana, the demigod superhero played by Gal Gadot, is from Themyscira — the female utopia described above. The movie lays out its founding mythology, cribbed from Greek tradition. Amazonian women, attacked and enslaved by Ares, the God of War, fought their way out of slavery and then hid on an island cloaked by an invisible shield to protect them from hotheaded men with phallic insecurities — the ultimate enemy. Amazonian women trained themselves to fight anyone from the “Patriarch’s World” (as it’s called in the comic book; alternatively, “our world”) should they land on their shores ever again.
In 2017, under the directorial guidance of Patty Jenkins, Diana and her Amazon sisters form a society that’s sort of “Barnard meets a really intense CrossFit class.” Their home is a glittering seaside stronghold of benevolent values and beautiful female freedom and strength — with a real focus on physical strength. Alongside Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen, who play Amazon queens, Jenkins cast actual athletes (professional fighters like Madeleine Vall Beijner and American CrossFit champion Brooke Ence) to play the Amazon warriors. She gave them the indulgent and gratuitously long action sequences found in any male-dominated superhero flick. And watching a surprisingly athletic Wright kicking ass with a smirk — amid montages of a diverse, muscular, non-sample-sized women swinging swords and firing arrows on white sand beaches — was the most fun I’ve ever had in a superhero movie. Take that, Deadpool.
But it’s more than just the physicality; it’s the civil conversations about protecting their society, and why men are necessary for procreation, but worthless when it comes to sexual pleasure. It’s the dream of a world were men are rendered impotent and unnecessary. And even better: one where you soak in magical waters and sleep on 24-karat gold beds. They wear dope, lush furs and gold-plated bodices.
I loved this all even more in contrast to the rest of the film, which shows what happens once Gadot’s Wonder Woman enters “the world of men.” There, in World War I–era London, we watch her learn the ways of the world — what women wear, what snow is, why Chris Pine is hot, why humanity is awful — with a sort of gee-golly-gosh wide-eyed innocence that made me hate kittens. Her discovery of love is what provides the film’s emotional crux, and naturally, nauseatingly, saves the day.
Still, all that is better than what happened when Wonder Woman the movie entered the real world of patriarchy — the one where grown men wouldn’t stop whining about all-women screenings. Who wants to lend me money to buy an island? Or at least will help me petition for a spinoff movie?