Director of Wonder Woman Cathy Jenkins has said that she doesn’t think of herself as a female film maker or Wonder Woman as a female film. And while there’s a lot in this film for women to like, Jenkins has used the superhero genre to give us a meditation on mankind at its worst but also at its best. On the one hand, this is the story of a sheltered young woman’s coming of age, but this coming-of-age narrative is set within the context of a meditation on whether there’s enough good in “mankind” to make it worth saving or even fighting for. And this is the decision the demi-goddess Wonder Woman has to make near the end of the film.
As the film opens we see a photo of earth and hear the voice of Diana Prince (Wonder Woman in street clothes) saying that once she wanted to save the world but had “learned the hard way a long, long time ago” that that was not so simple. We see her walking into the Louvre, where she receives an old newspaper photo of her as Wonder Woman, with a young soldier by her side and the both of them flanked by a group of somewhat motley looking men.
The message with the photo, from its sender, Bruce Wayne, reads “Maybe someday you’ll tell me your story.”
This sets up the segue to the “long time ago” -- the time of World War I -- in which the movie’s action takes place, and to Diana as a pre-teen girl standing on a path elevated above the Amazon’s training field, imitating with her arms and legs the punches, slashes, and kicks of the women training below. And soon, against the objections of her mother, Diana’s aunt, the greatest of all Amazon warriors, begins to train her.
Angry at her sister, and wanting to sober her daughter up about war, Diana’s mother tells Diana the creation story of the Amazons. In a mashup of the Book of Genesis, Greek myth, and Milton’s Paradise Lost, Zeus, the king of the gods, has created a race of human beings to share the paradisiac world previously enjoyed only by the gods. Mankind has been created good and, for a while, the world remains paradise. But Ares, the god of War, out of envy of Zeus’s creation, poisoned the humans’ souls with jealousy and suspicion. Of course this picture is far more evocative of the biblical Satan than the portrayal of Ares in Greek myth. Later in the film we will see Ares as the “accuser” of mankind, a portrayal far more appropriate to the Satan of the Bible and of Milton’s Paradise Lost than it is to the Ares of Greek myth