Wonder Woman is a superhero movie that transcends the genre, blending mythology with a war movie epic. Director Patty Jenkins crafted a near-perfect interpretation of Diana as a character, making the movie funny without being forced, and sensitively depicting the horrors of WWI without dragging the story down. Oh, and Wonder Woman also contains the single greatest moment in superhero film history.
There aren't many iconic moments in superhero movies (or perhaps there are too many), because the genre is so bombastic and action-heavy that the defining moments don't really stand out. The only one that springs to mind is the "with great power comes great responsibility" scene in the very first Spider-Man — and even then, this is a poignant moment of reflection, not one that would have audiences cheering. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, contains such a scene, a defining and rousing sequence that makes you want to leap out of your seat and cheer Diana on. It's a moment that alone is worth the price of admission — and I believe it will go on to be remembered as one of, if not the greatest moment in the history of the superhero genre.
Diana Finally Becomes Wonder Woman
The scene in question is, of course, when Diana finally goes over the top of the trenches. Debuting in the very first trailer, it has been clear throughout the run-up to the movie that this would be one of Wonder Woman's key sequences, but in context it is far, far more iconic than we expected.
This scene has a great impact for several reasons. Although it takes place almost halfway through the film, this is the first time we see Wonder Woman in her full superhero regalia — until this point her costume has been shrouded in a cloak, or she's just wearing different clothes. In many ways, this is when Diana goes from being an Amazon warrior and truly becomes a superhero, and it's a spine-tingling moment that will echo through the #DCEU for years to come.
Diana really does drive her own destiny, choosing to leave Themiscyra with Steve Trevor, demanding that he take her "to the war!" But when she arrives in London, she is told to wait again and again. Of course, we understand why this is — Steve is planning a sensitive mission, and to win the day they have to tread carefully. But Diana gets increasingly frustrated when she gets to Belgium and witnesses all the horrors that World War I has to offer.
Surrounded by orphaned children, traumatized wounded, and mistreated animals, Diana is absolutely appalled. It is against her very nature to stand by and do nothing, to allow others to suffer. Steve tries to tell her that she can't save everyone, but Diana refuses to believe this. When she gets to the trenches, she snaps, defying Steve's advice and doing things her way. And she saves everyone.
Well, everyone in the near vicinity at least. Tearfully told by a local woman that their village had been overtaken by the German army, Diana decides that she has to liberate these people. Quickly changing into her armor, Diana does the unthinkable: She calmly climbs over the top of the trench into No Man's Land (the name of which now takes on a new, Eowyn-esque meaning), facing the ensuing hail of bullets head on. Notably, as Diana makes it through the enemy trench to liberate the village beyond, this is the first time we hear the now iconic Wonder Woman theme from Batman v Superman, to really hammer the point home that this is Diana's defining moment.
The Movie's Message Exemplified In One Moment
Intended as an inspirational sequence, this moment is visually stunning. Diana marches through this bleak and dismal landscape, a land marked by years of death and destruction, and she is glorious.
This also reminds us that superhero movies don't have to be all about punching the bad guys — Diana does not so much as raise her sword until she reaches the German trench, rather relying on her bullet-deflecting bracelets and her Amazonian shield. Interestingly, this lack of punching made studio execs nervous, and they even wanted to cut the scene. Thankfully, Patty Jenkins managed to persuade them what a stupid-ass idea that was.
But this moment isn't just visually arresting — it is everything Wonder Woman represents contained within one scene. This moment is Diana's defiance of being told no, her determination to find another way, to help people however bleak things appear. It's shocking, because it breaks all the conventions we know of World War I. It is victorious, because we were just told that the Allied Forces had barely gained an inch of land in the last year. It is emotional, because Diana is able to help those who are left to suffer and die in a war known for its hopelessness.
Although the finale comes much later on, this sequence is the climax of the film, and it's one that other movies will find difficult to surpass.
So what really makes this the greatest moment in superhero film history? Perhaps it's because it has a relevancy that other great moments lack — war is nothing to laugh at, and the dire situation makes Diana's action all the more inspirational.
Perhaps it's because this is Diana's becoming — Superman catching a helicopter in the 1978 movie is great fun, but we already know his power. In Wonder Woman, Diana is unaware of who she really is, which makes her actions all the more courageous. Amazons can die, she knows this first hand. Yet she doesn't let her fear stop her — rather, it drives her onward. It almost seems that she is manifesting her fantastic abilities through her sheer force of will (though of course we learn later that her origin is rather more complex than that).
Or perhaps it's because it is a beautifully shot, thrilling sequence that feels more real than any other CGI-created, bloodless superhero fight fest in recent memory. In any case, Wonder Woman is an amazing movie that will be remembered as one of the greats. But if you're still unsure as to whether to go see it then trust me, it's worth seeing this soon-to-be iconic moment play out on the big screen — it really is a wonder.
Tell us in the comments: What's your favorite superhero movie moment?