When Elizabeth Holloway Marston heard that her husband, William Moulton Marston, had decided to develop a new superhero for DC Comics that triumphed through love, she told him, "Fine, but make her a woman." Seventy-six years later, Diana Prince takes to the big screen in her own solo film, Wonder Woman, and she is just as much a breath of fresh air for the surge of recent superhero films as she was for the comic book industry in 1941. She is fierce and high-spirited, strong-willed and compassionate, forging a film that sings among the tension and grim outlook of her superpowered colleagues across the world of modern comic book movies. Its message is one of love, strength, and belief in your own power and ability, one that honors not only Marston's original image, but the lives of the women Wonder Woman was created to emulate and inspire.
While the original Wonder Woman comics took place during World War II, Patty Jenkins' film places Diana in World War I after following American pilot, Steve Trevor, from her home on the island of the Amazons, Themyscira. This time shift may seem odd at first, considering that the plot would mainly stay the same had the story remained in World War II, but by dropping Diana into the 1910s, the film actually better honors the history that formed her in the first place. Marston's 1940s vision of Wonder Woman came directly from the Suffragette Movement of the 1910s and the women that were born of it, namely his wife, the outspoken, ambitious lawyer out of Mount Holyoke's own version of Themyscira, Sadie Elizabeth Holloway, and his lover, the caring writer and daughter of two women's rights activists, Olive Byrne. From these two women, both of whom lived together with Marston and continued to do so following his death, Wonder Woman gained compassion and drive, and from the attitudes that produced them drew the faith and power Wonder Woman sees in the women of the world.
So, Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman places Diana in exactly the environment that necessitated the ideas that she was created to represent in the first place. She stands in contrast to Etta Candy's English secretary, but never degrades or diminishes her. She refuses the expectations the men around her try to impose until they no longer underestimate her. She turns Steve Trevor's use of the phrase "women and children" as a synonym for "helpless innocents" on its head as she prepares to enter No Man's Land and delivers the line to mean "beings of powerful potential," implying that the idea of something with the will and ability to kill women cannot be underestimated. She defies the bonds placed on her in the film's third act with new, enriched vigor as she so often did to the chains inspired by the early feminism of the 1910's use of bondage in response to women's compulsory attachment to men and to concepts like motherhood and homemaking in the early comics. The change in time period amplifies what is already a part of Diana's character and allows her to project her love of and faith in the women of the world that much clearer.
With this history as its base, Wonder Woman is able to sell a completely unique superhero movie experience. It provides a story brimming with fun, awe-inspiring action and a collection of rare characters, from its shining protagonist to its love interest/sidekick thankfully absent of the "womanizer with a heart of gold beneath the wise-cracks and cool exterior" trope that is so common for men in modern comic book movies (looking at you, Marvel), to the motley crew of soldiers that make up Diana's support system (though, I do wish part of that support system had been another woman). The DCEU has built itself around hope, love, and the potential mankind has for good, and Patty Jenkins does not shy away from making sure this message is clear. "I wanted to tell a story about a hero who believes in love, who is filled with love, who believes in change and the betterment of mankind," she told The New York Times. "I believe in it. It’s terrible when it makes so many artists afraid to be sincere and truthful and emotional, and relegates them to the too-cool-for-school department. Art is supposed to bring beauty to the world." Jenkins' attention to the DCEU's message is especially evident in the film's large and loud final thirty minutes, as Diana's faith in love and mankind allows her to literally and physically break through boundaries and limitations. Wonder Woman provides power to compassion and spirit, leaving its audience feeling warm and infinite.