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‘Wonder Woman’ successfully charts the process of self-discovery

“Wonder Woman” (2017). Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Danny Houston, David Thewlis, Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Heart, Lucy Davis, Elena Anaya, Lilly Aspell, Emily Carey. Director: Patty Jenkins. Screenplay: Allan Heinberg. Story: Zack Snyder, Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs. Source Material: William Moulton Marston. Web site. Trailer.

The process of self-discovery can be challenging enough in and of itself. But imagine what it might be like to go through that in the midst of trying circumstances in a world you barely understand. If you can picture that, you have an idea of what life is like for a superhero coming into her own, the story that provides the backdrop for the new summer blockbuster, “Wonder Woman.”

In a secluded land created by Zeus, king of the Olympian gods, an impressionable young Diana (Lilly Aspell) pictures herself becoming one of the Amazonian warriors who populate this beautiful, remote, protected enclave. In this land devoid of men, these heroic women (all of whom were brought to life by Zeus, who sculpted them from the sacred clay of the earth) learn the ways of doing battle for just and noble causes. They train for years under the tutelage of master warrior Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), Diana’s greatest inspiration. But, despite her enthusiasm, Diana is discouraged by her peers (especially her mother, Queen Antiope (Robin Wright)) not to be too anxious to learn the ways of the warrior. She’s cautioned that this way of life involves skills to be used only when necessary, such as in the event of a challenge from Zeus’s son, Aries, the god of war, who at one time wrought devastation against mankind and threatened to do the same to the Amazons (a prospect that prompted Zeus to create their sheltered homeland, as well as a powerful weapon designed to vanquish the wayward deity if necessary).

Still, despite these cautions, Diana is eager to get on with her training, first as an adolescent (Emily Carey) and later as a young adult (Gal Gadot). Her skills gradually blossom, revealing her to be a force to be reckoned with. And, as fate would have it, she one day comes upon circumstances that provide her with an opportunity to put her training to use.

While gazing out upon the sea bordering her homeland, she sees a strange flying machine crash into the water. She dives in to save the sole occupant, a being of a nature she’s never encountered before – a man. That mysterious being turns out to be Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American undercover operative working for British military intelligence during World War I, the “Great War,” which is wreaking havoc throughout Europe. Steve accidentally stumbles upon the Amazon homeland while fleeing Germans seeking to capture him to retrieve information he stole from them about their secret weapons technology.

Upon witnessing the treachery of these evil outsiders for herself, Diana is convinced that they’re doing the bidding of Aries. And so, after Steve explains his situation and announces his intention to return to England to report his findings to his superiors, Diana decides to join him, determined to do her part to aid in the war effort. She’s determined to hunt down Aries and stop him from engaging in any further malevolence. Admittedly, Steve places little stock in her contentions about the god of war and whatever influence the mythical deity may be having on the conflict, but, when he sees what she can do in the middle of combat, he’s grateful to have her along for the ride. Before long, this unlikely duo, accompanied by a ragtag band of associates (Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock), are off to the front line in Belgium to do battle with German commander Ludendorff (Danny Houston) and his secret weapons developer, Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya).

As strange as this experience is for Steve, it’s even stranger for Diana, who suddenly finds herself in a truly foreign land, more bizarre than anything she’s ever experienced or might have even imagined. She struggles to learn the ways and customs of this strange new world, often with mixed results, but her keen observations shed a bright light on the absurdity and insanity that characterize it. Despite the awkwardness of this adjustment, though, Diana nevertheless comes to discover herself and her destiny, never losing sight of her training and how she can employ it to a situation where it’s clearly called for. Through this process, she learns her purpose and how to make use of it in what is arguably one of the noblest causes anyone might ever undertake, one with mythic implications.

Self-discovery is something we each go through at some point in our lives, but what we get out of this process depends greatly on how deeply we look into ourselves. Some are content to stop at more or less superficial levels, while others dive down, plumbing the depths of our being. When we pursue the latter course, we often examine not only ourselves but also the surroundings in which we exist, trying to understand how we got where we are and why. And scrutinizing our reality in this way thus often leads us to the conclusion that we had a significant hand in how it came into being. This is the starting point for grasping the workings of the conscious creation process, the means by which we manifest the reality we experience through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents.

This is at the heart of Diana’s story. She wants to know who she is and why she exists. Given the mission of the Amazons, she realizes that, like her peers, she’s meant to fulfill a purpose of some kind. But what is it?

This is a question Diana wrestles with as she goes through her training. On some level, she believes that she’s meant to put it to use in some way. But, given the secluded life she’s led, it’s difficult for her to imagine to what end. After all, why learn to be a warrior in a land with no immediately perceived perils? Having heard the story of Zeus and Aries, Diana is aware that a threat could arise someday, but, in the meantime, why would she place herself in a reality with the kinds of conditions that prevail there?

One could argue that the protected seclusion of Diana’s homeland is a reflection of her inner self, one designed to suit her particular needs. As someone who’s focused on her training, she needs an environment with as few distractions as possible, one in which she can concentrate on her lessons, the very kind of reality she has successfully created. By doing so, she thus gives herself an opportunity to thoroughly learn her skills for a time when she will need them, as becomes apparent with Steve’s arrival.

The appearance of the mysterious visitor coincides with Diana’s readiness to at last put her training to use. Steve’s arrival is a synchronistic catalyst designed to launch Diana into the implementation of her life’s purpose. And, for her part, she’s astute enough to recognize it as such. She’s now ready to leave the safety of the nest and discover her destiny.

Once in the wider world, Diana grows into her life’s mission as a full-fledged, bona fide superhero. She begins to practice what conscious creators refer to as her value fulfillment, the act of being her best, truest self for the benefit of herself and those around her. She was meant to vanquish the evil that seeks to overrun the world, and her years of training to tackle that challenge are about to pay off. And, when she comes to fully recognize this for herself, she goes to work to make it happen.

Diana’s odyssey is certainly an inspiring one, a tale that stirs us and encourages us to embrace our own personal truth and what it means to discover that for ourselves. It engenders the kind of courage needed to move forward with our lives, no matter what challenges may cross our paths. And it shows us how we can do so with gusto, heroism, good humor and profound philosophical thoughtfulness.

“Wonder Woman” is a terrific thrill ride, serving up an array of terrific action adventure sequences and excellent special effects. But director Patty Jenkins’s offering doesn’t rely on these attributes to carry the picture. Rather, they’re integrated well into a narrative that incorporates other elements not typical of this genre or of a period piece film. All of this is carried off successfully thanks to the excellent performances of Pine and, especially, Gadot, both of whom are clearly in their element here.

Admittedly, the picture drags a bit in a few spots, though by no means oppressively. What’s more, the script is somewhat awkwardly burdened by having to tie this film’s story into that of the movie where Diana’s character was first introduced, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016), a shameless (and completely unnecessary) marketing ploy that neither helped that cinematic predecessor nor adds anything meaningful to this offering. But, these minor shortcomings aside, “Wonder Woman” otherwise delivers the goods successfully, providing viewers with a fun, exciting and thoughtful time at the movies.

Finding ourselves can be a rewarding experience, and, when the stakes are high, a successful outcome can be eminently satisfying. “Wonder Woman” inspires us to attain that goal, showing us who we are and how we can put our character to use for the benefit of ourselves and others. Fewer goals are as noble as this, and Diana embodies this in a way that sets a shining example for all of us to follow.

Copyright © 2017, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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