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REVIEW: Is ‘Wonder Woman’ family-friendly and OK for kids?

June 2nd, 2017 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: Is ‘Wonder Woman’ family-friendly and OK for kids?

Diana is the lone child living on an island inhabited by super-humans called “Amazons”—warrior women who were created by the Greek god Zeus after his son Ares, the god of war, revolted. Their mission: restore love and peace to the world.

These Amazon women are far from passive. They spend their days training for battle with swords and bows, preparing for the day when they may face Ares in a battle for the ages.

Diana wants to join the exercises, but her mother won’t allow it.

“Fighting does not make you a hero,” she says.

As times passes, though, mom becomes more lenient. And when a World War I British pilot crashes near the island and warns the women about an imminent mustard gas attack on the Allies—an action that would halt an armistice and keep the war going—Diana decides she must act. She becomes Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman (PG-13) opens in theaters this weekend, giving us our first live-action theatrical film based on the DC Comics character that was popularized by the 1970s Lynda Carter-led TV series.

It stars Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious series) as Wonder Woman; Chris Pine (Star Trek Beyond) as Steve Trevor, the pilot and her love interest; Connie Nielsen (Gladiator) as Diana’s mom, Queen Hippolyta; and Danny Huston (Wolverine, The Aviator) as Erich Ludendorff, a German general who is leading the effort to develop mustard gas. It was directed by Patty Jenkins, who is best known for her work on several TV series (The Killing) and movies. Stone Cold Creamery, Dr. Pepper, Orville Redenbacher's and Tyson Foods are some of the leading partners.

At times, Wonder Woman is, well, wonderful. The action is fun but not over the top, and the story is engaging and easy to follow. Our heroine has several characteristics that nearly all parents would want their daughters to emulate. Additionally, the movie delivers a clear worldview that can lead to multiple discussions.   

Still, the movie has a few head-scratching and problematic scenes that left me wondering: Why’d Hollywood put that in there?

So, is it family-friendly? Let’s take a look …

Warning: Minor spoilers!

The Good

Diana doesn’t just want to save a few people from dying in World War I. She wants to save all the people. When she learns that townspeople in a Belgium village are starving, she decides to act even though her primary goal is to find the evil General Ludendorff. “We need to help these people,” she says. “We need to stay on mission,” her companion, Steve, responds. Her empathy is a core theme throughout the film.    

Her lack of knowledge about the world is played for laughs and is entertaining. Diana knows nothing about jobs (what’s a secretary?), clothes (why aren’t the women dressed for battle?) or relationships (what’s marriage?). When a woman sticks her hand out, ready to shake Diana’s hand, our heroine simply stares at it.

The film has several examples of self-sacrifice, including a major one in the film’s final minutes.

The Bad

Wonder Woman contains the typical level of bloodless violence found in a superhero film, although some parents will find it problematic for children. We see people shot with arrows and bullets, with dead bodies across the landscape. We experience (sort of off-screen) a soldier being shot and killed by his superior. We watch men fight in a bar. Diana kills people with her sword, stabbing one of them through the torso. There’s also a disturbing scene involving a mustard gas test on an individual (apparently against his will).

I counted five instances of coarse words: he-- (3), da--it (1), OMG (1).

The film’s most problematic moments involve suggestive dialogue and sensuality. Following his plane crash, Steve bathes in a futuristic-looking hot tub. As he exits the tub, Diana—who has never seen a man—surprises him by walking in. (She’s clothed; he doesn’t take cover, and we briefly see him walking to his clothes as he covers himself with his hands.) She begins asking questions. “Would you say you are a typical example of your sex?” (He says he’s above average.) She then asks, “What’s that?”—a reference to his watch but a question that he initially misinterprets.  

Later, on a boat, they talk about procreation. (She says the Amazons decided men are necessary for procreation but not pleasure.) There’s also a discussion on the boat about “sleeping together.” He says it’s not polite to assume an unmarried woman will do that. (They end up sleeping side by side, clothed and facing up.)

A soldier, upon seeing Wonder Woman in action, says, “I’m both frightened and aroused.”   

The romance between Diana and Steve leads to physical contact one late night when he enters her room and they kiss. Did anything else happen? We don’t know; the scene quickly changes to an outdoor scene the next morning. But some moviegoers will say sex was implied.

Finally, Diana’s outfit isn’t one I’d want my daughter to wear. But, honestly, it likely covers more than Lynda Carter’s 1970s outfit did.

Spiritual Content

From a strict Christian perspective, there’s little to be found. We see a couple of nuns, but that’s it.

Worldview

Warning: major spoiler ahead!

Wonder Woman may take place in the real world, but its worldview is grounded within the Greek universe of gods and goddesses. It’s a world where gods can have multiple offspring, battle one another and then die. Certainly, families of young children may want to address the subject of false gods, but the film provides an equally significant topic.

Diana naively believes that by killing Ares, the god of war, people will stop fighting. Yet when she kills Ares, the war doesn’t end. Why? She believes she has found the answer: It’s because there is darkness and light in each person, and each person then must make his or her own choice. “Only love can save the world,” she says.

We’ll call it “Wonder Woman theology,” and lots of our friends and family members believe it. Scripture says something very different (Romans 3:10-23; Ecclesiastes 7:20). We’re dreadful, sin-filled creatures in need of a Savior (John 3:16). In other words, there are no good people.

Thumbs Up … Or Down?

Some are calling this the best superhero movie ever. It’s not, but it’s definitely good. Thumbs up.

The Verdict: Family-Friendly?   

Perhaps the suggestive dialogue will fly over the heads of children while other moviegoers are snickering. Perhaps. I’m not so sure. This one certainly is family-friendly for most teens. I just wish Hollywood would stop making parenting, while moviegoing, so difficult.    

Discussion Questions

1. Is there “good” in all of us?

2. Why are superhero films so popular in our culture?

3. What does Scripture say about women fighting in battle?

4. Was Diana naïve about humanity?

5. Can love save the world?

Entertainment rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3 out of 5.

Wonder Woman is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content.