I went to see Wonder Woman, and I loved it to bits. Loved the performances, loved the aesthetic, loved the way the film picked over Wondy’s fragmented canon to create a coherent whole – the perfect starting point for future stories.
There are plenty of things I could write about, but I’ve decided to home in on one little thing that surprised me the most. It’s something that I doubt many other people will be covering just yet when everyone is (rightly) gushing about Wondy herself: the film’s portrayal of Steve Trevor.
Steve Trevor’ Diana’s boyfriend, always struck me as a rather awkward character. The traditional role of a superhero’s love interest is to be rescued from danger. But Trevor is a military man – if he regularly needs a superhero to save him, then he comes across as a bit… well… naff.
The Diana/Steve dynamic just never worked as well as the Superman/Lois pairing. It’s telling that, when the New 52 turned Superman and Wonder Woman into a couple, fans were displeased with Lois being sidelined – but nobody cared about Steve Trevor being rendered practically irrelevant.
Wonder Woman’s cultural cache plays a factor here, too. You’ve got to feel sorry for poor old Steve: if Diana is to be the ideal of and empowered woman, then by extension Steve Trevor has to be the ideal partner for an empowered woman. That’s a lot for one comic book love interest to live up to – especially since, now that Wondy is canonically bisexual, she’s no longer restricted to boyfriends.
Were it not for the fact that Steve plays a key role in Diana’s origin story, then I suspect that he would be left out of the various Wonder Woman reboots and retellings, or at least significantly sidelined (the current incarnation of the comic, written by Greg Rucka, establishes that they are no longer romantic partners).
Despite having nothing against the boyish good looks of Chris “Young Kirk” Pine, I did not expect much from Steve Trevor when I went to see Wonder Woman. After all, the previous Wondy film – an animated, direct-to-DVD number from 2009 – portrayed Steve as an insufferable douche whose response to meeting the Amazons was to wolf-whistle and loudly remark on their tits.
But what we got this time around was possibly the best dang Steve Trevor ever seen.
Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor is a larger-than-life, cartoonish figure, dashing but also funny once he lets his guard down a little (I was reminded of Brendan Fraser in The Mummy – and honestly, anyone disappointed that the Tom Cruise Mummy will not be like the Brendan Fraser Mummy should give Wonder Woman a try).
He plays a vital role in Diana’s formation, introducing her to the mortal world (his traditional role) and then providing military know-how when she reaches the front (a role that only really works when the wartime setting of the earliest comics is kept – once Wondy is pitted against a more fantastical threat, then Steve’s significance begins to fade).
But at the same time, Steve doesn’t detract from Diana. He provides vital assistance, as good sidekicks must, but this is fundamentally Diana’s story. The film achieves the tricky balance of letting Wonder Woman be the true hero without turning Steve into a twerp.
The film takes place in 1918, meaning that Steve Trevor will be dead by the time Wondy joins the Justice League. Anyone who’s realised that will have deduced that either a) the film has a scene where an elderly Steve Trevor dies in Diana’s arms while Freddy Mercury asks who waaaants to liiiiiiive foreeeveeeeeerr, or b) Steve Trevor dies in battle. The answer is b.
But here’s the thing. Steve Trevor doesn’t end up as mere collateral damage, like Gwen Stacy or Babs Gordon. He’s given a moment of heroic sacrifice, giving his life to thwart the plan of the secondary antagonist.
This works. By that point, Steve Trevor has served his purpose. We know from the comics that keeping him around for too long into Wonder Woman’s story can get awkward, and so the film sends him off with a fittingly heroic departure. Steve Trevor is the war-hero, and war-heroes tend to die in battle. But Wonder Woman is the fantasy-hero, and will live to fight on for as long as she captures the imagination of audiences.
As I said at the start, there is plenty to like about Wonder Woman. Its creation of a pitch-perfect Steve Trevor will probably be amongst the less talked-about of its virtues, but I think that feat deserves some cred.
(Also, there’s a scene where he’s naked, and the little girls at the screening had a giggle.)