Alright here we go.
Wonder Woman is at its best when it's creating a series of stirring portraits. Here is a woman bearing arms, taking no shit and fighting for peace in a outfit that - even after its 100th redesign - still recalls the American flag. She's determined and possessed of agency. If only she wasn't standing on bullshit ideology.
See Wonder Woman fights for peace. It's the same story Australians are told about ANZAC soldiers in World War 1: they fought so that we can enjoy our freedoms and be at peace. Except that anyone with even a smattering of historical knowledge knows that this is a transparent, patriotic lie. They fought so that several European Empires could sort out their differences which primarily stemmed from arguments over which nations they were entitled to exploit. There were no bad guys or good guys. Just a lot of young men fed the lie that it was honourable and glorious to die for the fatherland.
On one level Wonder Woman endorses this precise anti-war viewpoint: the war is bad, it destroys the lives of civilians and - plot twist - the being orchestrating it is undercover as a British official. Hell, there's even a blunt message about the evils of colonialism provided by a Native American black market trader.
But that message is fatally undercut by that fact that most of the movie follows a squad of misfit heroes from the Allied Nations carving up anonymous soldiers from the Central Powers in order to stop two unambiguously evil employees of the German state from developing a new and deadly form of poison gas,* or in Diana's case, bring peace by offing Ares. Yeah that's right, they're killing folks because how else can you make peace except by waging war?
Of course this is the premise of any number of superhero comics and movies in general: That one good person can combat evil by um, literally combating it and inspiring others to do so too. And it has inspired its share of reflexive critiques: all the way from Watchmen to (ugh) Kick Ass.
What's frustrating about Wonder Woman is that it clumsily maps the conflict of good versus evil onto a war which - even by the standards of wars - was desperately lacking in such a thing and makes only the most hamfisted of attempts to complicate it. What's doubly frustrating is that placing a woman at the center of such a bankrupt ideology has somehow rehabilitated it. Yes, we're being sold the same old poison but now that feminism has been co-opted to support it we should get behind it.
Representation matters. Images of powerful women are important. But what's the point of powerful women if they're ultimately cogs in the same old machine? At the risk of co-opting feminism myself the whole thing stinks of what Bikini Kill sung about in Tony Randell, "False history, spit out another picture of a girl with a gun to bore me."
*Incidentally this plot point obscures the fact that virtually every "Great Power" involved in World War 1 developed and deployed some kind of poisonous gas as a weapon during the war.