Princess Diana (not that one) (Gal Gadot) has spent all of her life on the mysterious, and seemingly invisible, island of Themyscira. Under the leadership ofDiana’s mother, Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), the Amazon’s have existed peacefully on their secret island for thousands of years. All of that changes when the outside world comes crashing into Themyscira in the (dashing) shape of Chris Pine’s World War I spy Steve Trevor. A man with possibly the most mundane name in the history of all names. Diana is drawn into the War and the outside world as she tries to save the world from Ares, the God of War (it’s a long story). Swordplay, lassoing and battlefield shenanigans ensue.
There’s been quite a lot of furore around the release of Wonder Woman, whether it was men on the Internet getting upset about women only screenings in Austin, Texas or just the sheer amazement of a female-led superhero film. Although arguably the biggest obstacle the film has to overcome is the weight of expectation. The DC Cinematic Universe hasn’t exactly been great up to now, Man of Steel was ok, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice was a bloated mess (although the director’s cut was slightly better) and the less said about Suicide Squad the better. Can director Patty Jenkins succeed where Zack Snyder and David Ayer have failed and actually make a good DC movie? Well the answer is a resounding yes.
It’s not exactly a compliment to say that this is the best of the DC movies since Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy, but it really is. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise given that Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was comfortably the best part of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but there’s always the feeling the Warner Bros. can manage to screw up what seems like a safe bet.
Gal Gadot carries on from where she left off in BvS:DoJ, although at the same time she gives us something different. When we first saw Diana in BvS:DoJ she was mostly doing the action stuff, lots of running, jumping and punching and she did it very well but here she gets to show a lot more. This is a younger, fresher and more idealistic version of Diana, who sees the good in everything and constantly tries to do the right thing. She’s somewhere between Superman and Captain America in that respect I think, but we get a fresh take on things. This is a character who, up to this point in her life, has never actually seen a man let alone talked to one. This means that we get a slightly different take on something we’ve seen so often on the big screen, we’re seeing it through fresh eyes with a new set of beliefs. This is very much Gal Gadot’s film, she’s got the right balance of athleticism, charisma and naivety. It’s quite refreshing to see a hero who genuinely wants to do the right thing, without the need to pile on some dark side or gritty agenda.
One of the major highlights of the film is the chemistry between its two leads. The relationship between Steve and Diana is actually quite believable, as far as falling in love with a god might go. Pine does a good job of being the rash impulsive one who gets into trouble and needs to be rescued, but at the same time he does have his fair share of heroic moments. I really liked the central pairing and I think it’s much more satisfying and believable than Lois and Clarke in the recent Henry Cavill/Amy Adams Superman films. That said, there’s a slight misstep towards the end where it turns all that Wonder Woman needed to be great was the love of a good man, and his guidance to find her true purpose. So close to sticking the landing but not quite.
The story has a lot of familiar beats with it’s war time setting, the hero’s origin story, and the boo-hiss pantomime type villain but it works well. Director Patty Jenkins has taken all of these familiar elements and made them look fresh and new, showing us things through Diana’s eyes gives everything a fresh feel. It’s quite unusual at the moment to have a hero who is genuinely heroic and selfless and that’s what Wonder Woman gives us. The only point that I really disengaged with the story was right at the end where it cannot quite break the superhero trends and goes for a big CGI punchfest finish. Again, so close to a perfect landing only to have a little stumble at the end.
I really enjoyed Wonder Woman, I think it’s a great superhero film because it tries to do something different. The action scenes are really, really well done and seeing Diana stride out into the battlefield alone should become an iconic cinema moment. It’s a really positive cinematic experience that gives us a hero who wants to be a real force for good. Maybe that’s a good thing at the moment, maybe that’s the kind of escapism that we need right now.