Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Directed by: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis
Despite being one of the most recognizable and iconic comic book creations since her inception in 1942, Princess Diana of Themyscira has had to sit frustratingly on the sidelines while her male counterparts have had chance after chance, sequel after sequel, and reboot after reboot, with varying degrees of quality. But finally, after years of false starts and various attempts (and being one of the very few shining lights in last year’s otherwise depressing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), Wonder Woman finally gets her due with a mightily impressive and vigorously entertaining solo outing.
Nearly one hundred years before her fateful meeting with Batman and Superman, and before she was Wonder Woman, Diana was an idealistic warrior princess living on a hidden island paradise populated entirely by a female race known as the Amazons. One day that peace is shattered when Diana rescues American spy, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), after he crashes his plane in the waters surrounding the island, bringing with him the devastating news of “the war to end all wars” currently engulfing the rest of the world. Diana, moved by his plight, and believing that the Greek god of war, Ares, is the one responsible for influencing mankind and the conflict at large, leaves the sanctuary of her island with Steve to help end the war and put a stop to Ares’ wrath and influence forever.There’s no denying Warner Bros and DC have struggled to craft a burgeoning universe for their characters over recent years. Whilst mostly financially successful, critics and fans alike haven’t exactly taken too kindly to the darker, nihilistic approach the films have gone for. With the critical floundering of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, Warner and DC desperately needed a win, something to give us hope that this was a universe worth sticking around for and thankfully Wonder Woman has given us that. Director Patty Jenkins, working from a script credited to Allan Heinberg from a story by Heinberg, Zack Snyder and Jason Fuchs, crafts Wonder Woman with a sense of idealistic hope, never once forgetting its characters and allowing them to flourish in a highly engaging film that works as the perfect introduction for Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman.
And Gadot thrives in the central role. Granted, she may not have the greatest range as an actress, but Gadot is magnetic on screen, exuding charisma and embellishing Diana with an unwavering optimism that drives her through the story and her quest, as she gradually comes to have her idealism challenged as she discovers the world. Physically, she is a grandstanding presence, as Jenkins (with help from Gadot’s stunt double, no doubt) films her in ways that highlights her Amazonian prowess and magnitude. In one blistering scene, Gadot’s Diana steps out onto the fields of No Man’s Land throwing herself into the fight, before near single handedly liberating a village from occupying forces, in what is arguably one of the most memorable sequences in any superhero movie.
As the first cinematic incarnation of the character, Gadot was a fine choice indeed. And with Patty Jenkins calling the shots, never once does Gadot, or her fellow Amazonian warriors (wonderfully played by Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright), feel objectified, but rather taken as what they are: strong, capable and formidable individuals, stirring warriors of virtue who illuminate the screen whenever they’re on it. The scenes on Themyscira itself are wonderful and, while we perhaps don’t get to spend as much time there as we would’ve liked, the world of the Amazons and their culture feels thoroughly well developed and realized.The action scenes have real weight to them and, for the most part, rarely feel overburdened by an abundance of CG. That is however, until the inevitable third act slugfest comes into play, almost derailing everything good that came before. Yes, like all superhero films these days, Wonder Woman quickly descends into the usual, borderline incoherent CGI fisticuffs when the film’s ultimate Big Bad decides to show himself and, unfortunately, it’s not too pretty. Thankfully though, Jenkins and her crew have done such stellar work up until this point that you’ll feel invested enough in these characters to forgive the slight transgression. And the final act has enough character beats peppered throughout to keep it engaging.
Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor also ably supports Gadot; their chemistry lights up the screen, particularly in one of the more “fish-out-of-water” segments in which Diana finds herself in merry old London for the first time. Their relationship never comes across as forced or unearned, and is actually quite moving at times. Ewan Bremner, Said Taghmaoui and Eugene Brave Rock provide delightful support as a rag tag bunch of misfits accompanying our heroes on their quest.
If there’s one glaring issue with the film (aside from its third act wobbles) it’s that, once again, the villains are as dull as a doornail. Danny Huston’s German commander chews up the scenery as best he can, but he and Elena Anaya’s Dr. Maru, aka Doctor Poison, are so one note that it’s hard to engage.
Wonder Woman is a grandstanding introduction for one of the most iconic superheroes of all time. With a focus on character, bolstered by a charismatic central performance from Gal Gadot, and with great support from the likes of Chris Pine, it’s easily one of the better superhero movies of recent years and certainly the best film in DC’s canon thus far.