After three movies that made loads of cash yet polrised fans and critics alike, the DC Expanded Universe finally delivers a crowd-pleasing film. Patty Jenkins (Monster) directs the first ever solo Wonder Woman movie, and that in itself feels like a grave injustice.
Regardless of my feeling towards the three previous movies in their shared universe, I was always going to turn out on opening week to see Wonder Woman to do my bit. I might have gone in with modest expectations, but Jenkins and co have hit a home run for DC.
We are introduced to Diana at a young age; children are a rarity on the island of Themyscira, it’s population is made up exclusively of Amazonian warrior women charged with protecting humanity. However, Diana wants to be a warrior like her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and her aunt General Antiope (Robin Wright). Against her mother’s wishes, Diana begins her training with her aunt and soon becomes as powerful as those she sought to emulate.
While they live in peace, the women are always on alert awaiting the return of Zeus’ vengeful son Ares (well, he is the god of war). Years later, their world is forever changed with the arrival of Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) when his plane crash lands. Believing Ares to be the cause of the great war of man, Diana leaves the island with Steve for London.
I have made my admiration for Richard Donner’s Superman on many occasions. All these years on, and it is still the definitive cinematic adaptation of the character. Full of hope, a bit silly, and unafraid to toss in a joke to defuse the tension. In so many ways, Jenkins’ film follows the same structure as Donner’s classic and it’s further testament to Donner having cracked the superhero code back in the 70s.
The chemistry between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine is palpable; it is so refreshing to have the male lead be the love interest and support the narrative rather than drive it. However, instead of treating Pine’s character with the same contempt that Hollywood has shown female characters, Allan Heinberg’s script makes him more than just eye candy. Take note Hollywood; this is how to write the character that supports the goals of the protagonist.
I’m sure some corners of the internet will feel that too much time is devoted to Pine’s character and his team, but this is a huge leap in the right direction. Although much was made out of her brief appearance in Dawn of Justice, our introduction to Gadot’s Wonder Woman proved her warrior credentials, but her acting chops remain untested. There’s no denying that Gadot was the saving grace of BvS, and when that Wonder Woman theme chimed in the whole messy finale got better. Thankfully, Gadot can handle herself in the acting department as well as she can use her trusty Lasso of truth.
Much like all superhero movies, Wonder Woman does have a slightly wobbly third act (everything’s on fire, rubbery CGI). While there is no giant beam in the sky to contend with, the CGI-heavy finale doesn’t leave you as amped up as earlier action sequences, which is such a shame as Wonder Woman could have truly had it all if it managed to do what few superhero movies have achieved. Land the finale without resorting to CGI overkill.
Beyond the obvious Superman comparisons (Diana even dons a pair of glasses and goes full Clark Kent goofball), there are obvious comparisons to be made with Captain America: The First Avenger. Set against the backdrop of a world war, our fish out of water hero must overcome a power crazed faction of the German war machine. Danny Huston’s evil General Erich Ludendorff is a fun distraction and I’ll watch him in anything, but the whip fast pace does grind to a halt when we see what he’s up to with Dr. Poison.
Female superhero movies have been sorely underserved in cinema for decades. We’ve had strong female characters in ensembles, but the likes of Catwoman, and Elektra have made studio executives unfairly cautious of pursuing more solo adaptations. Wonder Woman just proved that to be the BS it is,
When I first saw Superman, I wanted to be Superman, when I saw Batman I wanted to be Batman, and when I saw Daredevil, I wanted a refund. The point I’m making is that when I grew up I had superhero movies aimed at me, and gave me something I’ll never forget, something to aspire to be. At the age of 35, I’m still not Superman, I’m still not Batman, and I never did get my refund for Daredevil, but the Netflix series karmically balanced the books. So why can’t girls and young women and everybody else have the same connection to a cinematic character? Sure, there’s Black Widow, but the first Marvel-themed female superhero movie won’t arrive until 2019 with Captain Marvel.
It’s not just the fairer sex that will air punch with victory over Wonder Woman being ruddy entertaining. I’ll level with you guys, during the heart-pounding sequence on No Man’s Land where Diana rises up in full battle get up, her unwavering resolve, the slow-motion, the backdrop of war, I welled up big time. It was such a well executed moment (one of many); this is Wonder Woman, this is for every little girl out there, this is so long overdue it’s a joke. Right in the feels. Then, a relentless display of explosive action that also manages to be emotionally overpowering.
Patty Jenkins almost directed Thor: The Dark World, at the time I was disappointed that Marvel hadn’t been able to make it work, but I’m glad it didn’t work out with Thor. Marvel’s loss is DC’s gain, and Jenkins has done the character proud, and I hope she remains onboard for the sequel. My biggest complaint would be that Robin Wright’s General Antiope should have had more screen time. Giving Imperator Furiosa a run for her money as ultimate badass, I would gladly watch a spin-off centred on Antiope. Sadly, we’ll have to make do with a flashback or two in Justice League for now.
Wonder Woman isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t have to be as it single-handedly manages to restore faith in the future of the DC Expanded Universe. It can’t undo what’s gone before, but it has made the forthcoming Justice League instantly more enticing if for no other reason than to see Gadot back in action.