STARRING: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya, Lucy Davis, Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner and Eugene Brave Rock
Before she was Wonder Woman she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained warrior. When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, she leaves home to fight a war to end all wars, discovering her full powers and true destiny.
Wonder Woman has us witnessing Diana, an Amazonian princess, growing up on the paradise island known as Themyscira until one day an Allied intelligence operative named Steve Trevor crashes off the coast of the island, leading to a battle with German forces on the shore. Trevor explains to the Amazons of the war raging in the outside world. Learning of the millions dying in the war, including women and children, Diana leaves her home to fight in the war to end all wars.
Wonder Woman is the latest instalment in Warner Bros. DC Extended Universe, the first female led superhero film in over a decade (we can try to forget that Catwoman and Elektra happened….but they did) and also the first female director to direct a superhero film with a female protagonist (the second in comic book films behind Lexi Alexander for 2008’s Punisher: War Zone). From these points, plus the fact that the films within the DCEU haven’t received the critical claim that I’m sure the studio hoped to gain and what the fans hoped to achieve, there seemed to be a question of how much pressure is riding on Wonder Woman to be appease both the fans and the critics of the DCEU, let alone the number of people that have been waiting over seventy-five years for her to have her big screen outing. Wonder Woman is set before the other instalments of the DCEU, taking place during World War I. One day just off the shores of Themyscira, an Allied intelligence officer, Steve Trevor, crashes his plane and warns the Amazons of the war to end all wars that is taking place outside of their bubble. Shocked to hear of the atrocities and casualties of the war, Diana decides to go with Trevor to the front of the war and fight for the helpless and discover her true destiny.
I had relatively high expectations leading up to the release of this film due to how well I thought the trailers were done and I must say that the film even managed to surpass them. The film starts off strong introducing the audience to the island of Themyscira and the Amazon warriors that live on it, telling us the history behind their existence which on paper sounds completely ridiculous and yet with Patty Jenkins at the helm, that origin is fully embraced and isn’t afraid to make a joke at its own expense to generate a laugh or two. Jenkins has made it clear that she was influenced by Richard Donner’s Superman and when you’re watching the film you can clearly see shades of that influence, from showing us the heroes homeland in the first act, to the superhero figure coming out as a beacon of hope in a grey world and the character gets to shine brightly within the World War I setting. Following Diana’s journey to mankind’s world and seeing her naivety about seeking out immediately to help those in need within a black and white viewpoint about right and wrong, whilst learning of the evil that men are capable of, actually feels refreshing in the landscape of comic book films we’ve had as of late. The films key strength and glue that keeps the audience invested is the relationship between Diana and Steve Trevor. Both of them fold into the ‘fish out of water’ mould that perfectly compliment each other as they are both bemused by the others origins as one has never seen a man before and the other has never met a….well, a God. Their journey throughout the film feels more authentic than forced and that’s due to the terrific chemistry that they have together on screen. Steve is, in his words an ‘above average’ man that is more than capable of handling himself within the settings of the war but can’t help but deliver some sharp sense of humour as he stares in awe when Diana begins to unleash her powers and I thought Chris Pine gave a really good performance in the role. Gal Gadot on the other hand…..I thought she was excellent as Diana. Much has questioned about her ability as an actress capable of playing the role since she was cast back in 2013, rather unfairly in my opinion. Here she manages to find the balance of bringing innocence, sincerity and badassery to the role and with the action sequences she has and the material that she has to work with, this is comfortably her best performance to date. From the supporting cast I thought Robin Wright’s performance as General Antiope stood out the most for me, though I did also like Connie Nielsen, David Thewlis and Saïd Taghmaoui. There’s a few scenes that stood out to me, with the action sequence that will be referred to as No Man’s Land I thought was perfectly done, from the buildup of the scene to the pacing of the sequence and the editing and then there’s the small moments such as Steve teaching Diana how to dance or sway really well. Kudos also to costume designer Lindy Hemming, composer Rupert Gregson-Williams and cinematographer Matthew Jensen for their work in the film.
Even within the positively, there’s a few issues I have with the film that many comic book films fall victim to. The key one being the use of special effects. While it relies heavily on it in the final acts battle scene, it feels more justified than say how the CGI is handled on a battle scene on Themyscira where it is terribly noticeable to the point of distracting, to the rather poor use of green screen as two characters are having a conversation with one another. The other issue is that the films main villains, as in General Ludendorff and mad scientist Doctor Poison are just too flat and one-dimensional as we’re giving nothing to develop even hatred towards them and one certain aspect of Lundendorff is never really addressed thinking back on the film that’s actually bugging me. The performances from Danny Huston and Elena Anaya were rather ‘too theatricial’ at one point, involving one scene and a group of Germans.
Wonder Woman is a wonderfully inspiring and compassionate superhero film that is a breath of fresh air in the genre thanks to Patty Jenkins at the helm. The action sequences are more often than not fantastic to watch and the performances from Gadot and Pine keep you invested. Her time is now indeed. 9/10