Director: Patty Jenkins
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Danny Huston, Elena Anaya, David Thewlis, Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremmer, Lucy Davis with Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen
Plot: Diana (Gadot) is a mythical Amazonian, a female warrior race designed to fight war, only Diana discovers that their island shelters them from the biggest war there is.
Let’s start with the clearest statement, bolstered by pretty much every review you have read: Wonder Woman is the best DC Movie created in the Zack Snyder universe. By a country mile. It has the depth lacking in Suicide Squad, the grounded realism missing from Man of Steel and, to a point, avoids the tight squeezing of narratives that Dawn of Justice fell to pieces because of.
There are still big problems that haven’t quite dissuaded my lack of confidence in the DC movie vehicle. The same big flaws that cropped up in the other three movies are still here, even if they are to a lesser degree. Wonder Woman’s biggest problem is that it appears to be clinging to How To Make A Superhero Movie 101. We are introduced to a young, feisty heroine, complete with all the traits that we expect from our strong superhero protagonist, albeit with the addition of a doe-eyed naivety. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman does not have the stoic wonder of Superman or the brooding darkness of the Dark Knight, but rather an energetic sense of duty. This young hero lives a sheltered life, free of men, violence and temptation. However, when the Amazon world collides with a stray German patrol, chasing roguish spy Chris Pine, the two world horrifically collide, with the usual dramatic origin story death that fuels the hero into taking those first steps into superhero posturing. We are then thrown into a fairly typical superhero story that has the small novelty of being set in World War I (although Captain America still beat DC to the punch here with his WWII origin), where there is a sinister bad guy to be killed and a bunch of ‘only half-developed’ supporting stars to help get our hero there. As each narrative beat unfolds, there is a sense that the script is working with the expectations of the superhero movie rather than trying to break free of them and try something new. Marvel has a habit of pushing the boundaries of what we expect a superhero movie to be, while DC is still pandering to what it thinks the audience wants. The big let-down of Wonder Woman is the finale that descends into the usual DC trademark of an overly CGI punch-up to end the movie on. Perhaps it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, seeing as even the relatively low-key Suicide Squad fell down the same route, but when Wonder Woman was so close to grasping the grounded World War I vibe, it feels like a slight back-step to suddenly evolve into a large spectacle that fills the screen with animated explosions and meaningless punches. The last shot, for instance, is Wonder Woman jumping out of a building and the director hits the freeze frame button. It has no narrative effect on the story, other than looking very cool. And here lies the problem with the DC formula: it is all style over substance.
Except Wonder Woman does have substance. A lot of it. It is almost as if Patty Jenkins was handed half a movie, a movie with a set superhero storyline and fixed trademark scenes, and was asked to finish it. Because while the movie follows a straight-laced pattern, Jenkins works her hardest to give these scenes meaning. Wonder Woman’s story is more than a little daft: she comes from a warrior race of women that has a duty to put an end to Ares, the God of War, stopping the corruption and war-mongering of man. What Jenkins does is take this story and throw it into the real world. Chris Pine is brilliant, in a part that essentially asks him to be the foil to Wonder Woman’s craziness. In Wonder Woman’s eyes, she is in a superhero movie, where if she kills the big bad guy, the war comes to an immediate end. Pine knows better, that men do not need a God of War to give into their darker cravings for violence. Even Pine’s character is sadly aware he knows little of life outside of fighting, creating a touching chemistry between the pair of them, where deep down, he knows he is not good enough for her. The movie asks if accepting his weakness, Pine is an example of ‘an above average’ man. As an audience, we also share this sense of not being good enough for Wonder Woman. The use of World War 1 is a great choice from Jenkins, fitting in scenes where Wonder Woman glimpses the brutality of war. It takes the moral of Man of Steel (you can’t save everyone), but puts it into horrifying clarity. There is, of course, as well as the use of war, the strong female icon. Superheroes haven’t had a female figure as prominent as Wonder Woman in so long. Gal Gadot was the best thing about Dawn of Justice and, while there were doubts from me that she would struggle to hold up her own movie, she continues to put Supes and Bats to shame. Feminists will clap with glee at certain beats of the movie: “I am the Man that can do it!” quips Gadot, when Pine urges her to take her information to the men that can stop the war. As she makes her way through the story, she ignores the advice of men and follows her instinct, often proving them all wrong. The highlight of the movie, while a little daft, is a scene where Wonder Woman ignores the preconceptions of man and steps out onto No Man’s Land, calmly walking across the battlefield with nothing but a shield. Perhaps the best thing about Wonder Woman’s feminist narrative is how easily it comes to the story. Almost as if cinema has stopped running out of excuses to actually give us some decent female heroes. Go figure…
Final Verdict: There are still problems with DC as a whole, but Wonder Woman rises above them with a thought-provoking action adventure that puts Gadot at the head of DC’s superhero roster.