WARNER BROS. PICTURES (2017)
Director: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya
After the colossal turds served up by Supergirl, Catwoman and Electra, what the world didn’t need was a female-led superhero movie – because based on the previously mentioned returns, nothing good could come of the idea. It was thus entrusted to Patty Jenkins to right the ship and correct the course with the most iconic female superhero (or superhero in general) there is – Diana Prince herself, Wonder Woman.
The zenith of femininity – powerful, caring, fierce and intelligent, if there’s one superhero you don’t want to mess up, it’s the Amazon princess. Thankfully, Jenkins serves us up a treat of a movie.
Primarily set in Belgium, and including London and Paris, during the horror of World War I, we first get to see Diana’s (Gadot) upbringing on the island paradise of Themyscira surrounded by the powerful Amazon warriors and her mother, the greatest warrior there is, Queen Hippolyta (Nielsen). We are told that the Amazonians were hidden on the island to protect them from the God of War, Ares and are left with a gift from Zeus – the Godkiller, presented as a mighty sword. Diana wants to be trained as a warrior, but her mother refuses – however, her aunt General Antiope (Wright) trains the young girl secretly to harness her secret, incredible powers.
All is thrown off course for Diana, however, as having defeated all warriors before her in training she notices a plane crash into the oceans before her. The pilot, Allied spy Captain Steve Trevor (Pine), is rescued by Diana, however, he has an army of Germans following him, and they want something he has. What he has done is bring the war to Themyscira – and Diana to the world of men to help win the war.
It would have been so very easy for Jenkins to screw this up, either by having Wonder Woman as an infallible juggernaut laying waste to all around her, or to elevate the message of female power to a level that seemed reaching – there’s a line during the movie from Pine who laments “no man can cross no man’s land!” and thankfully (and cleverly), the expected line was not returned from Diana. Neither of these happens, and we are given a hero with strengths and flaws abound, but still manages to be powerful throughout. Gal Gadot provides us with a bad ass superhero, she brings the fierceness, lightheartedness and innocence required – there’s a nice human touch to the character and also an aura, this woman is strong and it shows. She is Wonder Woman. Coupled with another good performance from Pine, who plays the rough-edged dude-in-distress with enough weariness and humour to provide the perfect foil for Gadot. Together, they work brilliantly and each of their interactions feel spot on. The supporting cast, whilst not overly develop, turn in good performances that grow the story.
There’s plenty of great action scenes to be had here, but the movie also has plenty of runtime where there isn’t an awful lot happening, and thanks to the aforementioned performances and a solid script, the movie remains engaging. Good humour is liberally sprinkled throughout – led by the movies leads – and the powerful message of hope shines through. Diana’s character isn’t a gruff, downbeat, bitter superhero that we’re seemingly getting used to, she’s a beacon of hope and her smile shines brighter than her frowns. The action, however, is as big as you’d expect from this genre. The battle on Themyscira is tense, and Diana’s one-woman charge through no man’s land is epic to watch. The final showdown is a CGI-fest, which is sadly the norm for superhero movies, however, the character still shines through.
As with these movies, the villains are unfortunately lacking. Doctor Poison (Anaya) looks cool and is the brainchild of the master weapon – an enhanced, deadlier mustard gas – but doesn’t really do a lot other than stare ominously and look sad. Similarly, General Erich Ludendorff (Hustin) hams it up but doesn’t leave a lot to be remembered. The movie’s main villain, Ares, is again uber-powerful but uber-dispensible – and he had a bushy ‘tache which made me chuckle. Please superhero movies, improve your bad guys.
Compared to the previous DC offerings – Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad – this movie is splashed with colour and has you leaving the movie with positivity, not trying to scratch your eyes out and regain colour to your senses. The gala scene of Gadot striding through the dull German crowd in a royal blue gown is illuminating compared to BvS – and a great scene too. The movie’s third act too is awash with bright colours, but is the movie’s weakest act compared to what came before, though it did provide a surprisingly poignant and emotional beat to set up the finale.
Finally, a DC movie worth ranting about, however, this movie feels restrained by being called a superhero movie, it’s just a damn fine movie overall with good messages (that we need right now), good fun and good feeling.
July 3rd 2017