Even before its release Wonder Woman had a lot of expectations to live up to. Not only was it to be the first female-led superhero film, but it also needed to be better than prior instalments in the DC Extended Universe. Luckily for everyone Wonder Woman succeeds at both of these things.
Fans have been clamouring to see more of the warrior princess ever since the first appearance of Wonder Woman in 2016’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Patty Jenkin’s film certainly delivers. An expectation to connect the film to the whole DCEU is attached to the film and Jenkins promptly, in less than a minute of film time, provides this. Bruce Wayne, a.k.a Batman, has sent a letter to Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) with a photo attached of her in World War 1. This leads to a flashback which forms the structure of the film.
We are quickly shown Diana’s childhood on Themyscira and her training with her aunty, and Amazon general, Antiope (Robin Wright). Even as a child Diana was determined to prove her strength and join the rest of her people as a warrior. However, her training is interrupted by the crash-landing of British spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and the revelation that the world is in the midst of ‘the war to end all wars’. Believing this to be the work of Ares, the God of War, Diana begs her mother to let her go with Steve and help humankind. When her mother disagrees, Diana attempts to sneak off and eventually leaves with her mother’s permission.
The film takes on the mythology of Wonder Woman with no amount of humour. It takes all the elements of her history, being built of clay, Zeus and Ares, and fits it into a plot that doesn’t seem too weird or out there. If anything it provides a naïve lens through which Diana views war and good and evil until she enters the world herself.
Pine and Gadot’s chemistry enhances the relationship of Diana and Steve. From the get go they have a mutual understanding of each other, that only deepens as the film moves forward. Their relationship throughout the film is eye-opening for both of them. Steve acts as a guide for the innocent Diana, showing her the ways of the modern world, while she opens up his eyes to a different way of thinking, firmly standing by any point that she deems to be worthy. And this is part of her heroism. She stands up for women’s rights constantly shutting down the people who say she can’t do something.
The rest of her heroism is made up over the course of the rest of the film. One of the most solid moments of the film was when they first encountered a warzone. The imagery was harrowing and horrific, Diana’s repulsion was almost palpable. She had to help, needed to help and it was this need that drove her to be the hero she is. Reaching the trenches, she saw that people were seeking help and in the one of the most striking scenes, fully embraced her title of Wonder Woman as she strode into the middle of No Man’s Land, armed only with her sword, shield and Lasso of Truth. Her actions led to the inspiration of Steve and his crew: Sameer (Said Taghmaoui), Charlie (Ewen Brenner) and Chief (Eugene Brave Rock). This ability to inspire is what made Wonder Woman a true superhero; she leads by example and sticks strongly to a moral compass.
Wonder Woman never truly gets out of the origin story villain problem though. The film’s villains comes in the form of the German General, Ludendorff (Danny Huston), the scientist known as Dr. Poison or Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya), and the hidden Ares (David Thewlis). Ludendorff and Poison are given a strong amount of screen time and yet they still don’t feel three-dimensional. Poison in particular seemed to have room for backstory, her face half concealed behind a mask. Ares also lacked character development as he suffered from being a third-act reveal villain and he emerged only to deliver a monologue detailing his evil plan than engaged in combat with Diana.
The fight scenes of Wonder Woman were visually striking. They used the grace and agility of Diana in a way which showed she was not someone to trifle with. The Amazons attack on the German troops at the start of the film, set up the kind of fight scenes for the film to come. The Amazon’s fought with grace, favouring speed and quick brutality over the massive blows that the likes of Superman and Batman deal out.
On the battlefield Diana switched between sword, fists, shield and lasso smoothly, showing the complexities of a superhero fight that other films lack. The only fault in these action scenes is the CGI is lacking the depth that viewers have come to expect.
Overall, Wonder Woman is a success. It blends humour and action and, despite it falling into the pitfalls of a classic origin story, is an entertaining beginning for one of DC’s most famous heroes.
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