Not only have DC/Warner Bros. beaten Marvel to the punch with its first, female-led superhero film with Wonder Woman, they’ve also managed to create a hugely enjoyable film that bodes incredibly well for the on-screen future of DC superheroes.
No matter what you thought of the Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (“disappointing“) or Suicide Squad (“not a complete car crash“), even the most ardent fan of either film has to admit they have their problems. With Wonder Woman however, DC/Warner Bros. finally seem to have got it right.
When Bruce Wayne (not in person, sadly) delivers the photo that Diana was searching for in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, it sends her reminiscing about her origins, World War 1 and the soldiers in the photo with her. Yes, Wonder Woman is yet another super-hero origin story but unlike Spider-Man, Wonder Woman’s origin isn’t one most people are familiar with and it hasn’t been retold umpteen times. Especially not this version.
Wonder Woman: Origins
Raised on the hidden island of Themyscira, the only child among a tribe of Amazons (warrior women), Diana is introduced to the world of men when spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash-lands his plane on the island, or at least, near it. Along with some unfriendly Germans, Trevor brings with him news of the outside world and the World War currently consuming it.
Having grown up being taught that the Amazon’s purpose is to combat the return of Ares, the Greek god of war, Diana takes it upon herself to journey with Trevor to free the world of men from Ares’s influence. Once out in the world, however, she finds that things aren’t always as black and white as she’s been led to believe, along with some other hidden truths about herself.
Moments VS Scenes
Plenty of critics have bemoaned the focus on “movie moments” over scenes in Zac Snyder’s DC films (I’ll just leave this one by The Nerdwriter here) however director Patty Jenkins’ WW, while working within the overall style and the visual framework set by Snyder, sets a new trend for the franchise. Before throwing her characters into action, Jenkins and her team put in the work to make audiences care about them.
Wonder Woman isn’t a moody or confused cypher (like a certain Man of Steel). She’s a fully rounded, if a little naive, character with clear wants and desires, that the audience can empathise with and more importantly, like. You’ll want to see her triumph against her adversaries, something that wasn’t always the case with BvS and Suicide Squad.
Gal Gadot is fantastic as this version of Wonder Woman. We feel her frustration at the stuffy world of men. Its armchair generals, miles from the horror of war. Their weird rules governing how women should dress act and behave. When she sees a baby for the first time, her joy is infectious (she was the only child on Themyscira). When subjected to the horrors of war you will feel her shock and thrill as she steps up to do something about it.
The Hero We Deserve?
Without Gadot’s presence and the story backing her up, those movie moments, when they come, would feel hollow and false. Instead, it is exhilarating, as she fearlessly crosses No Man’s Land or singlehandedly takes on a town full of enemy soldiers.
These moments are helped immensely by the score by Rupert Gregson-Williams. The immediately recognisable WW theme from BvS makes an appearance, although thankfully it’s used sparingly. Hearing that wailing guitar riff accompany every action sequence could have easily overwhelmed the action, however, Williams’ score sells those big scenes by itself without having to rely on it.
Surrounding Gadot is an incredibly capable cast, with Pine’s Trevor showing all the charm (and motorcycle skills) of his Captain Kirk but never to the point that he overwhelms Gadot. It remains her movie throughout. Diana is also accompanied by her own diverse version of Captain America’s Howling Commandos. Ewen Bremner, Saïd Taghmaoui and Eugene Brave Rock have small roles but each are memorable on their own. I’m not sure how the Native American Chief character will go down with modern audiences, though.
From the trailers, Lucy Davis’ Etta Candy seemed to stick out a little as the comic relief. She does seem a little out of place in a film that relies mostly on situational comedy but is used sparingly enough.
Robin Wright may be confined to the West Wing in House of Cards but based upon her performance here as Diana’s Aunt and General Antiope I’d LOVE to see her in more action roles.
Danny Huston and Elena Anaya also provide effective villains as German General Ludendorff and the creepy Doctor Isabelle Maru aka Doctor Poison, dreaming up a new poison gas to help Germany win World War I.
Without spoiling anything Ares and the Greek gods do factor into the WWI storyline but not quite in the way that you (or Diana) might expect. This element of her mythology, including the version of her origin story where she was made from clay and granted life by Zeus, is handled quite nicely in what will probably become her canonical origin from this point.
Despite all this Wonder Woman is not a perfect film. While the action is very effective most of the time, at times it seems like the background lighting doesn’t quite match that of the foreground, breaking the illusion. Some characters accept Diana’s martial prowess a little too quickly and her hair seems to be extra full after a battle but these minor issues shouldn’t dent your enjoyment of the film.
Wonder Woman has come to be seen by many as an indicator of the “course correction” that DC/WB might undertake after the complaints levelled at BvS and Suicide Squad.
Based upon Wonder Woman they are most definitely on the right course now.