Synopsis – 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.
My Take – Can you believe it took 76 years for DC to get their most recognizable female superhero her own film! Appearing on the pages of DC Comics back in 1941, this Amazonian princess has had her imprints ever since. Fans did get to see her in flesh & blood in her own eponymous TV series starring Lynda Carter in the lead, who under the name of Diana Prince, used her superpowers, her Lasso of Truth and her invisible airplane to help the U.S. Army fight the Nazis in World War II from 1975 to 1979. Yet, despite the rejoice of DC finally green-lighting her own film as a part of their growing DCEU, the casting of a lesser known Israeli model/ actress Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious 6, Triple 9) seemed like an adverse idea. Fast forward two years, currently DC has released three films (Man of Steel, BvS, Suicide Squad) under its connected universe timeline, though financially successful, the latter two have been critical bombs. As a fan of DC characters, it has been hard to defend these films mainly as some of the criticism has been justified, except for the all-round praise for Gadot’s introduction as the Princess of Themyscira in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Yet, expectations from this Patty Jenkins directed film haven’t been exactly high, mainly as up until this point the DC cinematic/extended universe had not had a film that majority of critics and/or fans liked. However, it seems DC & WB has finally delivered something that none in its genre has had the ability to do; by firmly embraces the dazzling nature of the titular hero from the comic books without leaving out room for some political themes and a surprising emotional heft many entries of the widely popular genre neglect. Set to reappear in the upcoming DC juggernaut ‘Justice League’ at the end of the year (& hopefully a sequel), here, the eponymous super heroine is treated with a stunning cinematic experiment that brings more than just eye-popping visual heft and a pulse- pounding narrative. This film also serves as evidence that Zack Snyder can write a great story but should probably stay out of the director’s chair. While to say this film is the best DC Comics film I’ve seen since probably “The Dark Knight” in 2008 is indicative, I rather look at this one to take DC Comics a step closer to their rivals Marvel Comics in terms of bringing their superheroes to the big screen. With immense negativity around the production, this film seemingly setting out to accomplish the impossible, and exceeded by all measurable expectations and provided a comprehensive cinematic experience, with many themes, this film hits on many topics and does so with incredible precision and elegance.
The story follows Diana (Gal Gadot), a young woman born & raised on Themyscira, an uncharted island covered from the eyes of the general world by Zeus’s power, and entirely inhabited by women only. Since she was a child, Diana has been fascinated by the constant close combat training undertaken by all the adult Amazon woman on the island and despite warnings from her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), Diana is taken under the wing of Hippolyta’s sister, General Antiope (Robin Wright). As Diana matures, she becomes well-educated and, eventually with her mother’s grudging approval, also becomes a skilled fighter to be able take on Ares, the God of War when he returns. Banished by Zeus due to his jealously of the affection shown towards mankind, Ares had vowed to use his powers to end mankind’s existence on earth. Awaiting a sign to leap into action, Diana’s idyllic world is shattered with the arrival of an American spy named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), who crash lands in the waters surrounding the island. Instantly saved by Diana, things complicate when the Germans pursuing him come ashore and get into a fierce battle with the Amazons. Surprised by how Zeus’s hold that covered the island was broken, Diana uses her Lasso of Truth to learn from Steve about the horrors of the ongoing War to End All Wars (WWI) and is convinced that Ares has returned and that Steve must take her along to London were Steve can deliver the notes of a German chemical warfare mastermind known as Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya) who is working for a sadistic German General known as Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston), while she can find Ares at the front of the war and kill him, all the while becoming the famous Wonder Woman in the process. The film begins on a rocky, uneven start, but it’s this very flawed pace that allows the origin story of the Amazonian warrior mature into a compelling build- up, and eventually navigate towards the rest of her story in a riveting seismic progression. It was just so awe inspiring that I just didn’t want the movie to end! The film accomplished what a superhero film should do, inspire! It left the audience inspired from beginning to end and I could feel it, nobody said a word in my theater, you could hear the food crunching and the cup sipping stop because everyone was all into it. The plot is also a lot more detailed than most comic book movies, which is something that is probably long overdue as well. I don’t wish to give too much away, but, they had managed to find a good balance between story, dialogue, and action. Director Patty Jenkins deserves a lot of praise for deciding not to try and re-write the comic book movie formula, but instead try to adapt it to suit the kind of story she wanted to tell! What I really liked about this film, is how the director Patty Jenkins showed how child-like Diana reacted to the new world (London- World War 1 era) Examples of this was when she kept holding her sword and shield around something clearly out of the ordinary in London, even during World War 1 times.
This kind of child-like approach to the new world helps flesh out Diana’s personality as she’s in a world completely different from her own. Speaking of her personality, Diana is a very attachable and admirable character because she fights for the safety of innocents and is willing to fight to ensure their safety, something gifted to her from her upbringing by her amazon queen mother. I also liked how Diana comes to the realization that people are just plain evil and there often is not just “one bad person.” This questioning of morality really helped to flesh out Diana’s character even further as it changed her perspective of what the real world is like. There were themes of female empowerment, in a time where women were little more than objects, secretaries, second class citizens rife with complacency. At numerous points, Diana stood up, not allowing herself to be silenced. Three instances come to mind, that really resonated with me. The first: as Trevor delivered Dr. Poison’s notebook, she was turning heads, because it was not customary for a woman to be involved with such matters. A bit taken aback by Trevor’s actions, she marched back in, and called the general–who subtlety mocked her for being a woman–on what he was: a coward– informing him that true leaders do not hide behind their soldiers, but die on the battlefield with them. This was done exceptionally well, because that’s how things were back then– it’s a scenario to be expected, and Diana didn’t simply give into the subtle social cues and allow them to anger her–no she rose above and called out what she saw as wrong–the implication tactfully given, as opposed to an obvious “you’re sexist” type dialogue. The second instance was in the bar, when she was again, mocked–why would a woman be on the front? Immediately she disposed that idea, but this time with action, saving her future brother in arms’ life–demonstrating that she has what it takes to go the distance. The third takes place as they make their way through the trenches– Steve explains it’s “no man’s land,” and that no man can get through–but Diana wouldn’t take no for an answer, and does what no man was capable–charging into the line of fire, herself a glimmer of hope much like the light on reflecting off her bodice, in a dead world. This delves back to earlier, when they were sailing to London–Steve stating that no one man would be able to stop the war, to which Diana stated she would be that man–that person.
Yeah, there is a TON of girl power on display, but it never once feels like a lecture of how great women are and how awful men are! In fact, the main theme isn’t that Women can save the world, but rather love can save the world! Other themes in the film that are explored are the duality of mankind, the horrors of war and why humanity feels the need to wage war. The power of love has been done over and over again in films, but it’s rare that it is executed as well as it is here. We fall in love with Diana’s innocence in the situation she’s in, and she falls in love with human’s drive to do what’s right. But in spite of the amount of physical tension and visual explosion, Jenkins balances the flavor by injecting humor and romance, utilizing them even in places where gripping action sequences are imminent. The film does surprisingly well in developing characters. I hate to keep comparing it to other DC or Marvel films, but I would have a hard time thinking of a first superhero film (or Origin story) that did this well developing and writing characters. The supporting characters each had their own respected arcs and the relationship between Steve Trevor and Diana is truly something special. It reminded me a lot of Peggy and Steve’s dynamic in Captain America: The First Avenger, innocent and charming. The writing is so good, in fact, that it allowed me to forgive a lot of the late game CGI and green screen, because at that point I was already invested in all the characters. As expected the action sequences are gorgeous to look at! The only drawback that I would call out from this film would be the villain approach seems highly inspired by Marvel, in the sense, completely underused & undervalued. Despite being the god of war, he seemed quite bland and extremely disappointing, especially considering his fight with Diana goes on for a tiny portion of time. In the lead role, I might as well say upfront that Gal Gadot kills it! Even after an all too brief appearance in last year’s Batman v Superman, I had my doubts that she could lead a franchise on her own, while I can still see some room to grow, her charisma, physicality, and chemistry with Chris Pine is the backbone of this film. She looks gorgeous, her smile is infectious, her punch is fist pump worthy, and her stature is awe inspiring and admiring. It’s almost to the point where I’m having a hard time seeing anyone else in the role. The rest of the cast is also at the top their game here, Chris Pine yet again improving every film he appears in, as well Robin Wright, Danny Huston, Connie Nielsen, David Thewlis, Elena Anaya, Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock & Lucy Davis. On the whole, ‘Wonder Woman’ is a spectacular superhero action/ emotional/ thrill ride that also forms as a step in the right direction for the future of DC’s film franchise.
Directed – Patty Jenkins
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 141 minutes