It’s been a long time coming, and thankfully the first female-led superhero movie does not disappoint. I can confidently say that DC have (finally) got one right. Perhaps not spot-on, but there’s barely a foot wrong.
Wonder Woman begins with a young Diana living on the hidden island of Themyscira. That is where the Amazons now live ever since Zeus helped them defeat the God of War Ares. Diana’s mother is the Queen, Hippolyta (Connie Nielson), and her aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright), is General of the Army. They train daily (and spectacularly) so as to be ready should Ares ever return. When an American soldier’s plane goes down in the sea near the island, he brings the First World War to the Amazon’s doorstep.
The movie doesn’t drag in its opening exchanges set on Themyscira, but it certainly picks up with the introduction of the soldier, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Prior to that we see the Amazons training which whilst it is impressive, does carry with it a few CGI glitches. These mar the rest of the time spent on Themyscira but are not enough to take you out of the story. Once the film moves away from the island and to war-torn Britain the action, humour and effects are all ramped up. From then on it is a great movie, only faltering slightly in the third act with the CGI-heavy finale.
Both Gal Gadot as Diana/ Wonder Woman and Chris Pine are superb. Their chemistry is solid and they work together to create some genuinely funny and heart-warming moments. Chris Pine has taken a rather bland character in Steve Trevor, and with the help of a well-written script, has turned him into an affable guy. In what may be one of his best turns to date, Pine gives the DCEU a nice injection of comedy.
But this is Gadot’s film. There’s been a lot of talk about how she would handle being front and centre. She was one of the shining lights of Batman v Superman but was only seen for a handful of moments. Any uncertainty has been well and truly put to rest with this performance. She carries the film and is excellent throughout. Her Diana is ruthless but always maintains her sense of justice. She also brings the comedy in a handful of rather hilarious gags.
Alongside the performances of the lead duo, what elevates this movie above a lot of recent comic book movies (DC, Marvel and Fox) is the characterisation of Wonder Woman. Patty Jenkins and the team behind her (which includes Zack Snyder with a story credit let’s not forget) get the character spot on. She is the fierce warrior who believes so greatly in the good of humankind. Superman, and to a lesser extent Batman, have seen their well-known characters completely butchered in previous films, so it’s great to see Wonder Woman being what she is meant to be.
As in recent comic runs, Wonder Woman plays with the origin of its titular hero and it works rather well. The integrity of the original character remains but the changes are modern and welcome.
The introduction of a ragtag group of heroes to help Diana and Steve on their mission to stop the war, sees Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock and Said Taghmaoui join the fold. It’s a rather late in the day addition and whilst they bring some humour, there’s not really enough time to fully flesh out the characters. They play their part though in Diana’s development, not least Bremner’s Charlie, who struggles with PTSD and Brave Rock’s The Chief. Charlie helps bring the tragedy of war to Diana’s doorstep, whilst The Chief breaks the illusion that there is always such a clear cut good and bad.
The introduction of the main villain Ares is also well handled, with Diana believing that this “War to end all wars” as Steve puts it, can only be due to the God of War. Her determination to believe this contrasts with the obvious scepticism from the people she meets. Her belief that only a cruel God could make man act so terribly is both admirable and naive. It’s a simple tale but it’s effective.
That sums up Wonder Woman as a whole. The story doesn’t take too many risks, but what it does it does very well. There are couple of twists though which may not surprise the comic book fan but are likely to impress the general movie-goer.
Gadot and Pine bring the characters to life excellently, and they perform some truly superb action sequences. The first time that addictive Wonder Woman theme kicks in is absolutely brilliant. The fight sequence it accompanies is spectacular. It’s also great to see a bit of levity brought to the DCEU, after the grim and gritty first three movies. Wonder Woman may not be a perfect home run but it’s definitely soaring way above the rest of the DC movies.