So . . . the DCEU. After the frosty reception Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad received, for perfectly valid reasons IMO, the DCEU (wow, it’s abbreviation central up in here!) looked to be struggling quite a bit, limping to the barn as the mighty MCU looked down from on high, laughing triumphantly at its foolishness. In troubled waters, in danger of being a laughing stock (am I overdoing all of this?), the DCEU needed a hit and if any film had any chance, it was surely going to be Wonder Woman; I myself was full of hope, but believed that if it failed, then all hope would be truly lost and the DCEU wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.
I guess that it won’t come as much of a surprise now, given its insanely positive buzz all around the ol’ blogosphere, but Wonder Woman is a veritable breath of fresh air in the superhero genre, a solidly made origin story that delivers plenty of much needed humour, great characters and some properly poignant themes about humanity’s destructive nature and the futility of war.
On the island paradise of Themyscira, Diana (Gal Gadot), daughter of Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), is trained by her aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright), to be the ultimate warrior, warned from a young age about the God of war, Ares, corrupting the hearts of men, causing them to destroy themselves. Soon, WW1 pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) mysteriously crashes into Themyscira’s ocean and warns the island Amazonians of a horrific war brewing back in his own world, leading Diana to take it upon herself to travel with him in order to defend the innocent and to destroy Ares, who she believes to be wholly responsible for the war. In the real world though, she sees the true horror of war and the destructive nature of mankind.
Let’s start with the woman of the hour herself, the WONDERful (had to be done) Gal Gadot. I don’t think there was ever any doubt that she’d be a massive asset to the series, given how she BROUGHT IT in Batman V Superman, even in a relatively brief amount of time, leaving most of us wanting to see so much more of her. So yes, unsurprisingly she’s the ideal Wonder Woman; she effectively displays a wide range of emotions and is incredibly charming, warm, charismatic while also proving herself to be a fierce, formidable warrior, effectively bringing the thrills during the action sequences.
Diana certainly develops over the course of the film; she starts off with a certain childlike naivety and idealism, itching for battle, eager to quickly put an end to Ares and to defend the world. Before long though, her eyes are opened to the harsh realities of war and struggles to understand why it’s all happening as well as the apparent despondent attitudes of the men in charge. To see a character develop and change so believably in a superhero film is great to see and Diana’s progress over the course of the film gives it meaning and a worthwhile reason to be watched. It is certainly interesting to see how she became the somewhat cynical character in Batman V Superman, with a certain reluctance to get involved in the fighting.
Alongside Gal Gadot, Chris Pine plays Steve Trevor very well; a perfect companion for Gadot’s Diana, the two of them play off each other effectively and both deliver incredibly strong, charismatic performances. Pine plays Steve very much like Captain Kirk, with bravery, rebelliousness, an unwavering devotion to safeguarding innocent lives and a slightly swaggering nature. Plus, Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen are tough and commanding in their roles of Antiope and Hippolyta respectively; they have great chemistry with Gal Gadot but I wish that they could have been in it for a little more time.
And finally Wonder Woman has a worthy supporting cast that includes Lucy Davis (another Office alum going into the Marvel/DC film universe alongside Martin Freeman in Civil War and Stephen Merchant in Logan), David Thewlis, Danny Huston, Elena Anaya and Ewan Bremner, Saïd Taghmaoui and Eugene Brave-Rock as Diana’s Captain America style, ragtag bunch of companions.
There is a lot going on in Wonder Woman as director Patty Jenkins deftly balances humour, excitement, horror and pathos quite brilliantly throughout. The film is very often fun and light-hearted (I’m confident that this has been this year’s film that had me smiling the most) and so many of the good natured jokes hit their marks, the actors delivering the lines wonderfully. The fish-out-of-water comedy when Diana arrives in London is particularly great and watching Gal Gadot interact with this very different world with a childlike, wide-eyed wonderment is endearing and humorous.
But when the serious moments hit, they aren’t just thrown in out of necessity – they are shown effectively and with reason as Jenkins gets her actors to genuinely look as though they care. She has done a fine job with this and it’s reassuring to hear that she’ll be returning to helm the sequel (which will apparently take place in the contemporary world, making Wonder Woman seem even more like Captain America!)
Perhaps the most laudable part of the film is its hard hitting themes; I believe it to be something of a commentary on the modern world, looking at how mankind has a constant, baffling compulsion for self destruction and war. In her journey, Diana comes to see how men create weapons of mass destruction and yearn for war, struggling to understand why this is and coming to the conclusion that Ares MUST be responsible for corrupting their hearts – after all, what other explanation could there be? In a pivotal scene, Steve reveals that even he doesn’t know why men go to war and we can certainly see comparisons to the modern world in these scenes. The film genuinely engages us, though never in a preachy or fake way, and asks us to think about these things ourselves.
Wonder Woman boasts its fair share of impressive action sequences including the beach assault on Themyscira, the exciting, though perhaps overlong, final “boss battle” and of course, the much anticipated trench scene where we first properly see “Wonder Woman”, deflecting bullets left, right and centre with her gauntlets, unleashing her lasso of truth and flipping tanks over – badass! The film doesn’t go overboard with the action and delivers just the right amount in just the right places.
Elsewhere, the film has an appealing design (the scenes on Themyscira are just lovely), the costumes are spot on and the design of the final “boss” is great. Rupert Gregson-Williams’ score is also excellent (so much so that I waited to see who did the music so I could applaud them!) and hearing that central Wonder Woman theme was thrilling.
Oh, and the film actually has great villains with well thought out motivations. Wow, great villains. Makes a nice change. Take that, MCU!
So yes just like in Batman V Superman, Diana, Princess of Themyscira, shows us all how it should be done. Step aside little boys, because Diana is, in her very own words, “the man that can”!