The main issue I have with the DC Extended Universe is just how relentlessly dark and gritty it is. Ever since Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, movie studio Warner Bros. has evidently insisted on having tragic, moody superheroes torturing themselves over moral quandaries. Thankfully, that tradition has been left behind with the latest entry in the DCEU, Wonder Woman.
The iconic Amazonian princess only had a bare-bones introduction in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. There was no space to explore her background story during the over-stuffed 151-minute run-time. As it turns out, this was a boon for us, as the full-length origin story of Wonder Woman definitely deserved its own movie. And what a movie it is!
Starting on the lush, hidden island of Themyscira, the colour palette of Wonder Woman’s first Act is suffused with bright colours. This is both a refreshing departure from the usual muted tones we have come to expect from DC movies and serves as a contrast when the action moves on to London and war-torn Belgium. But back to the start, as we are introduced to young Amazonian Princess Diana, the only child on the island. Diana longs to be a warrior, which her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Neilson), has strictly forbidden. But train Diana does, under the secret tutelage of the Amazonian General, her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) – until the grown Princess proves herself the strongest of all the Amazon warriors.
However, fate throws a spanner in the works when Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash-lands on Themyscira, unwittingly bringing the outside world of mortal man with him. After saving Captain Trevor’s life, Diana and the rest of the Amazons engage in a truly epic beach battle with invading WWI Era German forces. In possession of stolen intelligence about a German chemist known as Doctor Poison, Captain Trevor needs to get back to London to deliver the information to the stuffy old white dudes in charge of the Allied war effort. Once Diana learns of The Great War, she makes up her mind to leave the island with Captain Trevor to hunt down the forces who she believes are sowing discord amongst Man to perpetuate the fighting. Kill these baddies, end the war.
Thus kicks off Diana’s journey, both literally and figuratively. As she travels with Captain Trevor, she learns more about herself and the strange world she finds herself in. At this point, I can’t even begin to explain just how breath-taking Gal Gadot’s portrayal of Wonder Woman is. She is absolute perfection.
Gadot’s Diana is stunningly beautiful and filled with a quiet, unwavering strength. What makes her so endearing is that she is absolutely unaware of just how beautiful she is. This isn’t to be mistaken for naivety, though the world of mortal man is somewhat bewildering to her. Instead, Diana shoulders the burden of learning about the tragedies of The Great War with grace and a determination to make things better.
There is never a moment where Diana’s beauty or womanhood is used as a plot device. Sure, characters comment on how drop-dead gorgeous she is, but it never puts her at an advantage. Instead, her unwavering conviction is the main driving force of the plot. Even when Diana is inevitably confronted with a situation where she’s dismissed as “just a girl” with nothing meaningful to contribute, she deftly proves the doubters wrong. Most importantly, she does so without malice.
Meanwhile, Pine’s cynical, world-weary Steve Trevor serves partly as the comedic foil to Diana’s serious straight man (as it were), and partly as a voice of reason. Though he gets some great one-liners, and a backstory of his own, Pine is somewhat eclipsed by the sheer force of Gadot’s performance. However, Pine’s Trevor has a hidden strength of his own – one forged in the flames of war. Though somewhat rusted, Diana brings out his inner steel. As she does with rest of the motley crew that Captain Trevor ropes in for their mission.
The mission itself is fairly uncomplicated: Do Good. There are bad people doing bad things, and Wonder Woman must stop them. As Captain Trevor and Diana make their way from Themyscira to London and then German-occupied Belgium, Diana grows in conviction and character. The depth of feeling between the pair also grows and, when the inevitable love story kicks in, it feels wonderfully natural. Despite being a literal goddess, Diana treats Captain Trevor as an equal, and there is no imbalance of power that usually comes with being a superhero’s love interest. It’s another testament to Gadot’s impeccable acting that she conveys all these emotions with just a quirk of her mouth or twitch of an eyebrow.
Unfortunately, while Gadot may be flawlessness personified, the same can’t be said for Wonder Woman the movie as a whole. While the fight scenes may be thrilling, in wider-angle shots there is a noticeable overuse of green-screen and CGI. The third Act and final fight scene also drag on for ages, as the latter would have benefited from tighter pacing and less villainous monologuing.
That being said, the fight scenes really are thrilling. Wonder Woman in close-quarters combat is a jaw-dropping sight. There is never a moment when you doubt that the character’s power and acrobatics are possible. Even though her
rock-guitar electric cello-heavy anthem doesn’t quite suit the era of the movie, it fits seamlessly into her combat style. Diana is a force of nature, terrible and beautiful to behold. Nothing holds her back.
There is no question director Patty Jenkins expertly handles the portrayal of a female superhero. Although I hate the phrase “strong female character”, Jenkins has crafted the epitome of what a female superhero should be. There’s no sacrifice of Diana’s feminine side, nor is her feminity called into question. Her being a woman is not the sole motivation. Instead, she is a powerful, inspiring hero who happens to be a woman.
After all the hype, and subsequent let-down, of Batman v Superman, and even Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman is a breath of fresh air. There may be some niggles towards the end, but a straightforward plot, a truly heroic hero, plenty of edge-of-your-seat action and a wonderfully natural story progression all make for a welcome break from the DCEU tradition of mediocrity.
Last Updated: May 30, 2017