Wonder Woman is the movie fans of DC comics have been waiting for since Christopher Nolan departed from the Batman Franchise in 2012. It also feels different enough from other superhero films to feel enjoyable without being truly refreshing. Logan has been and gone, and if you wan’t a superhero movie that actually has something new to offer, then see that. Wonder Woman works as a welcome refinement of tropes we know and sometimes love, and the addition of a female lead for the first time on the big screen from DC or Marvel is very much welcome, though rather than feeling revolutionary feels like a natural progression. That said, it is hard to not revel in sheer joy that someone finally had the balls to take the helm and show that Women can be just as heroic as men (and in this case, significantly more so).
Yes I’m aware of Elektra (2005) and Catwoman (2004) but I really wish I wasn’t. Maybe I’ll show you why one day. Also the less said about Supergirl (1984) the better.
The beginnings of Wonder Woman are reminiscent of Thor in its telling of an origin story intertwined with ancient myth and legend, chiefly gods. Where Thor came from the Norse mythology, Wonder Woman comes from the Ancient Greek. The first act takes place on the Island of Themyscira, shrouded from the outside world by Zeus before he was murdered by his son, the God of War Ares, as a way to protect the Amazons. A tribe of warrior women supposedly pure of heart and extremely fierce, and the only ones that can defeat the God of War when he returns. This is all conveyed in a lengthy yet engaging exposition scene early in the film that felt necessary and acceptable despite it’s lack of ingenuity.
The story of the battle of the gods is told to a young Diana (Lilly Aspell), by her mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), Queen of the Amazons. Here we see Diana’s heart and warrior spirit in it’s earliest form affectionately conveyed by the young Aspell, who helps to get Wonder Woman off to a joyous start that had me smiling from the get go. Diana begs for training and goes against her Mother’s wishes by seeking it out from General Antiobe (Robin Wright). Fast Forward to an adult Diana, now played by Gal Gadot, having rescued Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) from a fast approaching and sizeable German force.
Wonder Woman is a lengthy film, something I only really learned after I left the screening, which is a good thing. Diana’s origin story had to be told here and all things considered it is done well despite a few exposition dumps. The first act did strike me as being fairly long but not to the point of detriment. I was sold by the narrative, art design and characters here to the point that I was simply invested. Breathtaking action sequences of Amazons swinging from cliffs firing up to three arrows at a time in stylish slow motion, only served to glue me to the screen for a guaranteed resurgence of energy.
By the time Steve and Diana leave the island the audience has already been told that what they can expect here is an impressively designed superhero film with impeccable action sequences and a tactile approach to humour. For the most part this holds up for the entire film, barring the last half hour or so but even then the marked drop in quality failed to remove me from the spectacle of what I was watching.
What we have here is also an adventure story that takes us to different locales that feel sufficiently unique from one another. I loved the cliffs and ancient architecture of the amazon’s island but I also valued that transition to the second act’s dialogue heavy scenes set in a groggy World War I era London, which introduced Lucy Davis as Etta Candy, Steve’s secretary that successfully delivered all of her lines as a comic relief character without feeling tacked on and niggling. think Miranda Hart, without the volume.
During the London sections of the film in which the overall direction of the film unfolds and is set, I found Diana’s fish out of water story to bear to much a resemblance to Elf. Yes, the Will Ferrell comedy. Now that seems off and it isn’t a wholly accurate description, but Gadot came across as a little too wide eyed and a little too comedic in some sequences. I found the story of her discovering the human world to be more compelling when she witnesses the brutal effect of war, as opposed to her waging said war with a revolving door.
There was never truly a dull moment however and from the beginning when Steve and Diana meet I was absolutely sold on their chemistry. They are well written and well performed and it doesn’t feel like some silly throwaway relationship that of course must happen otherwise tickets won’t be sold (like that’s true at all). Smaller scenes in this blockbuster are allowed to happen to help further develop not only these two characters as separate entities but as a unit. This complements the action scenes perfectly which were dripping in spectacle in almost every instance.
A standout scene is Diana defying the orders of soldiers in the trenches when she decides to walk across no man’s land. Pine tells her that no man’s land means ‘no man can cross it’ and I half expected her to say ‘I’m no man’, I’m very glad she didn’t. She climbs out of the trench as her theme roars, which is fantastic if relied upon too heavily, and proceeds to display genuine stoicism and power as she makes her way to the German trench. This is wear Gal Gadot shines, she reeks of pure power and the fact that director Patty Jenkins doesn’t cheapen her performance with perverted money shots, perfects this. I felt genuine excitement and awe whenever Diana donned her Amazonian attire and just did her.
That is until the final act which descends into something resembling Batman Vs Superman in its ridiculously overblown spectacle over engagement. I punch you, you fly way, you land, I fly to you — or maybe you even fly back to me and we collide fists half way — and we continue to punch, rinse and repeat. Maybe throw in a few flashing lights too, shock, awe, excitement, credits, groans. Like I say, it never fully lost me and it is filmed and choreographed in a far superior way to Batman Vs Superman but it is still a measurable drop in quality. Maybe I was still held because the events going on around this final confrontation were very involving and surprisingly heartfelt. Not often in a superhero film do I feel genuine emotion, it is to be praised.
To me, Wonder Woman is a superhero film like any other, but it has been given the creative touch that reinvigorates and reminds people why they enjoyed the genre in the first place. It also feels like Zack Snyder dipped his creative genes into the pool without creating an entire film out of it. I feel like that mans vision should be held up with high regard but his execution is simply not what these films need. That said his influence is clear in this film and for what it’s worth, I love it. Despite it’s shortcomings holding it back from greatness, Wonder Woman is an experience that actually has me excited in the future of DC.