Guess we had to wait until it was “fourth time’s the charm” for the DC Extended Universe.
After the uninspiring Man Of Steel, the overblown Batman V Superman (BVS) and the inane Suicide Squad, the DCEU finally has its beacon of hope, its rallying figure. And it’s not Emo Superman, but the best aspect of BVS.
Wonder Woman, its title character portrayed … wonderfully, and sometimes on an almost sublime level by the perfectly-cast Gal Gadot, is both a welcome win for the struggling DCEU and a rather wizard work by Patty Jenkins (Monster).
It’s not devoid of corny moments, however, and there is the occasional lapse of logic and continuity. And that borderline-dreadful theme used for Wonder Woman in BVS (it’s like the Doof Warrior from Mad Max: Fury Road is trailing after her, practising his guitar chords) is also present, though not in lethal doses.
But by Zeus, the film works – and not just because there’s more sunlight in it than the previous three DCEU films put together.
It succeeds because it has, like Bruce Lee insisted to that baffled kung fu student in Enter The Dragon, real emotional content.
And I mean convincingly depicted (and felt) emotions, not anger, which is what BVS seemed to be full of.
Nor is it an exhibition of Easter eggs, fan service moments and scenes that seem more like “motion paintings” than parts of a story.
And maybe that’s why the film works so well: it doesn’t feel obliged to pander.
Both Marvel and DC could take notes from this example, and make their respective cinematic universes that much better from the lesson.
I wondered about the decision to set the film at the end of World War I, thinking the period setting would turn off audiences.
But it also happens to be just before a turning point in history for women’s rights, at a time when boys’ clubs still held sway, as illustrated pointedly but not excessively in the course of the movie.
So the period setting is appropriate, after all.
Wonder Woman follows the journey of Diana (Gadot), Princess of Themyscira – a hidden isle populated by the Amazons, women created by Zeus to be the bridge between humanity and the gods.
Into this world, quite by accident, comes Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an Allied spy with information vital to the peace process.
Naturally, he is followed by boatloads of pursuing German soldiers, bringing war to the idyllic island. Long story short, to keep this as spoiler-free as I can, Diana follows him back to the World of Man, determined to fulfil her destiny.
While it seems as though the numerous trailers and TV promo spots have given the entire film away, I was pleased to find that they haven’t.
There is a lot more to the story, and more importantly, a great deal more to the Diana-Steve Trevor relationship to be enjoyed as it unfolds.
Credit must go to Pine, playing it both a little for laughs (as he struggles to maintain his manly-manliness when faced with all of Diana’s Amazonian awesomeness) and also square-jawed and stoic (in a very emotional moment – you’ll know when), for helping to make this one of the best screen couples in a superhero film ever.
And of course, it just wouldn’t be as impactful if there had been some major missteps with its title character. Good news, though – sorry if this has been overused – what a Gal she’s turned out to be.
Near-beatific in expressing Diana’s innocence upon stepping into our world, fiercely determined in Diana’s drive to be an exemplary Amazon in her own world, and consumed by the character’s passion to be the bridge between the two by ending war for good, Gadot turns in a strong and well-rounded performance on both the physical and emotive fronts.
Watching this, I couldn’t help but wish for a symbol like her for our own world, tossed and sundered as it is by constant reminders of the things that make us different rather than thriving through common ground. Like the cheesy but apt lyrics to the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman TV theme song go, “Get us out from under, Wonder Woman.”
This Wonder Woman is not about perfect figures imposing their ideals on a broken world; it’s about how we can rise above our flaws and doubts to bring out the best in ourselves, and in each other. And in its own earnest, Doof-Warrior-soundtracked way, the film does remind us that humanity has not been short of rallying symbols; we’re just largely deaf to their messages.
Director: Patty Jenkins
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Danny Huston, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Elena Anaya, Lucy Davies, Ewen Bremner, Said Taghmaoui, Eugene Brave Rock