Wonder Woman (dir. Patty Jenkins, 2017) – When a pilot crashes on Paradise Island, young Diana learns of the conflict beyond her Amazonian world and decides to leave home for a war to end all wars.
Taking a breather from the sullen Justice League, Wonder Woman brings hope to the DC Cinematic Universe with her unwavering faith for humanity.
There are very few things I can say about Wonder Woman that has not already been said. It is empowering, tons of fun, and everything an epic adventure should feel like. But how can anyone not rave on about the first superheroine film that has risen above this male-dominated genre?
It is perfect timing too. Post-Nolan, the DCEU has gotten onto an uneven restart. The dour monotony that Zack Snyder has imposed on the new era, has long been clamouring for a new voice. This challenge falls into the steady hands of Patty Jenkins, who has previously steered Monster to tremendous acclaim, and is about the same for the Amazonian warrior.
Jenkins’ involvement is in itself a cause for celebration. Historically, there are hardly any female filmmakers in comic book adaptations. Lexi Alexander is the only one who comes to mind, with her nine-year-old Punisher: War Zone. What better joy than to watch a woman take on the task of introducing the iconic Princess of Themyscira?
And finally, the fictional face for female vigilantism gets her solo shot on the big screen. Integral to pop culture lexicon, Diana Prince is not simply a feminist figure. Her message extends beyond gender politics, and is one for the modern world. Her strongest power is neither her combat skills, nor her mystical weapons. It is her faith in humanity, guiding her to save us from ourselves.
Her origins story does well to build her ideology from a young age, when she learns the legend of Ares. Following her naive vilification of the God of War, Diana only comes to truly grasp the complexities of humanity when she steps into our world. It is a self-discovery journey not unlike the Man of Steel‘s, and this focused thematic exploration works perfectly.
When Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) introduces her to the patriarchal era that contradicts her all-women upbringing, her initial perplexity plays out with effective humour. But it is also a meaningful scene that bears out the importance of her hopeful ideals, tempered but never extinguished by her growing understanding of mankind.
Gal Gadot is outstanding as Diana, rendering both innocence and fortitude in her stranger in a strange land. Her credibility is effortless and her fights, powerful. One amazing sequence sees her charge through No Man’s Land to the aptly grandiose theme by Hans Zimmer, Junkie XL, and Tina Guo. Together with Rupert Gregson-Williams’ score, the iconic notes make a lasting impression, which most modern soundtracks fail to do.
Not to be outdone are the warriors who fight alongside Diana. Her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and aunt General Antiope (Robin Wright) lead the powerful Amazonians on Paradise Island, against the invading forces of World War I. The war here is portrayed with ramifications and succeeds where The First Avenger fell short. Each loss is truly felt, giving sound impetus to the eventual rising of Wonder Woman.
Trevor himself recruits a diverse army in Etta Candy (Lucy Davis), Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui), Charlie (Ewen Bremmer), and the Chief (Eugene Brave Rock). There is not just charm in their comedic interactions. As soldiers caught in this great war after battles of their own, their conversations reveal the folly, futility, and trauma of warfare.
The splendid script also delivers a send-up to the formulaic genre, so often been trapped by its good-versus-evil dichotomy. The God of War turns out a more abstract antagonist, who subtly dismisses the idea of a singular Big Bad. Instead, he explicates the perturbing grey areas of humanity. This revelation plays into Diana’s disillusionment, which can make Justice League an interesting watch as she fights beside men of varying worldviews.
The finale foils the streak when it turns to an inevitable CG-driven affair, where her proclamation of love can feel downright schmaltzy. But ultimately, the fantastical action feels fitting for what comes down to a brilliant comic superhero(ine) adventure, both before and behind the scenes. Now, is anyone spurred to take on Birds of Prey proper next?