Warner Bros’ Wonder Woman is a beautiful origins story that is a fundamentally stunning transcendence showing an accurate depiction of the transformation of a naïve warrior to an inspiring beacon of hope. The first female superhero to hit the big screen, DC has a lot riding on this movie being a success in the wake of poor reviews from previous films like Suicide Squad and Batman vs Superman - and wow DC did not disappoint this time around.
Wonder Woman - an Origin Story
Wonder Woman begins in a present-day narrative where Diana, working as a civilian in The Louvre, receives an old photograph from Bruce Wayne himself - where we are then sent back in time on a wonderful journey.
We are transported to a heavenly island called Themyscira, which is home to a race of warrior women, the Amazons, created by the Greek gods. We meet a small girl, Diana, daughter of the Amazonian Queen, Hippolyta (Connie Nielson) who is the only child on the island. Through a bedtime story from her mother, Diana learns of Ares, the son of Zeus, who laid waste to all the gods and corrupted mankind before mortally wounding his father. Before dying, Zeus left behind a weapon for the Amazons to destroy Ares if he ever returned which Diana believes is a sword.
Diana (Gal Godot) grows up into an outstanding warrior and clearly has gifts and skills beyond any Amazon. A young pilot, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), crash lands near the island and is rescued by Diana before German soldiers, who were in pursuit of Steve, attack the island. The Amazons defend the island and kill all the soldiers before setting upon Steve with the Lasso of Truth to discover a Great War taking place beyond their magical borders.
Steve also revealed he was an allied spy and was in possession of a notebook from a German scientist Doctor Maru aka Dr Poison (Elena Anaya) that he desperately needed to get to his superiors in London. Diana believes that Ares has come back as General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and convinces Steve to take her to him so that she can kill him with the sword and break his influence on man and thus end the war.
Steve and Diana get to London where Steve hands the notebook over to the Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis). Diana translates the notebook to discover that there is a poisonous gas being developed that could turn the war in the German favour. Steve and Diana are accompanied by Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui), Charlie (Ewen Bremner) and Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) to the western front in Belgium. There Diana sees first-hand the demoralisation and cascade of man; she sets to liberate those oppressed and destroy Ludendorff believing he is Ares.
A Beautiful Shooting of a Story
Wonder Woman may be making headlines as being a female lead superhero movie but it’s also the woman behind the camera that deserves immense praised headlines. Director, Patty Jenkins, takes the helm of this film with a large budget and opportunity to explore the character of Diana without constraints of the previous DCEU films, similar to that of Captain America: The First Avenger in the MCU.
The film begins in Themyscira and Jenkins uses scintillating and vibrant imagery to depict this Amazon haven worthy of godly creation. The dazzling colour palette is glowing with happiness and righteousness that symbolises and defines what the Amazons are. This is contrast to the bleak and haggard setting of World War I subjugated Europe which is brilliantly portrayed to emphasise the suffering, death and the harrowing human nature that defines mankind.
Setting the movie during the period of the First World War gave Jenkins a platform to toy and gamble with themes of female empowerment and feminism that's rooted well into the film and refreshingly gave a good insight for a younger generation to see.
Jenkins visual display of action sequences, particularly involving the Amazons and Diana, are exceptional and the slow-motion, freeze-frame camera work and special effects perfectly exhibit the strength, speed and agility of these amazing women that film-goers will be in awe of. Jenkins does a great job in keeping the flow and pacing throughout the film without it stumbling or losing steam which creates a fantastic foundation for her freedom to let Wonder Woman free upon film-goers.
The film’s core is Diana’s personal journey of self-discovery and shedding her innocent naivety to become who she truly is. Gal Gadot is incredible in this role and she brings the character of Diana to life, superbly fitting the role like a glove. Gadot is beautiful, powerful and empathetic with dazzling charm. She has clearly invested time and energy to portray Diana with exuberance, absolute defiance to anything opposed to what she believes is the right thing and as a kick-ass superhero pulling off feats like taking on an entire German front line without a stutter.
Throughout the film, Diana is faced with moments that shine a light on humanity, moments that bare rare taboo questions and Gadot plays these moments with the innocence and curiosity of someone genuinely new to the world but with a remarkable slight sense of humour. Gadot’s innocent portrayal exhibits a somewhat childlike fish-out-of-water nature as shown in Diana’s fascination with her own power learning to harness it and toy with it in an enthusiastic way experimenting with it for the first time discovering her true identity in a world of men.
A Worthy Side-Kick
Wonder Woman possess a lovely surprise for film-goers and that is the relationship and chemistry between Diana and Steve that gently emits a tenderness and understanding that doesn’t overpower the story and therefore allows Diana to develop and be a presence on her own.
Chris Pine is rugged and charming as Steve Trevor, the pilot and spy of the allied forces. He is Diana’s tour guide as she navigates her way in this new world to her. Pine portrays Steve with valour and his courage is easily affirmed as a righteous man who knows the horrors of mankind and is still willing to sacrifice himself for it all.
Pine has amazing chemistry with Gadot on screen and he makes the romantic angle very real. Steve is on his own journey and that similarity between himself and Diana is pivotal as he is instrumental in Diana’s self-discovery. Pine manages to emit a hero complex for Steve whilst at the same time a genuine wonderment and care for Diana fully aware of her astounding capabilities.
An Unclear Moment
Wonder Woman’s only struggle is in its major villain, Ares, and unlike most superhero adaptations where the film’s villain is prominent throughout the film Ares is only shown at the end. This development may have suffered and put aside in favour of keeping the focus of the film about the titular character which in terms of the overall story, the film is left a bit short.
Even though his name is mentioned throughout the movie, his character and motivations are undeveloped and is seen as a simple add on to complete Diana’s evolution and back story through a typical villainous monologue. Ares, however, does act as a perfect catalyst to complete Diana’s transformation and a formidable opponent for Diana to accept her heritage and unleash her full capability.
In a time where comic book adaptations are becoming a customary big-budget blockbuster occurrence and more often than not this movie genre misses the mark on truly great movies, Wonder Woman certainly hits a bullseye.
Finally, DC have come to the party with a tremendous movie that outshines some of Marvel’s greats and in large thanks to Jenkins and Gadot’s exceptional contributions to make this film an inspiring movie full of energy. Wonder Woman is a solid comic book adaptation that combines the most famous female superhero character with strong storytelling, exciting visual action sequences, thematic ambition and a final realisation that only love can truly save the world.