Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. Raised on a sheltered island paradise, when a pilot crashes on their shores and tells of a massive conflict raging in the outside world, Diana leaves her home, convinced she can stop the threat. Fighting alongside man in a war to end all wars, Diana will discover her full powers and her true destiny. (source)
I am happy to say that this will be a spoiler-free review.
I have to preface this review of Wonder Woman (2017, dir. Patty Jenkins) by letting everyone know that I know next to nothing about the DC graphic novel universe, and perhaps not a lot about graphic novel films in general. I’ve seen Christopher Nolan’s Batman films (A+ except for you know what), but none of the Superman ones, or that Batman Vs Superman mess where Wonder Woman first arrived on screen in the modern interpretation of her character. I’ve seen hardly any of the Marvel films because I find them exhausting. So when I find a superhero film I do like, I know it must be special.
Furthermore, when the trailer for Wonder Woman was released a few months ago, I was quietly very hyped for the film. I was hyped to see a female-led action film, and a female-led superhero film specifically, which seemed to have an interesting point of view, seemed like it might have a solid story, and didn’t appear to be completely sexualised. I was excited for what looked like some sick World War One action, and what looked like some good performances and beautiful cinematography. I am so glad to say that Wonder Woman lived up to all the hype that I had for it, and more.
As aforementioned, I hadn’t seen Batman Vs Superman and therefore I hadn’t seen the titular Wonder Woman’s debut role in what seems to be the reforming of DC’s Justice League in modern cinema. Not knowing much about Wonder Woman’s story, I was pleased to see that we begin at the beginning – a true origin story, beginning in childhood, letting the viewers know how Wonder Woman became so wondrous. From the very beginning, the visuals are stunning. The mythical island of Themyscira, the home of the Amazonian warrior women, is gorgeous. We get to know some truly cool Amazonians, all of whom have practical rather than sexual costumes and show off battle sequences which serve a purpose, as opposed to serving the male gaze. And it only starts there. The action throughout the film is rendered beautifully and energetically, with thrilling sequences that make good use of Wonder Woman’s iconic weapons without looking cartoonish. The direction by Patty Jenkins is fantastic, particularly during the many and varied fight scenes; but also in the more quiet moments, where we see subtle yet important character development.
Ultimately, this is a story about a character’s origin – and what a character. Gal Gadot has reinvented Diana slash Wonder Woman in a new age. And Gadot is a great actress, portraying the moral journey of a wide-eyed innocent to a woman who must confront the evils of mankind in a very genuine manner. An all-rounder, she excels in the action-packed scenes, but also the quieter moments, and the humorous ones as well. When she joins forces with a rag-tag band of human, and mostly male, co-stars, it comes to light that she doesn’t have to win them over with all of her tricks; she’s a natural leader, and she inspires her colleagues in war to fight for what is morally right, that is, to protect humanity against harm at all costs. There’s a romantic sub-plot, but the good news is, it doesn’t feel cheesy and dumb. Chris Pine plays American pilot Steve Trevor, whose plane crash lands on Themyscira, and whose arrival is the catalyst for the action in the film. He’s funny and charming, and Pine and Gadot have some great chemistry. But there’s no doubt that Gal Gadot steals the show in this one. In each and every scene, your eye goes straight to her.
Wonder Woman is truly a story of thirds: early life and development, the action meat in the war sandwich, and the big battle wrap-up. Although the story is solid overall, the first and last thirds can drag a bit at times. What’s funny is, one of the film’s most fantastic scenes was allegedly almost cut from the film – which would have been a huge shame, because this was one of the scenes where we see the development of Diana’s moral compass in action. Some other mild let-downs include a fairly obvious main villain, a final battle that can be considered somewhat cliché, and an unsurprising plot-twist. However – none of these minor gripes took away from my enjoyment of the film in the moment.
All in all, Wonder Woman is a thrilling film with a solid emotional core, and a script that doesn’t treat its viewers like idiots. Wonder Woman feels like the beginning for a new kind of female-led and female-driven, action-packed graphic novel film, and I’m looking forward to seeing more. The character of Diana slash Wonder Woman isn’t strong in comparison to the men around her, or in spite of them. She’s a warrior with a clear purpose and moral compass. Imagine a film about a strong woman where its action is barely sexualised, where a female action star is treated as powerful, trustworthy, and in charge of her own agency; whose more gentle moments don’t take away from her overall feminine power. It’s refreshing, it’s wonderful, and it’s important viewing. Wonder Woman is a must see.
Is it worth paying for a ticket?: Yes!
Watch the trailer here.