Following her star turn in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Gal Gadot picks up the Lasso of Truth for her first solo outing as Diana Prince and her Amazonian alter-ego Wonder Woman. Taking us back to where it all began, we follow Diana as she starts her journey from an ambitious child to the mysterious stranger in a new world who is about to change everything as we know it.
Director: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, David Thewlis, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, Elena Anaya
Run Time: 141 Minutes
Release Date: Out Now
It’s fair to say that it has taken some time for Wonder Woman to make it to the big-screen. For years, studio execs have discussed, story-boarded and scripted multiple attempts to bring an iconic character to cinema screens. For years, Lynda Carter’s cult classic TV series was the character’s only foray into the live-action realm, something that always confused long-time fans; after all, how could it be so hard to have an Amazonian warrior princess kicking all kinds of ass on the big screen when, for example, Marvel were making millions of dollars off a talking tree and raccoon?
Whatever the reason, Wonder Woman stayed in the planning stage and seemed destined never to leave it. Until Zack Snyder tackled Superman in Man of Steel, that is, and from there the DC Extended Universe was born. Dawn of Justice followed, for better or for worse, and in among the film’s criticisms and shortcomings, one aspect was almost-universally praised; Wonder Woman. With Gal Gadot in the role, fans quickly warmed to Diana Prince’s fleeting-but-impactful part in the movie, and anticipation quickly grew for the inevitable solo outing. After so long in the movie wilderness, after so many false dawns for the character, and in a movie world with an ever-increasing focus on female superheroes and empowerment, could Wonder Woman still cut it? And from a DC and Warner standpoint, with Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad succeeding at the box office if not in the hearts of fans, could they finally have a film that actually generates interest in the DCEU and builds excitement for November’s Justice League?
Director Patty Jenkins – helming her first film in 14 years – smartly starts things off in Diana’s home, the glorious island of Themyscira, and in all honesty this is the movie’s strongest suit. Like Marvel’s Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, this movie does its best work when we see the character’s early days, with a young Diana determined to be like the strong warrior women surrounding her. The inevitable move away from there into the main body of the movie is disappointing, as it feels like there is a lot more that could have been mined from the world and characters there – Connie Nielson and Robin Wright are criminally short-changed and under-utilised as Queen Hippolyta and General Antiope, respectively. A film that is so perfectly placed to hammer home the position of female empowerment really falls short when it seems too quick to move away from an island consisting of all-female warriors that are determined to protect the world and all those in it.
We are also introduced to the film’s male lead, Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor. It is here where the film makes its first misstep; a good origin movie needs to highlight the main character’s attributes and qualities, endear them to the audience. And while Diana is largely treated well when it comes to the action that Wonder Woman is known for (especially one outstanding scene that will live in the memory – more on that later), Trevor is furnished with several qualities and scenes that oftentimes threaten Gadot’s lead role and appear to position him as the film’s main hero. In a movie designed to introduce Wonder Woman – and let’s not forget that this is the first female-led superhero outing – this has to be classed as a failure. Pine is likeable in the role, exuding a natural charm that modern Star Trek film fans will already be aware of, however he is given far too much screen time.
Gadot, meanwhile, plays her part well. Before Dawn of Justice, she was largely unknown to those not familiar with the Fast & Furious franchise, however she handles the role with charm and grace. The script is light on humour – a rapidly-emerging DC staple, it seems – though what little laughs the character is given, she delivers. The naivety of Diana in a strange new world outside of Themyscira is portrayed well, and she looks good in the action scenes. Her physical performance and presentation in Batman v Superman offered hope that the Wonder Woman we finally have on the big-screen will do justice (pardon the pun) to the character rightfully lauded in the comic books, and that continues here.
This is emphasised none more so than in one particular scene, a scene so exhilarating and memorable that it makes this writer want to scrap the no-spoiler policy I enforce on myself with these reviews and break down every little bit. From the moment it begins, ably backed with Rupert Gregson-Williams’ score building as it goes, the whole thing is an absolute delight, and is guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face. It is already being talked about as one of the great comic book movie scenes, and it is nigh on impossible to disagree. Mostly, the movie gets the action scenes right, though it lets itself down with an unnecessary CGI battle in the final act that firmly entrenches it alongside most other superhero outings. And if that wasn’t enough, one of those other superhero movie staples – bad villains – also rears its ugly head. Danny Huston’s General Ludendorff offers nothing of note, while Elena Anay’s Doctor Maru initially offers interest and promise, before being largely overlooked as the film goes on.
Rightly or wrongly, Wonder Woman’s qualities will be judged on the inadequacies of the DCEU movies that have come before it, and by that scale, of course it is the best movie to come out of that universe yet. But putting that barometer aside and judging it on its own merits, there is still plenty to like. Gadot and Pine shine in the lead roles, the action is largely on point and Diana/Wonder Woman herself is likeable and does enough to make you want to see more of her this November alongside Bruce, Clark and the other heroes that no-one really wants to acknowledge. In the film’s defence, the main criticisms coming out of it are ones that a large amount of superhero outings make, though it would still be nice to not have to deal with them.
Still, let’s end on the positive; Dawn of Justice was no fluke, they got Wonder Woman right.
It’s about time.