The long overdue and highly anticipated Wonder Woman has finally made its way to the silver screen, much to the jubilation of many comic book fans across the globe. Thanks to Warner Bros. and their DC Extended Universe, Wonder Woman has the privilege of being the first female led superhero movie to come out of DC's newly fashioned cinematic universe. The release is undeniably a progressive move, however the whole situation conjures incredibly perplexing questions, especially considering the first Wonder Woman comics originated all the way back in 1941.
The film has indeed been a long time coming, with the character first being teased in George Miller's now defunct Justice League movie. Since that time Warner Bros. has introduced Henry Cavill's well received Superman in 2013's Man of Steel, providing the perfect opportunity to follow up with DC Comics' most mystical heroine. However, procrastination and uncertainty around the future direction of their cinematic universe forced the studio to miss a golden opportunity in the wake of Marvel Studio's tremendous success.
Some time passed, with Warner Bros. regrouping and deciding to move full steam ahead with their DC cinematic universe. The second film to be released was the incredibly divisive Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Bustling box office and critical chaos gave Warner Bros. the impetus to reluctantly move forward with their plans. The highly forgettable and yet immensely colourful Suicide Squad was next off the bat, forcing the studio to once again reevaluate their position and shift their tone. With the dust settling around the previous two releases, Wonder Woman has the privilege of being the fourth film to be released under the banner of Warner Bros.' tremendously polarising DC Extended Universe.
Wonder Woman resembles a tonal shift unlike anything we have seen before within the DC filmic landscape. The movie is a lot less cynical than its predecessors and has a tremendous amount of heart, allowing audiences a form of escapism from the miserably mundane world. It is indeed a worthy effort from Warner Bros. While Wonder Woman is technically the next in succession following Suicide Squad, the film is in actuality a good old fashioned origin story. Eager audiences won't require any prior knowledge of the DC films up to this point, with Wonder Woman being more than capable of standing on her own two feet.
However, even though Wonder Woman's promotional campaign has built the film up as an origin story, don't be fooled. The opening of the film returns audiences back to present day, with a few not so subtle references indicating the existence of Batman and the impending release of Justice League later this year. Sticklers for continuity will be pleased to discover that Wonder Woman plays out as a sequel to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. From here the majority of the film becomes a glorified flashback, taking audiences to the mythical world of Amazonian warrior woman. It is not exactly the most creative transition into the past, but the sequence serves its purpose, linking the film to the previous DC movies that have paved the way before it. In hindsight however, it has to be said that the sequence is incredibly unnecessary, not really adding anything vital to the plot. If Warner Bros. was not painfully trying to link their cinematic properties together, the sequence would have undeniably ended up on the cutting room floor.
The flashback leads off with our introduction to the mythical island of Themyscira. Here we are first introduced to Diana at a young age, as she dreams of the notion of being a warrior. The idea is much against the wishes of her mother Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. Her main concern is Princess Diana's safety and well-being. Diana's impulsive and curious nature wins out however with her aunt General Antiope, played formidably by Robin Wright, recognising her unlimited potential. The result sees Diana training in secret, with the Queen soon discovering what is happening behind her back. Through some eloquent persuasion Hippolyta reluctantly agrees for her training to continue, under the condition that she is trained harder than the rest of the Amazons.
As time passes Diana becomes a formidable warrior, while at the same time planting seeds into the audience's mind regarding the mysterious circumstances surrounding her existence. This is a mystery that remains undisclosed until the final act, as Diana's powers begin to grow exponentially. Complications begin to arise however with the introduction of military spy and pilot Steve Trevor, as he crashes his plane through the mystical veil of protection that hides Themyscira's existence from the "world of man". Subsequent events force Diana's hand, as she feels compelled to help Trevor defeat the great evil fueling the war. From here the plot accelerates, as the newly fashioned Wonder Woman must negotiate the extremely odd world of man. It is entertaining to say the least, with the interaction between Diana and Trevor being the absolute highlight.
According to director Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman takes inspiration from movies such as Richard Donner's Superman, Indiana Jones and Casablanca. On the part of Warner Bros. the reference to the latter really is a slick bit of marketing magic. Casablanca is arguably the best movie the studio has ever produced, with the film's screenplay being widely regarded one of the best scripts of all time. If Jenkins actually did pinch a number of the plot points from the aforementioned script, Wonder Woman would have taken an incredibly interesting trajectory. Unfortunately for audiences and film aficionados, the Warner Bros. marketing spin really is just that. In reality Wonder Woman resembles more of an amalgamation between Marvel Studios' Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor. The only real difference being that Wonder Woman forgoes her World War II comic book origins in favour of a plot that takes place during the period of the terribly devastating World War I.
Gal Gadot's performance as Wonder Woman is a worthy effort. However her depiction of the lead character can be seen as two sides of a coin. On one level, her initial scenes and dialogue are wooden and emotionless. At times it even seems that director Patty Jenkins avoids giving Gadot any dialogue at all. Yet following the introduction of Steve Trevor, her character seems to come alive. Gadot really does begin to come into her own alongside the tremendously entertaining Chris Pine. Their playful banter is undeniably one of the best parts of the movie, as Trevor's street smarts and chivalry are juxtaposed against Diana's naive nature. It really is nice to watch, as Gadot seemingly shines in Pine's presence. In addition to Chris Pine, a lot of credit for the interaction has to go to director Patty Jenkins. She seems to pull emotionality out of Gadot in a way that audiences have never seen before. Gadot also becomes progressively more believable in the role with each minute of screen time.
Gadot's physicality on screen is also utterly superb, and is arguably the greatest aspect of her performance as she throws herself into the role with great ferocity. Her hand to hand combat and stunt work is a tremendous asset to the film and story, maintaining a level of narrative drive that is essential to the film's success. Her sensuality and poise also steals the screen with each moment that she appears. While fantastic cinematography needs to be given a lot of credit here, her presence and beauty is captivating all the same. Shot selection and camera angles also fuel the mythology around the greatness of her aesthetic. Gadot also begins to develop a lot of charming aspects with her performance as the story progresses, particularly once she is introduced to the then contemporary "world of man". Her naivety and defiance really shines through, which is captivating and entertaining to watch. At the same time, these aspects simultaneously cover up her other acting flaws.
In spite of these many positive aspects, Gadot's performance lacks a level of passion and heart that audiences would expect from the wondrous character. This will force audiences to ponder the question of whether there was a better casting choice available for the Amazon princess. In essence, Warner Bros. are victims of their own wariness and procrastination. Back when Man of Steel was released in 2013, John Carter's Lynn Collins would have been the ideal choice. She played the role of the tremendous Dejah Thoris in the film, and was widely thought to be perfect for the part as a result of her epic performance. Since that time Thor's Jaimie Alexander would have been a worthy addition, if not for her affiliation with Marvel Studios, and Warner Bros. decision to prioritise ethnicity and aesthetic over acting ability. It has to be said that Gal Gadot looks fantastic as Wonder Woman. Her beauty and aura are absolutely captivating from a visual perspective. However her performance still has some way to go to be worthy of one of DC's most amazing characters.
Chris Pine provides a pivotal performance in the role of Steve Trevor. He is courageous and articulate while at the same time assisting the film's pacing and narrative drive. For the most part the character is comic accurate, functioning as a war spy for the Americans in addition to doubling as Wonder Woman's most famous love interest. His dialogue is snappy and his charm is on full display, although he conveys an aura that is more reserved than the previous roles he is most well known for. This gives Gadot the ability to stand above the crowd like she needs to. His existence however is slightly perplexing, especially due to America's lack of involvement in World War I, and the fact that he is an American spy reporting to British intelligence. This oversight for the most part is due to Steve Trevor being a World War II character in the original comics.
While the World War I landscape is a tremendously interesting creative choice, the decision reeks of differentiating Wonder Woman from the suspicious similarities that it shares with Captain America: The First Avenger. This is by no means a negative comparison either. The fact that Wonder Woman is being compared to Captain America at all is a coup for Warner Bros. Both are great films, however Captain America: The First Avenger seems to execute the plot and heroic ideology slightly better.
Eta Candy, Wonder Woman's best friend from the comics, makes a cameo courtesy of Lucy Davis' performance. She doubles as Trevor's secretary, providing a plethora of feminist jokes that allow Wonder Woman to react with displeasure and disbelief. The sequences as executed quite well, not being as cringe worthy as the trailers might suggest. The only pro-feminism joke they really miss out on is an explanation as to why it took Warner Bros. so long to deliver a Wonder Woman movie. Unfortunately Candy really is not much more than comic relief, juxtaposed against the gloomy landscape of wartime London. She serves her role well, although she under-utilised for the most part. However in fairness, the film chooses to focus on the war, and doesn't take the topic lightly either, which is something director Patty Jenkins has to be commended for.
Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright both play formidable parts in the overall story courtesy of the characters Hippolyta and Antiope which they play respectfully. They both work off each other incredibly well, emanating wonderful auras of sophistication and the maternal. Their articulation is also terrific, being forced to enunciate much in the same fashion as the character of Diana, giving Gal Gadot a lot less work to do. Both also equally exhibit tremendous feminine strength which is fabulous to see. However their origins create an interesting juxtaposition due to their perceived necessity to be warriors while at the same time emanating feminine and nurturing ideals. From a character perspective the balancing of these ideals seems a little incongruent.
The film also takes on the modern comics' interpretation of the Amazons originating from Zeus rather than the original comics' affiliation with Aphrodite, which doesn't help matters either. There seems to be a nice affiliation between love, the feminine and Aphrodite that the film forgoes in the favour of power, violence and the masculine in the form of Zeus and the other gods. There is undeniably a unifying aspect that Wonder Woman requires but unfortunately misses out on courtesy of this creative choice. In fairness the female mythical genre is a relatively new concept that is somewhat difficult to define. Films such as Avatar and Frozen have conveyed these aspects incredibly well to amazing success. Wonder Woman was the perfect opportunity to carry these aspects further forward once again, however the film seems to follow plot beats more affiliated with the classic interpretation of Diana the Huntress, which again seems to follow the road more towards masculine myth.
One of the film's greatest assets is the formidable action sequences. The choreography is engineered brilliantly, as Gal Gadot's physicality shines bright for everyone to see. The World War I era is also depicted incredibly well. The aesthetic is terribly dark and gloomy, reflecting the catastrophic time period, allowing Wonder Woman to shine an aura of hope and tranquillity amongst all the ensuing chaos. In spite of all the darkness and gloom, the film's colour palate is much brighter and optimistic than its predecessors. Unlike Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman conjures similar ideals and levity found in the likes of Richard Donner's 1978 edition of Superman. The first half of the original 1978 Superman is a level above and beyond this film, however it is nice to see DC and Warner Bros. returning to symbolism that made these comic book heroes so popular in the first place.
The incredibly polarising electric guitar fueled Wonder Woman theme makes its return from Batman v Superman. It features during at least two brilliantly executed action sequences, and is surprisingly well incorporated. However, the movie's overall score is much more grand and stupendous, pulling at the emotional heart strings with each stanza. In short, the film deserves more of the brilliant orchestral score and less of blaring Wonder Woman theme, which was developed at a time when the DC Extended Universe lacked its sense of direction. Overall the movie would be much better for it. On the villainous front, the antagonists lack the gravitas and sophistication audiences would expect from a film taking place during World War I. A potentially predictable plot twist keeps things interesting for the main protagonists however thanks to a fabulous cameo from David Thewlis. Although in spite of this saving grace, the villains are essentially lacklustre and weak much like the previous DC films Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman which preceded it.
In summary, Wonder Woman is an incredibly courageous effort from Warner Bros. The film emanates a level of optimism and heroics that have not been seen in the DC Extended Universe up until now, with each story beat being a refreshing change. The final act has it's flaws and the romantic element is quick and slightly undercooked, however the overall narrative is exciting and entertaining. The costumes are sensational and the musical score is terrific, minus Hans Zimmer's electrical guitar concerto from Batman v Superman. The film's narrative drive also excels for the most part, and the World War I aesthetic is extremely well delivered. The action sequences and stunt work are also absolutely stellar. Overall, the movie undeniably serves its purpose in establishing Wonder Woman as a character, tantalising audiences with the prospect of Diana's next great adventure, in this case being Justice League in November this year. However, the movie is perhaps slightly below Man of Steel when being compared to its other DC Extendend Universe brethren, leaving Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad in its wake. It is not the best DC Comics film of all time. That mantle still belongs to The Dark Knight, however Wonder Woman is an enjoyable experience all the same. In short, Wonder Woman is a must see on the big screen.