It’s taken 75 years for a solo Wonder Woman movie to hit the big screen. And fittingly, the one that’s landed is an origin story. Although it doesn’t show us precisely how Diana, Princess of the Amazons – the other name by which Wonder Woman is known – came into the world, it does show her as a young child, growing up surrounded by her fellow Amazon women. Her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), who is fiercely protective, tells her that she was sculpted from clay.
Fast forward a few years and the first man she has ever seen, World War I pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), crash lands off the shore of her island, Themyscira. So begins an adventure that sees a now fully grown Diana (Gal Gadot) embrace her destiny. She takes off with Trevor to help put a stop to the war and save mankind.
Bruce Wayne Kicks Off The Story
Wonder Woman is bookended by scenes of Diana in present-day Paris. This is a neat way of framing the story and connecting it to what came before – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – and what’s to come after – Justice League – without complicating things.
It’s not spoiling anything by telling you that these sequences show Diana receiving a package from Bruce Wayne containing the original black and white photograph of Diana with a motley crew of soldiers from World War I. It’s the photo we saw in Batman v Superman. With it is a handwritten note from Wayne pleading: “Maybe one day you will tell me your story”.
Cue that story. The film proceeds to flash back to her childhood – a cute little girl fastidiously copying the battle moves of the warrior women she shares her life with on the island of Themyscira. These are the Amazons – a race of women created by Zeus to restore love and peace to the world. You’ll learn a lot more about their history from Hippolyta as she recounts their backstory for the benefit of Diana.
(Almost) Pitch-Perfect Final Battle
One of Wonder Woman’s biggest strengths is its focus. It knows exactly where it’s going and rarely diverges from that path. This helps to keep a firm grip on the audience’s attention and continually build intrigue and tension as the film nears its somewhat predictable but carefully measured climax.
Ah yes, that final battle. There are plenty of examples of final battles in comic book movies in particular that outstay their welcome. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a case in point. Here, however, the final battle is just about the right length and has enough going on in it beyond just relentless fighting to keep us from checking out. It’s an emotion-wrencher too – we feel all of the horror and heroics, and every member of Wonder Woman’s band of merry men plays his part – which leads to a pretty downbeat/heart-rending moment.
There’s one part that’s slightly jarring but it would spoil things to go into it here – let’s just say it involves a mustache.
A Familiar Rogue Team
Back to that band of men, though – because they’re key to understanding what this film is. When Diana is intent on pursuing Danny Huston’s Ludendorff, the evil German general behind the manufacture and deployment of devastating chemical weapons developed by sidekick Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya), Trevor assembles a rag-tag bunch of misfit soldiers to accompany her. These are the very same men from the photograph. In scenes not dissimilar to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, this particular rogue team embarks on the crazy mission for honour, loyalty and love ultimately; and as an audience, we care deeply for them all.
Gadot is impressively charming and fierce in the role, although it’s a shame she doesn’t really get the chance to be funny – the best lines are given to Steve Trevor, ably assisted by Lucy Davis in the role of Etta Candy, who assists the mission from the back line. But let’s not complain too much – at least there’s levity in Wonder Woman, a device that ramps up the entertainment levels no end.
And although it’s kind of disappointing that this female-focused superhero movie has to have a love story, diluting its heroine by reducing her to love interest, and empowering the male lead by elevating him to hero, it’s necessary for the plot that it’s there.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of Wonder Woman, though, is the odd triumvirate of villains. It’s difficult to discuss without giving the game away, but the power in the film is strangely balanced meaning that when the big bad is finally confronted, the impact is perhaps less than it could have been.
Is ‘Wonder Woman’ Good?
Director Patty Jenkins has made a great job of her first foray into comic book territory proving that she has the chops to reinvigorate the DC Extended Universe. A good mix of fun and frivolous with more serious messaging and subject matter, Wonder Woman is immensely entertaining and helps stir excitement for the upcoming Justice League and Aquaman films.