Film review: Wonder Woman (2017)

Director: Patty Jenkins

Writer: Allen Heinberg

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Danny Huston, David Thewlis

Official Synopsis: Before she was Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. Raised on a sheltered island paradise, Diana meets an American pilot (Chris Pine) who tells her about the massive conflict that’s raging in the outside world. Convinced that she can stop the threat, Diana leaves her home for the first time. Fighting alongside men in a war to end all wars, she finally discovers her full powers and true destiny.

There will be many people going to see Wonder Woman with some trepidation. Myself included. After Batman Vs Superman (of which I thoroughly enjoyed the majority of the first half, before the second half went rapidly downhill, just like Man of Steel) and the unforgivable Suicide Squad, which was a mess from start to finish, I was unsure what was in store for us with Wonder Woman. But I tried to go in with an open mind, and reassured myself that Zack Snyder had very little to do with it, so it just might be okay.

Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about.

The start of the film is quite po-faced, with tales of the mythology surrounding the history of Diana’s people, and Diana’s own upbringing, though the exploits of a young Diana do raise a few laughs and smiles. However, once Diana is all grown up and Chris Pine appears, literally falling from the sky out of the First World War and into her island paradise, things start to improve. This is Diana’s first encounter with a man, and especially a naked man in one scene, which provides a good deal of humour.

The plot drives forward at a good speed, though I did work out the “big reveal” quite early on. The fact that there are three antagonists worried me for awhile, but it worked out reasonably well, although just like the vast majority of other superhero movies, the whole thing ends with a mass of explosions, destruction and heavy objects being thrown around the place. After all that has gone before, it is a real shame that the film ends with such a formulaic climax and a mass of CGI destruction (though nowhere near on the scale of the last – ridiculously dull – 45 minutes of Man of Steel).

However, all that has gone before is far from formulaic, as far as the superhero movie is concerned – especially the Snyder-era DC superhero movies. This film has emotion. It has characters. It actually made me care what happened to those characters – yes, even Chris Pine. Through the themes of identity, whether what you had been told all of your life was a lie or not, and finding your place in this world, the film presents the most moving and engaging superhero film I have seen in a very long time.

Praise indeed goes to Patty Jenkins, whose direction is near flawless (a few too many slow-motion shots of our hero kicking butt aside). Who says that women can’t direct action? Snyder could certainly take a lesson from Jenkins. The action sequences are gripping, exciting, and at times quite gritty. Nor does Jenkins shy away from showing some of the horrors of war, and Diana’s heartfelt reaction to the atrocities that men commit towards each other.

The present day bookends of the movie felt kind of unnecessary, and just another way of bringing Wonder Woman into the Justice League era, ready for the upcoming movie, but that is a minor quibble.

The combination of Gadot’s superb performance, Steinberg’s emotional script and Jenkins’ direction has brought us the best DC movie since Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.

And to think everyone was nervous about a female-led superhero movie.

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