Release date: 1st June 2017/Watch the trailer here
There are two reasons why Wonder Woman really had to succeed: firstly, because the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) desperately needed a success after the failures of last year’s Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad; and secondly (and most importantly), because there also desperately needed to be a movie to shut up anyone who said that female-led superhero movies just aren’t profitable. Thankfully, Wonder Woman is not just good: it’s very, very good, and it will hopefully pave the way for a better future for the DCEU, as well as for a few more kickass female protagonists at the front and centre of comic book movies.
A huge factor in what makes Wonder Woman work so well is undoubtedly the decision to not only have chosen a director that isn’t Zack Snyder, but also happens to be a woman: Patty Jenkins, best known for her only other feature film, 2003’s Monster, directs Wonder Woman with such a subtly masterful touch that it will almost certainly ensure that there isn’t another 14-year gap between her movies, and that Wonder Woman won’t be the last superhero film to have a capable woman behind the camera.
Wonder Woman is, more or less, an origin story; following the character’s initial introduction in Batman v Superman (which, when paired with Hans Zimmer’s adrenaline-pumping ‘Is She With You?’ theme, made for the most memorable moment of the entire film). The story begins on the sheltered island paradise of Themyscira, where Diana (Gal Gadot) – daughter of the queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) – has trained to be an unconquerable warrior under the teachings of her aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright). After an American pilot, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), crashes on their shores with stories of a great conflict raging in the outside world, Diana leaves Themyscira with him, convinced she can stop the war to end all wars by killing General Ludendorff (Danny Huston), who she believes to be Ares, the Greek god of war.
The first half an hour of Wonder Woman, on the island of Themyscira, is one of the most compelling of the entire film; enough to make you long for an entire film set on this idyllic island. An early scene, in which the Amazons defend their paradise against a fleet of German soldiers, sets the tone for the slick, incredibly well-choreographed action sequences that are to follow – and watching Robin Wright take out three soldiers at once with an air of effortless grace makes you wish that you could see much, much more of the character of Antiope, too.
Still, this is Wonder Woman’s movie after all, and after spending a couple of hours with the princess of the Amazons, it’s hard to believe the outrage there initially was after the announcement of Gal Gadot’s casting. She embodies the character entirely; playing her with the charming naivety of a young woman who has been brought up in a sheltered existence, delighting at the first time she tastes ice cream or sees a baby. But despite this innocence, Diana is also utterly capable and entirely indomitable: the scene where she crosses No Man’s Land – deflecting bullets with her metal bracelets to the soaring sounds of Rupert Gregson-Williams’ score that eventually builds into Zimmer’s powerful theme – is a goosebumps-inducing moment, and one of the very best sequences of any comic book movie in recent memory.
Yet for all of these moments of incredible action, Wonder Woman is not just an action movie: it regularly eschews the tropes of the genre, choosing to be just as much of a romantic-comedy and a coming-of-age tale as a superhero story. The emphasis is on the comedy; something which DC desperately needed more of, and Wonder Woman treads the line just right. It’s still dark and serious enough for the crucial moments to have a sense of gravitas, but a more lighthearted tone throughout prevents the darkness from ever becoming overbearing. Much of the comedy comes from Etta Candy (Lucy Davis), Steve’s secretary in London, and a highlight of the film is when she takes Diana clothes shopping, to inevitably humorous results.
Another highlight of the film is Steve Trevor himself: much like Gadot, Pine embodies the character, playing him with all of the required warmth and charisma, and then some. He and Diana have fantastic and believable chemistry, which is developed through some of the film’s quieter, more intimate moments. The dialogue is flawed throughout the film, but Gadot and Pine’s combined charm overcomes the occasional script issue and adds an emotional weight to Wonder Woman that many similar movies fail to ever achieve.
To say that Wonder Woman is the best film to open with the DC logo since The Dark Knight wouldn’t really be doing it justice. Of course, it’s not perfect – as with most superhero films, the under-developed villain and effects-laden finale are never as good as the journey it took to get there; and like all DC films, it’s still too long – but there are plenty of times when it comes pretty close; and it’s no coincidence that all it took for DC to get there was a combination of female hero and female director. Hopefully, this means that the future of the DCEU looks bright – but if not, at least we have the Wonder Woman sequel to look forward to.