Hey Everyone! This one’s a doozy – never has so much pressure been placed on a superhero movie. For many Wonder Woman is the long overdue female-led superhero movie we’ve been waiting for, to others it’s the test for if a female led, female directed movie can be a success. For me, it was the last chance for DC to prove they could pull a good film from the grimy mess the DCU has become.
I already swore I was not going to see Wonder Woman. It was not for any dislike of the character as she’s a solid member of the Justice League and brought some much needed sass and aggression to an often soft-hearted group of heroes in the JLA cartoons. But the reason I had sidelined this film was after Man of Steel disappointed, Batman Vs Superman left me confused and unsatisfied and then Suicide Squad came along and coated everything it touched with overhyped, steaming turd. Watching DC movies were no longer worth cinema ticket prices. That being said, Wonder Woman started getting some pretty outstanding reviews with bold claims such as “Best Superhero Movie of the Year” which, in the year that gave us Logan is a bold claim. I did wonder if this was a little counter culture push by the more feminist leaning critics giving bonus points for girl power, but as more and more real people (yes, I do not count critics as real people) also started saying great things I conceded and decide to head off to the pictures with low expectations.
And boy am I glad that I did. I can’t tell you Wonder Woman stands above Logan as the clear best superhero film of the year as Logan was such a different and powerful piece of cinema that for me it edges ahead. However, I feel Logan is barely a superhero film so in that respect Wonder Woman can claim the title. What is certain though is that this is the most “Marvel” of all the DC films so far. Gone is the strange dark and grimy filter and instead we have the heroine in her wonderful (albeit muted for realistic appearance) red, gold and blue armour in stark contrast to the bleak battlefields of wartime Europe. And despite some people accusing the film of being dumbed down, what I saw was a movie with a clear plot that was executed well rather than a supposedly jumbled mess of too many ideas forced into a single movie. Yes, the slow-motion scenes were a little overextended, but overall this has been some of the most enthralling action DC has produced since The Dark Knight.
Warning: Some **SPOILERS** ahead!
The story follows Diana (Gal Gadot), princess of the Amazons; a race of immortal warrior women sent to Earth by Zeus to counter the curse of war and violence that Ares had left upon man by bringing peace through diplomacy, understanding and love. Eventually Zeus defeats Ares but is weakened to such an extent that he goes into hiding, with the Amazons exiling themselves to a hidden island to wait for Ares’ return so they may retake their mantle of defence. Due to the… well lack of men I assume, no children have been born to the Amazons in centuries. Diana was the first child in all this time, sculpted from clay and brought to life by a prayer from her mother Queen Hippolyta. As Diana grows up we see her trained by her aunt, Antiope the Amazon General, and turning into a fine warrior. An unconscious American spy, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), is saved off the coast of their hidden island and soon after a force of German soldiers land on the beach to retrieve/kill him. After a brief fight showing just how amazing these Amazons are, the Germans are defeated and Steve is interrogated under the familiar-to-fans Lasso of Truth; revealing the state of the Great War. The revelation leads Diana to believe Ares has returned and that the Amazons need to step in. When her mother refuses, Diana kits up in all the Amazons’ cool ancient relics, frees Steve and heads off to join the war.
We get to see Diana in the real world of wartime Britain, confused why she has to cover her scandalously revealing armour. Some of the greatest scenes are of her fresh approach and wonderful naiveté; tasting ice cream for the first time, her confusion at the exclusion of women in the war room, her disgust that generals would knowingly send men off to die, her total belief that the only reason men would be violent is the influence of Ares and not just that some men are bad.
We get a pair of villains in the form of the ruthless German General Ludendorff (Danny Huston), who believes mankind exists to fight and refuses to let Germany surrender; and Isabel Maru a.k.a Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya), the chief chemist of Ludendorff developing unstoppable poisons. Interestingly their purpose, unlike most superhero villains, is not for the big boss battle at the end – they are instead the masterminds behind the threat to the globe while presenting little danger as individuals. Diana believes Ludendorff to be Ares so sets off to defeat him and free mankind form the curse of war and Steve forms a rag-tag band of spies and smugglers to assist in the assassination featuring Sameer (Said Taghmaoui) a Moroccan master of disguise, Charlie (Ewen Bremner) a PTSD stricken sniper, Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) a Native American smuggler.
While I was worried the movie would focus a little too much on the “strong independent woman who don’t need no man” approach I was delighted to find the story relies on men around Diana realising how capable she actually is and supporting that, from Sir Patrick (David Thewlis) suggesting Diana translate a document that she recognised the language of when other Generals preferred finding a translator, to Trevor’s team incorporating their new found superhero into their tactics, while also reeling her in when her lack of experience with this world and her over eagerness could be catastrophic. Watching Diana grow into a hero, watching those around her in awe of what she can do and adapting to that help make this movie fantastic and while I can’t spoil it – one of the final lines spoken during the big boss fight was one of the best pieces of writing I have seen in a while and really cements, for me, the difference between supporting characters in generic action films and a really well written supporting character we were gifted in Wonder Woman.
The action scenes, while a little slow-mo heavy, were fantastic and as believable as you get with super-people and the “over the top” trench scene we saw the start of in many of the trailers somehow became one of the most moving and awesome to watch scenes in any movie I can think of.
Gadot’s performance was well beyond what I expected and she really was the greatest part of the film, from the dedicated warrior to gleeful cooing at a baby she delivered a huge range better than many more seasoned actors. The chemistry between her and her little band was fun and their growing relationships felt natural rather than awkward and manufactured just for furthering the plot.
My only real complaints were the heavy painting of Germany as “evil” where in WW1 that wasn’t really the case. Though this is partially explained later, the slightly-too-long slow-motion scenes and a lot of the final battle fell into the same hole many superhero films do with too much over-the-top power displays on both sides make it hard to follow and eventually dull. I also feel it was a poor choice to have… a certain character revealed in the way it was. The revelation and story surrounding it were amazing but I … it’s hard to say without spoiling it… I feel the character revealed should have been in disguise and should have dropped said disguise rather than actually looking like that all during the climax of the film. It kind of killed the moment. You’ll understand when you get to it.
Also, I still can’t help but see the Captain America: The First Avenger similarities out though; World War era superhero with shield, blonde American called Steve played by a guy called Chris, fighting even-more-evil Germans, villain is more similar to hero than you expect, finale involves a super weapon on a plane.
So yeah, maybe not the best superhero movie ever, but definitely one of the best films this year and the best thing DC have made since The Dark Knight. Still have very poor hopes for Justice League but I cannot recommend Wonder Woman enough.