Running Time: 141 Minutes
Director: Patty Jenkins
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen and Elena Anaya
Before she was Wonder Woman she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained warrior. When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, she leaves home to fight a war to end all wars, discovering her full powers and true destiny.
“It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love. Only love will truly save the world.”
As of writing this article Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman is currently breaking all manner of box-office records and sits with a 93% score on Rotten Tomatoes, so DC Comics’ first solo outing for their iconic creation has clearly been a success and many have deemed it the best film within DC’s expanded universe to date!
But to do so would be damming the film with false praise, the bar hasn’t been set particularly high by the franchise’s previous entries: neither Man of Steel, Batman vs Superman or even Suicide Squad really got viewers excited by the prospect of this new ‘Justice League’ universe. So Jenkins’ feature was under particular pressure from the outset to not only deliver the first female-centric superhero for nearly 15 years, the less said about Elektra the better, but also kick DC’s cinematic universe into gear.
Does this film succeed? Well yes and no….
Jenkins has delivered a solid, run of the mill superhero movie; there’s nothing inherently new here or nothing we haven’t seen before, but what it does do, it does well! Gadot is excellent in the film’s leading role, competently holding her own onscreen and her portrayal of the character rings true to the ethos of her comic-book origins. She’s strong, but feminine and her femininity is by no means a hindrance to her, but more so she’s empowered by it.
Importantly Jenkins never allows the camera to leer at Gadot, or ogle her in a sleazy manner! There’s nothing here that comes close to the gratuitous views of Margot Robbie’s derriere in Suicide Squad, in fact its Gadot’s male-co-stars who find themselves objectified throughout this film, particularly Chris Pine. In any other film Pine’s character Steve Trevor would be the leading man and outright hero, but here he’s playing second fiddle to Gadot and at times he’s even her ‘damsel in distress’ that requires her saving.
Like so many other comic book movies the film follows a crash, bang, wallop rinse/repeat approach, with a lot of heavily choreographed, CGI heavy set-pieces, but as I said earlier what it does, it does well. Unlike last year’s Batman vs Superman or even Suicide Squad the narrative doesn’t feel like it’s in a rush to get where it’s going, and therefore the film manages to feel wonderfully self-contained. Like the best instalments within Marvel’s cinematic universe it’s not frantically trying to set something up for future instalments, but taking its time to tell the origin story of its principle protagonist.
Admittedly the film does feel a little baggy at times, at nearly two and a half hours long it could do with a slightly tighter edit, particularly in its first half as we learn about Diana’s origins on the Island of Themyscira and her first encounter with man. At times the dialogue plays too heavily on the ‘naive woman’ trope as Diana enters man’s world, it’s too heavy-handed, too knowing and I just didn’t feel like we really needed conversations about the pleasures of the flesh within this movie.
That said, once the film reaches its much-heralded ‘no-man’s land’ sequence it never looks back, Diana’s transformation from naive warrior to superhero complete. That scene felt special, iconic, like Christopher Reeve’s first appearance as Superman or when we first saw Michael Keaton wearing the Bat-Suit in Tim Burton’s Batman. Yes we’ve already seen Gadot in full attire before in Batman vs. Superman, but here she’s on her own and doing what no other man can do.
Gadot has a considerable advantage over her fellow Justice League co-stars Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck. She’s not shackled by comparisons to other actors we’ve seen onscreen before. She’s able to stamp her own authority over the role and make it her own. Yes Lynda Cater played the character for three seasons on the 1970s TV show and whilst I don’t want to underplay her significance within the character’s history, I don’t think Gadot’s portrayal will ever be compared to Carter’s in the same way that both Cavill and Affleck are compared to the actors who’ve previously played the roles of Superman and Batman.
For all that’s great about Gadot’s performance the film does struggle with underwhelming antagonists, ‘rent-a-villian’ Danny Huston really doesn’t have much to do throughout the film other than deliver some trademark sneers and menacing glances, both his character and Elena Anaya’s Doctor Maru felt too pantomime to be taken seriously as the film’s principle villains. Like so many comic book adaptations the writers felt the need to serve up a great big ‘boss battle’ for the film’s finale as Diana finally confronts Aries the God of war who she believes has manipulated mankind into this ‘war to end all wars’.
It’s a shame because moments before this sequence begins, the writers teased something completely different. They hint that Diana has been too naive where mankind is concerned, that they’re ultimately weak and flawed and destined to do the horrible things they do without any need for external manipulation. It’s a brave move for a superhero movie, I’d have loved to have seen it explored for longer than the mere minutes it’s given within this film.
As I said at the outset of this review when I asked whether this film has succeeded in finally getting me excited about DC’s cinematic universe, my answer was yes and no! I’m excited about further Wonder Woman instalments, we’re on uncharted territory where her character is concerned, there’s umpteen new villains and stories that can be explored, but I’m still not excited by the upcoming Justice League movie: I don’t how this version of Wonder Woman that feels much more grounded than anything else we’ve seen within DC’s new universe to date will fit into the film.
Maybe I’m a little more intrigued than I was before, but I’m still not excited.
Wonder Woman is a really solid Superhero movie, hopefully its success will not only encourage studios to green-light more female-centric superhero films, but also encourage producers to entrust more female directors with their big-budget blockbusters.