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 would be fair to say the attempts of DC Comics to kick off an extended cinematic universe in a similar vein to rivals Marvel has not got off to the strongest start from a critical perspective, with both of their films from 2016 (‘Batman v Superman’ and ‘Suicide Squad’) disappointments in many ways. In that respect, it wouldn’t be difficult to be the best DC Comics film since Christopher Nolan moved on to pastures new, but that should take nothing away from ‘Wonder Woman’, a confident, thrilling origin story that introduces an exciting new character to the universe (give or take her small role in ‘Batman v Superman’). I was very impressed and I thought ‘Wonder Woman’ was a really enjoyable superhero movie with strong performances, good action and a story that attempts to grapple with weighty themes in the context of a piece of mainstream entertainment.
The film begins in 1918 (towards the end of WW1) with a lengthy opening on the island of Themyscira, an Amazonian island inhabited only by females, most of whom are tough, strong warriors. Amongst these people are Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), a fierce young princess with an intriguing upbringing, and her mother and aunt (played by Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright respectively), and Patty Jenkins uses the opening sequences to lay out the film’s premise and build the world in which these characters inhabit without leaning too heavily into the mythology. This female utopia is disturbed by the crash landing of an American pilot, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), and whilst many of the islanders are hostile to him, Diana takes a keener interest, eventually following him to London in order to stop the war.
I liked Gal Gadot in the central role and she really embodies the character, even if she isn’t the greatest actress in the world (she particularly struggles in the scenes that require more ‘traditional’ acting). She particularly excels in the action sequences and I felt the confidence in her portrayal helps to give us a sense of what drives Diana Prince as a character both before and after she fully embraces the role of ‘Wonder Woman’. Her ‘proper’ introduction on the battlefield is suitably epic and I can’t wait to see more of her as she no doubt grows into the role even more. The film isn’t without its flaws and I felt it struggled in the villain department, which seems to be a recurring problem for the films in the DC cinematic universe to date. Danny Huston’s Nazi general and the other villains who appear are undoubtedly an improvement on the enchantress in ‘Suicide Squad’ or whatever the hell that CGI monstrosity was in ‘Batman v Superman’ but we don’t spend enough time in their company for the motives to develop beyond stock villainy. It’s a particular shame given the DC universe has a strong bench of villains to choose from, although I must confess my knowledge of those in the ‘Wonder Woman’ canon specifically isn’t the greatest!
It’s a little too long and the love angle didn’t fully engage me (although Chris Pine is good, and has good chemistry with Gal Gadot), but I thought this was a really good movie and a very welcome strong entry to kickstart the DC cinematic universe.
Directed By: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya, Lucy Davis, Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner and Eugene Brave Rock