Jacob Richardson | 30/05/2017
By god they’ve done it; they’ve made a good DC movie!
We’re introduced to Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) as a child on Thermyscira; the only child on the entire island of Amazonians. Her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) doesn’t want her to be trained in the Amazonian ways of combat, but at the behest of fearsome General Antiope (Robin Wright) she relents – her one proviso that Antiope train Diana “five times harder … ten times harder than any warrior before”.
Flash forward through thousands of years of peace, and Diana is a fearsome warrior verging on discovering the extent of her powers. Suddenly, a plane falls from the sky, and with it a handsome American pilot by the name of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). He is closely pursued by marauding German’s; a breach in this idyllic paradise by the horrors of World War I. Battle between the Amazonians and these new enemies rages. Faced with the realisation that outside of their beautiful island millions are dying, Diana sets off with new found love interest Steve in search of ‘the front’, and with it, the Amazonian race’s long awaited date with Ares; God of War.
With clear touch points with many of the early and irrepressibly fun Marvel movies, Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins has reinvigorated the dark and brooding DCEU with something it has sorely been missing; joy.
As Diana Prince, Gal Gadot is an utter pleasure to watch. She is fierce, feeling and, frankly, bad-ass. Gadot commits 100%, even in moments that could be considered ridiculous, and it pays off in spades. She’s funny when she needs to be (a particular sequence of her discovering the modern ways of London is especially amusing), and formidable when she faces off against German soldiers. Her perhaps unwieldy accoutrements, like her golden lasso, are defused as items of disbelief by a sardonic Chris Pine, who is also excellent. Pine plays the perfect straight man to Gadot’s fish-out-of-water routine, and it not only serves to ingratiate both characters to the audience, but provides a solid love story that binds the film together much better than its plot does. For a love story between an Amazonian princess who has never seen a man before and an American spy who has washed up on the shore on an island that has been hidden for centuries, it is surprisingly believable.
But love takes a back seat for much of the movie, when the action comes into play. Jenkins brings a beautiful and artful sense of aerobic warfare to the Amazonians. Robin Wright as the resplendent General Antiope is the highlight of the film, and early scenes of an Amazonian/German battle on a beach, complete with helmet wearing, high-flying Antiope unleashing volleys of arrows at the confused Germans, are some of the best of the movie. Later, Diana takes out an entire town of German soldiers almost single-handedly, in an explosive set-piece that truly speaks to how action, and particularly sword-fighting and lasso-wielding action, should be done.
If there is fault to be had, it is with the villainous cohort. The final 20 minutes are, aside from some wrenching self-sacrifice, largely banal, CGI-laden nothingness. They’ll have you longing for the early, spectacularly choreographed fight scenes between modern and ancient warriors. It shouldn’t be surprising though, because Danny Huston’s General Eric Lundendorff is a thin shadow of a developed character with little identified motivations, and while his right-hand woman Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya) presents a striking visual portrait of villainy, she is not given enough plot to become an effective antagonist.
Nevertheless, Wonder Woman captures something the DCEU has been lacking in its previous three instalments. It’s back-to-basics plot wise, but with stunning set design and costuming, beautifully choreographed and shot action sequences, and some relationships you’ll actually find yourself caring about (as well as a solid dose of humour), Wonder Woman is an glorious success.
The first live-action Wonder Woman is a resounding win for DC. Anchored by strong performances from Gadot and Pine, and with some amazing visuals, Wonder Woman smashes past it’s lacking antagonists to give us a joyously unbridled, unashamedly sincere and achingly beautiful portrait of one of the best superheroes to grace the big screen to date.