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.
Straight out of TV projects Patty Jenkins was not only placed at the helm of bringing Wonder Woman to the big screen for the first time in a feature film, but also launching the first female led superhero film in the contemporary deluge of DC and Marvel films. That’s a fairly hefty responsibility for a relatively new director, but the good news is she totally delivered.
The Wonder Woman film represents a number of important steps, one of which is for the DC Cinematic Universe moving towards the kind of films that aren’t apologising for their characters, and trying to take themselves so seriously, this film is Wonder Woman through and through. From Themyscira to Zeus and Ares, this film never retreats from the mythology and instead wears its roots like a badge of honour in one of the most refreshing superhero films of recent years.
This is very much a traditional origin tale, it takes us back to Diana’s beginnings and fills in the back story first raised hinted at in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. What’s great about the film is its complete dedication to the lead character, it spends a significant amount of time developing Diana, dwelling on events that shape her, and exploring her view of the world, how that view is challenged and the path it leads her on. All of these elements are engaging and crafted with much thought and care.
Much in the way that Krypton was put on display for the opening of Man of Steel, here Themyscira features heavily in Wonder Woman’s opening act before the film progressing into its Great War setting. We get an insight into the Amazon’s way of life, and the values instilled upon Diana during her upbringing. From here the film’s overall plot is a bit less impressive, as we follow our main band of characters on a fairly predictable journey and deal with some under developed villains that simply don’t measure up to what this incarnation of Wonder Woman deserves to confront on screen.
With so much focus on Diana and her personal journey, there’s little room left for anyone else, let alone a memorable villain, and unfortunately it’s unable to avoid what’s become a too common superhero climatic battle cliché, though thankfully it has been toned back a bit from the Man of Steel level of destruction, while still feeling a bit overdone and unnecessary in the context of the rest of the film.
Despite its shortcomings in a story sense however, there is so much fun to be had with this film along the way. While the editing can be a little clunky at times, its action style strives to stand out from other superhero films. The fighting is packed with flourishes and aerial choreography, and despite becoming a little tired by the end of the film, it’s always constructed in an interesting way. There seems to be an overreliance on visual effects to deliver these scenes, and a stronger leaning towards more practical and stunt effects would have been welcome when it reaches CG saturation levels.
Gal Gadot is an excellent casting choice for Diana, her physicality obviously suits the character but she also can boast a strong performance to round out Diana soundly, she spends a lot of time on minor character details that really helps flesh out the character. Gadot also works well with Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor, and while Pine doesn’t really do anything new here his always natural charisma on screen shines through once again and is a joy to watch. The cast of characters are all handled well enough, and they are given enough detail for the cast to work with and leave an impression on the film in a minor support role.
Finally this review wouldn’t be complete without referent to the Wonder Woman score, it revisits what’s come before in Dawn of Justice, with that memorable guitar track that invigorates every action sequence it’s used in.
So overall Wonder Woman is an overdue injection of life into the superhero film genre, and also a turn for the better in the DC cinematic universe line-up of films. It’s definitely not without its flaws, but it’s a refreshing take on superheroes, while being a great exploration of the character of Diana as well.
I’m giving it 8 out of 10, Wonder Woman is in cinemas around Australia from 1st June 2017.