We have to be honest now; the DC Cinematic journey has not been a smooth one. The heavy criticism of ‘Batman V Superman’ and absolutely woeful ‘Suicide Squad’ mess of a film, divided fans and critics alike. But the road to Justice League has begun and the first stop also happens to be the fist big screen female superhero focused film since 1984’s Supergirl. The mysterious woman who out smarted Bruce Wayne before rivalling the power of Superman to help take down the monstrous Doomsday in Batman V Superman, it was finally time for Diana Princess of Themiscyra, daughter of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, to stand up and tell us her story.
The above picture was a powerful moment in Batman V Superman as it revealed that Lex Luthor had discovered Wonder Woman as part of this Meta-Human search which Bruce Wayne uncovered when he hacked Luthor’s personal files. It also becomes the main reason why we finally get to learn the story of Wonder Woman, as the film opens with a briefcase being taken to the Louvre in Paris escorted by Wayne Industry heavy security and hand delivered to Diana who opens the case to discover the original photograph and a message from Bruce Wayne saying that he found the original and that one day he hoped Diana would tell him her story. Looking into the photo, Dina begins to reminisce about her life growing up on the island of Themiscyra.
First off I have to say I truly enjoyed this film, far more than I had expected too in fact. For me as a DC Comic Book fan, it ticked so many of the right boxes that a solo character film needed to, especially for the iconic Wonder Woman. It was clear right from the start that so much has been learned from previous mistakes and instead of trying to immediately wow the audience, Wonder Woman takes a slower and more managed pace to tell the story of perhaps the most famous female superhero ever. It begins by both showing the audience the early years of the character but also an introduction into the DC cinematic universe the importance of the Amazons.
To see Diana as a child, headstrong and feisty being inspired by the incredible sight of the Amazon warriors training around her is impactful on the big screen. The island of Themiscyra is recreated so beautifully, taking everything that fans have imagined in their heads over the years and placed it on the screen wonderfully. To see the Amazons training as warriors showcasing multiple fighting techniques from sword and shield, horse back riding and archery transports you to their world where they speak of the Gods and how their fall gave the Amazons their purpose to protect the world of Man from the returned of Ares, God of War. As Diana learns about her heritage so does the audience, with the added mystery of her origin threaded very nicely as we watch Diana grow up to become a fierce fighter but also a wise and compassionate woman driven to follow her duty and mission of the Amazons.
This of course all comes to a head when quite literally, the world of man crashes down on Themiscyra and the tone of the film changes accordingly. Steve Trevor, American solider and assigned to British Intelligence, crashes his plane in the waters of the island and a dramatic cliff dive sees Diana rushing to his rescue. This is where most of the humour in the film stems from, Diana’s first encounter with a man and also ultimately the world of man. Now I did find some of the sexual innuendo and gender stereotype jokes a little on the nose at times, but overall it is handled gently with some real laugh out loud moments, especially once Diana leaves the island with Steve Trevor and finds a world rather different from the stories read to her growing up. The humour is definitely aimed for the grown ups in the audience, again showing the contrast between how MARVEL films use humour and how the DC films have chosen to bring comedy into their narratives. Steve’s reaction to the Amazons is as expected but Chris Pine is actually very fun in the role, although it is hard to see him as anything but James T Kirk in the role as they are very similar just with no Spock to aid him.
The move to the world of man for Diana is a harsh reality shifting experience, one that will shape her into the woman and hero we see in Batman V Superman. Now some criticisms did come leading into release that it was straying too close to MARVEL’s Captain America: First Avenger but for me, the setting of 1918 and First World War was perfect for Dian’s first introduction to the modern world. The action is centred on the final days of the war, leading to the Armistace with one German Commander refusing to surrender and is hurrying the work of a German scientist, known as Doctor Posion to the allied forces, to complete a new form of Mustard Gas to drop on the front line and decimate allied soldiers in order to turn the tide of the war back in the favour of the Germans. Diana is confronted with the reality of man’s war, where man is cruel and fighting is brutal. Diana’s almost clean cut view of War is questioned as she can see the devastating results of this war, one that has raged over four years with millions of casualties. Her belief that Ares himself has caused this war, and her simple view that by confronting and defeating him will somehow end the war and return sanity to man creates an internal conflict that is shown all through her time and something that shows the strength in the performance of Gal Gadot.
Gal Gadot is captivating as Diana Prince. From excellent comedic timing and delivery to handling the sensitive themes raised of the reality of war and sexist attitudes to women back in 1918 but very much still a part of today’s society. Gadot’s Wonder Woman is confident and strong and compassionate to the suffering of hours and prepared to fight to protect the weak and those in need. The story highlights so much of the good and the bad in the world that helps forge the hero Wonder Woman is destined to be who can stand alongside Superman and Batman and other DC Heroes to protect this world. The cast all play their parts and this film has many characters who all help to teach Diana life lessons both harsh and beautiful. I enjoyed how the pacing of the film kept the audience waiting for the big action sequence and I honest had goosebumps the moment Diana threw off her coat and we see her for the first time in the full Wonder Woman costume heading into battle. But Wonder Woman is more than just a powerful warrior with shield and sword. Diana Prince, standing up to sexist attitudes and showing that compassion and love are stronger emotions than anger and hate makes her a true hero for all, both male and females, that can take inspiration from.
Wonder Woman has shown that DC can make a good film and I am really pleased that they got so much right with this character. They needed a good tick in the win column and this film delivers on that. A superb cast lead by Gal Gadot who has more than taken ownership of this iconic character, she made a Wonder Woman for the modern cinematic audience that is so multilayered that the hero became far more on screen than just the moments when the full costume is worn and fighting the bad guys. The comedy, whilst a little questionable at times, is well placed in the story with the themes covered pass on a message of hope and strength is standing up to what is right and questioning the views of those who may try to hold you back. I particularly liked that this film focuses on telling Wonder Woman’s story, with no lame attempts to shoe horn in other DC heroes or feel like a cheap set up for Justice League. This is how DC need to do their solo films going forward, for which I hope now sets the formula to do so thanks to Wonder Woman.
To see mums with their young daughters sitting down to watch this first showing of the film at my local Cineworld was as great to see as it was to see them leaving smiling, with just a couple pretending to swing a sword. Gal Gadot has silenced the critics who said that she was not ‘Amazon’ enough to play the role of Diana Prince.
Instead Gadot retold the story of what an Amazon should be, and in doing so, became Wonder Woman.