After 76 years as a symbol of beauty and badassery for DC Comics, Wonder Woman stars in her first ever full feature film. What took so long? Hollywood, scared off by the box-office failures of female-driven comic-book movies such as Catwoman and Elektra, has essentially stuck to male-centric superheroes. It has taken decades for one of the few memorable female superheroes to land a lead role in a movie but following a debut in last year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, we now meet Wonder Woman when she was Diana, a little girl living on an isolated island shielded from the outside world.
The story begins with the mythical Themyscira as its backdrop; home to the Amazon tribe of women warriors. Protected by her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and tutored by her aunt General Antiope (Robin Wright), Diana learns the art of war and acquires the skills to use weaponry. What she does not learn is her real purpose on the planet. Things change suddenly and dramatically when Diana rescues US soldier and spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) as his plane crashes through their shield. Through him she learns about the war-ravaged outside world of 1918 and decides she needs to put an end to the conflict. All through her life, Diana has been taught that the only reason why evil exists is Ares, the God of War. So when she learns about the existence of extreme violence and innocent lives being lost, she sets out on her journey to stop Ares at all costs and accepts it as her life’s purpose. Her motivation is naïve but her journey is complex. She faces an unknown world, with strange customs, cumbersome clothes and men driven to kill innocent people. This is not a world where women are permitted to speak in boardrooms and certainly do not show up on the battlefront.
There is bound to be a strong debate about Wonder Woman’s feminist credentials and how she compares to all the male superheroes who’ve dominated the global box office in recent years. Typically, the film turns out to be both progressive in its gender politics and an exercise in compromise and pulled punches. For all her martial skills, Diana is portrayed as a sensitive and engagingly naive figure. She has made it her life’s mission to banish Ares, God of War, and to “save the world, this beautiful place”. As portrayed by Gadot, she has powers of empathy and kindness that her male counterparts in superhero movies completely lack.
If any actress could replace the image of Lynda Carter as the ultimate Wonder Woman, it would be Gal Gadot. Chris Pine’s wisecracking Captain Steve Trevor, the male lead, deferring to Diana is refreshing and provides for a more human touch to the superhero portrayal of Wonder Woman. General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) is a bullish and intimidating figure who sniffs a mysterious gas which gives him superhuman powers determined to scupper the peace talks. His partner is Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya), a very delicate, very lethal woman with a disfigured face who has a genius for chemical warfare. Another intriguing character is David Thewlis’s patrician British politician, Sir Patrick Morgan, a member of the establishment who has hidden depths. With an enganging supporting cast, it’s evident that director Patty Jenkins has allowed more time for character development than is generally given to Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent.
As for the film sequences, the movie is a hardcore action-packed fantasy film with a badass theme song which alerts you when someone is going to get severely beat up.
The direction is splendid and the visual tones of the movie accentuate the authentic feel of the original Wonder Woman. With a slow-paced yet intriguing storyline, Wonder Woman feels far fresher than most recent superhero movies. It leaves many questions about its heroine unanswered – but hopefully there are plenty of sequels to deal with those. Suffice it to say, Wonder Woman is all about its Wonder Women – Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot.