I’m With Her
Warner Bros. sets the stage for the first solo outing of the leading woman of DC’s Trinity: Wonder Woman. The film’s depiction of this strong, empowering heroine perfectly embodies what has enabled this iconic character to endure for so many generations. Gal Gadot’s performance significantly improves over the Batman v Superman debacle, and she is joined by a perfectly cast Chris Pine (Steve Trevor). While the film does suffer from the normally stereotypical aspects of an origin story, I personally became committed to the Amazon’s tale and unique worldview. It is refreshing to witness a film centering on the power of love within the confines of war and violence.
In the early 20th century, the Amazon princess Diana, who is living on the island of Themyscira, meets US military pilot Steve Trevor when he washes ashore. After learning from him about the ongoing events of World War I, she leaves her home for London to bring an early end to the war and stop the God of War Ares from corrupting the world of man.
The first act of this film takes place solely on Themyscira. Diana’s origin tale is a breath of fresh air in a crowded landscape. Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and General Antiope (Robin Wright) provide two conflicting viewpoints for how to raise the young Diana. These differing ideological beliefs greatly inform Wonder Woman’s upbringing and hope for optimism throughout the film. The early proceedings culminate in a tense battle between the Amazons and German soldiers of WWI. Undoubtedly, Director Patty Jenkins takes audiences through multiple emotions in this beachfront clash. The utter disadvantage for the Amazons in not having guns is quickly shown to have mortally dire consequences. Jenkins demonstrates this impact through Diana’s own point of view. Yet Jenkins and the screenwriters creatively conceive of unique tactics to aid the outmatched Amazons. Still, some of the more tense scenes in Themyscira are a little overdramatic, feeling out of place in the film (a regular critique of the DC universe movies). While more time could’ve been devoted to Themyscira and some of its introductory characters, I enjoyed this backstory more than Man of Steel’s war-torn Krypton.
Overall, the biggest strength of Wonder Woman is its presentation of realistic and shockingly relatable characters. While Wonder Woman is obviously a super-heroine, her desire for peace in a war-torn world is relevant now more than ever. She holds herself with dignity and respect, not fearing any foreign social demand. Diana is as fierce in the overly political war rooms, as she is on the dirtily depicted battlefields. Gadot shines in fierce combat sequences and speeches but falls prey to some of the more dramatic elements of her character. Thankfully, Gadot excels at a “fish out of water” demeanor perfectly in tune with Pine’s comedic responses. For me, Pine was a real surprise in the film. His character’s arc and evolution is a great counterpart to Diana’s role as a moral compass for society. By the end, Diana will fully understand the Amazonian teachings through her encounters with the British spy.
However, there is one element of the story that I am substantially certain that people will complain about in the film. This involves the relationship between Steve and Diana. Without divulging into spoilers, Steve’s prominence in certain scenes of the film will certainly earn its fair share of detraction. Yet critiquing their interaction misses some of the weighty symbolism given to their encounters. An argument between our protagonists showcases the hefty morals at stake between Wonder Woman and her quest in the “world of man.” This conversation is truly the crux of the entire film and directly informs our characters’ motivations. The film builds on this interplay through a unique filming choice that greatly empowers an otherwise meaningless action finale.
Speaking of action, Wonder Woman’s powerhouse scenes are truly breathtaking. While not reaching the visual mastery of Batman’s warehouse of horrors scene in BvS, Diana’s behind-the-back perspective siege of a German-occupied village is a close runner-up. Gadot thoroughly showcases the beautiful brilliance of the Amazonian Princess. Director Jenkins definitely demonstrates her own fun, visual flair to these action scenes, while matching the striking visual intensity of DC universe director mainstay Zack Snyder. Although the final action scene does feel a bit too reminiscent of the Doomsday finale in BvS, which featured all three of the Trinity working in concert as opposed to Wonder Woman alone.
On a side note, it’s refreshing to not see any blatant product placement in this tent pole franchise film. One of the great side effects of putting a comic book character in a period piece. We all remember Wonder Woman’s love of Turkish Airlines in BvS:
Ultimately, this movie brings the DC Universe back to a respectable level of filmmaking. Judging by the quality of Wonder Woman, it is reasonably foreseeable that Justice League can continue the momentum to a stellar film worthy of the DC legends (cue the Wonder Woman theme).