Movie Review: Wonder Woman

Certificate 12A, 141 minutes

Director: Patty Jenkins

Stars: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright

Wonder Woman, the latest entry in the DC Extended Universe, opens with a narration and then shows Paris in the present. Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), aka Wonder Woman, is entering the Louvre where it appears she works. A Wayne Enterprises armoured car pulls up outside and a briefcase bearing the Wayne logo is delivered to Diana. Inside is a note from Bruce Wayne and the original of the photograph that Lex Luthor had obtained in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a photograph that shows Diana and a rather mismatched group of soldiers during World War I.

Wonder WomanIt then goes back in time an unspecified period, to the idyllic island of Themyscira, presumably in the Mediterranean. A young Diana (Lilly Aspell) is watching the warriors of the island train – all Amazons, all women and all adults; there are no men on the island and Diana is the only child – something she wishes to do herself. The fighting method is highly athletic. General Antiope (Robin Wright), the leader of the warriors wants to train Diana, but Diana’s mother, and Antiope’s sister, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), doesn’t wish her to be trained in the arts of war, believing that it will never be necessary.

According to Hippolyta, she created Diana by moulding a statue from clay, which the god Zeus breathed life into. The Amazons themselves were created to help mankind; Zeus had created them full of goodness, but his son, Ares, the God of war, instilled violence in them. Ares killed the rest of the gods but was gravely wounded by Zeus. Zeus himself died, but first shrouded the island of Themyscira from sight, leaving the Amazons as the only ones who would be able to stop Ares.

Diana is eventually trained, as her mother eventually gives in, and proves highly competent. There’s also a hint that she may not be quite what she seems, not that Diana knows this. Her mother and aunt would appear to know something that they are not sharing.

Then a plane, a German monoplane, comes through the barrier surrounding the island and crashes into the sea. Diana rescues the pilot, who is dressed in a German uniform, but outside are more German ships that appear to be pursuing him. They, too, come through the barrier and attack the Amazons. Although the latter defeat the former – despite using bows and swords against modern guns – they do take casualties as a result of the attack. The German pilot is not actually German; he is made to tell the truth and reveals that he is an American pilot with the American Expeditionary Force but seconded to British Intelligence (which is a bit odd in a way; why not have a British officer? Although the character is in the comic books). As well as this, Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) is also a spy. He recovered information from a German facility in the Ottoman Empire where new toxins were being developed.

The war that is going on in the outside world is World War I, although back then it is referred to as The Great War, the War to End All Wars (unfortunately not true). It would appear to be in the closing stages, with the Imperial German forces negotiating an armistice, but according to Trevor, General Ludendorff (Danny Huston), is still trying to win it. He is assisted by Doctor Maru (Elena Anaya), aka Doctor Poison, a brilliant chemist (although, given that she has a mask covering part of her face, presumably to hide a scar, probably not a perfect one) who is developing a new poison gas that will render gas masks useless. Ludendorff wishes to deploy this in order to secure a victory for Germany, but he is running out of time before the war ends.

Diana says that it must be Ares who is doing this, and it is the duty of the Amazons to stop him and end the war. Hippolyta disagrees, so Diana decides to go anyway, taking a sword, shield, lasso and armour with her, as well as Captain Trevor, making him promise to take her to the war so that she can find and defeat Ares and therefore stop the war. Although first they go to London and meet Trevor’s secretary, Etta (Lucy Davis), who takes a liking to Diana. Trevor assembles a group of several less than reputable people to go and find Ludendorff’s new facility; Charlie (Ewen Bremner), a Scottish sharpshooter, Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui), a would-be actor who sounds like he’s Algerian and the Chief (Eugene Brave Rock), a smuggler who trades with both sides. It is when they finally get to the front that the action really kicks in – apart from when the Germans attacked the Amazons – as Diana decides to do something about a stalemated battle and intervenes.

The film is available in 2D and 3D, with the 3D version being the one watched. The 3D is variable; it works best in the bullet time fight scenes, of which there are quite a few, as Diana takes out everything from German soldiers to an armoured car, but at other times it’s easy to miss, as is common in live action 3D.

So, has the DC Extended Universe finally got a decent film to compete with Marvel’s Cinematic Universe? To date, they have been struggling, but this is the closest contender yet. The biggest problem the film has is the back-story – this takes up a substantial portion of the film, greatly slowing the pace before the real action starts. The best part of the film by far is Gal Gadot’s portrayal of Diana; she’s still quite young, very skilled and yet still quite naive, never having been off the island. Trevor was the first man she had ever seen for one thing, and she gets easily distracted by such as babies (also unknown on Themyscira). London is a bit of a culture shock, and she loses some of her naivety in the mud and blood of Flanders field. Gadot does a great job of portraying this young, still idealistic woman as she enters into the world for the first time; a rather different personality from the more mature one seen in Batman v Superman. That was a hundred years later after all, and she’s lost much of her naivety by then.

Wonder Woman is perhaps not quite as dark as other entries in the Extended Universe, containing elements of humour. Partly these are down to Etta (it’s a shame more isn’t seen of her), partly down to Diana’s experience with everything new – her Wonder Woman armour is not exactly proper for early 20th century London – which she doesn’t really know how to handle. There’s one part, where Diana is getting a new outfit to help her blend in a little better, where Trevor gives her a pair of glasses. Which draws a sarcastic comment from Etta. This may well be poking fun in a way at the old Wonder Woman television series, where Lynda Carter would manage to successfully disguise herself by tying her hair up and wearing a pair of glasses. Wonder Woman is still not perfect – perhaps by the time the Justice League film comes out DC will stop doing back stories and concentrate more on doing stories – but it is by far the best to date, and Gal Gadot is great as the slightly naive, yet extremely powerful and highly idealistic, Diana.

 

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