Wonder Woman (2017)
The boom in Marvel and DC Comics films in the last two decades or so is enough to make one’s head explode. Many of them have been good, others disappointing, but it’s hard to resist going back for more. Which is the best one? Too hard to say. I’ve lost count of how many of these so-called superhero films I have seen but I was intrigued to watch Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman. I’m so used to seeing men saving the day in films but Wonder Woman promised to flip the dynamic somewhat.
The film opens in Paris with Diana (Gal Gadot) receiving a photograph from Wayne Enterprises depicting her and a group of soldiers from World War One. Interesting. The image takes Diana back to her past and we bear witness to her story. Growing up on Themyscira, an island secluded from the rest of the world, Diana is the daughter of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, and this warrior tribe live in relative peace, their home a gift from Zeus who perished along with the other gods when Ares, God of War, sought to bring devastation to the world. It’s 1918 when a US pilot and spy, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), crashes close to Themyscira, having gathered intel on a deadly weapon the Germans plan to use. Pursued by German soldiers, Steve tells of a world at war and the Amazons are convinced Ares is behind it. As the best of the Amazon warriors, Diana decides to join Steve and help him with his own mission but, more importantly, to find and kill Ares herself.
As with a lot of these films under the Marvel or DC Comics banner, Wonder Woman is a long film clocking in at nearly 2½ hours. It’s an intimidating run time and Jenkins crams a lot into the story here with mixed results. Gal Gadot won critical praise as Diana and she is convincing in the lead, giving us a character that is strong, independent, but not without her own flaws and weaknesses. There is a lot of depth and beneath Gadot’s well-judged performance is a compelling character. Diana is battle-hardened but has a child-like innocence about her when it comes to what the world truly is. Chris Pine provides great support as Steve, stuck on the unwanted pendulum of opening Diana’s eyes to the reality of war or shielding her from its horrors. The setting in World War One is an excellent addition to the narrative, taking Diana from a sumptuous and idyllic home on Themyscira to the mud, barbed wire and machine guns of the trenches. An amazing contrast and it gives the narrative the chance to explore the brutality of war in great detail. The downsides to Wonder Woman are the run-time and that it can be plodding in some places. The antagonists in the film are also a bit of a let down, which is a shame after the strong build up. There are so many good elements but as a whole it doesn’t come together as well as it could have.
Verdict: Two good central performances from Gadot and Pine make Wonder Woman worth your time but a few weaknesses prevent this being magnificent.