DC Comics Superhero and 70s TV iconic character Wonder Woman bursts forth in the first ever live action feature film based on Diana, Amazon Princess of Themyscira. But…is it any good? Resoundingly yes, from it’s solid and well plotted action sequences to the ferocity of Gal Gadot‘s fight scenes, director Patty Jenkins has imbued her interpretation of Wonder Woman with a well cultivated perspective, social conscience, sense of self and purpose. Which is refreshing and encouraging, especially when this particular character’s name carries such a raft of connotations in application in everyday language; the roles of women and indeed the pressure women place on themselves to live up to a ‘Wonder Woman‘ archetype and also within the pop culture focused societal sensibility.
Gal Gadot’s Diana herself is very likable and admirable. Diana is fun and playful but she’s also bold and tough. Diana believes in her ethics and holds a really great, strong character regardless of the gender package it’s presented in, bottom line – this is a good human. The rights of other people are important to Diana, as is social justice and coming from Themyscira where social justice isn’t as much of an issue because everyone lives in peace; it gives Diana a unique opportunity to observe for the first time men as a gender and also the actions of mankind, without bias.
Wonder Woman could be a little slow in pacing for some people’s tastes however I very much enjoyed it; and it’s worth bearing in mind that this interpretation of Wonder Woman is an origin story which does extra work establishing all of Diana’s motivations, values and belief system as well as detailing how and where she has acquired all of her Wonder Womanly accouterments. I enjoyed the set up of Diana’s lush island home Themyscira; showing their way of governing, the way that they live and the peace that they live in so that it can have the juxtaposition and the dichotomy of Diana coming to our world; as Diana says in the trailer of seeing London for the first time – “It’s hideous.” and that needs to be there so it can have the right contrast. Jenkins and Gadot have taken special care to determine Diana’s belief system carefully so that when Diana is moving through ‘our world‘ her naivety can been seen as the effects of being a stranger in a strange land with the wide eyed astonishment of an intrepid explorer, rather than the scatterbrained cluelessness of a friendly savage ingenue, as the latter would have been a pretty depressing outcome.
The moments of levity in this film are really great, the whole cinema I viewed it with were chuckling and laughing warmly at the social moments that are threaded throughout the film, the best of them coming from the believably awkward interactions between Diana and Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) as they navigate their mutual but not overplayed-for-love-interest-sake attractions. Although there is instant interest and physical attraction between Diana and Steve, neither is the one in the position of power and the relationship builds organically. Ultimately, Steve’s character is so moved by his interactions with Diana and her benign majesty that; being the first man she’s ever had actual dealings with, Steve is motivated continually to be a demonstration of the very best of honour and an example of the goodness of humans; and that protecting humanity is indeed worth fighting or sacrificing for. I thought Wonder Woman getting as many comfortable laughs as it did was well played, as the comedic moments didn’t overturn the action levels or push it into ‘The Notebook with punching‘ territory. Especially as some people out there might have been bah-humbugging that a blockbuster take on a female superhero and her motivations, would be chick flick heavy and stunt action lite. Wonder Woman is an enjoyable blockbuster where the action is exciting, readable and validly uses dynamic poses to show how and why Diana’s armour works the way that it does.
Shout outs to Robin Wright: I enjoyed Wright’s performance and perhaps this is her final burying of Buttercup (The Princess Bride) and Jenny (Forrest Gump) as Wright blazes as the warrior general of Themyscira – Antiope (Yes I’m aware she’s a badass in House of Cards but I’ve not binged that show yet so…yeah). Ewan Bremner was a scene chewer in Wonder Woman but that’s why I love him and as a Trainspotting fan I’m probably always going to be excited to see Spud do other things (heh-heh). On another sidenote: it was really cool to have seen Hans Zimmer perform the Wonder Woman theme live in May and then see it in the film weeks later, making it really meaningful for me in the cinematic context.
It was liberating to see a good spread of women represented in Wonder Woman generally too, there were plenty of females characterised in the villages and streets of both Themyscira (obviously!) with Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and Wright’s Antiope having well defined personalities and motivations; and in our world with Etta (Lucy Davis) and Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya) too. Each of these characters are fleshed out, have smart dialogue and authentic moments; especially Dr. Maru who I was particularly excited by as her deranged and driven mad war doctor has real creep factor, and her character design? So cool! Themes of body positivity are briefly glanced over in an interaction between Etta and Diana; there’s a dash of commentary on screen equality during interactions with Diana and Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui) or The Chief (Eugene Brave Rock), a look at street harassment is included here and there as Steve and Diana work through their collaboration and thankfully there’s no heavy weighting on objectifying or fetishizing Diana through lingering shots or cheap cheesy jokes.
Wonder Woman works to lift not just women, but everyone up. There’s valuable interactions between Diana and other characters to define ideas and rethinking on minority, gender, class system and war conflict. Wonder Woman although set in WW1 is contextually looking towards a future where anyone can be a hero, just so long as you put your best foot and efforts forward and collaborate with others, be respectable of others and their space in physicality and in conversation or opinion.
What’s driving you to want to see Wonder Woman? Seeing the first live action interpretation of Wonder Woman on the big screen, witnessing Gal Gadot kick serious butt? Tell me what you’re excited about and when you’re seeing Wonder Woman, in the comments below.