A sheltered warrior princess leaves her idyllic paradise behind to fight when a handsome spy informs her of the horrors of World War 1.
Born and raised on the lush, secretive island of Themiscyra, Diana (Gal Gadot) grows up with a thirst for adventure. Raised by Queen Hippolyta, the princess learns early on that she is not like the other Amazons: she is stronger, and Hippolyta says this is because she was made from clay and brought to life by Zeus. She tells Diana that the Gods were wiped out by Ares, who whispers to the pure hearts of men and corrupts them into war. Her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) trains her to be a brilliant fighter, until one day, war comes to Hippolyta. American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes into the ocean near Themiscyra and is followed by a German troop, whose guns take out a number of the sword-and-bow wielding Amazons. Trevor informs the Amazons of the war being waged on Earth – “the war to end all wars” – and Diana becomes determined to kill Ares, save humanity, and end the war for good.
There’s an awful lot of pressure on this Wonder Woman movie to succeed. Directed by Patty Jenkins, it’s the first of the current run of “official” Marvel and DC movies which a) stars a female superhero, and b) is directed by a woman. The unfortunate history of female superheroes on screen – from Halle Berry’s disastrous Catwoman to Jennifer Garner’s middling Elektra – and Marvel’s painful reluctance to make a female-led film (the first will be 2019’s Captain Marvel, the 21st film in the MCU) combine to put a great deal of pressure on this DC outing. Fortunately, Wonder Woman hits all the notes it needs to. It’s an enjoyable romp, without the sloppy execution of Suicide Squad or Man of Steel’s painful proselytising. The previously untested Gal Gadot makes Diana simultaneously tough and vulnerable, her naivete about the world outside Themyscira playing nicely against her strength and her desire to fight. She also plays nicely opposite Chris Pine, whose arrogant, morally complicated, yet sweet Steve Trevor is a perfect foil for Diana’s upright zeal. Much of the credit for the success of this movie has to go to Patty Jenkins, who takes a mediocre script and wrings terrific performances out of her actors. There is one scene, the No Man’s Land scene, that is soaringly inspirational and beautifully wrought.
Unfortunately, there are a few things that keep Wonder Woman from being a true classic of the genre. The decision to stick with Snyder’s vision for the DCEU keeps Wonder Woman from having its own aesthetic. The trope-filled writing tends to frustrate, and there are few quotable moments that hit home. The score, which is shaped around that searing guitar riff Wonder Woman theme from Batman vs. Superman, doesn’t ever quite suit the World War 1 setting. Most notable, the finale features an odd twist and a rather disappointingly stereotypical battle against the baddie. The movie seems to have adopted Marvel’s villain problem – the villains aren’t fully fleshed out here. Diana’s little team of misfits aren’t fully realised either, more of a collection of stereotypes than real characters – Ewen Bremner’s traumatised Scotsman proving the exception. The Captain America-esque third act is probably the weakest section of the film. However, the early scenes of Diana’s youth on Themyscira are rousing and fun, particularly her tutelage under Robin Wright’s brilliant Antiope. Ultimately the film is a lot of fun, a solidly made superhero origin story that may not bring something new to the genre, but will inspire generations of girls. However unfair the pressure on Wonder Woman may be, it meets and exceeds the expectations on it despite its DCEU origins.
Wonder Woman on IMDb