It’s hard not to smile when Gal Gadot and Chris Pine share screen space in Wonder Woman. You quickly know that this is a rarity. There is a dream-like quality to their relationship. You sense a sweet mix of awkwardness and attraction between them. From their first meeting on the shores of Thymyscira, you know there is a rare spark between two actors and you forget you are watching a superhero movie. The moment they set eyes on each other, the film acquires a different tone.
Wonder Woman was always going to be the story of Diana Prince (played by wonderful Gal Gadot) who will one day realise her destiny. Growing up in the land of Amazonian women, Diana is trained for the looming war. She is warm, affectionate and sincere. In a way, she is idealistic and sees the world in black and white. Steve Trever ( played by Chris Pine), a spy pilot was always going to be her sidekick, a sort of instrument to help her achieve her destiny. Thank the writers for making Steve a fully fleshed out character.
In Wonder Woman, Diana and Steve feel more like companions and travellers rather than two warriors, fighting side by side on a mission. If Steve will need Diana’s superpowers to save the world from deadly chemical weapons, Diana will also heavily lean on Steve to shift her understanding of a more practical world. Steve is an archetype of a man who is humble, affable, warm and chivalrous, who is ready to take a step behind and create a space for Wonder Woman. He is not insecure and jealous of strong women. In that sense, the film goes a long way to highlight a different, more bright, charming side of masculinity. It’s not as if Hollywood has not portrayed men in that light, but here it feels fresh and almost new. What would Wonder Woman be without Steve’s ultimate sacrifice? Chris has played the character of Steve with so much subtlety that eventually you end up vouching for him.
The movie sets out as Diana dives into the sea to save the life of Steve who crash-lands on the shores of Amazonian island. As they exchange the first few words, you know they will be fun to watch together. Since Diana is idealistic and has a sense of purpose, we always see Steve reacting to her views about the world.
Chris moulds his face into a curious, blank, funny, warm, patient and sometimes a goofy one as he responds to Gal’s idealistic worldviews before they sail out to the world engulfed in war. When Gal catches Chris naked as he comes out of the bathtub, the scene is almost comic with a subtle hint of attraction that lingers there. When Gal says, “I am the man who is going to kill Ares- the war god to save this world,” Chris listens patiently, rolling his eyes and knowing he can’t do much. But you don’t see him scoff at Gal’s big plans to save the world.
During their boat ride to London, Chris and Gal flirt and talk indirectly about their attraction. In Gal’s world babies are carved out of clay. Her knowledge about sex and marriage is purely academic. Chris is more worldly, practical and cynical here. You can’t help adoring him when he says, “The world where I come from, I am not average,” trying to establish his esteem. The scene is both humorous and romantic.
As they arrive in London, we see Gal struggling with gender roles. Gal is not used to taking orders from men, what she should do or what she shouldn’t. Here also we see Chris’s deadpan humour providing a fine balance to Gal’s superpowers. In some scenes, when Chris has little to do, he sees Gal in wonder, infatuated by her beauty.
However, Chris is as much a hero of his own world as Gal. Chris is an above average spy (in his own words) who must do things in order to save the day ( if not the world). Chris perfectly embodies an ordinary human who is cynical, practical and goofy but rises to the occasion when demanded.
The romance between Chris and Gal harks back to the old school of Hollywood. There is a world of Casablanca, Roman Holiday and even a Pretty Woman you could easily stumble on in Wonder Woman. Chris falls in love with Gal and by doing so he shows her a different side of humanity that will eventually guide her to her destiny.
There is a scene where Gal and Chris are dancing in snowfall and Gal asks Chris, “What do people do when there is no war.” Chris’s remark is simple yet profound. “Well, they have breakfast and make babies,” he says as they sway back and forth in the snowfall. When was the last time we saw two actors making simple and mundane things looked so delightful and romantic?
Which brings me to the word ‘chemistry’ in a Hollywood movie. Watching Wonder Woman reminds you that it has been a long time since you saw two actors bringing alive the word ‘chemistry’ on screen. Even the kiss between Gal and Chris is not hurried and when it happens you know it has been earned. Their romance makes Wonder Woman a buoyant force, gliding you in and out of its innumerable moments packed with a rare sense of humour and romance.
Gal Gadot is gorgeous and lovable. She exudes a charm and innocence that’s sadly become so rare in superstars today. The chemistry between Gal and Chris is fresh and palpable. Some of the great scenes in Wonder Woman belong to these two brilliant actors. But the romance is never the highlight of Wonder Woman. It acts as a shy child who wants to remain in the background but you can’t miss his mischievous smile. You want to see more of it. The moment you realise it’s romance, not superpower antics that makes you sit up straight in your seat, it’s too late. We are already deep into the world of Diana and Steve and you don’t want their romance to end. But sadly, the movie realises it’s about a superhero and that light, breezy romance ends too soon.