Wonder Woman movie director: Patty Jenkins
Wonder Woman movie cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston
Wonder Woman movie rating: 3.5
She may have been lost in the mess that was Batman vs Superman, but there is little chance of that happening again. Gal Gadot bursts onto DC Comics’s superhero scene with Wonder Woman, an old-fashioned good vs an evil film that has a scale, that has ambition, that has the required full-blown finale, but, above all, that has a heart.
After brooding, depressed heroes who dragged a cold, dark world down with them, we have one who still believes the world can be a better — and warmer — place, and looks gorgeous in the process. The fact that this is DC Comic’s first woman superhero isn’t to be taken lightly, nor the fact that the film has at its helm a woman director who makes Gadot look empowering in the metallic bikini she sports.
In another subtle, but telling touch, putting her apart from her testosterone-fuelled male counterparts, Wonder Woman (never called that in this origin film) a.k.a Diana Prince doesn’t work alone, or even aspire to do so. She has genuine partners she respects, led by an equally warm, good-looking and traditional hero-like Chris Pine.
We first meet Diana in the present age, working at Louvre. The fact that she is one of the Marvels is quickly, and briefly, dealt with by a briefcase she receives from Bruce Wayne with a photograph of her in her Wonder Woman costume from around World War I.
Diana thinks back to her childhood, on an island inhabited by the Amazons, and kept hidden from the outside world by Zeus. The Amazons are believed to be the only ones who can save the world from Zeus’s son Ares, the God of War. Diana’s mother (played by Nielsen) wants her to know as little of this corrupted human world through as possible and is opposed in this by her sister (Robin Wright).
Once Pine’s Steve has found his way to the island though while escaping German troops in WWI — he is an American spy, working with the British — you know it is only a matter of time before Diana discovers this world, and the war.
Jenkins makes a light touch of the introduction to Diana, even pulling off the training-in-warfare part where a lot of many women jump around doing acrobatics in leather and holding swords, which is impressive despite all the laws of physics it thwarts. She has an even lighter touch handling the awkward moments between Diana and Steve, who is the first man she has ever seen, including in the nude. There is a beautiful scene under the moon, in a boat, as they sail out to England and mayhem, where Diana tells Steve how she has read all of bodily pleasures and concluded that men are okay for procreation, not so much for pleasure. Steve, asked by Diana if he is “like the average man”, tries half-embarrassed to explain that, well, he is considered “above average” at home, particularly as being a spy, he must have a certain “vigour”. Much, much later, when they kiss, serenaded by snowflakes, it is authentic and natural, not a contrived plot device.
Israeli actress Gadot is assured and confident in her first big role, as good with the comic aspects of Diana discovering a new life, including corsets, as with her heartbreak at discovering the horrors of man’s cruelty. It helps that the setting is a war that actually happened, rather than a battle with aliens that may never come to pass. Pine plays a heartwarming second fiddle, letting Gadot take the lead and letting his awe show.
The film only drags when it must get into its second half, of big fights and big climax, and some rather juvenile talk of the true nature of mankind. The big reveal is a little disappointing, and more than rushed.
Which also means that since this is the territory Wonder Woman is likely to inhabit in subsequent films, Jenkins’s is going to be a hard act to follow.