Since a brief yet scene-stealing cameo in last year’s disappointing DC effort, the anticipation around the Wonder Woman stand-alone outing has been rife. This is the first female-led comic-book movie in over a decade, and filmmaker Patty Jenkins is in the hot seat, directing her first feature since 2003. Focussing on the backstory of Amazonian princess Diana (Gal Gadot), we see her upbringing on the island of Themyscira where her aunt General Antiope (Robin Wright) trains her for combat. When British army spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands on the island’s idyllic shores, Diana comes to his rescue and learns of the WWI atrocities unfolding across Europe. Feeling duty-bound to protect innocents in danger, she persuades Steve to take her to the frontline, convinced that she can bring down Ares, the god of war, to protect mankind.
The screenplay, written by Allan Heinberg, approaches the plot in a rather unique way, incorporating a superhero origins story into a war movie narrative. The juxtaposition of these styles provides great humour as Diana and Steve very different lives collide and they adapt to one another’s point-of-view. As well as laughs, the hybrid style produces some excellently crafted action sequences, with a stunning stand-off in no-man’s land sticking out as one of the highlights of the piece. In many ways, the film bucks the DC trend of late but falls foul in the closing act to a typically smash ’em-up explosion-heavy drawn out finale that threatens to outstay its welcome.
Gal Gadot is quite frankly a joy to behold in the titular role, and her strength carries others both metaphorically and literally in scenes. She radiates Diana’s warmth through her uncynical, idealistic mindset, and has the tremendous ability to transform into magnificent kick-ass heroine mode when called into action. Chris Pine is on fine form also, delivering his performance as Trevor with Kirk-esque wit and charm and building an interesting bond with Diana that develops nicely throughout. Aside from the leading two parts, the supporting characters are mostly underdeveloped and unfortunately there is a distinct lack of a satisfying villain to root against. Comic moments come from British cast members Lucy Davis and Ewen Bremner, portraying a wise-cracking secretary and a drunken Scottish sharpshooter respectively.
Wonder Woman is fun, fierce and fearless in equal measures, and marks a significant improvement in the construction of DC’s extended universe. Patty Jenkins’ invigorating direction is a breath of fresh air to the genre, and although it files in-line with the franchise formula eventually, there is an awful lot to enjoy, not least the powerhouse performance from Gal Gadot. As Diana decides to embark on her selfless mission to fight for the greater good, her mother tells her ‘Be careful in the world of men. They don’t deserve you’. Luckily for cinema-goers, it’s not always about what we deserve. I, for one, am grateful that we have Wonder Woman.