*As hard as I try not to....SPOILERS MAY OCCUR!*
Perhaps the time is now. Perhaps the special effects quality and current love affair between comic books and Hollywood makes it time to bring Diana Prince into the limelight she so rightfully deserves. But perhaps most of all...we needed a filmmaker like Patty Jenkins and a star like Gal Gadot to come along. Jenkins gained acclaim for writing and directing Monster starring Charlize Theron and was supposed to direct Thor: Dark World before creative differences arose, but it’s now clear after seeing her Wonder Woman film that this was her destiny. The same goes for Gadot, who captivates the screen with her charm and dedication as Diana of Themyscira, who travels to the “world of man” to track down the God of War, Ares during the turbulent time of World War I.
I, like many, was sceptical when Gadot was first cast...she was too thin, she has an accent, she didn’t have those “Lynda Carter” baby blue eyes, blah blah blah...none of that matters anymore. The truth is, she relays the compassion, toughness, beauty and heroic nature of Wonder Woman tremendously. I can’t think of anyone I would have preferred play Diana anymore...and I wrote an entire column about who I thought should have been given the role!
The big deal about this film is that it goes against the grain that the DC Extended Universe has established. Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad all were highly criticised,sometimes fairly and sometimes (I think) unfairly but the common thread that they all had and what really irked ME about them? They all felt like I was watching some Elseworlds alternate DC universe where the heroes are less heroic, where Batman branded criminals, where it rained in Metropolis all the time and Superman was seen as an outsider, where Lex Luthor was a raving lunatic and where Joker looked like the lead singer of some German punk band. Now look, I can respect a different take on my comic book heroes and villains and I defend those 3 movies more than most people...but when I have to look VERY hard to find what I love about my favorite heroes, it’s a chore as a fan. What Marvel Studios does that works so well for us, is make it easy. I know I’m going to see Captain America, Thor and Iron Man when I go to a Marvel produced movie...the way they were intended and it will be so honest and authentic.
And what this Wonder Woman movie does is make a pure, honest and authentic telling of Diana’s origin story. I shouldn’t even have to recap it for you because we all know (or SHOULD KNOW) the story: princess of Themyscira is molded from clay by her mother, Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons and comes across Captain Steve Trevor. She is then sent to the outside world to bring peace. It’s so true to the original comic books it’s scary. It's almost like DC gave the filmmakers full reign or something (what a concept!)! There’s barely any deviation from the essence of the source material besides it taking place in WWI, but even that sort of makes sense because at that time women were not even allowed to vote. Diana’s understandable naiveté is best used in this era. She doesn’t understand why women must wear uncomfortable, restrictive clothing or why they are not allowed to fight in wars. The audience gets to join her in her frustration at all of the misogyny going on.
The most enduring aspect of the film is Diana’s unwavering compassion. She will just as much run to play with a baby as she would rush to battle an entire horde of enemies. This is so refreshing to see, especially when you think of how dark and gloomy the past DC movies have been. She only wants to do good in a world that is torn apart by war. She believes, because she has been told so her entire life, that Ares has returned to influence mankind to destroy themselves, and that she is the only one capable of stopping him for good. She believes that once Ares is killed, everyone will snap out of it and stop fighting each other. It literally breaks her heart when she learns how cruel and callous mankind can be...and you can see how much it hurts her. Gadot does a phenomenal job at that. That pureness of heart and hopefulness makes her a great hero, and makes the audience fall for her just as fast as Steve Trevor does. If done right, Diana will be the heart and soul of the Justice League and will be the one to bring them together as a team.
Trevor is played by Star Trek's Chris Pine. Steve is an American spy and discovers the evil German scientist Dr. Poison is creating a new dangerous form of mustard gas. His mission is to destroy the gas, even though he was ordered not to. While I was scared that he would be thrust into the dumb, “male girlfriend” stereotype that the character has up until recently held in the comics (he carved his own path as the leader of Justice League of America in the New 52), the movie doesn’t really go there with him. He first gains Diana’s respect for fighting alongside her and the Amazons when he accidentally lures enemy Germans to Themyscira. And then serves as the one that introduces the ways of mankind to her. Sometimes it’s awkward, sometimes it’s adorable and heartwarming, as he has to break it to her that humans are just a bunch of angry, mindless, bozos that hate and fight each other over meaningless stuff. That was my favorite part of the movie, simply because I wouldn’t know what to tell her either, and all he wants to do is say he loves her because of her compassionate nature, something that as a spy and a soldier he rarely sees.
The relationship between Diana and Steve is reminiscent of the one in Captain America: First Avenger between Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter, and (obviously) ends very similarly. These two movies parallel each other quite a bit, but I don’t mind that, as I loved First Avenger quite a lot too and period piece superhero films are such a treat for me as a fan. It’s also a great way to establish a movie universe and give it some continuity and history.
They even found a way to put Etta Candy in the movie! Etta is played by Lucy Davis and is Trevor’s secretary/assistant and as always serves as comedy relief. This character is a Wonder Woman staple and has appeared in pretty much every iteration, so it was cool to see her. Trevor also has 3 allies in his mission (the same guys that were all in that picture Bruce Wayne found in BVS), Sameer (played by Said Taghmaoui), Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) and Charlie (Ewen Bremner, who we remember as Spud in Trainspotting), these 3 characters are not from the comics but are very reminiscent of old war comics characters like Sgt. Rock and Nick Fury & the Howling Commandos.
The Amazons of Themyscira are very impressive and they are represented amazingly in the film. Connie Nielsen is Hippolyta and she portrays the queen very well, I could even have imagined her being Wonder Woman at one time. Robin Wright is amazing as General Antiope, Diana’s trainer and mentor. It’s really amazing how Princess Buttercup and Jenny from Forest Gump is now this badass Amazon warrior woman, but you don’t even question it. She is so impressive. All of the Amazons are impressive, actually. They fight so elegantly that it’s almost like art. It’s very cool how they represent them in the film and exactly how it SHOULD have been done. I get the feeling it is not the last time we see Hippolyta and the Amazons. Diana may need them in the future!
There are 3 villains in the movie, Dr. Poison (one of Wonder Woman’s earliest foes in the comics) played by Elena Anaya, Erich Ludendorff played by Danny Huston, a (real life...seriously! look it up!!) German general in WWI and Ares...who’s identity is revealed as a twist in the film. I cannot spoil who is playing him but when he dons the full-on Ares armor he looks cool as hell! The villains are pretty good, but I must be honest, I really want to see Cheetah and/or Giganta in future films. I’m pretty sure we will be getting a sequel and probably a trilogy so both will probably happen.
The battle between Diana and Ares at the end of the film is a pretty awesome payoff and all of the action choreography is very well done. There is a lot of CGI but I suppose that is understandable. I think Wonder Woman needs to be established as almost as powerful as Superman and so this is the only way. I only wish that we saw Diana use a bit of Greco-Roman wrestling techniques in her fighting style like we’ve seen in some of the cartoons, but that is indeed nitpicking and probably just me being a wrestling fan and wanting to see Wonder Woman suplex someone, so don’t mind me. When she deflects bullets with her bracelets it is so cool that it more than makes up for it.
At the end of it all, this is a very entertaining movie and a true triumph for DC Comics and their movie universe. Hopefully it is the start of something good, and with Gotham City Sirens and Joss Whedon’s Batgirl on the horizon and Captain Marvel on the Marvel side in the works, it should be the beginning of amazing female driven superhero movies. It’s about damn time.
Well, kids. There ya have it! This is one movie you will not want to miss in the theaters this summer, so have at it! It’s WONDERFUL for the whole family! See what I did there? Bleed out!