WARNING: The gods have cursed this review with major spoilers. Read at your own risk – less you fall under Ares spell!
But there is one thing most fans can agree on – it's that Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was one of the best castings in recent memory of superheroines. Hell, in her ten minutes she was on screen, she upstaged both Superman and Batman IN THEIR OWN FILM! That's no small feat! So fans were naturally excited when a stand alone Wonder Woman film was coming out. Ok, so we already had a Wonder Woman animated film a few years back, which I haven't seen but I've been told is very good, but this is Diana's first live action solo outing.
Now, I think it's fair to say that, historically, superheroine films don't do very well compared to their male counterparts. A few examples include the Helen Slater Supergirl film (which isn't terrible to be fair – it's just not good), Elecktra (how could they f*** up this character so much?) and that DREADFUL Catwoman film (which I rather pretend didn't exist). Thankfully, because of shows like Supergirl and Jessica Jones, it shows that the heroines can be just as captivating as (if not outright eclipse) their male counterparts. So there was a lot riding on Wonder Woman being good – considering how the last few DC films turned out.
Thankfully, you'll be pleased to hear that I thought this film was brilliant! Finally we have both a decent DC cinematic outing AND a brilliant superheroine live action movie!
So as this is an origin movie, here we go back in time to Themyscira, where young Diana (AKA Wonder Woman, played again by Gal Gadot) is being trained to be an Amazon warrior – even though she actually isn't an Amazon (watch the film, you'll understand, I promise). Brought up on the story that Ares caused all man to go crazy and the Amazons have a “God-Killer” weapon, Diana is trained in the ways of fighting. Then Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands in the island after escaping from German soldiers. Diana learns about the War (in this case WWI) and decides it must be Ares doing – so she travels with Steve to “Man's World”, fighting the Germans and also the misogyny of Earth.
There's really not a lot of point going over the plot as, like with my review of Salazar's Revenge, it's one you've seen a lot of times – hero trains, hero gets involved in a fight, hero fights big bad, hero saves the day; except you can replace it with heroine in that statement. But just because it's not original doesn't mean it isn't fun. And thankfully, unlike the previous DC instalments, it doesn't suffer from a misdirected plot or slow pace. Both are kept tight and consistent, meaning that you can follow it easily and not get bored. It also adds in some some real tension regarding the war as Diana sees first hand the atrocities of what happened. Obviously it tones down some of the more darker elements, but it doesn't gloss over the damage the war did.
In the comics, Wonder Woman has been portrayed as a warrior that fights for justice using love as her weapon, and also as an ass-kicking fighter that can beat the living tar out of even Superman. Her, she has a little bit of both – a lover AND a fighter. I don't think it needs to be said that Gal Gadot is just amazing! She nailed her performance as Wonder Woman in Dawn of Justice, and her she just expands on it. At this point, she's a little bit more naïve than we saw her in Dawn of Justice, learning a few things about the outside world. But she's no less the powerful Amazonian we know and love. The scenes where she beats the living crap out of German soldiers is so satisfying, you can't help but go “Oh that is awesome!” I did! It's also good to see Diana's training with her people, showing how she learned to fight. But Wonder Woman is much more than an ass kicking machine – she's a real person with real emotions. She feels the plight of the people, and is quick to condemn the men of the world for not doing anything to protect them. Of course, she has to get used to “certain” customs of the real world, which I'll get to in a moment.
Here she is joined by Steve Trevor – a spy for the allies and love interest of Diana. Now I was a LITTLE worried that they were gonna “emasculate” him somewhat and make him second fiddle, which is sometimes the case I see in feminist movies. Frankly I am not a fan of any movie that has to make one gender look weaker for the sake of making the other one stronger (note I said GENDER – because there have been more than one movie that's done the opposite). Luckily though, Steve is every bit as strong in character and intentions as Diana is. Ok, so he doesn't exactly solve everything that comes his way (this is WONDER WOMAN'S film after all and she mostly ends up saving his ass time and time again) but he gets his moment of heroism. In fact, he actually makes a huge sacrifice in the film that makes his character all the more awesome – and this in turn inspires Diana to fight on.
I'd just like to say that at NO point is Wonder Woman ever treated as a “fighting for a man” kinda heroine. She has her morals and she fights for them, but her and Steve do share some really tender moments, which makes their relationship all the more relatable. However there are some – cringeworthy scenes as well. Like when Steve and Diana are travelling to London and they discuss “sleeping” and “procreation” between humans and Amazons. I know it's supposed to be cringy, but that was just painful to watch. Oh and there was a scene where Diana has to try on different outfits to fit in with the humans. Again, necessary for the story – it was just not done very well. One thing did confuse me, where the hell did she keep her sword and shield all this time? Behind her cape? How was she able to fit it in? It looked quite big to me. Also, there was a scene where she was carrying her sword and shield around. How did no one react to that? That just looked silly to me.
Other supporting characters were Etta Candy (one of my least favourite sidekicks), who actually isn't nearly as annoying as she is in the comics and played by Lucy Davis. We also had Steve's gang of army recruits to help him fight, which include Sameer, Charlie and Chief (played by Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner and Eugene Brave Rock respectably. They were a fine bunch with enough character traits to make them more than just background characters, but they were mostly there just for help and didn't really do a lot aside from helping Diana and Steve get to where they needed to go.
Villains of the piece included Erich Ludendorff (played by Danny Huston and based on the real historical General) and Doctor Poison (played by Elena Anaya). Ludendorff is determined for a German victory and not a surrender, and is using a powerful poison by Doctor Poison that will destroy even gas masks! Both are pretty sinister and are the main threat to overcome. Doctor Poison has a face mask to cover part of her, due to a disfigurement, which makes her look just that little bit more creepier. It's actually never explained how she got that (though I think it's hinted it was a fire that did it), I would have liked to know a bit more of her backstory and how that came to be.
Of course the main villain is Ares, the God of War himself. I would tell you who plays him, but it would spoil the surprise. Either way, the fight scene between him and Wonder Woman is one of the best I've seen in a superhero movie and it has some real tension behind it. Like a lot of villains, there is more to his character than you (and even Diana) realises – and it forces her to make a choice.
All in all, this is a highly enjoyable film and a step in the right direction for DC. After a few misfires, they finally have a movie that could even contend with Marvel! Indeed, there are a lot of similarities between this film and Captain America: The First Avenger. Both of which have a strong subject matter and both involve powerful characters that have to come to terms with the world around them and fight for what they believe in. Sure, Wonder Woman has a few cheesy moments – and maybe a few scenes that will make fans groan. But on the whole, Wonder Woman is an excellent movie with a great cast, easily transitioning story and, of course, awesome music! Wonder Woman's theme alone is one of the best character themes I've heard in ages.
Is it the best superhero film of all time? Probably not. But it IS the best superheroine film of all time. Hopefully we'll get more great superheroine movies after this – my vote is for a She-Ra film. Hollywood, if you're reading this, PLEASE make it happen! And please case Hayley Atwell as She-Ra, she'd be awesome!
Wonder Woman gets a “wonderful” 5 out of 5!