And so finally, it came to pass that the movie Gods finally gave their blessings and bequeathed a modern, solo, movie release to the last, truly A-list comic book character to exist. Considering both Jonah Hex and fucking Swamp Thing (who had two!) had major cinematic releases before the Princess Diana of Themyscira herself, should tell you how much of a massive oversight that truly was. But none of that mattered in 2017 as Gal Godot followed up her roof raising debut in Batman Vs. Superman under the direction of Patty (Monster) Jenkins which not only managed to be be the best entry in the DCEU so far, the best DC movie since 2008 and the first female led superhero movie ever that wasn’t overwhelmingly shit. It turns out that when trying to accomplish this impressive aim, a good start was to actually treat your character with respect and not have them dress like a cosplaying hooker but Wonder Woman manages to accomplish much more than this despite feeling at times a little basic…
The island of Themyscira is populated by the race of Amazons, an all-female people who were created by the Gods to protect mankind from the threat of the war mongering Ares but have remained hidden as they train in their idyllic paradise. Among them is Diana, the terminally precocious infant daughter of Queen Hippolyta, who is desperate to learn how to become a warrior from her badass aunt, Antiope despite her mother forbidding it.
Years later, Diana has grown into a young woman who has excelled in all her training to utilise her endless legs into becoming the island’s number one butt kicker – and it’s about time too as the Amazon’s way of life is about to be breached by the brutal chaos of the First World War.
Crash landing just off the cost of this mythical land is insanely dashing American spy Steve Trevor and after a skirmish with some investigating German forces, the Amazon’s do some overdue catching up about the war that has enveloped the globe like a muddy cardigan of death. Diana, instantly smelling the influence of Ares in all this, smuggles Steve out of Themyscira and heads off into this brand new world with the plan to end the war by finding and the subsequently killing the shit out of the vengeful God and lifting the brutal hold he must have over the Germans.
Meanwhile, on the cusp of armistice, a steadfast (and decidedly mental) German general along with his chief scientist have plans to scupper any peace talks by inventing a new form of mustard gas that kills 99.9% of all germs – not to mention everything else – stone dead and plan to use it to blanket their enemies both abroad and domestic.
Diana, Steve and a rag tag group of allies head to the front lines in order to thwart this plan, only for the naive Amazon to come face to face with all the horrors a war can bring out in even the most noble of men. Can this woman of wonder put an end to this fiendish plan while still keeping her unshakable faith in mankind before the war to end all wars beats it out of her for good?
The massive blast of fresh air the DCEU desperately needed, Wonder Woman is a literal beam of light in a shared universe that so far had embraced the literal and metaphorical gloom (although the fact that a film set in the murky sludge of WWI is far brighter than Batman Vs. Superman tells you everything you need to know) and had only managed to polarise audiences for it’s troubles. Avoiding Zack Snyder’s disturbing kink for morally conflicted heroes, Patty Jenkins give us a Wonder Woman literally wide eyed with boundless optimism that’s only matched by an iron determination to do what’s right. Utterly uninterested in the giant grey area that is war, Gal Godot infuses this version of WW with a ferociously idealistic streak that’s completely obsessed with the notion of good and evil and watching her trying to cut through the bullshit of red tape and politics is hugely endearing while smartly steering away from having her whinge. Helping her out in this is the incredibly strong support from the always dependable Chris Pine, who literally spends the whole movie tirelessly spelling out the in’s and out’s of human behaviour to our hero without a single mansplain in sight – pretty impressive for a dude in 1918. In fact, their chemistry is so potent – be it discussing sleeping arrangements to an ever more flustered Steve or breaking down the importance of not carrying a sword and shield around the streets of London – it powers the entire movie and carries it nicely past any bumpy spots on the road. The action is pretty great too with a central scene of Wonder Woman defiantly crossing no man’s land while machine fire buzzes at her like lead mosquitoes sure to form genuine a lump in the throat that’s sure to gave nothing to do with swallowing popcorn.
Unfortunately it’s not all great. For a start, Wonder Woman is cursed with some devastatingly forgettable villians with Danny Huston’s jacked up German general and Elana Anaya’s deformed chemist making no impact whatsoever. Boasting no nuance, no interesting motive and, in one scene, actually cackling into each other’s faces like a couple of Joel Schumacher Bat-villains, they are truly disappointing, with Huston in particular guilty of barking out a German accent so bad it makes ‘Allo ‘Allo seem like fucking Downfall.
Also, the film manages to strongly resemble other movies that have come before with the whole story either skewing too close to either Thor (godlike race coming from myth turning up on earth) or the first Captain America (super powers amidst a world war, scruffy misfit team, day is saved by some bloke named Steve sacrificing himself in a plane) and the unfortunate result is a final product that oddly feels both fresh and derivative at the same time. Finally, the climax also suffers from deja vu as this was the third time in four movies an entry in the DCEU ends with the hero trying to fend off a nine foot tall, CGI nasty, a trend that would continue even further with Justice League and it’s putty faced arch villain.
But in the end, Wonder Woman’s good intentions manage to win you over and ultimately it’s the movie’s central portrayal is what makes it so enduring. In a world where these kinds of films finally are being headlined by either women (Captain Marvel) or predominantly black (Black Panther) or asian (Shang Chi) casts it turns out it’s what you don’t do is just as important and here it means the film doesn’t pander to normal gender sterotypes, but even when it does it’s in line with the character, so Diana fussing over a baby or getting flustered over ice cream are humorous touches because the reason she’s so excited is because she’s never experienced these things before.
While hardly flawless, Wonder Woman is a massive step in the right direction and a sturdy kick in the pants the comic book boy’s club frantically needed and hopefully from now on there’ll be many more similar examples of this particular type of girl power.
Excuse me, woman power.