THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
In the Great War, before the world knew her as Wonder Woman, she went by the name of Diana (Gal Gadot), Princess of the Amazons. She was trained to be a warrior and brought up to believe Ares was the worst of the worst. And that the world of men was beneath her, that they were not worth her time. Raised on Paradise Island AKA Themyscira, when a pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes in the seas off the coast, he speaks of a raging conflict in the world outside. Knowing she may never return home, Diana leaves the nest, convinced that she can stop it. Fighting along side humanity, she must learn for herself what Man is, and who she is in the process.
This story takes us to Themyscira, a mysterious island hidden by Zeus in a shroud of magical fog far from humanity’s clutches. Diana is raised to believe that it is her duty, the sacred duty of the Amazons to protect the world. When Steve Trevor finds himself on the island, her understanding of the world broadens and begins to see that defending the world means more than just the Amazons, meaning fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves. As an “Amazon,” she believes that the Greek God of War Ares is behind the conflict that Steve speaks of, and thinks once she kills him, his influence on humanity will be relinquished. After all, the hearts of men are so easily corrupted.
Early on in the film, we are witness to an epic action sequence between the Amazons and a band of Germans in pursuit of Trevor. Quite honestly, it’s one of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen in any superhero movie in the history of the genre. It’s a breathtaking scene that really had me on the edge of my seat, with Robin Wright’s General Antiope doing badass stunt after badass stunt, as well as Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) delivering as well. Criticisms are that the film uses a lot slow-mo. Honestly, it does. But I believe that this enhances the film, especially with Nazis turning Paradise Island into paradise lost. Anyhow, when are we getting an Antiope spinoff?
Since Justice Unlimited ended in 2004, I’ve wanted live-action Wonder Woman, and with Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman, I got my wish. And subsequently Patty Jenkins has churned out an excellent solo movie. This solo movie is as good as it gets in terms of character, story and all-round awesomeness. From the sets to the performances to the epic musical score (Rupert Gregson-Williams) Wonder Woman has it all. Let’s not forget its pro-feminist leanings, and that’s great, considering most comic book movies revolve around that male-centric view of the world. This film critiques humanity, showing us that “man is still good” but humanity is also its own worse enemy.
“I used to want to save the world… But the closer you get, the more you see the great darkness within. I learnt this the hard way, a long, long time ago” says Hippolyta. And Diana had to see this the hard way as well. It took a while for her to see that life is no fairy tale and even after she went into No Man’s Land, she clung onto the hope that humanity was good just like how her father made them. Yet, much alike life, nothing lasts forever. And like stories, humans are wild creatures. They take on a life force of their own, and thus wars are waged for petty reasons. Zeus created Man, but he didn’t command their hearts. They did that themselves. And that’s the raw, honest truth.
Despite these philosophical discussions, we are witness to romance and comedy, even using them to diffuse the bleakness of the western front. This is supposed to be a child-friendly comic book movie after all. And Jenkins uses these elements where the action is thickest. Chris Pine (Star Trek Trilogy) is great as Steve Trevor, showing much comic prowess when under the influence of the Lasso of Hestia (Truth). He’s also brilliant in more serious moments, like when he breaks down when asking for Diana’s help to stop Dr Poison and her gas. He can’t find the words, and this adds to Wonder Woman’s heart that never stopped burning inside me for twelve years. Me, a man.
Much alike how Zack Snyder showed scenes uncanny to the aftermath of 9/11 in the Battle of Metropolis in Man of Steel and Batman V Superman, Wonder Woman shows graphic shots in relation to conflict. Just before our heroes arrive at the trenches, we see Diana’s anguish at the sight of all these injured soldiers. The scenes in Belgium are truly horrifying and it’s shots like that which I think will define the DCEU as not being 100% child-friendly whilst still retaining their 12a certificate. And then ‘No Man’s Land’ happened. That whole sequence from Diana climbing the ladder to the liberation of the village is one great action scene that will go down into legend.
Jack Huston gives a good performance as Ludendorff but it’s David Thewlis as Sir Patrick AKA Ares who I want to talk about. I’ve been following Thewlis for a while now. From Harry Potter to Endgame to Macbeth, the man is a powerhouse of talent. And he gives a great performance as Ares. Ares was always known to be cunning, and Patty Jenkins kept me guessing “is he or isn’t he Ares?” throughout the film. He speaks hard truths and was not a villain to me. I suppose that says a lot about my character. He’s as much a villain in this movie as Zod or Magneto are in X-Men and Man of Steel. It’s about what you believe and Thewlis gives a great performance as the war god.
Why Warner Bros? Why do you always do this to me? In each of their movies (except for Suicide Squad), you always manage to make weep from your choice of filming locations. This time around, it was Italy with Themyscira. How can a place be that beautiful? The scenes filmed in Themyscira were picturesque and are everything I thought about when I’d read about the adventures of Odysseus and those demigods when I was a child. Watching little Diana (Lilly Aspell) run around such a beautiful settlement was enough to make my heart melt. Family, togetherness, freedom: this all sounds very human, but those are just as much part of the Amazon culture as well.
“No Diana! Yes Diana! Don’t do that Diana! Stay here Diana!” There’s a lot of that throughout this movie. But overall, it’s my favourite addition to the DCEU and has pushed out Batman Begins as my favourite superhero movie ever. The ending was great, and it was good to see the collage of photographs, including war poet Siegfried Sassoon amidst the Great British Pride parade. Seeing him there further assured me that the DCEU is still grounded in reality despite this instalment being set in the past. Though, they say “history is written by the victors” yet this is a win for Diana and no matter what the history books say, she will always remember, as shown in her little memento.
With excellent performances from all the cast, epic photography and landscapes that really left me speechless, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman is more than just a film. It’s a positive political statement that shows times are changing. We are in another cultural shift that says it okay to be different, and is further pushing for that equality that so many groups are still fighting for, no thanks to the systemic oppression of the white patriarchy from history to the present day.