I think everyone was surprised when they saw Wonder Woman in the trailers for Batman vs. Superman. Here was a superhero (superheroine?) no one had seen live-action on the big screen since her comic book inception in 1941. No one had expected her to show up out of the blue, and I can guarantee you no one had expected to be blown away by Gal Gadot when she appeared in the movie. She had grace, she had poise, and she managed to look ravishing to boot. And all that before she even got her sword and shield out and started kicking some serious ass.
While we’ve seen more than our fair share of superhero origin stories, Diana Prince’s beginnings were still a mystery to non-comic book fans like me, so DC decided to clear it up with a stand-alone film for Wonder Woman. And am I glad they did.
One of the most amusing things about Diana is her sheer naiveté to everything unpleasant in the world. In her eyes, all men are inherently good people, and they only go foul when the gods corrupt their hearts (specifically one god). This is a key element in the film, and I liked how the filmmakers handled Diana’s almost parabolic shift in worldview after she realises humans aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. It’s a genuinely emotional moment for her and she practically comes to questioning her whole reality as a result.
Gal Gadot pulls this and the rest of the movie off really well. Diana’s a fiercely idealistic and virtuous woman who’ll fight relentlessly for what she believes in, but who’s also incredibly compassionate and even vulnerable. You really see that in Gadot as Diana, and for someone who didn’t begin her career as an actress, it’s really impressive. I think she could really make it big in Hollywood.
Chris Pine was great as Steve Trevor, too, and he brings some much-needed levity to all the bleakness. He and Gadot immediately hit it off on-screen, and their chemistry is simply wonderful. Some scenes were just the two of them, Diana and Steve, talking to each other or even some idle banter. And it all just worked. They were perfect together, and those scenes were some of my favourite in the movie.
Diana being introduced to early 20th century London and the human world was a treat to watch, and had some of the best humour in the movie. “How do I fight in this?” Diana says while trying on a huge frilly gown, walking awkwardly in high heels. This is probably the first DC movie to have this much fun with itself as it turns its eponymous heroine from a sword-wielding font of virtue and perfection to an awkward, charming and endearing woman. She feels human.
That’s not to say she won’t tear you apart if you’re standing in her way. Action sequences in this movie are superbly choreographed, with Wonder Woman charging a group of enemies, taking them down one by one with a fluid brute force. I got goosebumps in a scene when she held her shield out to stop a barrage of machine gun fire, mud and sparks flying all around her. Muscles tense, she shakes from the effort, but she holds her ground.
The action does get a little irksome with the film’s overuse of slow motion, which renders some of the more powerful moments not as epic as they could have been.
But of course, everything I talked about here only serve to empower the story. And that’s where I felt Wonder Woman falters, making it a very good movie instead of a fantastic one.
The story uses a number of worn and tired tropes and clichés, too many for its own good. There came a point when I was able to predict what Diana or Steve would do way before it happened. And even the few surprise elements came off as mildly disappointing. The villain wasn’t especially compelling, either. And some dialogues just started to sound like platitudes, and emotional moments fell a bit flat near the ending.
I especially feel more time could have been spent with Diana on Themyscira, exploring the personalities of her mentor, Antiope, and her mother, Hippolytas. I don’t get why filmmakers shirk from taking their time and doing some character-building. Because when it was time for Hippolytas to say a heartbreaking goodbye to Diana as she prepared to embark on her journey to save the world, it felt rushed, uninspired and anticlimactic. It really felt like a missed opportunity to forge strong bonds between characters.
Wonder Woman has a lot of issues endemic to superhero flicks. But that doesn’t mean it can’t rise above them to deliver a very entertaining, heartwarming and genuine movie. There are many, many things to like about Wonder Woman, and part of the reason I was so excited for this film was the fact that it was a female superhero in the lead, for once.
It’s sad it took them this long to ‘risk’ a female-centric film, but I’m glad they did, and I’m glad it’s as good as it is. Wonder Woman’s as badass as ever, and the future is looking great for female superheroes. Go ahead, girls, the stage is all yours.
“What I do is not up to you.” – Diana Prince
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