Despite my general disinterest in the world of superheroes and all of the extensive mythology and history that goes along with them, there were so many different reasons why Wonder Woman was a must see film for me. It marks Patty Jenkins as the first female director of a studio superhero picture, as well as a $150 million budget that is the highest any female filmmaker has ever had. Opening weekend statistics have shown to prove that I am not the only cinema goer breaking with tradition to support these milestones, with record breaking audiences being roughly 52 percent female across the board compared to the 60 percent predominantly male crowds that DC films have experienced in the past. So, the name and prospect of Wonder Woman on the big screen alone was enough to entice the masses, would the film itself be able to live up to the hype?
In short, OH HELL YES. This 2017 version of Wonder Woman stars the formidable, statuesque Gal Gadot as Diana Prince, a daughter of Zeus who is thrust from her tranquil, hidden Amazonian homeland in to the midst of World War One when American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands on her shores. Trained for war since childhood, Diana leaves for Europe with Steve in order to end the conflict that she believes is being orchestrated by God of War Ares, a fact that Steve disputes but is persuaded to indulge once he witnesses the unstoppable, Herculean power that his new mysterious companion possesses. Unable to ignore my long held reservations for superhero movies as a whole, I will say that Wonder Woman is a fantastic film in despite of one or two flaws. As with nearly every superhero picture I have ever seen, the plot starts to run away with itself in the final third and genre conventions that I simply don’t enjoy come in to play, but what must ring loud and clear above that is the fact that the first two thirds of the film are some of the most fun, most empowering, most enjoyable scenes I have experienced within the genre.
Honestly, it may seem a little vacuous, but the feeling of exhilaration watching a powerful woman wreck the hell out of hundreds of dudes in uniform set piece after set piece is a wonderful way to spend two hours. Is this what guys feel like every time they watch Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Ironman, any other man? If so, then sign me up for more because I felt like I could take on the world all the way home. It is in these seemingly inane feelings and observations that one realises the importance of representation. I’m a 27 year old woman with an understanding of cinematic language who still felt elated, imagine the kind of impact Wonder Woman must have on a 9 year old girl.
From a technical point of view, the action set pieces are visually interesting and actually coherent compared to other films that display their fight scenes as an unintelligible blur. There is, however, no getting away from the fact that some of the CGI is noticeably poor, something that might impact some viewers’ experience more negatively than it did my own. As someone who lived through all three Star Wars prequels, my tolerance for questionable effects is remarkably high. As has been the case with pretty much every example of the genre I have experienced bar Batman, the need for a ‘big bad’ of Godly, fantastical, supernatural proportions directs the narrative in to territory that I simply find less interesting, but in this particular instance, I can forgive the inevitably of my feelings towards the genre in favour of the absolute thrill ride of empowerment that Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins take me on.
As the film’s titular heroine, Gal Gadot is a triumph. Along with the all of the external Amazonian beauty and statuesque poise that the role classically requires, Gadot possesses a naive, almost innocent charm that perfectly captures the sheltered nature of Diana’s character. Despite being a war ready weapon capable of mass destruction, Diana has never experienced the world in to which she is thrust, and Gadot’s ability to portray a woman who is constantly learning and adapting to her surroundings is extremely enjoyable to watch. Gadot’s Amazonian sense of ‘otherness’ works perfectly against a WWI backdrop that we have seen a million times before in a million different stories. As companion Steve Trevor, Chris Pine does a wonderful job of playing in to the gender role reversal that the film delights in. Though a hero in his own right, he is very much the ‘eye candy’ of the piece, a wonderful feat to achieve in a film where a beautiful woman is rarely fully clothed. The only scene of real objectification of either sex comes when Steve is caught naked in the bath by Diana, a welcome change of convention when comparing against, for example, pretty much any James Bond film in the last 50 years (female director, anyone?). Together, the two are a fun pair, and though I can’t say I fully bought in to the on screen chemistry, nothing about Gadot and Pine together negatively impacted my enjoyment of the piece overall.
The film is fleshed out by several really great supporting performances by the likes of Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya, Lucy Davis, Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner and Eugene Brave Rock. It really makes a difference when I film commits to casting real talent for even the smallest roles, it does the cinematic universe no end of good.
Overall, Wonder Woman is a film that is as culturally important as it is genuinely enjoyable. Regardless of my feelings for the superhero genre overall, I had an absolute blast. It’s not the most insightful or critically valid point in the world, but it really cannot be underestimated just how valuable and cherished an experience this is, for little girls and big girls alike to see an amazing female character kicking ass all over the damn Western Front. The last time I remember feeling this way was Kill Bill, but this time there is no Tarantino-esque, gory, at times upsetting revenge fantasy, it’s just an earnest, even sentimental story of good vs. evil, and there is something really cool about that.