"I will fight, for those who can not fight for themselves."
Growing up Diana, princess of the Amazons (Gal Gadot) dreamed of being a great warrior. When a young pilot (Chris Pine) crash lands near her island the Great War is brought right to her doorstep and her chance to do good in the world finally presents itself. Leaving her paradise home, she sets off to help end the war to end all wars and restore peace for mankind.
It’s been a long and bumpy road for the DC cinematic universe with misfires and tonal issues with pretty much every film they’ve released since Nolan finished his Dark Knight Trilogy. While the films have been financially successful they haven’t managed to connect with fans or critics, resulting in a pretty spotty track record to say the least. Thankfully that's now over as DC have straightened their ship and given audiences the type of film they’ve been wanting since Man of Steel was first announced; a fun, thrilling and, above all, entertaining adventure story.
Wonder Woman works well as an origin story, spending time in its beginning to help bring audiences who are unfamiliar with the story of Diana Prince up to speed on her story, her powers and her world. The film cleverly doesn’t linger here however, quickly jumping into the main narrative once all the necessary information had been delivered, establishing the brisk pace that's maintained for the rest of the film. After meeting the downed pilot, Steve Trevor, and setting off on her mission, the film hurtles along, always focusing on the character's mission and rarely taking time to linger on moments unless they’re crucial to the development of the characters. This is something most of the other DC films have failed at, seeming more concerned with stylish visuals and establishing a bigger universe rather than focusing on the narrative that’s at hand.
The main story arc of Wonder Woman may not be anything fancy, a relatively simple "on a mission plot", but the way in which it unfolds, the scenarios we find ourselves in and the characters themselves are what make it a breath of fresh air in the genre. It’s been so long since we’ve had a good origin story that we’ve forgotten what it’s like when one actually comes along. Director Patty Jenkins cleverly puts her characters at the forefront of any scene, allowing their motivations and emotions run things, not the action. This works brilliantly to develop both Diana and Steve and their relationship without it being obvious and telegraphed to the audience. Simple moments that would otherwise come off as cheesy seem genuine because Jenkins has taken the time to let the audience become familiar with who these people are and make sure we actually care.
The lynchpin with all this however, like any good character driven film, are the performances. As impressive as Gal Gadot seemed with the little she had to do in Batman V Superman, here she shines. Gadot infuses Diana with a sense of purpose, helping to define who and what she is, all the while playing it with a wide-eyed innocence that lingers just beneath the surface as she makes her way through the world of men. Likewise Chris Pine brings his all to the supporting role of Steve Trevor, her companion leading her through the Western Front and teaching her about life along the way. It’s a role that could have easily been played for laughs but instead Pine imbues Trevor with an earnestness that is reminiscent of something you would see in a film from the 40s. The pair’s chemistry is superb as they bounce off each other naturally amongst the madness they find themselves surrounded by, all the while being anchored by a heavy hitting supporting cast of character actors including David Thewlis, Ewen Bremner and Said Taghmaoui.
The best thing about Wonder Woman is that it’s a film for everybody. Despite the elements of gender and feminism that can be attached to the film, it never singles out these issues and seeks to overtly empower them, instead it simply tries to entertain. Jenkins and her cast work have created a film that’s main focus is purpose and hope. Diana seeks to find purpose for herself and her kind in the world of men while helping bring an end to the war and their fighting. Her hope and strength behind her cause instils the film with a true sense of compassion and this is where they allow the message comes from.
In a time where superhero films have been built up and spectacle is key, Wonder Woman is a refreshing, back-to-basics approach to the genre. It’s a film that takes its time to develop character and narrative rather than bombard with action and set pieces, concerning itself with the story it’s telling now rather than setting up everything for the next film in the franchise. Like any action film it's not without it’s flaws but at the end of the day it has everything you want in a superhero film, all the while presenting a fresh take on an overplayed genre.
It’s a wonderfully acted and well-constructed movie that works to entertain any member of the audience, regardless of age or gender. It’s a film about hope and understanding, making it a powerful and unique experience amongst the usual slate of bombastic and dull summer blockbusters.
7.5 out of 10.
Reviewed by Chris Swan.