Director: Patty Jenkins
Screenplay: Allan Heinberg
Stars: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, and David Thewlis
Story: WW1 pilot Steve Trevor (Pine) crash-lands in the Amazon kingdom of Diana Prince (Gadot) and tells her about the devastation caused by the War to end all Wars. Believing her involvement will fulfil an ancient prophecy, Diana leaves home to help him end the War, becoming the powerful Wonder Woman.
Since it first began in 2013, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) hasn’t had a strong track record of good films. Its first three instalments (Man of Steel, Batman V. Superman and Suicide Squad), though commercially successful, were all justifiably panned for their dreary tone, sloppy screenwriting and emphasis on CGI-soaked violence. It had gotten to the point where modern DC films were almost unwatchable. Most fans had lost faith in them. Happily, it is safe to say that Wonder Woman is not like the previous films.
It is the DCEU’s first truly great instalment because it successfully balances and subverts these aspects with stronger characterisation, light-hearted humour and its ground-breaking footnote of being the first female-led superhero film. (Something which the more popular MCU has not achieved).
Of course, this all benefits from having a rich and well-realised character like Diana. Having stolen the show in the otherwise depressing Batman V. Superman, her solo film further establishes her as one of the best super-heroines of this decade. The story is typical origin story/fish-out-of-water fare, but director Patty Jenkins and screenwriter Allan Heinberg inject plenty of funny and touching moments that make Diana’s gradual understanding of the world worth watching. Gal Gadot is also perfect casting. She not only physically resembles Diana’s beauty and strength, but conveys the thoughts and emotions that drive her ambitions to save the world.
It is for this that Diana should be a great feminist role model for this modern age. This intention is not even tarnished by Diana’s relationship with Steve Trevor, who is well played by Chris Pine. Like Diana, Steve also dreams of seeing the end of War and his contradictory beliefs are what makes their interactions fun to watch. Pine brings some Kirk-styled charisma to the role, but injects it with some vulnerability that expresses Steve’s reaction to the War around him. Something which Diana comes to see for herself. As she learns, the human world is both fascinating and horrific at the same time.
This is best exemplified in the film’s stand-out sequence when, after witnessing a small village’s poverty, Diana uses her powers to decimate the attacking Germans and later shares a tender dance with Steve as the villagers celebrate their freedom. The way that Wonder Woman transitions from such a shocking sight, to superb action spectacle, to a quiet character scene is one of its many moments where it does not let the characters become mere cyphers to the plot.
That being said, the film’s final battle does disappointedly conform to the generic CGI-destruction we have come to see in modern superhero films. For all its efforts to stand out from its predecessors, it feels a shame to end it in a standard way rather than subverting type. It is for this reason that Wonder Woman is not really a great film like The Dark Knight or Logan. However, it is still the DCEU’s best film to date and should help restore some faith in its future works.