Thankfully, there is much to like in Patty Jenkins’ (Monster) comic book adaptation. It has real emotional depth and is surprisingly subtle when it needs to be – for example, despite the stingingly iconic Wonder Woman riff being played in the background, Gal Gadot is only ever referred to as Diana, rather than her alter ego.
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Here are five other reasons why Wonder Woman is the film to put Warner Bros.’ superhero adaptations back on track.
The perfect franchise film
Where DC has struggled most is arguably where its fiercest rival, Marvel, has excelled. With so many disparate characters, some real world billionaires with fancy toys such as Batman and Ironman, others coming from outer space or born out of mysticism, both universes need films to bridge the gap. Marvel got their explainer in early with Kenneth Branagh’s fantastic Thor, and now DC can claim Wonder Woman as the story that links all the characters together in their universe.
The film opens on the paradise of Themyscira, an island of Amazonian warriors hidden away from the rest of the world. The women are constantly honing their fighting skills, fearful that Ares, the god of war, will return to find vengeance on those who’ve defeated him in the past. Diana is the only child on the island, and her mother (Connie Nielsen) is the Queen. Despite objections from General Antiope (Robin Wright), who is also Diana’s aunt and the Queen’s sister, the youngster is forbidden from training and is instead given a tutor to pursue more academic studies.
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As she grows up, Diana wants to prove her fighting prowess, and she is given the chance to do so when an American pilot crashes his plane into the sea while being chased by a group of Germans. We learn that the setting is 1918, and the First World War needs a hero to step up and save the day.
The action then follows Diana (Gadot) to London, where Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) – the pilot who crashed off the coast of Themyscira – must deliver a notebook that can potentially turn the war effort in the favour of the allied forces. Diana, meanwhile, is desperate to get to the frontline and end the battle once and for all.
Gal Gadot as Diana/Wonder Woman
Whilst watching Gal Gadot in the lead role, you’ll often get so engrossed in the action that you’ll forget that you’re meant to be watching a ‘female superhero movie’. That’s to its great credit, the film is just a great film, with a terrific performance by the Israeli star. Gadot was one of the few good things about Zack Snyder’s turgid Justice League prequel last year, and she gets to shine even more in this solo outing.
Conveying a sense of naivety that is inevitable in the fish-out-of-water scenario the opening act builds up, the Triple 9 star also looks the part in full warrior mode. If you had any doubts that she would be playing second fiddle to her male co-star here, you need not worry. Gadot is the star, and the film is all the better for it.
Chris Pine’s supporting act
When Chris Pine was announced as the male lead in the movie, there was understandable concern that he would dominate the film. A big Hollywood star being sent in to boost a female-led story would inevitably lead to a diminished role for Wonder Woman, right? Wrong. Instead, Pine plays down his arrogant swagger – impossible to miss in his performance as Kirk in the rebooted Star Trek series – instead allowing Gadot enough room to own the movie.
The relationship between the pair works well, with each character sparking off one another. Both are flawed, (although obviously not physically as they make for a sickeningly attractive screen couple) finding some modicum of redemption and grounding in the other. Pine gets to have enough moments of his own to develop a genuinely likeable character, but not too many so as to turn his earnest spy into the focal point.
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There have been enough behind-the-scenes shenanigans on this particular film to write a book. We were led to believe the studio was worried about hiring a female director in the first place and that the subsequent rough cut was a mess. Perhaps that was true, but the finished product is anything but. Jenkins has turned in a fun, character-led superhero movie, which can only truly be said of Nolan’s Dark Knight films and Logan from earlier this year.
The film does end up getting bogged down with a forgettable villain in the latter stages, but by that point it doesn’t really matter. We are so invested in Diana, that we just want to see how she will cope with the obstacles put in front of her.
A great solo film
We previously spoke about how Wonder Woman is a great bridging film in the DC Cinematic Universe, and it certainly is that, but that’s not to take anything away from how well it works as a standalone movie. It’s arguably more difficult to go back to the drawing board, so to speak, with a solo film once the team-up genie has been let out of the bottle. Marvel have found that to be the case, as each solo film that they have released after The Avengers has felt incomplete until other characters turn up. At no point are you eagerly waiting for the likes of Superman, Batman or The Flash to swoop in and save the day here.
Wonder Woman is on general release from June 1.