|UK Release Date||1st June 2017|
|Starring||GAL GADOT Chris Pine|
|Reviewed||6th June 2017|
I hate superhero movies. I cannot think of one I have actually enjoyed since the first Iron Man, which is now almost ten years old (!). My expectations of modern superhero movies are that I will be bored (Avengers, Batman (except Michael Keaton/Chris Nolan ones) Superman, Spiderman etc. etc.) disappointed (Suicide Squad) or really really angry that I’ve spent money on the ‘experience’ (Batman VS Superman). So I admit t’was with heavy heart and lowest expectations that I approached Patty Jenkins’ handling of the origin story of the first female superhero movie since…Supergirl??? I was left completely entertained by a film that, for all of its superhero limits, is entertaining, intelligent and heartfelt. Gal Gadot is intoxicating and Jenkins can more than handle the plus $100 mil budget usually reserved for those with penises. Wonder Woman is surprising, boisterous and captivating and for once I am eager for the inevitable sequels.
We begin our story as our heroine Diana (Gal Gadot) receives a gift from Bruce Wayne (who?) and casts her mind back to her childhood on the utopian, all female island of Themyscira. The women on this island are warriors, Amazonians who have fought battles to stop the God of War, Aries, killing all mankind. Diana is a wilful little girl who is desperate to learn to the fight but is constantly stopped by her mother Hillpolyta (Connie Nielson exuding charm and strength). Her aunt Antiope, the general (the ever brilliant Robin Wright) and their greatest fighter however secretly trains Diana and we see her becoming a great fighter. As her strength grows in one battle with her aunt she realises she is more than strong, she has powers within her that she must now learn to use. Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) arrives through a secret portal out of the sky (yep) and crashes into the sea. Diana saves him but he is quickly followed by German Warships and a battle with the women ensues. Trevor gets hit with the old truth rope and thus our innocent Diana begins to learn about the world war and goes off with Steve, against her mother’s wishes to defeat Aries via the First World War front. Got all that?
As an eight year old I would dress up as Wonder Woman and chase the boys around my East London council estate. I LOVED that outfit and I loved her. How lucky I was to have such a strong, honourable role model as a little girl. Cut to 2017 and my daughter likes dressing up as a princess. She is only three though so I can knock that right out of her (not literally, please don’t call social services) and helping me do that is Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. She is simply stunning, it is a strong but vulnerable performance. Is she Meryl Streep? No, but could Meryl convincingly look like she could stride across a battlefield and kick some men out of the way to save a village. No. But Gal Gadot sure can. Like the male actors in films in this genre her body is powerful and she owns it. I didn’t once doubt her physicality. Having never seen a man before Diana sure as hell isn’t going to be told what to do by one and there is something very pleasurable about watching her do what the hell she wants. In fact I must admit when she first came out in the ‘get up’ and started kicking ass I actually burst into tears I was so happy to finally see a female portrayed like that on screen. This actually happened a few times throughout the film, although of course it’s probably because I have my period.
Diana’s sidekick, Steve Trevor, is the always charming Chris Pine. Gadot and Pine have great chemistry and he plays the gentle digs (and they really are chaps, calm down!) against boys very well. Unlike most females in modern superhero films Pine has a real character (!) and has a lot of ‘hero’ moments. More of an Indy/Marianne and Superman/Lois kinda vibe than a hot girl scientist tied to chair or falling out of a window kinda vibe. There is a great scene where Pine is naked and Diana, having never seen a man takes a good long look at him before pointing at one thing with curiosity – his enormous watch. Snigger.
Talking of Indiana Jones I reckon that’s where Danny Huston and Elena Anaya got the inspiration for their evil Nazis from, they are verging on pantomimic and that is a damn shame because I love Danny Huston. A lot. They are fun at times but not the best parts of the film for sure. Said Taghmaoui, Ewan Bremner and Eugene Brave Rock all give good sidekick and, I will hand it to Jenkins, for the short time they are on screen they all have developed small arcs and I actually gave a toss about what they were doing. Lucy Davis is also great fun as Steve’s secretary and one suspects Diana’s future sidekick and David Thewlis is always wonderful.
Despite making some uncomfortable, I feel setting this movie in the First World War was an inspired choice. Firstly cinematically it is of course a perpetually dramatic landscape and a superhero movie within a period setting personally I found more satisfying than those in modern times. It allows Jenkins to play with a heroine that is as baffled and against war as the majority of us are. We see through her eyes the complete and utter pointlessness of war. At the beginning she has a childlike simplicity of good and evil and the more our Steve tries to explain and make her understand why some of these atrocities have to happen the more ridiculous they sound spoken aloud. It is Diana who can see clearest. As Diana’s mother says to her when as a child she is keen to go into battle ‘don’t hope for war’. A scene that truly illustrates the difference between Diana and her male superhero pals was after saving a village from Nazis, Jenkins shows Diana humbly shaking hands and smiling with the grateful villagers, as her powers increase as does her desire to help and her ability to empathise with mankind. Just like Batman.
I am going to wrap up by highlighting some of the reviews for Wonder Woman that veer between bordering on and downright offensive. I won’t name names but a certain male journalist from a broadsheet no less was ‘baffled’ by the line ‘men are essential for procreation but when it comes to pleasure, unnecessary’. Well now that is simply a biological fact (for both sexes as it happens). He also refers to the island the women live on as a ‘Sapphic utopia’. Eh? That isn’t the only review to refer to Themiscyra as an 'island of lesbians' - there are a few. Another raises the pertinent question as to why Diana’s ‘jugs aren’t bigger’. I mean come on Jenkins? Why haven’t you given her bigger tits, call yourself a director? This same reviewer said he was hoping for a breeze so he could get an ‘up skirt shot’. Another describes the appointment of Patty Jenkins as merely politically correct compared to the genius of Zach Snyder and the worst of all is the complaint of the lack of ‘kinkiness’ as we all know Wonder Woman was well into bondage, that was her key appeal. These aren’t websites with small amounts of followers either; these are ‘respectable’ sites. I don’t recall needing to talk about the appearance of Ben Affleck to discuss the shortcomings of Batman v Superman. Reviews like those mentioned just go to show how needed female led films are, enough so that it just becomes normality. Jenkins is only the second female director in history to direct a movie with a budget bigger than $100 million. Wonder Woman is currently top of the box office both here and in the US. I’ll just leave that here as I go find my Wonder Woman costume.
For me as a female, watching this incarnation of Wonder Woman is a like finding a new best friend, one that you didn’t realise how much you really needed until now. As much as I am excited for my daughter to watch it I am also thrilled I can take my six year son to see this well executed and performed action movie with a heart led by the inimitable Gal Gadot. Plotholes and dodgy CGI aside, it heavily outstrips the most recent DC outings. Wonder Woman, take a bow.