Finally. Finally a DC fan can be proud of one of their superhero films. Finally we have a fabulous superhero blockbuster focusing on a female lead. Finally Wonder Woman has been done justice on the silver screen. This film is a refreshing, fun, slyly powerful sorbet of a superhero film. Far removed from the dull palette of previous DC films or the sarcastic void of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the film brings to the fore a theme noticeably lacking in recent superhero films: hope.
We are first introduced to our heroine, Diana, as a child amongst the Amazonians. She is trained to fight, while her actual purpose is hidden from her. Her blissful existence is shattered by the arrival of a WW1 fighter pilot, with a fleet of Germans in pursuit. One marvellous action sequence later, Diana and the fighter pilot have begun a journey to the front to stop the war once and for all.
The cast of Wonder Woman is universally strong, with Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright bringing gravitas to the Amazonians, and Lucy Davis, as a comedic secretary, wringing many jokes out of her brief time on screen. Of the villains Elena Anaya (so very good in The Skin I live In) makes a truly fascinating inclusion as Doctor Poison. And Chris Pine makes a satisfying damsel-in-distress, complete with a wonderful chemistry with the lead. And what a lead Gal Gadot is. She carries the various elements of the movie; as comfortable in the comedic moments as the action set pieces. She also skilfully handles the more dramatic moments, preventing these from killing the pace of the film and helping to elevate the film. Coupled with an unexpectedly powerful moment in the film's finale, Wonder Woman feels like a far more emotionally engaging film than I expected.
Wonder Woman is only director Patty Jenkins second film, after the Oscar-winning Monster. Having previously been attached to the second Thor film she here proves to be extremely capable of handling a blockbuster of this scope. One of the great strengths of the film is how it juggles the various elements of its narrative; being a fish-out-of-water comedy, a charming romance, a fantasy epic, a spy thriller, and a war drama, and it is the skill of the director that allows this. There is also a clarity to the action sequences absent in previous DC films, with fewer cuts and far less of the 300-style fast-to-slow-to-fast editing in place. It is also notable that Patty Jenkins lets her characters smile, even in the dark times. The sooner this director returns to us with another blockbuster the better.
It feels like we should not make such a fuss over Wonder Woman's gender. Yet in cinematic terms it is still painfully unique to have the focus placed on anyone other then a white straight man. In the past ten years there have been forty films based on Marvel (including X-Men) and DC comics and Wonder Woman is the first one of those about someone with XX chromosomes. It is particularly noticeable that in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which dominates and has reshaped comic adaptation into a never-ending conveyor belt of interconnected films, this has not been achieved in 15 films. Marvel won't catch up to DC until 2019, which is a truly lamentable cinematic record.
Wonder Woman is near cinematic perfection. It is both escapist fun and a politically charged anti-war movie. Each of the elements it undertakes are successful and the greatest flaw of the film is that you want more of each of these: the film has a brisk pace and will often move on to the next locale too fast. It feels odd to want a film to be longer but you want to spend a few more minutes with the mighty Amazonians of Themyscira, the pompous politicians and humorous secretaries of London, and the gang of soldiers who follow Diana to the front. But wanting a film to be longer is probably the highest compliment you can pay to a blockbuster. Go see Wonder Woman and bask in the hope that radiates from it.