Patty Jenkins gives DC’s cinematic universe its best outing yet in a movie that is wonderful all the way up to its final act.
Diana is a hero brought up in a society of Amazonian women, who are trained to fight to defend their world. When a pilot flies through the barrier to her world she discovers the horrors of war, specifically World War One. She decides to leave her home in order to fight to end this great conflict and bring peace to both the pilot’s world and her own.
Diana herself is the biggest and best part of this film and Gal Gadot deserves huge praise for the way she handles the character. She captures a sense of childlike wonder discovering the joys of a new world, whilst also portraying shock and dread at the horrors of World War One. It’s a dichotomy that in lesser hands could look muddled and inconsistent. But Gadot balances these fantastically, creating a character who is experienced and immature all at the same time.
She’s made even more important by the way she interacts with the world around her: she’s willing to stand up for her beliefs no matter her opposition and she’s also not afraid to stand at the front of the battlefield. As a result the respect she earns from her fighting peers, both male and female feels totally earned, and we the audience, are right there with them, rallying behind Wonder Woman as she leads the charge in larger and larger military victories. The film manages to tell a horrific story of World War one through the focused lens of this woman’s journey and for this it deserves major praise.
The supporting cast also deserve major kudos for the work, Chris Pine in particular is charismatic enough that Diana (and the audience, by extension) develop a natural and well cultivated connection with his character Steve Trevor. But he’s always just charismatic enough to make it clear that he is playing a supporting role despite his huge amount of screen time. This is helped in no uncertain terms by Jenkins’s clear directorial focus on Diana and her journey. The only problem member of the supporting cast is Etta Candy, who often feels like a character used for comedy relief and little more. In a way it’s good that Diana has a comedy foil, rather than being that foil herself (and lesser films would have taken this much lazier approach to the “fish out of water” character study). But Diana doesn’t feel like she needs any comedy to establish how powerfully progressive she is, and so as a result Etta comes across as more of a wasted opportunity than a meaningful addition to the supporting cast.
The biggest letdown of the film is, by far, the third act where this brilliant focus on character development is switched out for heavy action sequences that undermine the tight story in favour of more traditional, bombastic DC fare. It’s a huge shame because it occurs at what could have easily been the high point of the film, with setting, characters and plot points all converging together only to be undermined by the awful pacing and tone of DC’s trademark “final boss battle” style of format.
This is even more of a letdown when you consider how different the first two acts of this film for a DC movie. It’s packed full of beautiful cinematography and the World War One setting really matches DC’s more muted, moody use of colour. The music is also much more vibrant than usual, gone are the over the top ‘BWAM’ sounds of a typical DC fight-fest, traded off instead here for a genuinely tight orchestral soundtrack. That is, of course, all except that tedious guitar riff which turns up on a number of occasions, each time more grating and silly than the last.
Wonder Woman is, for the most part, a film defined by Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot’s triumphs. It does a brilliant job of taking a character and building them a deep and meaningful backstory, whilst also leaving more than enough room to have them grow in the future. Unfortunately, it’s kept just shy of greatness thanks to the silly final conflict and the twists and turns it takes in logic, pacing and tone in order to get there. Wonder Woman has very much set the bar by which the next few DC movies must be measured. It’s just a shame that it’s the cinematic universe that feels like it’s holding this film, and this character, back from something more.
Wonder Woman Scored: 7.3/10
This review was edited by Joanna Hollins, for more of her work click here: Joanna Hollins.