Directed by Patty Jenkins
Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston
Film Review by Kirsty Asher
As I sat down to watch this film, I received a news notification that Donald Trump had decided to pull out of the Paris Agreement. It’s hard to settle down to a film where you can trust that a superhuman will swoop in to save the day when, in reality, any current evidence of real truth and justice in this world seems hard to find.
The post-9/11 production line of superhero films from the past decade or so have been undoubtedly much-needed: in the aftermath of a bewildering disaster the Hollywood industry gave its audience respite in the heroic, as beloved American comic book icons sprung to life and into action against some dark foe or other. And this latest turn by DC (goddess, help them) pits Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) against the darkness of the German army in World War I.
The film begins with the almost obscenely idyllic setting of Themyscira, a vibrant matriarchy where Diana is raised by her mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) from whom she receives wisdom and temperance while learning the craft of combat from the fierce, battle-hardened General Antiope (Robin Wright, on brilliant form). The Spartan scenes of female warriors training together is such a welcoming sight for a female action film lover; women supporting each other as they work to improve themselves, their bodies coiled ropes of skilled muscles. This film follows fluidly on the heels of Mad Max in steering the discourse of action films towards a dynamic, progressive portrayal of feminine athleticism, and the Grecian mythology backdrop complements this perfectly.
Gadot in the eponymous role gives a fantastic blend of wide-eyed innocence and sassy common sense. She is able to storm through the patriarchal world of 1910s England to complete her quest because no man has ever been present to hold her back and her frankness brilliantly alarms and disarms the American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Interestingly, Pine’s first major feature debut was as the male love interest to a female protagonist in the forgettable 2006 Lindsay Lohan rom-com Just My Luck. Here, just as in that film, he creates a witty and interesting supporting character who doesn’t dominate the screen, toning down his Kirk swagger to give us a humbled character who yearns for a better world and who, importantly, knows the limits of this power.
All this is well and good enough, but as with the rest of the DCEU, the overall production just misses the mark for me. The common thread seems to be the screenplay, which consistently lacks the zinging wit and self-awareness found in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Wonder Woman et al are arguably the most earnest examples of American comic book morality, and yet when translated into screen media it comes across as two-dimensional and ultimately falls flat. The plot- twist and its showdown devolves into a campy wham! kapow! catastrophe worthy of a Transformers film, erasing everything the film worked hard to construct in the first 80 minutes. In the end, the average script with its attempts at ideology and philosophy betrays the promising set-up and sadly abandons Wonder Woman to become just another superhero film: another bad guy to kill, another problem fixed. The vital message that love will ultimately win just doesn’t sit well when coming from an all-powerful goddess, a fictional creation who we only wish could actually exist. In the Post-Truth era, I find it hard to drink up this milkshake of sincere optimism.
Has Gadot’s Wonder Woman furthered the positive representation of women onscreen? Without a doubt. Has the rest of the film offered anything new to the superhero genre? Not really.
Watch the official Movie Trailer for Wonder Woman below...