Rating: Very Severe
Running time: 2 hours 21 minutes
Director: Patty Jenkins
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielson, David Thewlis, Danny Huston, Elena Anaya, Lucy Davis, Ewen Bremner, Saïd Taghmaoui, Eugene Brave Rock
Spoiler alert in effect.
I haven’t been this excited to watch a film since La La Land came out. I’ve been impatiently waiting to rush to the cinemas since it came out on June 1 and I’ve been psyching myself up by watching trailers and interviews. I remember Wonder Woman appearing in Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and being super excited about the overall look and the casting choice. She was by far the best part of that film (which was overall panned by the critics). I knew little about the character or her origin story before watching the film, but for those in the same boat, worry not, it doesn’t detract from the entertainment value of film. It surpassed my already ridiculously high standard (it was after all, certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and will live on as a definite favourite superhero film of mine.
Just to repeat, there will be spoilers everywhere from this point on, so you have been warned.
The story starts off in Themyscira, a magically concealed island where the Amazonian warrior women live and train. Essentially, Zeus protected this island to protect the women from Ares, the God of war and Zeus’ son, who wants to destroy all of mankind. It is these warriors’ responsibility and purpose to defeat Ares and save mankind, who they think of as being inherently good until corrupted by Ares. Dianna Prince (Gal Gadot), a.k.a Wonder Woman, is brought up on this island by her mum, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielson). She was told as a child that she was sculpted from clay and brought to life by Zeus. She was trained rigorously throughout her life by her aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright), as all others were expected to do, in case there is another war. Her mother once told her the only way to kill Ares was using a sword referred to as a ‘Godkiller’. One day, while training, she used her gauntlets to defensively to protect herself, allowing her to witness for the first time her true superpowers. This set off a whole chain of events, whereby the outside world, currently in the throes of WWI, finally stumbled upon this hidden island. This is how Dianna met Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American spy for the British, who had just received intelligence about Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya), a German chemist with the ability to create a hydrogen gas bomb that could win the Germans the war. The rest of the film follows the adventure of Dianna and Steve, as they travel away from the island and towards a war-ravaged Europe.
For me, everything about this film felt right. The story was well-written, the characters felt genuine, the casting spot-on and the CGI amazing. Plus the score, written by Rupert Gregson-Williams, was unbelievable. I’ve been listening to it for the past couple of days, and I can picture the scenes so vividly in my head! I’m glad the powers that may be decided to wait until now to make this, because it really needed the right story, right cast and right director to make it a success. A quick read of Wikipedia will tell you how long this movie has been in development for (since 1996!), with various writers, producers, actresses and directors attached to the film over the years. Everything has come together to arrive at this point, and boy, is it worth.
The story has this wonderful combination of drama, comedy, sadness and action, with a bit of romance on the side. It’s just so refreshing to see a female-led superhero film. This is actually the first time Wonder Woman has been on the big screen in a solo film in it’s 75 year history. Amazing isn’t it? That it took that long for us to get a film about a female superhero that is actually well-made (unlike Catwoman or Elektra). A lot of it is down to Patty Jenkins (the director) and Gal Gadot.
Let me start with Patty. Her last ‘big’ film was the indie Monster, in which Charlize Theron won an academy award for her performance. Patty has since directed a few TV shows and was about to direct Thor: The Dark World (thank god she didn’t). I’m glad Warner Bros. took a gamble with her, because it’s paid off so well. She really understands the characters and the need for authenticity. In this film, we see Wonder Woman growing up and starting out as this naive, innocent woman who thinks mankind is good and has a ‘black and white’ perspective on good and evil. She doesn’t understand the complexity of men and the world and why people would go to war. It’s important that there is a right balance of vulnerability and innocence vs. strength and bravery. While she may be an emotional and kind person, she is also fierce and independent, willing to put her life on the line to protect others, and willing to fight the evil forces. The characterisation of Steve Trevor also has to be done correctly. He’s the person who guides her through this new world, who introduces her to mankind and all their mysteries. He’s not just a love interest, he’s also her friend and there’s a sense of mutual respect between them. He respects her powers and abilities and never assumes he is tougher or better than her. This is what I thought Patty handled so beautifully and what was so integral in making sure that the story was told well. Also, she is able to assert her control over the direction of the film. Every scene that she wanted to be the film was in the film (could that mean no director’s cut version?). What I can’t believe is that she had to fight hard for the ‘No Man’s Land’ scene to be included. That is by far one of the best parts of the film and perhaps the greatest cinematic reveal of a superhero ever! When Dianna drops her coat and climbs up the ladder, it’s just so emotional, because here you have an independent, selfless woman walking straight into the line of fire in order to save innocent lives. It’s also amazing to me that there was minimal additional shoots for the film. I think the scene where Wonder Woman, Steve and the gang witness the horses being stuck in the mud etc. was the only scene to be added on afterwards. Considering this is the first time that a large tentpole superhero film has been directed by a female, I’m really happy with the outcome, and I hope this will be sign of better things to come.
Moving onto the main star and Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot. Before I really got into the hype of Wonder Woman, I realised that I’ve seen her before. I was on a plane to Melbourne and decided to watch some light comedy to pass the time. I picked Keeping Up with the Joneses. A pretty average film but it was the first time for me seeing Gal on screen. When I looked up her filmography, I noticed she really hasn’t been in many major Western films. Other than the Fast and Furious franchise (where she has a small role), she doesn’t really have much else in her acting career. It’s probably because she hasn’t been acting for long. She dabbled in modelling in her teens, and even got crowned Miss Israel. This is in fact how she got discovered as an actress, through her modelling agency. She also served her 2-year mandatory military service in the Israeli army, where she probably picked up a few combat skills. Fast forward to her audition for Wonder Woman, which was at a point in her career where she nearly went back to law school and give up on acting. The crazy thing was she didn’t even know what she was auditioning for! Zack Snyder didn’t tell her until 6 weeks later, when she got the role. I think the casting was so crucial for this, and they did it perfectly. It feels like Gal was meant to play Wonder Woman. At times it almost feels like she’s just playing herself. Similar to the way Robert Downey Jr. seems to be Iron Man himself. Gal herself is a mother of two daughters, was 5 months pregnant when they did reshoots (they had to place a green screen triangle on her belly haha!), and underwent intensive training prior to filming. A true Wonder Woman.
Looking at the character of Wonder Woman, she becomes a role model for girls and boys alike. She’s strong and tough, able to defeat her enemies in battle, but she’s also caring and kind and vulnerable. She’s also different to most other superheros we’ve seen before, in the sense that while she doesn’t even know the extent of her power (e.g. jumping onto the tower containing the ancient relics without even knowingly if she was capable of making that leap), she is still willing to go forth into the war to defeat Ares and defend mankind. Very unlike the typical superhero, who often spends half the film discovering and understanding their powers before deciding to use it for good. I think she makes a pretty decent role model, and overall sends a positive message of love and empowerment. Sure, the ending might have been a little cheesy, with the whole ‘only love will truly save the world’ thing. But I’m a fan of cheesy lines (so as long as the entire film wasn’t already overly cheesy), so I found it a nice touch. And to be honest, that’s what Wonder Woman embodies: love. The world could do with some of it now. Also, some people say her kiss with Steve detracts from her whole ‘independent woman’ image, but I don’t necessarily agree with this. She’s not dependent on Steve for anything. It’s made very clear that she can look after herself, and in fact, protect Steve too. I think female characters are allowed to have a love interest and fall in love. I don’t think that detracts or takes anything away from them, as long as their relationship has mutual respect and the woman isn’t being objectified or seen as second-class to the man. Steve clearly respects Dianna and vice versa, and they’ve formed a friendship first and foremost.
In terms of my favourite and not-so favourite scenes, I have a couple. My absolute favourite is of course the ‘No Man Land’ scene. Diana stepping out of the safety of the trenches and taking the fire head-on is remarkably brave and heroic. The whole sequence was just brilliantly shot and well-crafted. I also enjoyed all the light banter between her and Steve, especially while they were on the boat. The humour throughout the film helped give a lighter tone compared to other DCEU films, and made it far less darker. The part where Steve talks to Dianna right before he gets on the plane to denoate the bombs is so heartbreaking, but I still love it! I’m sucker for any emotional moment like this, and Steve sacrificing his life right after confessing his love for her made me so sad! I wish they had more time together. The one scene which I least enjoyed though, was the ending battle with Ares.
It just felt so generic and typical, and offered little in new material. It was epic for sure, but nothing distinguished it from other action-film ending sequences. Also, I didn’t feel like David Thewlis pulled of the role of Ares. It might be because for half the film, he’s playing a good guy, or because in my mind at least, he’s Remus Lupin. Being a diehard Harry Potter fan does not help in picturing him as an evil God. But oh well. Other than that though, there’s not much else to fault the film.
Beyond the actual making of the film and the story itself, I’m so so so happy it’s being well-received my critics. But I’m even happier at how successful it’s been at the box office. Because this is what could really open the door to future female-led, female-directed films. If studios can see that Wonder Woman is not only critically-acclaimed but also profitable, this is the key factor that may change the way the business and industry thinks. There are really disturbing statistics out there regarding female participation in the industry, particularly behind the scenes. Of the top 100 grossing films in 2016, only 4% of directors were women. This is despite the fact that more than half of moviegoers are women! We need more female directors and producers and writers so that more films like Wonder Woman can be greenlit. On a brighter note, it’s obviously not a surprise that this films passes the Bechdel test with flying colours! For those unfamiliar with this, the Bechdel test requires 3 things: (1) It has to have at least two (named) women in it, (2) who talk to each other, (3) about something besides a man. Wonder Woman clearly passes this within the first few minutes of the film! Yet another awesome aspect of the movie.
Finally, this film is of course part of the DC Extended Universe, and therefore Dianna will appear again in Justice League, due out later this year. The trailer looks good and I look forward to watching it, even if I’m not very familiar with all the new characters (e.g. Flash, Aquaman etc.). Fingers crossed that a sequel to Wonder Woman will also be made in the near future, although that might be a few years yet. The direct rival to DC is of course Marvel, and they’ve had far more critically-acclaimed and well-received films. But they haven’t yet had a female superhero in her own movie. Captain Marvel, due out in 2019, will be the first one with a female-led superhero, played by the very talent Brie Larson. Definitely one to look out for, considering the success of Wonder Woman.
Overall, Wonder Woman’s first original story on the big screen has made quite an impression, and if this is a sign of things to come, then bring it on, because the world needs more films like these.
1. Did you think Wonder Woman lived up to all the hype, or did it fail to meet your expectations? Why?
2. Is this your favourite DCEU film? Are you looking forward to Justice League?
3. What do you think about the UN dropping Wonder Woman as one of its ambassadors?
4. Do you think Captain Marvel will have the same reception as Wonder Woman?