Wonder Woman Film Review
When I heard DC was making a Wonder Woman movie, I got very excited. After the mother-of-all letdowns that was Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and the very messy and disappointing Suicide Squad, I was keen for them to nail one of my favourite female heros. Directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster, The Killing), Wonder Woman is certainly a refreshing and exciting break from the male-led superhero flicks that have bombarded our screens for the past few years, and I hope it won’t be the last of its kind.
My favourite part of Wonder Woman was easily its opening half hour. Diana’s backstory is revealed in the island paradise of Themyscira, home of the Amazons; an all-female society of fierce warriors. Among the strongest and most skilled of them are Antiope, the Amazonian Army’s General (Robin Wright) and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons and Diana’s mother (Connie Nielsen). It is rare Hollywood grants women over the age of forty this kind of screen time, let alone such incredibly powerful characters. Jenkins has nailed this casting, because Wright and Nielsen definitely prove the error of Hollywood’s ways, representing these iconic female roles with ferocity and downright impressive fight stunts that rival any male-driven hero film I’ve ever seen. Themyscira was equal parts beautiful and badass. I wanted to stay there, and I wished the entire movie would have too.
Gal Gadot, too, is everything you’d want in Wonder Woman. An insanely skilled fighter, Diana is powerful, highly intelligent and multi-lingual (I’m talking 100 languages here) and, of course, strikingly beautiful. Gadot harnesses this iconic character with intensity and genuine fervour, and she starts off as exactly the female hero we want our young women to get used to seeing.
The biggest disappointment of this film was that she didn’t always stay that way.
Diana’s strength begins to be undermined as soon as she meets Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), her mostly unnecessary love interest. In his presence, Diana’s treatment switches from warrior princess to naive girl as Trevor carts her around WW1-era London and treats her like a child. This is largely because Diana’s character at times assumes this persona, walking around the city dazedly and fawning over cute babies (which she’s never seen before, being the last child on her home island). This character shift seems sudden and unusual, and takes away the steel we’d seen in Diana at the outset. From this point onward she continues to seem overly idealistic and naive at times, and these moments undermine the strong, strategic warrior we’d seen her raised as.
At the film’s end, Diana engages in a battle that is visually spectacular and shows the kind of superhero-level skill that gives Wonder Woman her name. But the disappointing thing is her motivation for this fight doesn’t come from the admirable, passionate desire for justice or peace she has shown for most of the film up until this point – it’s for a guy. Until the end, Diana’s strength in her crusade against the cruelty of mankind had been inspiring, but then this moment ruined it for me.
Wonder Woman is being realistic, at least. When upon entering human society, Diana is immediately objectified by literally everyone she meets – even the female characters – before she’s taken even a little bit seriously. One of the things I really enjoyed about this film, though, was it’s overt feminist moments; it seemed to be taking a lot of joy in poking fun at the patriarchal structure of 1914 England and, unfortunately, today too. While these tongue-in-cheek moments were so accurate they provoked more of a ‘laugh so you don’t cry’ kind of feeling, they still brought some solid funny moments. Since the release of Wonder Woman last week, it’s been pretty bizarre to see how much of these witty jabs have gone completely over the heads of some of its male critics.
The cast is also a very strong one; in addition to the leading hero, Chris Pine is as charming as ever as the young US soldier, with Ewan Bremner, Saïd Taghmaoui and Eugene Brave Rock making up the rest of the endearing band of scallywags that follow the lead characters into their quest to save the world. Elena Anaya is the brilliant and creepy Dr. Maru, another would-be badass female villain if it were not for the fact the film inserted a male one to steal her thunder. Lucy Davis (The Office) also makes some brief appearances as the very funny and enigmatic Etta, a character I would’ve liked to see more of if the plot allowed.
Wonder Woman starts off with the promise of a truly feminist superhero, but I think it eventually lets her down. While I genuinely enjoyed the film for all its spectacular effects, stunts and lovable characters, my final reflections lead me back to the words of Hippolyta, the Amazonian queen, as she farewells her daughter from Themyscira.
“Be careful in the world of men, Diana. They do not deserve you.”
I agree. I don’t think we really deserve Wonder Woman yet – but we’re getting there.