Exquisite in its execution, and outrageously bold in its convictions, Wonder Woman is quickly becoming one of the great superhero origin stories of our time.
Not only has the reception of the highly anticipated movie been widely positive, but it has exceeded all expectations, with a massive global opening weekend at the box office, recording a total of $US223 million in takings. In addition to this, director Patty Jenkins has become the record holder for “biggest US opening by a female director”.
From start to finish, Jenkins and the movie’s cinematographer, Matthew Jensen, serve up a visual feast. From the crystal clear waters and alluring beaches of the (fictional) Amazonian island of Themyscira, to the fog-infested grey of London, and the slush of war-torn WWI trenches, Jenkins delivers a refreshingly bright colour palette – a nice change from the monotonous dark blue of previous DC films. Evoking both classic and modern adaptations of Wonder Woman’s comic-book origin, while wrapping that within ancient Greek mythology, the superhero aspects feel much more organic, and directs the focus towards the characters, which allows the audience to be fully immersed in this magical and believable world.
Jenkins’ love for “classic cinema” shines through, with all the elements regarded as great cinema being integrated naturally throughout the film. The story – crafted by Zack Snyder, Jason Fuchs and Allan Heinberg, with the latter adapting it for the screen – has a young Diana, Princess of Themyscira, embarking on an adventure into the world of man to bring about peace, and end the tyranny of Ares, the God of war.
Unlike its predecessors, this film is not afraid to be slightly self-aware, with natural humour and genuine moments of heart-felt emotion – something from which most DC films have shied away. Jenkins boldly embraces the ethos at the heart of Diana’s character, and prompts the viewers’ sense of optimism, wonder and love in a way that is both relatable and palatable.
The score for the film – by Rupert Gregson-Williamson (most notable for his work on Legend of Tarzan, and Netflix’s The Crown) – swells with emotion as we follow Diana’s journey, and hits us with crescendos that set the pulse racing when the action erupts.
But the true core of this movie, and why it is so important that we have a film like this now, lives within Gal Gadot’s performance. Coming off the back of a successful cameo appearance in Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, and unfairly scrutinised for her physical appearance before undertaking this role, Gadot delivers a genuineness which fully captivates you, displaying true depth across a range of complex emotions. At no point will you leave the cinema with any doubt in your mind that Gadot IS Wonder Woman. From the naivety about the world of man, to the heart-breaking empathy for soldiers on the battlefield, or the fierce determination to achieve the sacred duty of her Amazonian sisters and defeat Ares, Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot have brought to life one of the strongest role models for young women to aspire to.
Leading off Gadot, and complementing her perfectly, is Chris Pine’s character Steve Trevor, Diana’s love interest in the film. An incredibly underrated actor, Pine’s chemistry with Gadot is mesmerising as he plays a young English spy, swept into Diana’s world, who guides her through WWI on her quest to defeat Ares. His dejected nature and cynical views of the world play so well off Diana’s overwhelming optimism that it is a pure joy to watch them perform even the most everyday tasks such as walking through the streets of dreary London.
The action sequences are some of the best I have seen in a comic-book movie, with Jenkins choosing to pan out to a wide shot, rather than zooming in, as is the tendency of most directors, allowing the viewers to gain perspective of the epic nature of Diana’s strength. From the opening sequence on the beach with all the Amazons, to paying homage to 1978s Superman: The Movie by having Diana save Steve Trevor from a bullet, and the scenes with Diana beating down German soldiers within a confined space; these are all instant classics. But watching Wonder Woman rise up from the trenches and cross “No Man’s Land”, ricocheting bullets off of her bracelets, deflect mortar blasts with her shield, and repel an entire German trench fitted with a mini-gun, will leave you with an emotional empowerment like no other. It will undoubtedly go down as a treasured piece of classic superhero movie folklore.
The movie is not without its faults, with the third and final act seemingly off the pace in comparison with the rest of the film. The classic comic-book villain Dr Poison as well as the historical villain German General Ludendorff tend to have a touch too much screen time for their villainous monologues. The final battle with Ares falls victim to the fatal flaw of every comic-book movie, where too much CGI shatters your immersion for a short time.
Jenkins has cemented her place as one of the best directors within the genre, and the incomparable Gal Gadot gives us one of her most intelligent, beautiful and performances. Wonder Woman is a magnificent film, full of heart, wonder and love. At a time where our world is in such uncertainty, it is a wondrous thing that we have a story where the fiercest defence against the onslaught of evil is love.
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