Despite Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, it feels like a long time since I’ve seen a DC film that’s really established a deep connection, and especially one that holds so much heart, passion and perfectly crafted style. While I enjoyed the origin story in Man of Steel, and it really did set a smart tone, Wonder Woman is a huge step above everything from the last five years.
While initially set in present-day Paris, where Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince evidentially works at the Louvre, the film actually takes place in WW1 and is told as an entire flashback after she receives a photographic plate from Bruce Wayne, which features her and others during the Great War. After this, we learn of her upbringing on the Island of Themyscira, which is home to her and the Amazons; a race of warrior women created by the gods. These early scenes help set the tone with warrior women training, fighting, and it instantly takes away any suggestions about being ‘scantily’ clad, when all I see is a resilient, self-sufficient community of women in metal armour. Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen play sisters General Antiope and Queen Hippolyta (Diana’s mother) respectively, and are powerful and strong-minded.
Then Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), who’s on the run from the Germans, accidentally crashes into the sea near their hidden Island. Diana saves him from a sinking plane and there’s consequentially a fight between the Amazons and German soldiers, who’ve been chasing Steve. After some dramatic war scenes, Diana learns of the War and concludes it’s her time to go and fight against a cause she believes is wrong, for reasons you’ll learn in this build-up.
Wonder Woman is impressive with so many elements, including exciting entertainment and also the smaller, more important – and relevant – connection to issues that still affect us. It’s also wonderfully subversive from how women are presented, in that era and now, by the mainstream media because even when Diana is trying to find ‘modern’ clothes to wear, with the help of very funny Brit Lucy Davis as Etta, she’s wondering how she could fight or move freely in such outfits, it’s invigorating and brings an overdue equality story right up there, on the big screen, with a kick-ass female lead.
While I was initially concerned with any romantic narrative, it undeniably exists, but it’s never feels forced nor does it feel like Diana specifically needs Steve there to help her. And while his actions do inspire her to find her power beneath the struggle, I felt like it’s a general expression of love for everything good she wants to see, and he reminds her by his actions that people can do the right thing, even when she rightfully mistrusts. Pine plays a positive support role as well, never belittling or out-of-touch; he sees who for whom she is, what she can achieve and also sticks to his guns on his decisions, which is replicated in what Diana does as well.
Gal Gadot is, of course, the real star with a performance that balances a slight naivety at first with continual strength, passion, and intelligence. The initial origin story is vital to her progression and shows us that she learns her powers as we do. Although thrown into a world she’s never known before, Diana never hides away, never changes who she is and is always on her quest to stop evil from spreading further.
What makes Wonder Woman also very special is the perfect build up, right up to when she climbs the ladder and walks into No Man’s Land because, after all, she’s there to do what she came to do and that’s everything she believes in. The one thing I didn’t expect was the emotional impact that hit me, from both knowing the sacrifice of those in WW1 but also seeing her up there, fighting for what’s right with a strong, female lead felt like something we’d been missing from cinema for far too long, it feels so powerful. Director Patty Jenkins also films it so beautifully, so when it’s alongside an intense, uplifting score by Rupert Gregson-Williams, the spirit rises up within and you feel you’re up there with her, pushing forwards to something so very important.
Gregson-Williams’ themes rise and fall effortlessly, and really adds authority to significant scenes. Also, for such a mainstream movie, Wonder Woman doesn’t hide from nods towards racism and sexism, which reflects through to the world today despite its setting. These are important narratives to discuss and director Jenkins manages to find an ideal balance throughout, as well as a visual treat in both style and substance.
Not only is Wonder Woman the film we need right now, it shows us it’s important to believe in your principles and, as well as that, it’s an epic tale of courage, humanity and kick-ass action.