Ever since its birth in 1938, the DC Universe has been a unique world full of mythical, larger-than-life characters with its heroes representing the best humanity has to offer, embodying hope and optimism. However, for the past three films – Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad), all of that hope and optimism was notably absent, with our heroes consumed by grief, doubt, anger and rage. Hopeful heroes are reduced to angst-filled creatures with an unsettling, perverse desire to see others bleed (particularly Batman), even going as far as to committing acts of murder, with major cities being levelled in a way reminiscent of 9/11 or the Book of Revelation. Unlike Marvel, whose movies are highly faithful to their comic-book counterparts, the DC films (mainly the first two films) feel very detached and more like an Elseworlds depiction. However, with the arrival of Wonder Woman, this all changes, and for the better.
Thanks to director Patty Jenkins and her flawless vision and depiction of the world of Wonder Woman, the DC Universe has been elevated to a brighter, more optimistic place, where it’s okay to have a hero who wants to save the world, and more importantly, a hero you can root and invest in. Despite breaking out in Batman v Superman last year, there wasn’t that much about Wonder Woman that made her identifiable as a character. But what we have in this film is a more hopeful and more recognisable incarnation that is full of love, hope, compassion, determination and completely devoid of cynicism or darkness. We see Diana’s evolution over the course of the movie, seeing her grow up naïve on the island of Themyscira, only to mature over the course of the movie as she ventures into the outside world to help mankind. This is a three-dimensional hero with a real strong identity and genuine character development, which is especially shown in her relationship with Steve Trevor.
Both Diana and Steve are fish out of water as both are unable to understand each other’s cultures, yet they have a real emotional bond that’s tied to their stong moral beliefs. As they learn from each other, their relationship becomes stronger and reaches emotional peaks and heights, which is notable during the special moment when Steve teaches Diana how to dance. These small moments add a lot to the characters and make for a more satisfying experience, unlike in previous DC movies where people spoke in biblical tones and blather exposition constantly.
The characters are only as good as the actors playing them, and Gal Gadot finally comes into her own as the titular Wonder Woman. Gadot provides a credible, solid performance, and she nails the physicality and the subtle nuances, helped massively by the other actors surrounding her. Chris Pine is terrific and charismatic as Steve Trevor and his chemistry with Gadot is electrifying and completely believable, while both Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright offer brilliant support in their respective roles.
The action is terrific throughout with great choreography and wonderful use of dramatic tension and real physical heft during those sequences. Matthew Jensen’s cinematography is gorgeous to behold and full of bright, colourful vibrancy that has been sorely lacking in previous DC films, while the score by Rupert Gregson-Williams is pulse-pounding, adds a lot to the tone and atmosphere, and brilliantly builds upon the iconic main theme tune created by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL. As far as complaints go, the final act is somewhat uneven. Not all of the villains are handled effectively, and there is an aspect on Wonder Woman’s origin that is revealed in the last act that falls flat and takes away from her uniqueness in terms of her origin.
Thanks to Patty Jenkins, the DC Extended Universe is now at a major turning point, and despite the fact that it’s on a smaller scale, this film is as epic as anything in Batman v Superman, yet with the humanity that film sorely lacked. This is a coming-of-age story about Diana being thrown into a world that isn’t ready for her in terms of what she has to say and dealing with what she’s capable of. What’s displayed here in terms of subtext and context is clear, but’s it’s never on the nose or so thickly painted on that it distracts from the rich character development. Wonder Woman is the hero and movie DC needs, and signals a bright and hopeful future to follow.
Director: Patty Jenkins
Scr: Allan Heinberg, Jason Fuchs, Zack Snyder
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya, Lucy Davis, Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremmer, Eugene Brave Rock
Prd: Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder, Charles Roven, Richard Suckle
DOP: Matthew Jensen
Music: Rupert Gregson-Williams
Run time: 141 mins
Wonder Woman is out now in cinemas.