It’s been quite some time since we got any movie based on a DC character which was acclaimed by fans and critics alike since The Dark Knight Rises. DC Movies since then have had a more mixed reception to them. Starting with Man of Steel, Warner Bros. has continued to give us mediocre movies, touting them as the start of their own cinematic universe so as to compete with Marvel. So it’s surprising to think to that of all those movies not one of them has had a female lead. But worry not, Wonder Woman is here to change all that !
Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins, stars Gal Gadot as Diana, an Amazon residing in the confines of the island Themyscira, hidden away from the world. The peace that is prevalent at her home is disrupted when suddenly a man (Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine) crashes into their shores, boasting of a greater war being fought in the outer world. Diana believes this to be the work of Ares, the God of war, and sets off with Steve to help humanity.Now, Wonder Woman had a lot to live up to since the day the project was announced. Apart from being the first tent pole superhero movie with a woman directing it, it was also being looked at to save the falling grace of the newly established DCEU. It can be safely said that the film lives up to these expectations and even manages to surpass them in many ways. It is the first good DC movie in a long time, one which doesn’t present ideas which are overly divisive as the previous films before it in the series has. The stand-alone setting of the movie also helps this in standing out from the hoards of other films which feel more like overly long commercials for the next one.
The film handles the war torn era well, giving us honest glimpses at how the war has affected innocent lives and the point is hammered home well by the innocence with which Diana questions the morality of men and the evil within them. This becomes a recurring theme throughout the movie, as Diana questions herself ; if other Amazons were right in not trusting mankind. The setting of the film easily draws comparison to another comic book film, that being Captain America: The First Avenger. While The First Avenger took a ‘cleaner’ approach to showing the violence that comes with a war scenario, Wonder Woman gracefully accepts the hard reality of the situation.Gal Gadot gives a charismatic performance as Diana. While her debut in last year’s Batman v Superman felt a bit forced, any doubts about her owning the role are gone. She gracefully plays her role, and it can be seen as a playful nod to Christopher Reeve’s Superman, in that the story sees as otherworldly being come and live with humans. We see her grow up as a rebellious native as it becomes pretty clear that she has abilities which the other Amazons don’t, and that makes up for some interesting interactions in the community. Chris Pine likewise gives a very charming performance as Captain Steve Trevor which compliments Diana’s character in a very heartwarming manner. Adding to it we also get to see Steve’s character develop throughout the course of the film and this helps in both him and Diana learn from each other throughout the course of events in the film. Rounding out the notable cast are the likes of Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Elena Anaya and Connie Nielsen, who all give well rounded performances.
The visuals that the film presents are, for the most part, on the better side of what DC has been pumping out. While Zack Snyder has his own style of visual imagery (as seen in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman), they have always faced criticism in the fact that his movies often go for a muted look. Colors are drawn out of the environments and while the composition of the image is nice, it just lacks a sense of joy. Patty Jenkins and cinematographer Matthew Jensen bring about a very beautiful world in Themyscira, one which openly accepts its comic book mythos and brings out its larger than life imagery with much bravado. This also plays in stark contrast with a somewhat muted look of the scenes set in the war torn areas, but never for a moment does it look dull. The fight scenes are also commendable and while it does seem at a point that Jenkins likes to use slow motion on more than one occasion, it’s never so much so as to take you out of the experience.
The film does have some minor flaws though. For starters, the antagonist is not as fleshed out as we would have hoped it to be. It works for the story that the film is trying to portray, and it makes good use of the setting of the film. We do get some mystery as to what the character means for others, and this aspect of the character largely succeeds. It only remains to be seen what greater enemies Diana will face continuing through her journey, starting with this year’s Justice League, which by the looks of it seems to deliver on that promise.
On a concluding note, Wonder Woman proves to be a very well made film which happens to have a female lead. It proves that female protagonists can lead their own movie and a good one at that, given the material is given to the right people who give it the right treatment. It provides the reception that the DC film division has been looking for ever since it launched its shared universe platform and manages to compel other studios to invest more for female led comic book adaptations. More than that the film gives the best introduction to the titular character that it could have, and as the words on the posters exclaim, Wonder Woman steals our hearts with power, courage and of course, wonder.