For a comic book character that’s been around for 75 years, it’s a wonder Amazon warrior Diana, Princess of Themyscira, hasn’t had her own movie until now.
There was Lynda Carter’s TV incarnation during the ’70s, of course, and now statuesque Israeli beauty Gal Gadot strides confidently into a male-dominated fray as the first bona fide superheroine, and makes the role her own. Balancing an almost childlike innocence of the world beyond her island with a fierce intelligence (she speaks hundreds of languages) and the ferocity and agility of a born warrior, Gadot is simply wonderful and brings Diana to life with total conviction.
Although having popped up briefly in Batman v Superman, this is a proper introduction to Wonder Woman, one of a race of Amazon warriors created by Zeus as peacekeepers following the corruption of man by Ares the God of War, and sheltered from the outside world and the evil that men do.
Into this matriarchal society drops World War I pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), who is rescued by Diana after his plane nosedives into the ocean. When told of the great war raging beyond her shores, Diana is convinced it’s the work of Ares and is fiercely determined to put an end to the conflict. Armed with the sword ‘Godkiller’ and the Lasso of Truth, she sets sail for the new world and a date with destiny…
Wonder Woman avoids the self-importance of Batman v Superman and perceived cool of Suicide Squad to bring some welcome levity to the DCEU; it’s a superhero movie with humour and heart. The establishing scenes have a fun Xena: Warrior Princess feel to them, while Diana’s arrival in London mines culture clash comedy to great effect. Her early scenes with Chris Pine are also sweetly awkward in a ‘Men are from London, Women are from Themyscira’ kind of way.
To call Wonder Woman the best DC movie to date might sound like faint praise, but for the most part it’s a highly entertaining origin story – a wartime adventure romp in the spirit of The Rocketeer and Captain America that works best when Diana is fearlessly tearing through the front line, deflecting bullets and defying gravity. How do you get past enemy troops in No Man’s Land? You send in a woman, of course. Moreover, the Germans are a more relatable threat than the usual immortal superbeing or dimensional vortex.
Gadot might be perfect but the film isn’t, and it’s hard to describe how Wonder Woman abruptly goes wrong without spoilers. Suffice to say there’s some glaring miscasting to blame, as well as a final act that feels studio mandated (despite director Patty Jenkins insisting otherwise). It’s the same problem, albeit to a lesser degree, that derailed Suicide Squad. But where that was half a good movie, Wonder Woman is two thirds of the way there.
Bottom line: the DCEU needs to reconcile the filmmaker’s vision with the studio’s – preferably before the Justice League arrive.
In cinemas: June 1, 2017
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, David Thewlis
Directed by: Patty Jenkins