So. Was the 75-year wait for a Wonder Woman movie worth it? Thanks to an actress who inhabits the role wonderfully (see what I did there?), powerful (if sometimes overwrought) action scenes and the perfect sidekick, the answer is a resounding yes. As some critics have already said, it is the best movie of the DC Extended Universe so far, even if the bar has been set rather low.
It begins with the world-weary tones of Diana of Themyscira (Gal Gadot) in the modern day: “I used to want to save this world.” From there, we go straight into a (somewhat tedious) prologue centered on Diana’s childhood with the Amazons of Paradise Island. And the sight of so many strong, powerful women in action really is something to behold, even if it feels like 300 in reverse, minus the campiest elements.
“A scorpion must sting. A wolf must hunt,” declares the warrior Antiope (a shamefully under-used Robin Wright) in response to Queen Hippolyta’s (Connie Nielsen) attempts to protect her very special daughter from the evils of man’s world. But the Superman parallels don’t stop there. Here’s a hint: it’s got something to do with her father.
But paradise can never last, and so it goes with the entrance of one Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine, who may just have found his niche here), who literally comes crashing into their lives. From here, the story goes into historical fiction in the mould of X-Men: First Class. Upon hearing of the horrors of World War I, Diana is compelled to intervene in man’s world, even as Hippolyta warns: “They do not deserve you.”
The movie is beautifully shot, from the sun-drenched climes of Themyscira to the blue-toned battlefields of France. The action scenes are strong too, despite the (painful) influence of Zack Snyder. How many times can DC movies incorporate slow-mo action scenes that laughably defy the laws of physics? (I’m looking at you, BvS and Suicide Squad)
But the moment of truth comes when Diana, no longer able to contain herself, takes up sword and shield and lasso and strides out into no man’s land – in slow motion, of course – to become the warrior she was always meant to be. The urge to cheer when she takes on the enemy is strong, because it feels like she is striking a collective blow for fangirls (and boys) everywhere. Who says audiences don’t want to see female-led superhero movies?
Almost inevitably, Wonder Woman has the usual weaknesses of comic book movies: a villain with suspect motivation that makes zero sense (Danny Huston, who’s making a habit of this after X-Men Origins: Wolverine), an uneven third act that culminates in the tedious, explodey final showdown, and even some rushed CGI. But I suppose it was too much to expect that the first superheroine movie of the modern era would not only have a lead we could root for, but strong characterisation and a plot that made complete sense as well.
But make no mistake: it is Gal Gadot that makes Wonder Woman work. The camera is in love with her luscious hair and her delicate, beautiful features, but she is no mere beauty queen. Gadot acquits herself very well indeed in the action scenes and exhibits a steeliness tempered by vulnerability and naivete, not to mention a regality fitting of a Greek goddess. There’s also great humour in the fish-out-of-water scenes, even if they are reminiscent of Thor.
Chris Pine also makes for an excellent sidekick: full of wit, charm and above all, decency. While he has never quite convinced us as a leading man, playing second fiddle comes almost naturally to Pine. He is an excellent foil to Gadot, even though his character is given an (in our opinion) unnecessary heroic arc.
Take a bow, director Patty Jenkins. Your movie may very well have revitalised the DCEU.
Wonder Woman opens in Singapore theatres and in IMAX 3D today. Tell us what you think of the movie!