Review: Wonder Woman (2017)

Directed by Patty Jenkins

UK Release Date: 1st June 2017

Feature Running Time: 141 minutes

Wonder Woman poster.jpg

Wonder Woman. DC’s saving grace so far in their proposed DC Extended Universe. The first female dominant superhero film since Elektra in 2005. The first DCEU film to receive worldwide critical acclaim. Not to mention, Patty Jenkins solidifying herself as the first woman to direct a superhero film with a female protagonist at the centre of it all. Not only is this film a huge massive step-up in the right direction for DC but its also something special in terms of diversity, equality and women in film. With Wonder Woman being granted female only screenings too, this is definitely something that should be celebrated, embraced and applauded.

After the critically lauded failures that were both Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad of last year, its hard to be surprised that feelings towards Wonder Woman before it came out were very mixed. People were quick to write it off as another flop that will instantly crash and burn. However, I always remained quietly optimistic about this film, not giving up hope that this will finally be DC’s turning point to turn things around for the better. I’m happy to report that my hopes were matched and in some ways surpassed rather than crushed with the end result that has now been unleashed upon us. With that in mind, its understandable why so many were still very much on the fence about Wonder Woman, the trailers and marketing that were produced leading up to its June release date had been impressive but then the same thing applied with DC’s previous aforementioned films, its just a shame that those finished end products couldn’t match up to the brilliance of either of its marketing campaigns.

The film opens up with a sequence set in the present day of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) receiving a black and white World War I photograph from Bruce Wayne. This unlocks her first memory of how she came to be here and serves as the main story arc for the rest of the film. This is honestly one of the best superhero origin movies I have seen and doesn’t waste time going straight into how Diana Prince came to be before she became Wonder Woman. Raised on a sheltered and uncharted island paradise by the name of Themyscira, created by Zeus to keep a civilisation hidden from Ares, the God of War; Diana was known as the princess of the Amazons among her race that consisted of courageous female warriors with no man in sight. Training among them to become an unconquerable and fierce warrior, she has yet to discover the special abilities that she had been empowered with since birth and only just beginning to realise her own potential and destiny. When pilot/British Intelligence spy Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands into the sea while on a daring escape from the Germans, coming forth at their mercy with a warning that they’re in much grave danger than they know on the account of the war to end all wars raging in the outside world; Diana immediately goes against her mother’s initial wishes to leave home and fight in this war alongside other men, believing shes the only one who can put a stop to this worldwide threat and defeat Ares.

Its hard to believe that this film is a part of the same shared universe as absolute duds like Suicide Squad as its worlds apart in terms of its story, character development and world building that Jenkins has wonderfully created and constructed together in a more clear and cohesive narrative structure. You can really tell how DC have really stepped up their game and with Wonder Woman being a personal passion project for Jenkins, having wanted to bring Wonder Woman to the big screen all her life; this is a piece of bravura film-making that is really mature and confident in knowing what it is and how to rectify the previous mistakes that occurred before. The story just runs at a nice, fluid pace where it never once seems messy or confusing. Additionally, unlike DC’s first three attempts when competing with Marvel which includes Man of Steel, this film knows when to not take itself too seriously with Jenkins injecting the story with a fantastic blend of comedy, action, emotion and danger. There’s also some great memorable lines of dialogue thrown in for added measure too. I love how this marks the first movie in the DC universe that isn’t so dark and moody with its own colour palette being enthused with much needed wonderfully vibrant colours.

Gadot and Pine share brilliant on-screen chemistry together in their roles of Diana and Steve respectively and it was really great fun to see the gender roles reversed. In doing so, Pine was able to give an absolutely terrific and astonishing performance that I think is probably the best performance he’s given since starring in Tony Scott’s Unstoppable so that was a really nice surprise. As for Gadot’s performance as the feisty titular heroine, she has proven herself in her first leading role in a film that she is utterly worthy of the title of Wonder Woman. A lot of people said that she was the best thing about Batman V Superman when she made her appearance in full costume. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see it as there was really nothing I liked about BvS. But here after given all the screen time and full reins, she really does knock it out of the park. She gives a very human performance and we believe in her journey every step of the way. The first time we see her engage in battle by making the courageous act of stepping out into no man’s land is absolutely breathtaking and really is as good as everyone else has been saying. From the moment we see her block herself from the first firing bullit to defecting gunfire from all kinds of directions with the defence of her shield, it was the main action set piece that was flawlessly filmed and masterfully shot.

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At 2 hours and 21 minutes long, I thought I would get a bit impatient towards the end wondering when the end credits will start rolling in but that certainly wasn’t the case here. I think because I was so invested in both the characters and story which are done so beautifully well, that I could have easily spent another 20 to 30 minutes watching and taking everything in, exploring more of this world that Jenkins has created set against the backdrop of the first World War that had a certain similar feel to Captain America: The First Avenger. However, saying that this film couldn’t seemingly escape the pitfall trap of the overloaded CGI third final act that so many recent superhero flicks succumb victim to, applying to Marvel studios as well and not just DC. The final battle sequence with the main villain just didn’t sit well with me as it doesn’t really fit in with the context of the rest of the film and doesn’t keep up that strong balance this film was able to bring to us up until that point. Regardless, I have to stress that the final act does not in any way tarnish the excellent 110 minutes or so that preceded the film’s somewhat messy climax. It also manages to find the time within sporadic moments to perfectly use carefully placed scenes that are inspired by films such as Superman: The Movie, Indiana Jones and Return of The Jedi that really work well here.

Wonder Woman has certainly paved the right way for DC and its finally promising future of further films in the DCEU where a lot more people should now be looking forward to Justice League come this November. I’m just really hoping that with riding off the success of this movie, it won’t just be a one off and DC manage to keep the momentum going by ensuring this level of excellence carries on being consistent throughout its future slate of films.

★★★★ 1/2


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