As the DC TV universe continues to go from strength to strength, the DC movie universe is gradually going downhill. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Man of Steel, despite the overloaded CGI destruction at the end. I didn’t mind Batman Vs Superman either, even with Jesse Eisenberg doing his very best to try and ruin it. But, despite successfully introducing two other major DC heavyweight characters (and not so successfully introducing a few others) and picking up steam in the final act, the movie struggled. Suicide Squad then managed to take bad to a completely new level, and was just a complete train-wreck.
Batman Vs Superman was our first introduction to Wonder Woman in the DC movie universe, and she was the most entertaining and promising aspect of the whole movie. As a child of the 70s, I grew up watching and enjoying the Wonder Woman TV show, along with re-runs of the Batman 60s show and of course the Christopher Reeve Superman movies. After all these years of countless Batman and Superman movies, it was great to not only see Wonder Woman finally on the big screen, but also to see her being portrayed so well. Now, with her standalone movie coming out a few months before the mediocre looking Justice League movie, this is not only an important movie for DC but also an important first step in finally bringing strong female superheroes to the big screen. Paving the way for Captain Marvel, a Black Widow standalone movie, and more. This had to be good.
Thankfully, it is. Although there’s still a long way to go in order to reach the level that Marvel already managed to achieve many movies ago, this is indeed a serious step up for DC. Opening with a brief scene set in present day, Wonder Woman then takes us back to Themyscira. A paradise island, hidden from view from the rest of the world, where a young Diana lives peacefully among her Amazon tribe. Despite their peaceful existence though, the Amazons are constantly preparing themselves for the return of Ares, God of War. Archery and combat training is undertaken daily on the island, under the guidance of Dianas aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright). Diana is keen to train too and her reluctant mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), eventually agrees, requesting that General Antiope train her hard and make her the best. As Diana grows into a woman, training has clearly gone well and she’s even managing to give her aunt a good run for her money! Just in time too as World War 1 pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes through the invisible barrier cloaking the island and crash lands into the sea, closely followed by a bunch of Germans who are on his tail. Time for the Amazon women to put their training to good use, but not without some casualties…
Steve tells Diana of the great war that’s raging throughout the world and Diana believes this to be the return of Ares. She decides to leave her home and travel with Steve to put an end to Ares once and for all. So, she grabs her shield and lasso of truth and ‘borrows’ the sacred ‘God Killer’ sword from the tower it rests in and off they go. Leaving behind the bright, vibrant island of Themyscira and returning to the traditional, dark grey pallet of colours that we’re used to seeing in our DC movies as they head to war-torn London.
Steve takes over as charming tour guide as Diana enters the human world for the first time. Her innocence and curiosity of the modern world are played beautifully by Gadot, with plenty of fish-out-of-water style humour too. But she’s also never afraid to question and stand up for what she believes in and tackle those who try and oppose her, giving an interesting perspective on aspects of humanity which deserve to be questioned. Her drive to get to the front-line of war, to seek out Ares and supposedly end all war by defeating him, constantly driving her forward. Romance eventually blossoms between Diana and Steve, but it feels natural and believable and helps to hold the movie together during some of its slower moments.
When Wonder Woman manages to get to the front line and steps out into no-mans land, ignoring the advice of Steve and those around her, it’s magnificent. It heralds the first in a series of magnificent action sequences involving German soldiers as she puts her training to good use. Initially shielding herself from the onslaught of bullets before moving onto the offensive with some bad-ass combat moves, slo-mo back-flips, jumps, whip action and displays of pure power and strength. Everything we got a glimpse of in Batman Vs Superman, ramped up to the max, perfectly executed and accompanied by a rocking soundtrack!
Where Wonder Woman doesn’t work so well is in the handling of its villains. Whenever we switch to General Ludendorff and Doctor Poison, busily developing deadly gases to unleash, momentum seems to be lost. And as for Ares, when we do finally meet him he’s pretty laughable, with no clearly defined motivation or character. Following a bit of villain monologue, we get the general gist of what his beef is and then the last 20 minutes or so descend into the over the top CG destruction that we’re so used to seeing now in these movies. It’s a minor gripe, and not handled as badly as some previous movies, but along with the pacing issues it does affect the overall enjoyment of the movie somewhat.
None of this detracts from Wonder Woman herself though. Gal Gadot has truly made this role her own and displays the perfect mix of strength, beauty, brains, confidence, determination and general all-round girl power. She can more than hold her own in the DC universe and should hopefully be a prominent force in the upcoming Justice League movie and beyond.