Starting off in modern day, Patty Jenkins’ (Monster) foray into the land of gods and heroes takes us back in time to the first World War for a proper origin story of a certain Amazonian princess. Picking up after the events of Batman v Superman, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), reflects on a photo from her past, which pulls us and the audience back to her beginnings as a young girl on the all-female island of Themyscira.
Protected from the outside world, the Amazonian women on this island live and train for the sole purpose of defeating Ares, the God of War, should he ever return. After a fluke crash landing in their nearby waters, Diana rescues American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and learns of the horrors of man occurring outside the safety of their beloved isle. Believing Ares is behind it all, and that she is destined for more than the simple life, Diana sets off with Steve to save mankind from their worst enemy: themselves.
Wonder Woman first emerged in the comicsphere in late 1941 (the story of her creation will soon be a film all of its own) and was introduced to film audiences in 2016’s Batman v Superman, yet this is her first solo film. Princess Diana of Themyscira, known in civilian life as Diana Prince, is akin to Superman or Aquaman in the DC Universe. This is not a woman bitten by a radioactive spider, no, this is demigod crafted by the mighty Zeus himself. She is no “girl” or stereotypical naïve waif neither. Wonder Woman has always been a pillar of strength and director Patty Jenkins obviously gets it.
Much has been made about the DC Universe (Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad) having a rough start, and though I enjoyed each of those films, I could always point to what was missing from the mix: heart. In all 3 films, it was more about struggle and perseverance, grit and resolve, everything about being a hero, without actually showing us one. This universe desperately needed heart, and I do not mean something as shallow or disrespectful as a woman’s touch. No. While Superman has been broken down, in order – in my opinion – to be built back up as the Superman we all know and love, these films have suffered for many audiences by forgetting that heroes don’t need reasons or motivations to do the right thing. They save lives because they can. They do good because they know they should. Heroes are given this moniker not because of a costume or a cape, they earn these labels because it is the very essence of their entire being.
Wonder Woman sets off to save mankind because she knows it’s right, she cares not for the rules or sexist ways of man, she simply wishes to vanquish Ares and the tragedies of war. When we are treated to our first unveiling of Wonder Woman, slowly emerging in the aptly titled “No Man’s Land”, ignoring the cowardice of humans and facing the very demons that lie in wait, this is a defining moment I haven’t seen since the days of Christopher Reeve. The entirety of this unveiling of a demigod warrior to the civilized world, punches you in the gut and dares you to remember that this is even a “woman”, because all I saw was one hell of a hero.
For all of those who chastised Gal Gadot’s casting, who body-shamed her for being “too thin”, who somehow had a problem with her Israeli accent (exactly what accent do Amazonians have again?), I hope you like the sour taste of those words. Gadot isn’t just good, she’s perfect. She embodies the heart of a hero, the defiance of warrior, the will of a champion, and carries the weight of the world in her eyes. Not a single moment was there a debate in my mind: Gadot simply IS Wonder Woman.
Chris Pine as Steve Trevor is typical Pine, which is to say one charming bastard who also holds that heroes heart, though he lacks any powers to stand toe-to-toe with Diana. Steve is a true man of the times, a gentleman who believes solely in doing the right thing, regardless of the consequences. And it is through his eyes that Diana sees exactly what it is that she is fighting for.
As this origin story is fairly unique in many ways (minus the obvious similarities to a certain Captain America film), I am avoiding discussion on the villains, as the less you read about who they are, the more the story may work for you. Just know that if you are a fan of the previous DC films, you’ll love Wonder Woman. The palette still holds that majestic beauty and the action – which incorporates dazzling creativity with the Lasso of Truth – is as riveting as ever (though we could ease up on the slow-motion, guys). If you are still in the camp of “DC cannot get it right”, I implore you to take a chance on Wonder Woman. This film still bares a strong resemblance to DC’s established universe, but the humor and depth within brighten the surroundings up exponentially. Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot have created something magical here, a film that launches valor from our souls and dares us to believe that good still exists in our world, and gods are right there with us to lend a hand.
Diana Prince is more than a demigod with the power to bring down the mighty. She’s the hero we deserve.
Listen to our fan roundtable discussion on the film
Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Danny Huston
Written by Allan Heinberg
Directed by Patty Jenkins