I believe this is a great year for superhero movies. Each of the great studio delivered. We got best X-Men movie ever in Logan, we got near-perfect Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and now there is the first good DC movie since Nolan’s Batman trilogy.
I’ve never been a fan of comic book Wonder Woman, but it wasn’t a strong dislike, I just couldn’t bring myself to treat someone in such a silly outfit seriously… and this simplified approach to Greek mythology was somehow more difficult to stomach than Marvel’s Asgard.
In the disastrous Batman vs Superman, Gal Gadot’s character was one of few good things. Seeing all the stellar reviews I decided to give it a chance. I was not disappointed.
There are many origin movies in both Marvel and DC universes. An they are still coming, even from Marvel which has to constantly renew its team. This is one of the better ones. Powerful (but not yet knowing the extent of her powers) but naive Diana, daughter of queen Hippolyta and Zeus, leaves the isolated island of Amazons full of idealistic ideas about the fundamental goodness of human nature, and ancient notions of warfare. On the battlefields of the First World War she learns about the horror of modern war and the imperfection of mortals, only to finally find reasons for her fight against Ares, god of war who wanted to wipe out flawed humanity.
That does not sound overly original, and it does not have to be. Story serves its purpose, telling us who Diana is, and where she comes from. The most important thing is – unlike in most DC movies, script and editing do not work against the characters we know from comics.
Gal Gadot as Diana carries the movie, and she is supported by a mostly very good cast. She has style and presence to make me believe in the first super-heroine who got her own movie worth my time and money. Her initial naiveté is a logical consequence of her upbringing on a desolate island, where time stopped thousands of years ago. I was no more annoyed here than I was while watching the first Captain America movie, even if ultimately I judge Cap’s debut to be better.
World War One is a great background for this story and much of movie’s power comes from Diana’s outrage at this monumental slaughter of soldiers and civilians that contrasts so visibly with idealised vision of ancient wars she learned from books on her island.
The most powerful scene of the movie is, for me, Diana’s charge from the trench, against machine guns and snipers and the cruelty and misery she witnessed in Europe of 1918. We see the rage of the goddesses who just refuses to take it, and whose example energises exhausted troops to follow, bringing to my mind the legends of Angels of Mons protecting English soldiers in the trenches. Now, when the second of XXth century’s great wars is just as distant, the first deserves to be appreciated more among the history’s great tragedies. Read this excellent piece from War is Boring on why the War to End All Wars is the right place and time for Amazon princess to join the modern world.
And there is, as usual, a band of misfits to accompany our heroine, and they are good, even if none is able to match her effectiveness in battle. Main antagonist is… one of the weakest parts, and the twist here is rather predictable, but that is a common problem in this genre.
I won’t talk much about the movie’s feminism or lack thereof. It’s got The Guardian’s seal of approval (Why Wonder Woman is a masterpiece of subversive feminism!), so you can safely watch it 😉 It can even be argued that the outfit makes sense for someone who spent her entire life on a Greek island. The lasso is used with purpose and dignity, no bondage undertones of the original comics… if Diana lets the main male protagonist lead her in the beginning, it’s because she really is new to this world and needs some guidance. She definitely is strong, independent, capable of making her own decisions and leading others.
I had fun watching Wonder Woman, and I think it’s both a nice addition to the genre and a sing that there is some hope for DC live action movies.
There is also a very nice animated Wonder Woman from 2009, actually a bit more epic, and also highly recommended. I might even try reading some comics, but definitely not the original ones…