Wonder Woman (2017)
After the much underwhelming Man of Steel, excessively fragmented Batman v Superman, and the instantly forgettable Suicide Squad, DC Comics finally gets what it’s been wishing for since the very inception of its cinematic universe. The fourth instalment in the DC Extended Universe and the first ever live-action solo film starring the iconic superheroine, Wonder Woman is a passionately crafted, sufficiently entertaining & mostly satisfying comic book adaptation that presents key improvements over its superficially dark & internally hollow predecessors, and is a welcome respite from the slew of disappointments those earlier entries had been.
Set in 1918 during the First World War, Wonder Woman tells the story of Princess Diana, an Amazonian warrior & demigoddess, who lives & trains with her kind on a sheltered island that’s fully isolated from the human world. But when an American pilot crash-lands on the shores of their hidden paradise and tells them about the massive conflict that’s been raging for years in the outside world, Diana believes it to be the work of Ares, the god of war, and is convinced that she can stop the threat. Deciding to leave her home & family to end the ongoing war, she embarks on a journey that unlocks her true potential, and discovers her real destiny in the process.
Directed by Patty Jenkins who becomes the first female filmmaker to helm a studio superhero project, Wonder Woman is only her sophomore effort and yet, what she manages to pull off here is something that not only feels much more fresh, exciting & coherent than previous DCEU features but the passion, heart & sincerity with which Jenkins brings it to life makes it all the more worthy of an appreciation. The premise is set up at a relaxed pace as the director focuses on Diana’s home, her childhood & her training to add more depth and the influence of those elements is obvious in the confusion she feels, the decision she makes & the actions she takes in the world of men.
While Wonder Woman works as a standalone entry, it doesn’t entirely discard its DCEU roots, for the film is bookended with scenes of Diana Prince in the present setting and the events that transpire in this story are her memories triggered by an old photograph. The warrior that she was in Batman v Superman seemed well aware of her strengths & powers but the Amazonian princess we come across in this story, which takes place in an earlier time & setting, is much different. Here, she’s this naive, pure & untested idealist who’s completely oblivious to the self-destructive nature of mankind, and the discovery & realisation of it all results in shaping the formidable figure we already witnessed in a different film.
Coming to the technical aspects, Production design team does well to recreate the early 20th century London while the island of Themyscira has a mythical feel to it which is further amplified by its rich, colourful & vivid imagery which are purely in contrast with the dark, grim & smoke-filled world Diana later ventures into. Cinematography is a plus when it comes to colour composition & lighting but it does go a bit overboard with the slow-mo camerawork. Editing is another aspect that loses its way in the second half, for its 141 minutes runtime is felt in its overly stretched final act. Music by Rupert Gregson-Williams works but it’s a shame that it doesn’t have enough of that Hans Zimmer-composed exhilarating track in the final print.
As far as performances go, Wonder Woman is Gal Gadot’s show all the way as she brings the eponymous character to cinematic life with grace, charisma & high-level badassery and balances these different characteristics with precision. It’s an impressive showcase by all means and there isn’t a single moment when Gadot isn’t in command of her role. Her spot-on chemistry with Chris Pine, who himself contributes with a strong input, is another element that stands out, and both actors share a great rapport with each other throughout the movie. Robin Wright gets to have her shining moments as well, no matter how short-lived her scenes are. However, the remaining cast fail to leave much of an impression, and the antagonist isn’t that intimidating either.
On an overall scale, Wonder Woman is undoubtedly significant for a number of things but only few of those have anything to do with its content. Patty Jenkins’ confident direction & Gal Gadot’s charismatic performance certainly uplift it to a better level but as an origin story, it is only as good as typical examples from Marvel. Given its crazed hype & positive reception, I probably anticipated much more than what it had in store, for the film failed to live up to my expectations. Yet, compared to previous DCEU blunders, Wonder Woman is definitely a step in the right direction, and the feminine energy & earnest flair radiated from every frame is something that’s rarely found in the genre it belongs to. Beginning with a promise of greater things to come, peaking with the expertly filmed No Man’s Land sequence, and culminating with a CGI-infested finale that’s as messy as it is cheesy, Wonder Woman is no masterpiece but it is exactly what DC Extended Universe desperately needed.