Main cast: Gal Gadot (Diana Prince/Wonder Woman), Chris Pine (Captain Steve Trevor), David Thewlis (Sir Patrick Morgan), Lucy Davis (Etta Candy), Saïd Taghmaoui (Sameer), Ewen Bremner (Charlie), Eugene Brave Rock (Chief), Danny Huston (General Erich Ludendorff), Elena Anaya (Dr Maru), Robin Wright (General Antiope), and Connie Nielsen (Queen Hippolyta)
Director: Patty Jenkins
I walked into the cinema with minimal expectations for Wonder Woman, and oh boy. Despite my reservations about it being yet another origins story, plus with it being part of the troubled DC superhero movie franchise, I went away thinking, somewhat dazed, that I’ve had far more fun watching this than I did the last few movies from Marvel Studios. And if you like movies featuring women who unapologetically kick rear ends without worrying that they would overshadow their men or seem unfeminine, then this one’s for you. This movie allows the women to be strong and awesome without going over the top or trying too hard to make contrived feminist statements. By doing so, it actually oozes girl power to the max.
Diana, the daughter of Queen Hippolyta of Themyscira, takes to fighting since she was a little girl. Idealistic to the core, she believes in the stories that Zeus created her people, the Amazons, to protect humanity from the sole remaining Greek god these days, Ares (Ares killed everyone else other than Zeus, who died after defeating, but not killing, Ares in a final showdown). Her mother is very protective of her, however, and Hippolyta also does not share Diana’s wide-eyed, rather naïve views of good and evil. Her mother tries to delay Diana’s training, as she fears that Diana may discover her true powers as a result, and this will only draw Ares’s attention to Diana. Still, Hippolyta’s sister, Antiope, begins training Diana in secret, and eventually, Hippolyta is persuaded to allow Diana to train openly. However, to protect her from Ares, Diana will receive training ten times harder than a typical Amazon. Naturally, she excels at that.
Things change when a British spy, Captain Steve Trevor, inadvertently flies through the magical mists that hide Themyscira from the rest of the world, leading the German soldiers that are hot on his tail to the Amazons’ home as well. The Amazons and Steve make a quick sweep of these interlopers, although the Amazons sustain casualties, including Antiope. They learn from Steve that a great war (World War 1, actually) is raging in the world outside. Steve went undercover to learn more about the Germans’ plot with the Turks, and discovered that General Erich Ludendorff and his sidekick Dr Maru are working to create new biochemical weapons. He stole Dr Maru’s research notes, the Germans gave chase, and so here they are.
Diana decides that the war raging in the world is a sign that Ares is back, and she urges her mother to deploy the Amazons to kill Ares and bring peace back to the world. Hippolyta refuses, however, and eventually Diana releases Steve and asks him to bring her to Ares, so that she can fulfill her duty as an Amazon. Steve isn’t sure that he believes her, but he needs to pass the research notes to his superiors in London and warn them of the General’s plan, so he goes along. Eventually, they learn that the London generals are not keen on acting, not when Germany seems to be on the verge of signing an armistice with Britain, and they decide that they have no choice but to go rogue and stop the General themselves.
Now, I know, it doesn’t seem like a fair fight, Wonder Woman versus mere mortals, as she is very strong, immortal actually, and has this amazing ability to move fast enough in order to deflect all bullets shot her way using her arm or leg bands. She can also leap across great distance, fly through walls without getting even a strand of hair out of the place, and she also slices and dices people with her sword without even having a drop of blood staining her self. Nonetheless, the movie succeeds in making the humans seem almost – almost – have a chance here, and there are plenty of thrills to be had as a result.
The story is the weakest thing here. I can correctly identify Ares the moment this person shows up, and the revelation about Diana’s true identity is equally predictable. Ares is actually a Marvel-like villain: like most Marvel villains, he exists solely to get the plot in motion, and once the main characters have worked out their issues or identity crisis, he shows up for the big confrontation. And here, Ares doesn’t need to show himself; he could have just stayed in his disguise and continue to fool everyone, but no, the movie needs a big, brainless, flashy fight at the climax so here he is, even if his appearance makes little sense.
Even so, the movie works. Perhaps it is the product of studio editing magic and good use of camera work and music, but as hokey as I find Diana’s realization that humanity isn’t so goody-goody (especially when the movie uses mothers and kids as clichéd vehicles to push forward such realization), I find myself moved nonetheless. In fact, I actually choke up pretty often while watching this movie. Not only because of the feels, but also because the Amazons are just fantastic in how badass they can be. And Diana is truly badass. A part of me wishes that Gal Gadot had been a bit more expressive here, but she acquits herself remarkably. She and her stunt double do an awesome job with Diana’s smackdown of the bad guys. Our heroine isn’t just strong – she’s agile, acrobatic, fast, speedy, and looking so hot while she’s going all berserk on villains’ rear ends. I almost have tears of joy in my eyes.
While previous DC hero movies tend to have fight scenes that were sped up to the point of incoherence, here the action scenes actually slow down. Yes, plenty of slow motion poses here, often with a wind machine blowing for maximum dramatic effect. As campy and silly as that sounds, the result serves up some elegant, even poetic melodrama that reminds me of those Hong Kong noir movies of the 1970s and 1980s. They allow Gal Gadot to look like the most badass boss of them all, and hence, two thumbs up to that.
I never thought much of Chris Pine prior to this, and yes, he’s still doing that cocky thing here. But he has great chemistry with Ms Gadot here. The romance between Diana and Steve is way too superficial to be believable, but he makes some admittedly hackneyed lines work so beautifully. Maybe it’s because I realized how beautiful his eyes are. Anyway, this romance leads to a place that is so full of feels and some hard punches in the gut, and I can’t help but to love every second of it.
This movie is easily the best one from DC and Warner Bros. While the bar has been set very low in the past, Wonder Woman actually raises the bar high for future movies. It’s exhilarating to watch, delivering enough feels here and there to balance the adrenaline rush, and it gives me this “I think I want to watch it again!” feeling by the time the credit rolls. Considering how weak and predictable the story is, the movie is really that good to still elicit such responses from me!