WONDER WOMAN gets the job done and delivers the substance that DC fans have been frothing for. It serves as an origin story for Diana Prince – an Amazonian princess – who was raised on the hidden island kingdom of Themyscira, isolated from mankind and seemingly impervious to outside influence. When an American fighter pilot (Chris Pine) breaks through the kingdom's protective shield and crashes into the ocean, Diana leaps to his rescue, only to face a German battalion in pursuit. With World War II threatening to destroy their utopia Diana leaves her home to seek and destroy Ares; the God of war, whom she believes will destroy the world if undefeated.
The synopsis is simple, and is more or less lifted straight out of the comic books, although I admit that I had low expectations entering into WONDER WOMAN. The promotional marketing painted a very hokey image in my mind and I carried the disappointment of the previous three titles with me. The first 15-minutes of the film take place on the island of Themyscira, where the all-female warrior culture wear the sort of ornamental garments that you'd expect in a show-bag. They look silly and conjured an immediate sense dread. Fortunately their prelude is brief and substantial enough to provide enough subtext to Diana's quest, and from the moment she steps into the 'real' world the film takes on a while new dynamic and assumes ownership of being DC's best entry in the Expanded Universe.
I hesitate to cite Marvel in this review – because I enthusiastically want DC to rise above – however the greatest compliment I can give WONDER WOMAN is that it recalls the same texture and authenticity that the first CAPTAIN AMERICA captured. In fact there are many similarities, with the most notable being its WWII setting and a horrifically disfigured villain. It also sets a similar pace by relying on character development and drama to explore the story, as opposed to saturating the screen with incessant action and ludicrous dialogue. Fans have been calling upon DC to take cues from Marvel's lead, and while I don't disagree with the sentiment, I also think that DC ought to forge their own unique path.... and now that they've (finally) listened to demand, perhaps they can treat it as a stepping board.
The film's greatest strength is Gal Gadot. She assumes the character of Wonder Woman with absolute conviction and actually acts her ass off. Her character is - thus far – the most emotionally rounded and humane of the whole Justice League crew, and her compassion throughout the story is sincere and wonderfully performed. Gadot is relatively unknown and has been ideally cast. She exudes beauty and brawn in equal measure and refuses to be branded with a sex-symbol label. She is a superhero to rival all of her contemporaries and hopefully she will lay the path for more strong female superheroes to follow.
The supporting cast are all fantastic and I'm not able to fault a single one of them. Chris Pine proudly adopts the support role and allows Gadot to kick-ass without cliched sexism or tokenistic gratitudes and there's a sense that he is proud to be part of a game-changing gender-reserved blockbuster. David Thewlis is as brilliant as always and offers a performance packed gleefully full of mystery. Other players include Robin Wright, Danny Huston, Connie Neilson and Ewen Bremner... all of whom add a weight of creditability.
The film's director is Patty Jenkins, whose previous directorial effort was the serial-killer biopic MONSTER. With that film being such a small and modest production in comparison to WONDER WOMAN her appointment was something of a gamble, and I imagine that her sensibility towards the female driven character-study is what landed her this gig. It was a gamble worth taking and I can't imagine any other director doing a better job. She captures an essence and quality in her film that directors Zack Snyder and David Ayer both failed to ensnare in their own entries.
This is an exciting moment for DC. Faith has been restored into a previously flaccid franchise, and hopes are high for what's to come. So far we are four films into the Expanded Universe with five more on the way, as well as a staggering TEN upcoming sequels, prequels and/or spin-offs. The odds aren't good, but lets hope that most of them follow WONDER WOMAN'S lead, and focus on character and story before the saturation overcomes... because enough with the puerile extravagance... just stick to substance.