[FILM REVIEW] Wonder Woman

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The promise of a Wonder Woman movie has been something that has been around of a great number of years now. For seventy-years the queen of justice has been fighting alongside her good pals Superman and Batman and while they have had many films between them Wonder Woman’s has never evaluated.

There have been false starts over the years – Ivan Reitman started penning a script, Joss Whedon was brought on board in 2007 to write and direct a Wonder Woman and then George Miller wanted to cast Meagan Gale in the title role for his version. Gale of course was just another name on the list of actresses that had been rumoured to play Wonder Woman – that list also included Kate Beckinsale, Sandra Bullock, Misscha Barton, Rachel Bilson, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Angelina Jolie, Jessica Biel, Eva Green, Christina Hendricks, Kristen Stewart and Olga Kurylenko.

Now we find ourselves in 2017 and finally Wonder Woman hits our screens. Of course actress Gal Gadot (Fast Five, Keeping Up The Joneses)  first appeared in the role in the underwhelming Batman vs Superman but now Diana has her own movie, which sees Patty Jenkins (Monster, The Killing) take control as director – making this only the second super-hero movie to be directed by a female director.

Wonder Woman turns out to be a lesson in how to make an origins story as it brilliantly tells the story of Diana (Gal Gadot) growing up on the island of Themyscira, which was created by Zeus as his final act, with her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie NielsonGladiator, One Hour Photo), who is reluctant to let her train with the other Amazon warriors. As they train to one day take on Ares the God Of War should he ever return. What Hippolyta doesn’t realise though is that Antiope (Robin Wright Forrest Gump, House Of Cards) takes Diana under her wing and trains her, turning Diana into a skilled warrior.

Then during World War I Themyscira is changed forever when young American spy, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine Star Trek, Rise Of The Guardians) crash lands his plane just off the beach while a squadron of German soldiers are hot on his trail. The resulting battle introduces the Amazons to modern warfare and shows them that once again the world is at war. Diana pleads with her mother to go and discover whether or not Ares is responsible for this war and reluctantly Hippolyta lets her go.

Diana then finds herself travelling to war-torn Europe with Steve who has plans to bring down the German’s most dangerous woman, a chemist known as Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya – The Skin I Live In, Val Helsing) and her right-hand man General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston – Children Of Men, The Aviator). The journey not only sees Diana try to hunt down Ares whom she believes is responsible for the war but also lets her see firsthand just cruel mankind can be.

After watching Jenkins’ adaption of Wonder Woman it really does hit you that it is probably a good thing that they have waited so long to make a Wonder Woman film because that wait has seen them get it right. I shudder to think what might have been if this film was made pre-The  Dark Knight back in the dark ages of comic book movies like Elektra and Fantastic Four. Instead 2017 sees Jenkins able to create a decent origins story with a well-written script and amazing special effects.

The screenplay of Wonder Woman, which was penned by Allan Heinberg who until now had only written for television shows like Gilmore Girls is surprisingly good. It tells Diana’s backstory as a girl in a concise yet informative manner, and then as the movie goes on the screenplay manages to touch on some pretty horrific elements of human suffering which touching moments while still occasionally bringing in some small moments of comedy to lighten the mood – such as Steven and Diana’s awkward moments on the boat alone. Heiberg’s script also allows for good character development throughout the film and while it was impossible to go in-depth with characters like Steve’s secretary Etta Candy (Lucy Davis – Shaun Of The Dead, The Office) or the rag-tag group Steve puts together to go into ‘battle’ with Heiberg makes them memorable with quick quips or stand-out character traits.

Together Heiberg and Jenkins make a pretty formidable filmmaking team. Heinberg’s script is enhanced by Jenkins’ directing who reveals herself as a very versatile director handling film that drifts between genres with ease. From misty forests, picturesque sun-drenched beaches to hard-edged, front-line World War I battle scenes Jenkins creates scenes that look beautiful and are truly memorable. In fact, the only let down for the entire movie is the fact that the end battle scene brings nothing new to the table. It’s a battle like we have seen countless times in superhero movies which is a shame when for the rest of the film Jenkins and her team have developed some truly remarkable fight/battle scenes – especially the one that sees Wonder Woman bring down a Church steeple. In fact for the most part the battle scenes in the film are more like what you would expect to see in a war movie rather than a superhero movie, given the time period that the film is set – that works perfectly.

When it comes to the casting Jenkins and the producers have also done a wonderful job. Gal Gadot looks like she was born to play the role of Wonder Woman. Not only does she physically resemble the superhero but also has the acting range to play a role that sees her character go from kicking-ass one moment to being vulnerable and shy in the presence of her first love. Gadot delivers on all those fronts and has the ability to deliver the odd comedic line here and there as well. Pine’s performance is very similar to Gadot’s in that he is called to expand his range, which he does, and he is one of the actors that strangely brings a lot to a character that has very little back story.

The two leads are also well backed up by those in supporting roles. Lucy Davis steals the scenes that she is in with her comedic performance while Said Taghmaoui (American Hustle, Vantage Point), Eugene Brave Rock (The Revenant, The American West) and Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting, Pearl Harbor) all play their characters in such a way that you not only remember them but you actually leave the cinema thinking that it wouldn’t be so bad if they had their own spin-off movie.

Wonder Woman really does hit the spot. While it doesn’t knock The Dark Knight off as DC’s best ever movie it certainly does more than enough to be better than some of their recent efforts (although I admit I did like Suicide Squad). Jenkins brings the hard edge of her previous films like Monster to give Gal Gadot a little bit of characterisation to work with and that mixed with her eye-to-detail for fight sequences delivers a superhero movie that she should be proud of. Bring on Justice League!!!

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