A review by the Lois and Clark of HereBeGeeks – Sarah and Peter
Peter: Let’s get one thing out of the way first – not everyone will like this film. If you’re one of the minority who don’t, here’s why: You’ve been conditioned to expect a certain formula from superhero films and Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman simply refuses to adhere to that formula. And in doing so, this becomes one of the most important superhero films in the past decade.
The movie begins soon after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ends, with a gift, securely delivered to Diana Prince (Gal Gadot). Wonder Woman’s alter ego is surrounded by ancient artifacts in display cases, many of which are weapons. But her gift is more sentimental, and it transports Diana to her origins with the Amazons on the island of Themyscira.
There, Diana is raised by her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), Antiope (Robin Wright) and several other Amazons. But her idyllic life is suddenly visited by a world that has long-forgotten them, in the form of a plane crash. Diana rescues the helpless pilot, Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), and upon learning of the “Great War” he’s involved in, believes that Ares, the God of War is behind it. Since the Amazons are trained to defeat Ares, Diana chooses to go with him as he returns to 1918 London.
Director Patty Jenkins delivers as we expected from the director of an Oscar-winner
Peter: Patty Jenkins deserves more praise than can ever be heaped upon her for the way she delivers this movie. You can tell she’s enjoying every moment of it as she dictates the pace of the film, never rushing through it, always savouring each element. It is, in many ways, an antidote for the over-saturated superhero film formula, as Jenkins soon helps us appreciate that Wonder Woman is actually a period war movie, starring a superhero.
As a result, I think some will feel that this movie drags at parts, especially if they came expecting a typical blockbuster comic book movie.
Jenkins doesn’t just set this film in World War I, she pretty much makes it a crucial part of the plot. For most of the movie, there are no fantastical comic elements that help you forget the cruelty and suffering of war, especially its traumatic impact on innocent lives. Jenkins only stops short of turning this into a blood-and-gore movie, but it doesn’t make the scenes any less realistic or horrifying.
But that doesn’t mean that the film does not celebrate its comic book roots – Diana is still very much the central character of this piece, and Jenkins never forgets that. The action scenes are amazingly choreographed and there was one particular scene of Diana rising from the trenches into battle that made me very overcome with all kinds of emotions.
And the movie’s cast thrives under Jenkins’ leadership
Sarah: I was already sold on Gadot as Diana way back when BvS came out last year. In the brief number of scenes she had, she was able to portray the Amazon princess as a take-no-bullsh*t-from-men, tough-as-nails woman through her interactions with Bruce Wayne, and more importantly, with a single look, empathise with the loss Lois Lane felt over Superman’s death. In Wonder Woman, I’m impressed with how she conveys the naive and idealistic – but not infantilised – early days of Diana, whom we get to see be bewildered, passionate, dazzled, disillusioned, enraged, and eventually coming into terms with mankind’s complexity.
The love story between Diana and Steve is a home run. It is a love born out of mutual respect, and not where one party condescends and belittles the other. Steve sees Diana as a capable fighter in her own right, having been rescued by her and seen her in battle. Nowhere does he have a moment where he needs to get over his insecurity of feeling emasculated by a powerful woman.
And this is why Steve Trevor’s character is important to the Wonder Woman mythos – a male character who isn’t threatened by a woman’s strength and who doesn’t seek to undermine her. From the sharing of their backgrounds to a heated debate of their different world-views of war, it is a believable relationship that doesn’t feel hastily rushed.
Thanks to the amazing onscreen chemistry between Gadot and Pine, I was definitely invested in them as a pair by the end of the film.
And as seen from the various TV spots and trailers, Steve giving Diana her alter ego of “Diana Prince” is a nice parallel to Lois Lane dubbing Clark Kent’s superhero persona “Superman”, two films back in 2013.
Peter: It was a treat to see how diverse the cast was. And I’m not just talking about the supporting cast, but even the smaller roles and extras were played by men and women of all races and sizes. It’s 2017, so it’s really nice to see a blockbuster period piece be so realistically portrayed. For example, India sent millions of soldiers (of which about 20% were Sikhs) to fight for the British in World War I, so it was really, really cool to see Sikhs represented among South Asian soldiers in the backdrop of the movie.
Sarah: And on the topic of diversity, it should be highlighted that in Steve and Diana’s team of misfits, immortalised in the photograph first seen in BvS, we have two men of color, Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui) and Chief (Eugene Brave Rock). Both delivered excellent performances, and the audience particularly warmed up to the ever-charming Sameer. While I’ve always expected a Wonder Woman film to touch on feminism, I was surprised but extremely pleased to have these two characters mention in passing to Diana the racism they had faced in their lives. Aside from the current war, it serves to teach Diana the other horrors mankind is capable of.
There should also be praise for Etta Candy (Lucy Davis), Steve’s secretary. In the comics way back in the 1940s, Etta is a confident plus-sized woman who serves as Wonder Woman’s best friend and resident comic relief. In the film, while she definitely delivers laughs through her enthusiasm and witty one-liners, she shows that she is more than only that and thrives in her job. And with a film full of dudes after Diana leaves her island, it’s nice to know she’s made at least one other lady friend, who admires her and doesn’t see her as competition.
But the human cast aren’t the only characters in the film…
Peter: The movie owes a lot of its best action moments to Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth. It is such an integral part of making the fight sequences stand out it almost is a character to itself. Words fail me – but needless to say any fan of Wonder Woman will be thrilled to see it in action.
In fact, fans old and new who prefer the classic lasso-wielding, bracelet-reliant Diana over her more modern sword and shield iteration will definitely find much to love in this movie.
Sarah: The fight choreography for the Amazons and Diana are an art form in itself. This, and Diana deflecting bullets, is what slow-mo was made for.
And the beautiful, beautiful way the whole movie was shot!
Sarah: Can we also talk about the colour scheme in the settings of this film? Because it’s so symbolic, I love it.
Themyscira is all colours. As Steve says in jest later in the film, it’s literally a “paradise island” (a nice homage to the original name of Diana’s birthplace in the comics). There, Diana experiences peace and safety with her family. Whereas when you compare to Man’s World, in the midst of a brutal war, it’s all dull and grey – a bleak outlook. It drives home what Diana gives up in order to go forth and do what she feels is right. As Wonder Woman writer Greg Rucka once said, “Diana has to sacrifice paradise for us, or her story means nothing.”
And while we’re on the topic of colour contrasts, the scene when she arrives in the gala?
The blue just pops in comparison to the other guests. Through just a simple colour, it symbolises Diana as a beacon of hope in the midst of everyone else swept up in the war.
Tonally, and on a narrative standpoint, Wonder Woman is released at a good time after BvS, which ended on a note of hope that mankind, despite their history of killing and fighting one another, are still good. The message of humanity being worth saving is continued in Wonder Woman. We know that Diana will inevitably see how complex and ugly humanity can be through her journey in World War I. What makes her character in the comics so beloved in the past 76 years, and which this film embraces wholeheartedly, is that she is also able to see humanity’s capacity for love. Aside from her romance with Steve, Diana also sees the love and camaraderie between her rag tag team of misfits.
But what blockbuster movie is complete without a great soundtrack?
Sarah: The theme song by Sia (featuring and produced by Labrinth) played during the credits makes it worth staying put in your seats even after the film. When I first heard “To Be Human” about a week prior to the film’s release, I felt it was just so Diana. It fits well with her story and the purpose of her character. Now that I’ve seen her journey and growth in the war, the chorus especially holds even greater meaning.
Peter: And yes, if you enjoyed Diana’s theme from BvS by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL, you can rest easy knowing that it’s put to good use in the movie – though some may say it wasn’t used enough! But in fact, composer Rupert Gregson-Williams expertly weaves the motif into several scenes, and it’s a treat to catch the different treatments of the iconic “Is She With You” throughout the film.
But just in case you were wondering if this movie could do nothing wrong…
Sarah: It’s really hard for me to reconcile with the fact that the only thing stopping me from loving this film to bits is that gosh darn origin. (I still really, really, really like Wonder Woman, and it’s now my all-time favourite superhero film.)
When you’ve been a comic reader for years, it’s a fact that things get changed in continuity all the damn time. One of which can be a character’s origin story. Everyone and their cat by now knows the origins of Superman (alien refugee from a dying planet) and Batman (orphaned after a mugging). And after today, millions of people will know Wonder Woman’s origin as a… demigoddess. It was ironically set up as an ominous twist in the origin trailer through Hippolyta, but promotional material like posters and a TV spot had GODDESS plastered on them, and reviews casually mentioning it like a no biggie.
This revised origin that first came to be in 2011 irritated me and many readers because it supplanted, in my opinion, the far superior origin of Diana’s creation as a miracle from a mostly female pantheon of Greek goddesses to Hippolyta, who desperately desired a child of her own but was unable to. So DC Comics ditched that and literally took the most unoriginal origin story for a heroic character tied to Greek mythology: child of Zeus, the biggest patriarch ever. Maybe the editorial team felt that this iconic superheroine’s origin needed a tad more male touch.
So yes, it was a major disappointment to learn that this was the origin Warner Brothers’ chose to adapt.
To be fair, this “new” origin of being a demigoddess came with a god-awful terrible portrayal of the Amazons in the comics, which the film thankfully and rightfully did not adapt. I can only hope that when a reboot of Wonder Woman comes along decades from now, I’d get a chance to see this origin be played out. Hey, we’ve had to see Uncle Ben and the Waynes get shot at least two times each in our lifetimes, we deserve another Wonder Woman film.
We said earlier that this is the most important superhero film of the past decade. Here’s why:
Peter: What Patty Jenkins, in her superhero movie debut, seems to try to tell us, and Hollywood, is that there is no one way to do a successful “superhero movie”. Her vision is clear – she’s doing a period film, a war film, and in the middle of it all, fitting like a wrist in an impenetrable bracelet, is Diana of Themyscira.
Hopefully the unanimous critical acclaim and the inevitable success of Wonder Woman gives studios more confidence in allowing directors and writers of future superhero films to break with tried-and-tested formulas and tell diverse stories involving superheroes.
There is a cure to the threat of “superhero fatigue”, and her name is Wonder Woman.