The island of Themyscira is situated somewhere on Earth (not sure where) and it is protected from the horror of the World of Men by a bubble. This island is populated by an Amazonian tribe which consist entirely of women. They have lived peacefully for thousands of years until an American pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands on the island, and he is followed closely by a German contingent. A battle ensues and the Amazon tribe are then forced to face the outside world and the war raging in it. Upon hearing of the war to end all wars, Diana (Gal Gadot) fears that the god Ares has risen again, and leaves the island of Themyscira seeking to destroy him.
The DC superhero films of late have all messy and poorly received, that is until the first female centred and female directed film of the latest superhero boom hit cinemas. Wonder Woman has many of the elements that make for an enthralling superhero film, namely a central character with clearly defined beliefs and a fascinating mythos. Gal Gadot is terrific in the role and not only does she physically look the part she is able to stamp the role with an appropriate seriousness and naivety as well as giving the character a strong emotional backbone (Gadot also has some good fish out of water comic timing). Superhero movies tend not to strike a chord emotionally, they don’t really go below the surface, but in the case of Wonder Woman the main positive is how emotionally charged the film is..
As emotionally engaging the film is the central narrative is a weaker aspect of the film as a narrative turn during the final act doesn’t work because nothing really built to that event for it leave a decisive and lasting impact. Yet, despite the weaknesses of the central narrative, the film is an engaging one. The relationship between Diana and Steve Trevor works and Patty Jenkins manages the pace well and handles the action sequences with aplomb as the incredible main soundtrack adds to the adrenaline-fueled action scenes even if the slow motion is a tad overused and the finale descends into a boring GCI extravaganza.
Like the 2010 Captain America film, Wonder Woman is set during a time of war. However, instead of being set during World War Two (as the Captain America movie was) Wonder Woman is set during the First World War and such a setting could easily be uncomfortable for some. The First World War is more important in the United Kingdom than it is in America and this perhaps explains the wrong impression that the film seems to have of this war. In the film, the Germans are presented no differently to how the Nazis are presented in a typical Hollywood Second World War film when in fact the First World War was not a war with a good or evil side in the traditional Hollywood sense. This incorrect depiction of the First World War, and of the Germans, is somewhat lazy and misses a good opportunity to examine the ambiguity of the war itself. I’m also slightly concerned by the fact that a superhero was the impetus for going over the top instead of the millions of brave men who lost their lives on the Western front.
It’s a mixed bag regarding how the film depicts the war because the film does show the First World War as the senseless, brutal war it was. The film does this by giving the wartorn village a character as well as slamming military generals for sitting behind their desks whilst young men were conscripted to fight an imperialistic war for these old generals in their ivory towers. At risk of being accused of reading too much into a superhero film, I would argue that raising an issue concerning the overall depiction of the war is valid because the film’s thematic discussion of the human race’s ability to cause destruction and suffering but still retain their humanity in such dark times is central to the film. Yet, the film takes a misstep in its simple good vs evil depiction of a war that didn’t have a traditional good vs evil narrative.
Where the film works is its strong emotional core, and whilst there are reservations I have with the film regarding its depiction of the First World War the issues are nothing to with how sensitively it is handled because the film does a good job at showing the destructiveness of said war. Gal Gadot is terrific in the main role and Patty Jenkins helms the action well and ensures the movie’s length doesn’t become a burden.