Director: Patty Jenkins
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Prine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis
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There was a lot riding on Wonder Woman. Critically, DC was getting a kicking by the critics (although plenty of love from the fans they apparently made that unspeakably bad film for) and female comic book nerds were crying out for a movie that was made for them. Previous super-heroine movies had crashed (Elektra) and burned (Catwoman) and Marvel was churning out excellent female leads faster than you can say ‘Jessica Jones’. The world was waiting with bated breath for Wonder Woman, desperate to see it either rise like a phoenix from the ashes of the Nolan Batmans or tank in the dust next to the other female-led superhero movies. So, what happened?
Ok, let’s get it out of the way – Wonder Woman is not a perfect film. Not by any stretch. It still suffers from the classic superhero issue of a weak villain (although it handles this with more grace than any we can recall). We’re still baffled as to why they had to cast a thin actress (Lucy Davis) in a fat suit as Etta Candy. The pop track over the credits cheapens the experience, even if it is Sia. But where these imperfections jar, they cannot entirely distract from the simple fact: Wonder Woman is a great film.
It’s the story of Diana, Princess of Thermiscera (Gal Gadot) and of the Amazons, a race of warrior women preserved by Zeus and shrouded from the world on a magical island until war arrives. Or, more specifically, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) – a daring flying ace and American spy – who unwittingly brings war to the island of warriors and opens Diana’s eyes to a world of suffering outside their island paradise, drawing her to follow her destiny to defeat Ares, the God of War, who is, as she has been taught to believe, currently wreaking havoc in early 20th century Germany.
There are so many elements that work in its favour: perfect casting, expert storytelling and timely metaphors (a war film that focuses more on the human cost and the average Joes caught up in it, plus a certain delicious timing that DC’s last daring director Nolan also made a great war movie during the same summer).
As much as we all eye-rolled at how relentlessly Pine’s Steve Trevor was ‘shopped into the posters, his knowingly wry charm is the perfect foil for Diana’s no-nonsense naivety; her simple and direct view of the world confuses his usual plans of working all the angles, exemplified by how readily his assistant takes to Diana’s directness and questioning of everything around her (here’s hoping for more Etta in the sequel, as Davis does play her well). These are questions that lead her to the front line. But Steve follows her through it all. Pine regularly spars with Chris Evans in the top two places on the Hollywood Chris list (or should that be the Hollywood Steve list?) and this good-hearted honest hero is a considerable string to his acting bow. Seeing Diana through his awestruck, worshipful eyes helps sell her as the lead, and Pine deserves considerable credit for doing his best to carry any skeptics.
He is ably helped, when they arrive on the front line, by a band of rugged heroes, who, with everything from their attitudes to their battle moves, form a perfect contrast to the calm military standing of the Amazons – Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright looking kick-ass in armour and glacial in furs – along with their attitude towards war, which is considered less of a noble goal and more of, well, the horror that it can be.
This group, with Steve at its head, achieve something considerable in playing second fiddle to a female lead so convincingly by propelling her forward – and elevating themselves beyond measure by doing so. The teamwork in the group is believable, heartfelt and makes the battle scenes – you’ll tear up a little with emotion at that walk across No Man’s Land – offer more emotion than your standard explosion-laden superhero fight, and don’t even get us started of how skilfully the sexual chemistry between Steve and Diana is handled.
Of course, none of this would work without Gal Gadot. Thankfully, she makes the perfect Wonder Woman in this telling – flawless on the battlefield, with the innocence that carries the movie’s message right through to its flawed, but ultimately fitting, conclusion (and snaps to Patty Jenkins for not wimping out of a meaningful tragic moment). In a film that was heavy with the anticipation of the masses, and the demands of our fraught gender political times, the hopeful strength that Gadot’s Wonder Woman brings – optimistic and determined in the face of everything from conflict to the weight of her heroic expectations – is the superhero movie we need. Nothing hangs heavier on her than the mantle of becoming Wonder Woman. By the end, she wears the outfit like she was born in it.
Wonder Woman is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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