Wonder Woman, DC, DCEU, Gal Gadot, Batman, Justice League

WONDER WOMAN (2017) – REVIEW

It’s not like Warner Bros. haven’t made a few pennies with the three films currently comprising their DC Extended Universe – Man Of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad made a combined $2b+ at the worldwide box office – but what they’re really desperate for is a comprehensive hit; some critical success to go with the money, and perhaps the kind of validation they used to get with Chris Nolan at the helm. Even Man Of Steel, a film I generally liked and the only coherent one out of the three (which is really just the result of them not trying to tie it into a wider universe at the time of making), couldn’t exactly be considered well-received, with a middling 55% approval over on Rotten Tomatoes.

So what was the answer? Apparently Patty Jenkins and the first ever big screen incarnation of Wonder Woman. Finally we have a DCEU film that’s interested in itself more than desperately tying into the next film in the franchise – and that, it seems, was the elusive key. Just plain old simplicity. With one small exception, there’s not so much as a sniff of the other Justice League members because they aren’t pertinent to the story – we know she’ll get there, but for now all we care about is about Diana, Princess of the Amazons.

As a result, Wonder Woman is a joy and a surprise. Coherent, fun and meaningful (as far as superhero films go) with the kind of old-fashioned plotting and character development that reminds us what it’s like to sympathise with the hero; her ideals are simple and clearly-defined (help the world with love), her actions understandable (conflict is a conceived plague on mankind that she’s trying to eradicate) and her goal admirable (helping the world in the knowledge that she can’t completely save it).

Jenkins has been very specific about WW’s motives in this way. This is a deliberate attempt to bring the superhero back to its roots and do away with the increasing complexity of morals and codes we’re seeing within the genre; Batman’s questionable ethics and hellbent pursuit of Superman, Superman’s mopey self-reflection, or The Avengers’ in-fighting. These traits are far from inherently problematic – a story calls for what it calls for – but the idea that Wonder Woman just wants to help people and stop the bad guys…well, there’s something awfully refreshing about that. And who can say we don’t need some refreshment in this exhausted genre?

With little in the way of comparison, Gal Gadot is looking like a good bit of casting. Her first appearance in BvS, cool though it was, was somewhat overshadowed by the messiness of the film around her. This time she gets to take centre stage, and delivers on the promises she made of being a fun, badass superhero we can get behind. We’re not looking for Oscar-winning performances here; it’s the little things like comedic timing and embracing the physicality of the role which matter, both of which Gadot nails.

And the comedy, which does play a significant role, is mercifully given the room to come in naturally, as opposed to the God-awful shoehorned humour we saw from characters like Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad. Assisted by some engaging chemistry with Chris Pine, Gadot’s terrific at the child-lost-in-the-city act (not unlike Will Ferrell in Elf), failing to understand the etiquette and rules of the real world – like why women aren’t allowed in the military briefing room. Stuff which is actually the opposite of sexist; it’s an indictment of sexism.

I think Jenkins also deserves a lot of credit for so confidently lassoing this script and crafting it onto the screen in her own way. Though practically anything would appear impressive after the disastrous mess of Suicide Squad, which looked like the most clumsy, committee-made movie of the decade (despite being helmed by a solid director in David Ayer), there should be no misplaced praise. She may not quite possess the panache for action sequences yet (though I still enjoyed them – just don’t expect The Raid), it’s a really fearless stab at directing her first feature in fourteen years, with a sense of joy taking centre stage at every opportunity.


Verdict:

In an overcooked genre, Wonder Woman is a little breath of fresh air, and a film I genuinely wasn’t expecting to enjoy as much as I did. For now, at least, the DCEU has finally found the right track.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆