The DC Cinematic Universe continues to stumble on its own feet finding its identity post-Dark Knight. With Zack Snyder taking the reins in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, we’ve seen a continued (and somewhat contrived) attempt at creating a deeper, darker, grittier and more violent universe for these simple, bright, positive and peaceful characters to live in. There seems to be a conscious effort to match the cohesion of the multi-layered, tightly written Marvel counterparts, but at this point, it is still too early to tell. These DC-movie, Snyder-created “newbies” have even yet to prove its mettle against its older brother--Christopher Nolan’s Batman. Nolan who has single-handedly added dimension, philosophy, and profundity onto a comic book character has set the bar high for the Justice League superstars that follow under the helm of Snyder. Zack Snyder’s solution is making them live in the hyperreal worlds he is known for in 300, Sucker Punch, and Watchmen.
For the most part, so far so good.
Although his skies are getting grayer, explosions are getting bigger and collateral damage is getting out-of-control, Snyder has jumpstarted a new era for the DCCU and an aesthetic it can truly call its own. We can say what we want about Snyder, but he leaves his indelible mark on the post-Man Of Steel films in the same way Nolan did with The Dark Knight. Only time will tell how evident his mark will be in the soon-to-be-released Justice League with his recent exit leaving the post-production reins to Avengers’ Joss Whedon.
Which brings us to Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot as the titular role. Snyder pens the origin story alongside Jason Fuchs and screenplay writer Allan Heinberg but opens the car door for a woman to take the driver’s seat. Jenkins takes Snyder’s bleak, desaturated and explosive world but brings a tenderness and thrill only a woman can induce. Wonder Woman’s comic book origins have been as fleeting as the writers that wrote them--most of which are men. So it is more than apt that a woman tells her origin story (which will likely be the story that will be remembered from here on in).
We are brought into the mythological island Themyscira where we see young Amazonian princess Diana (Gal Gadot) grow into the warrior she was destined to be. The island is home to the beautiful Amazon warrior women who neither need males nor a lot of clothing to exist. Turns out this island is protected by an unseen Zeus who also breathes life to the clay forms from which the women are molded. A far-reaching backstory/legend on Ares The God Of War being defeated by Diana’s Queen mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) is predicated and establishes the official conflict of the film and the main crux of Wonder Woman. Meanwhile, the real world is amidst The Great War with the Germans creating new toxic technology that will advance their victory. US Spy and Pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes into the waters of Themyscira and is saved by Diana who then follows him back into the real world and into the world war in the hopes to put an end to the God of War as the god-killer Wonder Woman.
I always had a hard time tethering these absolutely good and altruistic characters with out-of-these-world origins to our real and imperfect world. The disbelief took a while before it was completely suspended, but once you get over that first perfunctory prologue, you are taken on an extremely exciting and fun ride. Themyscira is as gorgeous and as stunning as the otherworldly women that inhabit it. 20th century Europe is dark and dramatic with very visible Snyder-esque treatments that definitely remind us that he has marked his territory in this DC universe.
The film moves at a pretty steady pace with some cutesy moments and exchanges between Gadot and Pine. The main crux between Diana and Steve was their difference in belief: one saw the world in full color, the other saw it in multiple shades of gray. Diana was committed to ending all evil as embodied by Ares while Steve knew that the world didn’t exist in such a simple dichotomy of good and bad. It is the most expected dilemma for a character like Diana who is borderline two-dimensional to realize that the world isn’t as flat as she was written to be.This tension soon turns sexual and romantic which delivers an arguably cheesy but justified payoff in the end.
The film is riddled with great fight scenes that are ridiculous as much as they are enjoyable. While they sometimes borderline looking like a video game, seeing all these women in physical superiority is overwhelming and satisfying. Robin Wright playing General Antiope brings her signature strength and intensity to her role as Diana’s mentor and trainer. Behind her is an army of gorgeous actresses who are as tall as they are beautiful on a beach battle scene that is a sight to behold. Masterfully handling bows, arrows, ropes, horses, spears and swords, the film is likely to go down in history as one that holds the most breathtaking female warriors in a single scene on screen.
But the real star and savior of the film is Gal Gadot. She is quite the human specimen. Watching her uncanny beauty on IMAX 3D just filled in all the holes and impurities that the film lacked. Even her strange Israelian accent could not detract us from just falling into a trance whenever she spoke. It was also quite fun to hear the entire Island of Themyscira including Robin Wright adjust to Gadot’s accent for consistency. Gal Gadot is a star and I think all men and women can watch her all day, doing anything she wanted--be it make coffee or fight the God of War in an uber-destructive fight scene. It’s a shame that Wonder Woman still eventually needed a man to unleash her full potential, but it didn’t necessarily water down the badassery and strength she exhibits all on her own.
It was nice to finally see a singular female superhero dominate a cinematic narrative with hardly any apologies. While it is obvious that Hollywood isn’t exactly ready for a completely ‘feminist’ superhero, there is no denying that Wonder Woman has taken a superhuman leap forward into that direction.
All in all, Gadot carries the burden of the flimsily written character, easy resolution and questionable origin on her sexy back and takes us on a cinematic ride that is easy to love (and look at). Wonder Woman 2017 is comic-book-movie proof that there is a God and she’s probably a woman named Gal.