What better way to spend Wonder Woman Day than watching the new film, eh? If you, like me, thought Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was the best thing about the dreadful Batman v Superman, you’re probably going to like the film.
Full review after the picture but, be warned, there will be spoilers.
Last warning – there will be spoilers below, okay?
Refreshingly for a superhero film, we don’t start with a long drawn out origin story. Sure, there’s the creation of man by Zeus, then the creation of Amazons, Ares’ rebellion and murder of the other gods and his subsequent fall, but that sets up the film’s main storyline: the return of Ares. All we have of Diana’s origin is a couple of mentions of her being sculpted from clay before we’re into a growing / coming of age training montage before Steve Trevor crash lands near the shore of Themyscira, bringing the Germans with him. Cue a big fight between Amazons and Germans leading to Diana wanting to leave Themyscira to bring the Great War to an end. After Hippolyta forbids it, Diana, of course, steals her armour and the Godkiller sword – the only weapon that can kill Ares – and heads off with Steve, convinced that Ares has returned and, if she can kill him, the war will cease.
Arriving in London, they find the majority of the British generals and politicians they encounter are dismissive of both Diana and Steve; one Minister, Sir Patrick, aids them and gets them to the Belgian front. Determined to help the people caught up in the fighting, Diana launches an attack against the entrenched Germans, crossing no-man’s land and almost single-handedly defeating the occupying forces. Diana becomes convinced the German general Ludendorf is actually Ares in disguise and tries to assassinate him, only to be stopped by Steve whose over-riding aim is to prevent the deployment of a new gas weapon Ludendorf and his pet chemist Dr Maru have devised.
Diana attacks Ludendorf’s munitions factory from where he plans to launch a plane loaded with gas bombs to attack London, and ends up killing him, but is dismayed to discover the war continues – he wasn’t Ares, after all. As Steve and his team arrive and take on the Germans, Sir Patrick arrives, revealing that he was Ares all along and, contrary to Diana’s belief, he wasn’t in control of anyone. He simply supplied humans on all sides with ideas for new weapons and the people started the wars all by themselves.
Diana and Ares fight but he destroys her sword before revealing that she herself is the Godkiller – she is Zeus’s child and was not made of clay, and only a god can kill a god. They fight as Steve steals the plane and, once at a safe distance, detonates all the bombs, sacrificing himself. Despite Ares’ claims that humanity is worthless, Steve’s sacrifice, the villagers she saved, and her own innate goodness convince Diana that humans are so much more than what Ares portrays them as and defeats him, proclaiming that love with save the world.
It’s not a perfect film but it’s good – it’s refreshing to see a DC film coming along after Man of Steel and Batman v Superman that isn’t just full of doom and gloom, despite the majority of it being spent in the First World War. Diana is overwhelmingly positive; she has her moments of doubt which allows her to grow as she experiences other people’s situations, but she never wanders around convinced the world is doomed. She has the hope and courage that was so lacking in Man of Steel and BvS. And, unlike the many, many butt shots of Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, there’s no lingering close-ups or sexualising of Diana or her costume – yes, she is absolutely gorgeous but so much more.
Gal Gadot, by the way, completely nails Wonder Woman. She is never anything less than superb whenever she’s on screen and, just like in BvS, is easily the best thing about the film. The scene of her going over the top and liberating the village is stunning – even though a large part of it was shown in the trailers, it’s still wonderful to watch. Even the Zack Snyder-esque use of slow motion isn’t galling in these scenes.
In terms of action, that scene is the best – the last act’s confrontation between Wonder Woman and Ares is let down by the poorly cast David Thewlis as Ares who chews the scenery with all his might. There are a few moments where the figures are clearly CGI and that was a little disappointing to spot, as well.
Overall, it was a little slow to start, with an excellent centre, and a so-so last act.
It is, however, easily the best DC film so far and gives me hope that Justice League learns the lessons it needs to. And I’ll be watching Justice League hoping for lots more of Gadot’s Wonder Woman.