By GP ABRAJANO
With Wonder Woman, DC finally gets it right. After receiving flak from critics for all the films they’ve released so far, DC has finally redeemed itself, and it’s taken a woman to get the job done.
Wonder Woman tackles the origin story of Diana, princess of Themyscira, and how she becomes the most badass female heroine in comic book history. Actually, if you remember last year’s critically maligned Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, that was the film where Diana made her cinematic debut into the DCEU (DC Extended Universe). In that film, there was a scene showing Diana in a very old, World War I-era photograph, flanked by a seemingly badass male posse. Wonder Woman tells the story of how that photograph came to be.
The action begins in the island of Themyscira, inhabited by the Amazons, a race of tall, athletic, statuesque female warriors. Diana is the odd one out, because being the only child on the island, her parentage is revealed as half-Amazon and half-god. The peace is disturbed, however, with the crash landing of a World War I plane, piloted by Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), and Diana helps Trevor escape from the island in exchange for directions to Ares, the god of war, who she believes can be found in the thick of the battle. Together, Diana and Trevor make their way from the fringes of the war in London all the way to the fabled No Man’s Land, with the help of the ragtag bunch composed of a spy, a scout, and a sniper, surviving long enough for the photograph to have been taken.
Aside from the brilliant directing of Patty Jenkins, the cinematography of Matthew Jensen and the production design of Aline Bonetto also deserves praise. It is the action sequences of this film that audiences will remember, and not just the fight scenes, but the war scenes as well. It was a good call to move the timeline back from World War II in the comic books to World War I, a war seldom seen in movies (we’ve had enough of Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, thank you very much). The No Man’s Land scene, in particular, was the most impressive World War I recreation I’ve seen onscreen since Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement back in 2004.
Gal Gadot as Diana is a wonderful thing to behold. She nails the innocent country lass perfectly, and what’s great is she makes Diana believably naïve. Yes, Diana has never seen a man before, never been outside Themyscira, never tasted ice cream, and never seen death and destruction up close; but Diana has read about it, about the pleasures of the flesh, about the way humans wage war on each other. So Diana is innocent, but not stupid; naïve, but not dumb. And pulling this off can be attributed to Allan Heinberg’s strong screenplay, as well as Gal Gadot’s breakout performance. Even her action sequences are enough to cement her status as Hollywood’s new action vixen, a title previously held by the likes of Milla Jovovich and Kate Beckinsale. Gal Gadot is the real deal: she has the charm and the athleticism to take on any contenders in the foreseeable future.
The love angle between Diana and Steve Trevor was also done just right. It wasn’t the film’s central conflict, neither was it both characters’ driving force, and although the film could have done without any romantic angle, it was, in my opinion, a welcome addition. I can think of no other way to humanize a demi-goddess like Diana than to make her fall in love. I have to stop myself before I blurt out any spoilers.
I have nothing but praise for this film, and as I am writing this, I’m already figuring out if I can squeeze in another 3D screening in my monthly budget. I just have one gripe, though. Just one teensy-weensy gripe. Okay, so there’s this scene in some Belgian village where the villagers speak French, and you get the translation in subtitles. There’s also that scene where Diana and Sameer exchange banter in several languages, also subtitled for the benefit of the viewer. My question then is this: Why in the world couldn’t they have had the German soldiers speaking German? Couldn’t they have just subtitled it, like the others? I mean, come on. I can suspend my disbelief for Diana’s bulletproof bracelets, but I cannot suspend it for a German soldier speaking English with a German accent.
Anyway, like I said, that’s a very minor issue. DC is actually facing an even bigger problem. With Wonder Woman, it may have actually set the bar too high. Now DC is facing even greater pressure for Justice League not to tank when it hits cinemas later this year. But let’s hope this winning streak goes on, because I myself am looking forward to more Gal Gadot.