2017 is turning out to be a good year for superheroes. We started out with Marvel making us weep as we bid the Wolverine farewell in Logan
, and now it is DC's turn to shine as it brings us the kind of superhero origin story that the world needs right now: the story of an Amazon warrior princess who dares to challenge a god and take on the world of men.
Let's face it, DC has had a disappointing run of late. David Ayer's Suicide Squad
was all hype and no heart, and Zack Snyder's Batman vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice
before that had ended up being the dawn of "Martha" memes. But with Wonder Woman, director Patty Jenkins puts DC back on the map and sets the bar high for all its upcoming movies.
It is refreshing to see a movie directed by a woman (a rarity in itself, at least for DC) about the journey of a strong female protagonist from a naïve warrior who seeks to put an end to war and suffering, to a woman who understands better her own strength and capabilities, and whose pain and heartbreak have made her wiser. With superhero universes dominated largely by men, this kind of movie was long overdue.
Wonder Woman begins with Diana (Gal Gadot) opening an envelope from Wayne Enterprises and reminiscing about her roots, through the lens of an old black and white photograph of herself (garbed in her Wonder Woman apparel) surrounded by her comrades.
You take a peek into Diana's mind's eye of the past and come to Themyscira, a beautiful island of paradise whose sparkling seas and sandy stores are steeped in myth and magic. The island is inhabited by the Amazons, a group of women trained in combat, led by the mother of the little Diana (Lilly Aspell), Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielson). The young princess is desperate to be trained in the art of war herself, and applies to her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) for the same. She trains hard, and grows into a fierce fighter, though there is much that she is yet to learn about herself.
There is a background of Greek mythology, and you learn that the origin of the Amazons is interwoven with stories of Zeus and Ares. The latter (the god of war) continues to be a recurring theme, and holds quite a bit of significance in the plot of the film and its insights into human nature.
After a plane crashes into the waters surrounding Themyscira, Diana rescues the pilot, Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), from an early (and watery) grave. Their astonishment upon beholding the other (rather akin to that of Eric and Ariel in The Little Mermaid) is cut short by a hostile invasion by German troops who have followed Trevor. A battle ensues, and though the Amazons triumph, they question Trevor in the wake of the many casualties they incur.
Steve reveals that he has obtained intelligence regarding the activities of German officer Ludendorf (Danny Huston) and his favourite evil scientist Dr Maru aka Dr Poison (Elena Anaya), who are designing a gas that is the equivalent of a nuclear weapon in terms of destructive power. When Steve relinquishes the truth about the Second World War wreaking havoc in the outside world, Diana believes that Ares is the one orchestrating the annihilation of humanity by corrupting the mortal world, and decides to leave with the captain and end the suffering once and for all.
It is both amusing and saddening to see the conservative and patriarchal society of London during WWII, from the full-skirted, elaborate dresses that don't allow for swords or shields, to the utter lack of regard for the opinions of women in matters of import, bewildering the wild and free warrior. She accompanies Trevor as he goes to hand in a notebook containing Dr. Maru's formulae to his superiors, but is angered to find them complacent and cowardly, too busy with politics to think about the safety of the people.
The pair decide to go to the German front on their own, along with Sameer (Said Taghmaoui), Charlie (Ewen Bremner) and the chief (Eugene Brave Rock), covertly aided by Sir Patrick (David Thewlis). The plot takes Diana to the heart of the skirmishes, where she slowly discovers the extent of her powers as well as the good and evil contained in the world. All the while, the budding romance between Trevor and her blooms sweetly and subtly, through slow dances and soft whispers, and soon you fall in love with the pairing yourself.
There are plenty of twists and turns on the road towards the end, and Zack Snyder's writing doesn't fail to grip and surprise you. The movie is an excellent commentary on the tendency of humans to favour conflict, and builds on the harsh fact that people, more often than not, make the conscious choice to hurt and destroy one another. The contrast between the gritty realism of the World War II backdrop, and the power of forces that ought to exist solely in myths and legends, is glaring and beautifully depicted. It is also heartening to see a female superhero who is brave, selfless and courageous, and has weapons in her arsenal that are far more potent than merely her beauty and sensuality.
Gal Gadot is superb, and is all that Wonder Woman should be - she is both compassionate in her love and merciless in her wrath, and she makes you feel her character's excitement, wonder, joy, jubilation, heartbreak and finally her unrelenting drive to do the what is right, as if it were your own. Her face is expressive and has the innocence of a child who still has faith in the world, and her physique and fighting scenes are awe-inspiring.
Chris Pine portrays Steve Trevor with a quiet air of determination, chivalry and nobility that suits the role perfectly. The two leads have good chemistry, too, and complement each other well. The rest of the cast perform their supporting roles well, too, making you laugh occasionally and gaining your admiration for their characters. David Thewlis, in particular, delivers as the helpful, unassuming gentleman with some hidden facets to his personality.
The movie incites a range of emotions in you, from some light-hearted quipping to moments that bring tears to your eyes. The musical score is brilliant - Rupert Gregson-Williams inculcates Hans Zimmer's iconic Wonder Woman theme from Batman v Superman into his own creation, creating a masterful symphony that will stay with you long after the credits roll.
The visuals are overwhelming and echo the tones of the scenes perfectly, whether they be the bright and clean colours of Themyscira or the dark, murky grey undertones of war-torn Germany. The 3D effects are not very noticeable, but the effects and overall shooting are a feather in Mathew Jensen's cap.
Wonder Woman is a movie that appeals to comic book fans and casual viewers alike, and is not one to be missed.