The most anticipated film of the blockbuster season shatters all expectations! WONDER WOMAN does more than crack the glass ceiling on action films, it busts it wide open and brings the DC Comics trinity full circle on the big screen.
(WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!) This article makes several allusions to major plot points in the new Warner Bros. Pictures release Wonder Woman.
After a gratuitously remarkable introduction in director Zack Snyder’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, all eyes were on actress Gal Gadot who was saddling up to the big boys and going toe-to-toe as the third part of a pop-culture trinity, weaving her way into this summer’s most anticipated blockbuster Wonder Woman. DC Comics has been languishing behind the competitor Marvel Films when it comes to establishing a cohesive cinematic narrative, though under the guidance of executive producers Snyder and his wife and producing partner Deborah, the pair may have finally set the train on its tracks, and it took the Amazing Amazon to light the way.
The Stuff of Legends
What has always made the character of Wonder Woman so compelling is her backstory which is rooted deeply in theological mythologies, as the daughter of the Queen of the Amazons she is raised on an island populated only by a society of woman, isolated from the prying eyes of men, as a warrior destined to protect the innocent from the ravages of the worst of injustices: WAR! Wonder Woman’s origins have been revamped, retooled, and reedited throughout her more than 75 year history as a cornerstone character of the DC Comics pantheon.
Introduced as a backup feature in All-Star Comics #8 released in 1941, Wonder Woman would begin her groundbreaking episodes in pulp fiction and comic books, and would also set herself apart from other heroes — one of the first to carry the moniker of “woman” and not that of “girl”. Created by William Moulton Marston and first designed by artist H.G. Peter, Wonder Woman trail blazed a path that had traditionally been paved by her male counterparts.
Where Superman is an alien, the ultimate immigrant on our planet, who derives his superhuman abilities from his exposure to our sun, and Batman is a darkly obsessed billionaire adventure delving out his own brand of justice, Diana is an obviously otherworldly figure with extraordinary gifts bestowed upon her by the gods, but at her core she’s a beautifully incarnated piece of the very planet that she has dedicated herself to protecting. Diana is undoubtedly the most human of all characters.
For nearly a century Wonder Woman has established herself as an icon, representing not only as an obvious force in feminism, but also for the disenfranchised and the innocent — for those who can’t speak for themselves — and with her lasso of truth by her side, Diana has fought for truth, justice as a champion of love and equality. This (of course) only scratches at the surface of this heroines more impressive resume, but begs the question: Why did it take so long to bring Wonder Woman finally to the big screen?
The answer may be something of debate depending on who you might ask, but consider the perfect storm of events in our own culture, and the evolving tide of social civil rights, and it becomes crystal clear. The time for Wonder Woman is now!
She’s a Wonder
Director Patty Jenkins own journey to bringing Wonder Woman to life, is itself mythic. The acclaimed filmmaker made her own distinction directing actress Charlize Theron to her Oscar win in 2003’s Monster. Jenkins wasn’t the studio’s first choice for turning this into a feature film. After her initial appearance in BvS which set in motion the expanded DC Comics Cinematic Universe, the task had fallen to Michelle MacLaren in 2013, but she left after citing “creative differences”, and with pre-production in full swing, Jenkins was lassoed in to realize a script by Allan Heinberg.
Basically an origin story, Wonder Woman opens up with Diana (Gal Gadot reprising her role) receiving a distinct attache case from a friend containing a unique item — a recovered photograph of Diana inside the square of a small village flanked by a group of freedom fighters at the conclusion of a campaign during World War I — although Diana doesn’t appear to have aged all that much since that day. The mystery surrounding that moment, first glimpsed in BvS sets up the story for the film…
A very willful child, Princess Diana escapes the confines of her school books and classroom to marvel at the glorious sight of the Amazon warriors engaging in their defensive training, led by her aunt and the general of the armies Antiope (Robin Wright). Though bred for combat, the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) doesn’t want her daughter engaging in battle, at least not anytime soon, preferring that Diana be a child — the only child born on their sheltered isle of Themyscira, a paradise cloaked and sheltered from the world outside.
But Diana cannot be contained! She sneaks out at night after her bedtime to train with Antiope, and when the pair are discovered, the queen has no other resolve but to comply, and requests that Antiope train Diana to be the best among them. True to her word, the general develops Diana into a fiercely strong and capable combatant, but when a small aircraft crashes just off the edge of their waters, Diana rescues the stranger piloting the ship, brining Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) onto the island. Unfortunately the intelligence officer is being pursued German agents!
A battle between the German invaders and the Amazons ensues and in the melee, Antiope is shot — the bullet’s intended target: Diana! The attack on the island stirs Diana to take action when Trevor reveals that the world is at war and a final initiative is preparing to launch led by the merciless German agent Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and his chief collaborator, Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya). Diana, convinced that Ludendorff is the reincarnation of Ares, the God of War, whom the Amazons are sworn to defeat. Determined to wield the God Killer sword, she orchestrates hers and Trevor’s escape from the Island to return to the war and destroy Ares.
And so begins Diana’s journey to becoming Wonder Woman. Although Hippolyta is not in agreement with Diana’s course, she knows it would be impossible for her to detract her daughter from her mission, and the queen reluctantly gives her blessing, but warns Diana: “The world does not deserve you.” With those words, Diana begins her quest and sets to sail for Man’s World and the world war awaiting her with Steve Trevor at her side. The pair arrive in London circa 1918 and begin to strategize their next steps to prevent Ludendorff from exacting his dreading plan, and Diana fulfilling her destiny to stop the God of War.
A New Hope on the Big Screen
Director Patty Jenkins perfectly navigates our heroine from the more than lush and etherial confines of her legendary Paradise Island — a perfect utopia dedicated to the highest arts of culture, philosophy, of body and mind — and displaces the young and naive princess into the middle of the 20th Century and a world in chaos. Diana is uncomfortable with the way that the men govern from behind the safety of their bureaucracy, and the women are relegated to the background often silenced. None of it rings true to the princess, who becomes very frustrated when it’s obvious they aren’t capable of figuring things out on their own. This dimension is perfectly realized by Gadot, who balances impertinence and patience as she becomes more familiar in her new environment.
When Diana can no longer tolerate the brutality and injustice she is witness to, as men, women and children become victims of Ares influence and the war escalates, she reveals herself as a superpower to be reckoned with. The instance that Diana becomes Wonder Woman in the film, is singular more exciting than the first time that Superman takes flight in Man of Steel — it is the moment that will make the audience cheer with abandon and joyful that finally she has arrived! For the rest of the film you are invested — you’re with her!
Choosing to extrapolate Wonder Woman as a period piece will remind savvy audiences of the similarities to its Marvel Films contemporary Captain America: The First Avenger which also ultimately launched the combined universe with Avengers. In the case of Wonder Woman it makes for an interesting palette and less romanticizes the narrative, which becomes much more visceral and real, a far contrast to the character’s brightly colored comic book interpretation. For fans, the favorite interpretation of the heroine during writer/artist George Pérez’s run on the comic, the film pays great homage to his creative contribution.
With the exception of only one little thing, which may turn out to be an important plot note, Wonder Woman is without a doubt (and so far) the best of the DC Comics Films, although the truth is that the bar was set pretty precariously. Wonder Woman had no where to go but to rise above the cacophony of its two predecessors, and although it climatic confrontation with the “big bad” will no doubt inspire similarities to MoS and BvS the greatest difference is how deep and textured the emotional arc of this film is.
Now about that “one little thing” — it’s a minor detail, but one that I felt would have been integral to the script, especially considering the fate of the film’s hero Steve Trevor, is the final moment that the two characters share. During the ensuing confrontation and climax of the film, they are reunited, and Trevor confides in Diana — professing his true feelings for her — before taking command of the German army’s ultimate weapon. Unfortunately Diana can’t hear everything that Trevor is saying, her ears ringing from Ares’ onslaught.
When it all begins to sink in, I half anticipated Steve to use his long held term of endearment for Diana, but alas there is no “angel” in sight. Like I said, it’s a small thing, but I needed it. It didn’t diminish my excitement over seeing our heroine rise to the occasion and save the day, and when the credits finally rolled I found Wonder Woman was deeply satisfying, exciting and powerful — and a long time coming! She will unite us all, indeed!
See the trailer here:
Wonder Woman directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine and Robin Wright is now showing in theaters everywhere and is distributed by Warner Bros.