This review contains spoilers.
A hero among heroes is told to be have formed of clay and brought to life by Zeus himself. This hero is curious, kind and wants to see only the good in the world. This hero also has to earn the right to wield a weapon, to learn how to fight, to become stronger and this against the wishes of someone who wants to keep the hero safe. Most importantly, this hero has also been blind to the horrors of the outside world, protected by the utopia created for these warrior heroes. So when the world comes crashing through into the hero’s perfect life, the need to protect, to help and to care for those who cannot do it themselves, guides our hero to mend the world. But what makes this hero more special than all the others who have saved lives and protected the weak, is not just the kindness and the heart, but the utmost belief that life is full of wonder! This hero’s named Diana.
I think I could review this movie outside the context of the politics and without mentioning it belonging to a certain studio but honestly, those are the things worth celebrating the most. When we take into consideration the fact that this movie was lead by a female action hero, directed by a woman, and written by a gay man, into the so far quite a disastrous DC Extended Universe, Wonder Woman is bomb dot com! It showcases that gender has nothing to do with it and you can make a kick-ass superhero movie without having too much testosterone on the screen and behind the camera. Wonder Woman is not just a success in terms of being a good movie, it’s a success because it symbolises a step towards an equal future, where men and women have equal chances to direct, act and write movies, and gender won’t matter.
Alright, let me just me continue on being overly happy about the fact that Wonder Woman was not just a good movie but a successful one, because I had my doubts. And can you blame me? The only DC Extended Universe movie I’ve seen is Suicide Squad and well, we all remember how that turned out. Then Wonder Woman was getting her own movie, and the media was keen on making it all about the fact that it was not just a movie but a movie with a female lead and a female director! We saw Ghost in the Shell bomb hard and people started to question whether female lead action movies could succeed in the first place. As time went on and the discussion of equality was at its peak, Wonder Woman premiered and everyone was at the edge of their seats. And what happened next was magical, it was sort of like a moment of true enlightenment – Wonder Woman was a hit! And so when the first reviews rolled in and it was good news, I was literally smiling to myself. I was excited and thrilled for it even without having seen it because it meant something to me! It had value and importance outside the movie itself.
So now that I’ve spent three paragraphs on a movie and not yet gotten to the movie, I feel like it’s time to gush about everything I loved about Wonder Woman. First of all, I absolutely adored Gal Gadot as Diana! Like I said, I hadn’t seen her on screen yet, because I’ve not watched Batman vs. Superman, but I can just imagine her stealing every scene in that movie effortlessly. She is not just beautiful and strong, but Gadot has the ability to look vulnerable. And no, I don’t mean weak, because there’s strength in being able to be vulnerable and Gadot nails those moments. Her performance was spot on, and there’s nothing I can fault. Even her mini-me was perfect!
Which brings me to Chris Pine, who portrayed Steve Trevor, and stole everyone’s hearts, including Diana’s. When I first heard about Pine being cast opposite to Gadot, I had my doubts. Like, maybe I was too invested in Pine as Captain Kirk, and I felt like the movie needed someone less recognisable as the male counterpart, but I was so wrong. The casting department (all women by the way) was spot on with the decision to chose Pine, and not just because it was easy to be mesmerised by his beautiful blue eyes, but because he was able to be his own character. Steve Trevor is strong, opinionated and yet passionate and also vulnerable. He believes in doing the right thing and it’s obvious that it’s not just the writing that allows Trevor to stand out, but it’s also the actor and Pine as Steve Trevor was simply meant to be. One small yet significant moment of the movie is when Steve is taking a bath, he swirls his toe in the water and chuckles. Here is a man, who nearly died trying to escape German soldiers shooting down his plane, finding joy in playing with glittery water. How fucking brilliant!? And Wonder Woman is filled with these tiny and simple moments that carry so much meaning and importance!
I mentioned above that Wonder Woman is a step towards an equal future, and in my opinion, Gadot and Pine take that first step. Partly because they themselves are brilliant at portraying strong yet vulnerable characters, but also because the writing by Allan Heinberg (who has written for Grey’s Anatomy and created The Catch) doesn’t step into the stereotypical superhero and sidekick realm. Sure, Diana is Wonder Woman, she is the superhero in the bigger context, but Steve Trevor is just as much of a hero than Diana! There’s no she’s better than him or he thinks he’s better than her attitude among the pair and right from the gecko they view themselves as equal! Sure, Diana is super strong and the child of a god, but Trevor has his own strengths and fights bravely for a good cause. As a pair they work well together and it’s that togetherness that is the highlight of Wonder Woman.
Yet it would have been all for nothing if Patty Jenkins wouldn’t have supported the script and the cast through her direction. Jenkins, who has directed only ONE major feature film before Wonder Woman, knew exactly what she was doing. And it was not all about directing those action sequences, it was about the moments in between that made all the difference. The comedic moments, the magical moments, those scenes where we started to feel for our heroes – those were the scenes that needed to be spot on and they were! One of my most favourite small moments is when Diana decides to break into the party, and she compares and measures her height next to a woman who is about to go the party. Because movies tend to underestimate the viewer, movies sometimes state the obvious and any other movie would have added a one liner to explain Diana’s action (she was going to steal the woman’s dress), but Wonder Woman doesn’t do that because it knows we’re smarter than that. In addition to not stating the obvious, Wonder Woman also has continuity in story telling and direction! There’s this one scene in the beginning when Robin Wright’s character yells shield and that scene is brought back with Trevor using the exact same trick later on in the movie. Not just brilliant on the story telling level, but brilliant because it adds dimension to the character of Steve Trevor. And there are many moments like these were an action is taking place on screen and there is little or no verbal explanations to it because it provokes our minds to think along, to recognise the importance and meaning of those moments ourselves. And those little things, those small moments, even the conversations between the characters, make Wonder Woman into a sophisticated superhero movie!
Speaking of sophistication, the No Man’s Land scene was brilliant! What I liked about it was how it had this sense to slow things down and then speed things up. It was the first time we witnessed Diana’s abilities in such capacity, and so did Steve Trevor. I was literally gripping my seat and holding my breath during that scene because it was that first amazing payoff of the movie in terms of action powered by emotion. Diana had seen the horrors of the war and she had come to a point of frustration towards these actions she considered to be the doings of Ares, and she was going to take matters into her own hands. Accompanied by a score meant for Gal Gadot and Wonder Woman, No Man’s Land scene was powerful, emotional and perfection from start to finish.
Talking of perfection, I must confess that I myself thought the Ares storyline to be a little less perfect and a bit more naive. Now, I totally get that it’s based on a comic book and so on, and Diana needed something extraordinary to fight with because villains with drug infused strength (what the hell was that though?) are not enough for a semi-god, but David Thewlis? For the life of me, I couldn’t believe that our beloved Remus Lupin was Ares and I think that to be the reason why this Ares plot was completely underwhelming for me. And I’m known for having beefs with villains because most villains are ridiculous, and I’ve pointed out this time and time again, when talking about superhero movies. So I’m not going to fault Wonder Woman on not having a good villain because I think my expectations are set too high (though Logan met those expectations head on), and I’m simply going to point out the fact that the villains were not good. Maybe I would have liked it more if someone else was cast as the god of war, maybe I would have still thought it to be weird. BUT, while I’m saying this, I thought the final act was pretty good for one reason, and that reason was of course how Diana and Trevor carried themselves in those moments.
Which brings me to my most dreadful moment – talking about the final act. My emotions were running high during that final act and I can’t even think back to it without tears. Yes, I’m that weak, and no, I’m not ashamed of it. I knew it was going to happen when I set myself to write this review, and this is the reason I left it until the end. Steve Trevor’s sacrifice to save the day so Diana could save the world was a gut wrenching moment and I don’t want to think about it. Part of me wishes there would have been another way, possibly a way where Trevor wouldn’t have to be dead, but deep deep down I know it had to happen. It had to happen because that’s who Steve Trevor was and represented. He was a man, who was willing to save the day, to be the ultimate good guy because he was simply raised that way. But it hurt so bad, and it still hurts, and that is why Wonder Woman is a wonderful movie. It’s not just about action, it’s not just about showcasing strength and power, it’s a great movie because it manages to balance itself with, and here I go again, vulnerability. It comes across in Steve Trevor’s final moments, when he prepares himself to die, almost doubting himself, but not allowing that doubt to overshadow his decision to be the hero of his story. It comes across on Diana’s face upon seeing that plane take off, while she is realising in those moments what Steve had said to her, why he had given her his father’s watch, and it manifests itself in Diana’s scream when the plane explodes. And from that vulnerability comes strength yet unseen from Diana, strength that is able to diminish gods.
So here we are, and whether I like it or not, I have to stop writing about Wonder Woman at some point. I’ve spent more than 2000 words on this movie and I feel like I have just as many or even more left to spend. I haven’t even written about the Amazons, or the crew Steve Trevor assemblies, or the scenes where Diana is in London. What I have talked about is Diana and Steve, their strength and vulnerability, which was what made Wonder Woman great for me. Clearly this movie has somehow managed to pin itself to my heart and if I’m being honest, it will probably stay there for a while. It’s a movie, similar to Logan, that manages to look past the superhero aspect, and tell a story of a person. Yes, she might be half god and she can kick your ass, but she is also a woman who finds joy and wonder in the little things. She is excited about ice cream, thrilled about seeing a baby, fascinated by snow, compassionate towards people in need, supportive to those who need to find their voice – and the fact that she is able to deflect bullets is nothing compared to the fact that Wonder Woman is able to love without condition.