The first big-screen adventure of Wonder Woman tells the origin story of Diana (Gal Gadot), the Amazonian princess who lives on the mystical island of Themyscira and how she devoted her life training for battle and becoming a warrior. Her true destiny begins when she meets a World War I fighter pilot, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and learns a lot about the chaos in the outside world. Soon, she leaves home for London to stop the ongoing war and encounters her enemy, including General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya).
It is no secret that female superhero movies usually get a bad rep in Hollywood. Case in point includes Supergirl (1984), Catwoman (2004) and Elektra (2005). Now, twelves years after Jennifer Garner and director Rob Bowman ruined Elektra, Patty Jenkins’ highly-anticipated Wonder Woman marks the first female superhero movie ever made in over a decade. But most importantly, it was the first-ever big-screen version of Wonder Woman after decades of development hell since her comic-book introduction in 1941.
Just over a year ago, Wonder Woman — played by Gal Gadot — was actually first introduced in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Although appearing only as a cameo, she was largely hailed as one of the redeeming qualities that partially saved the otherwise critically-divisive DCEU movie. Now, in her first solo outing, Gadot finally has her chance to take centre stage this time around. And thankfully, she succeeds admirably. In fact, for those who are doubtful whether or not she’s capable of leading a movie can breathe a sigh of relief, because Gadot truly owns her role as Wonder Woman. From the moment she made her appearance as a determined but naive warrior-in-training to an inspiring hero we all come to know her, Gadot’s performance is a wonder to behold.
She also proves her worth playing a fish-out-of-water character, particularly during the subsequent scenes where she decides to travel to the human world with Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor. Whether it was an awkward moment on a boat between her and Steve talking about sleeping together or a scene in the clothing store where she feels sceptical about the choice of clothes, Gadot plays the role convincingly with a mix of childlike innocence and curiosity who never experience or seen an outside world before in her life.
Then comes the crucial moment and also easily the movie’s best scene, in which she finally takes charge and climb out of the trenches in a full superhero costume to fight against the German army on the front lines. The elaborate action scenes, complete with the iconic electric cello theme score and Zack Snyder’s (he is one of the producers anyway) trademark of stylised slow-motion fight choreography, showcased Wonder Woman’s ability as a skilled warrior. The way she takes down and defending herself from the German soldiers using her sword, lasso, shield and bracelets are especially well-staged to thrilling perfection.
As one of the few female directors handling a US$100+ million production, Patty Jenkins is certainly the right choice for Wonder Woman. Best known for her 2003 acclaimed drama in Monster (2003) that famously won Charlize Theron an Oscar for Best Actress, Jenkins successfully crafted a well-told origin story from a script by TV vet Allan Heinberg. It was also a refreshing of change where the origin story doesn’t plague with doom and gloom, but with a sense of hopefulness that characterised the true nature of Wonder Woman. Also worth noting here is that the movie doesn’t rely heavily on interconnected stories to relate with other DCEU character or storyline. Even though it does appear during the opening scene, it was thankfully brief as Jenkins and Heinberg made way for a more standalone feature.
The rest of the cast is mostly spot-on, with Chris Pine bringing a roguish charm to his Steve Trevor role. Both him and Gadot display terrific chemistry, which is also one of the high points in this movie. Lucy Davis is delightful as Steve’s secretary, Etta Candy while the trio — Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner and Eugene Brave Rock — provide solid supports as Steve’s hired mercenaries. As for the earlier scene set in Themyscira, Connie Nielsen’s Queen Hippolyta and Robin Wright’s Antiope made good use of their limited screen time to portray their respective characters.
If there’s any flaw, Wonder Woman does suffer from weak antagonists. Both Danny Huston’s General Erich Ludendorff and Elena Anaya’s Doctor Poison are basically more of a standard-issue villain. Then, there is the final third act set in the army hangar. The CG-heavy climactic battle tends to evoke the same messy visual seen in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’s Holy Trinity (Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman) vs. Doomsday fight scene.
Still, those few shortcomings are offset by the movie’s mostly cohesive whole. Like the title character itself, Wonder Woman brings a symbol of hope to the once-murky future of DCEU. Not to mention this is easily the most satisfying summer movie I’ve ever seen so far.