by Toby Woollaston
The fact that I remain grumpily unsentimental towards the superhero genre I think is a good thing. If anything, it allows me to offer an unflinching opinion of the film on its own merits. And the merits of DC’s cinematic universe has been fairly uninspiring to date. I was genuinely hoping Wonder Woman might be the exception.
As a kid, I never read the comics, my only memory of Wonder Woman being Linda Carter on the old family black and white box waaaay back in the seventies. Well, this is quite the different beast. Wonder Woman is directed by Patty Jenkins who debuted with the similarly female centric (but different in every other way) Monster. In that film Charlize Theron played the femme fatale who wielded power over men. It was a dark, gritty, brooding, brutal revenge film and in most respects everything Wonder Woman isn’t. However, an investigation into the theme of feminine power (albeit corrupt in Monster) is present in both films and it’s a credit to Jenkins’ ability as director to handle common themes across two wildly different films.
In Wonder Woman, Diana is princess of the Amazons, a trained warrior, and destined to protect mankind from the misguided god of war, Ares. After seeing a plane plunge into the waters of her homeland, Diana (played by Israeli, Gal Gadot) investigates and finds Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), a WWI spy for the British cause. His story of a world at war incites Diana to help end the bloodshed.
Part of the film’s appeal is Jenkins’ attempt to keep things simple and clean. Working with screen writer Allan Heinberg, the film explains the origins of Diana’s character, but unfortunately it doesn’t avoid getting bogged down in the semantics of law and mythology. Abandoning DC’s typically dark and grim style, we are presented with a more lighthearted take on a heroic story in a setting that feels relatively new to DC’s universe. However, the setting is at odds with its fanciful story and the film never feels grounded. A scantily clad woman running through the muddy trenches of war-torn Belgium brandishing a sword and shield borders on the silly (yes, even for a superhero film) and weak attempts at humour only go some way to relieving the absurdity of it all.
Lest we forget that Wonder Woman is still one of the many superhero films that are flooding the market — it is a genre that this decade will be cinematically defined by. I really wanted to report that Jenkins had escaped the gravitational pull of DC’s disappointing back-catalogue and headed into orbit with a superhero film that can be celebrated. I wanted to find an iconic film from the genre that we will fondly look back on in years to come. The search continues.
You can see the published review here.