“Be careful with mankind, Diana. They don’t deserve you.”
— Robin Write (@WriteoutofLA) May 30, 2017
Finally joining the prominent ranks of Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, The Flash, comes the live action feature film about the one and only Wonder Woman. Given that she didn’t appear in the DC Comics mainstream world until 1941, it has only taken 75 years for this big screen Wonder Woman movie. Sheesh.
The development of the concept was back in 1996, a rather unproductive journey I might add, filmmakers Ivan Reitman, Joss Whedon (a decent match given the frenetic style of Serenity), Joel Silver, and even Paul Feig (a likely much more flourishing comedy version), attached in one way or another. Wonder Woman herself was attracting well-known actresses in the casting department – Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Beyoncé Knowles, were all names that breezed on through.
Potential Spoilers Ahead
I have little intention, though, of rattling on about the history of comic books and film production in this instance. I’m not going to delve too deeply into the feminist nature of the picture either, though I would love to, I may well be out of my depth depending on how far I am willing to go. Let this be said, this has nothing to do with the size of my balls or indeed the toes I would step on. Honestly, I just want to talk about the motion picture, period. And exclaim that I know without any doubt a truly invigorating cinematic experience when I have one thank you very much.
I stand up, though, to those that whine and wince about the casting of Wonder Woman, or indeed see the acquisition of such a big movie for a female director as a “brave” move. Please. Step up and take a bow Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot, then, two women so instrumental in this film’s appeal, they deserve all the merits thrown their way. And there are many already, with the glorious fall-out still to come.
Supported by story-tellers Allan Heinberg (screenplay), Zack Snyder, and Jason Fuchs, and acting talent including Chris Pine, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, and Elena Anaya – a fine batch, all playing their part in this action adventure full to the brim with vigor, flair, and benevolence.
With inspirations drawn from the likes of painter John Singer Sargent, the movie’s incredibly enlightening origin story (how the Amazon women came to be on the idyllic island of Themyscira) features a remarkable telling of the mythic history, with Zeus and Ares, through sumptuous paintings in marvelous visual motion.
As the only child inhabiting the island (charismatic Emily Carey in a piece of spot-on casting), Diana longs to become an Amazonian warrior like most around her. That’s maybe all she knows, but her passion and thirst go much deeper than that, a natural instinct to defend and honor on the way to the destiny she is yet aware of.
The tranquility is broken when American Air Serviceman / spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes his plane into the perfect blue waters, with him the eventual revelation of a war to end all wars (AKA World War I). Determined and noble, Diana leaves the only world she knows with Steve to end this war by destroying Ares, whom she believes is responsible. That, she claims, is her sacred duty.
Breaking the static danger of No Mans Land, Diana demonstrates her scintillating clout and prowess in combat as she dashes towards the enemy trenches, bouncing gunfire off her shield, not long before heroically freeing a village from German control.
Gal Gadot’s warrior is an ambassador of world peace without appearing trivial, a believer in the power of love without coming across corny, and adapting to the unfamiliar territory of a “man’s world”, wielding ample emotional intelligence, without being as dumb as a box of rocks (Diana is shrewd enough even before her new education).
The minimal criticisms of the film’s plot and backstory are inappropriate and unfounded, given the direct depiction of the character’s true origins. Do your homework before you diminish the assignment. The film has plenty of real moments and humor sprinkled around too, one-liners that didn’t feel cliched (that a sword and shield might not go with the smart London city outfit), or the fact the good-looking male character fumbles his well-meaning words.
Thankfully more measured in depth that the Lynda Carter TV Wonder Woman we all know (and mercifully a million miles from the 2011 never-televised crud), Patty Jenkins’ 2017 Wonder Woman mirrors the Hellenic roots of the 2009 animated film (as well as a couple of set pieces). Sure, she dons the lasso, the bracelets, the shield, the tiara, and is strong in mind and will, someone who does not turn her back on a fight – but she’s sculpted from clay (literally in the animated version) and given life and almighty powers by the Greek Gods (“I am Diana, Princess of Themyscira!”). The film doesn’t lose it’s way in time and historic boundaries, nor does it fly off from the genre altogether – more likely / most definitely resuscitates it back to life.