DC has already created a schism between sweaty-palmed men’s rights activists – “Suicide Squad rocks!” – and professional film critics – “OMG, Suicide Squad is literally the worst” – so its new film about a wonderful woman looked set to upset absolutely everybody.
The only glimmer of hope was that Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was the singular point of light in the infinite chasm of darkness that was Batman V Superman. And from this humble seed grows a film that exceeds all but the most giddily optimistic of expectations.
The first female-led superhero movie since 2005’s Catwoman opens as Diana the Amazonian Warrior Princess’ peaceful life on the island of Themyscira is rudely interrupted by World War I spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), whose plane crash-lands on her front lawn. He tells her about the whole war situation raging in the real world and, suitably horrified, she sets off to save all the men.
The beauty of Patty Jenkins’ film is in Diana’s gradual awakening to the awfulness of being a woman in the 20th century. Having grown up unhindered by misogyny, and also a superhero princess, she’s exasperated at being held back due to her gender.
Gadot gets the tone just right, with shades of Christopher Reeve-era Superman in her unashamedly heroic heroine. She’s two-dimensional in all the right ways, unburdened by inner conflict or a sense of humour. She’s a cheerleader for strong female leads everywhere, and a colossal breath of fresh air after the noxious misogyny of Suicide Squad.
Pine is a likable, watchable companion, predominantly a sounding board, but at least one with a distinct personality. More peripheral characters are painted in rather broader strokes, however, especially Danny Huston’s rent-a-villain German General. This, coupled with a fairly unoriginal central story arc, means Jenkins’ film lacks tension, and it unravels somewhat in the final act.
Wonder Woman never quite matches the bouncy, off-beat energy or easy charisma of the Marvel franchise, but that was always going to be a tall order. It does, however, stand as the best DC film to date – that may be damning it with faint praise, but praise has been a rare commodity around these parts.