With Wonder Woman, the DC Extended Universe finally shows us it can be a match to Marvel after a series of forgettable movies

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman (2017)

Di­rect­ed by Pat­ty Jenk­ins. Screen­play by Al­lan Hein­berg. Sto­ry by Zack Sny­der, Al­lan Hein­berg and Ja­son Fuchs, based on the char­ac­ter cre­at­ed by William Moul­ton Marston. Star­ring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Con­nie Nielsen, Dan­ny Hus­ton, David Thewlis, Ele­na Anaya, Lucy Davis, Saïd Tagh­maoui, Ewen Brem­n­er, Eu­gene Brave Rock and Lisa Loven Kongsli.

Won­der Woman is the first in­stall­ment of the DC Ex­tend­ed Uni­verse to prove the fran­chise can sur­prise us with some­thing good. Af­ter the pass­able Man of Steel (2013), the tire­some Bat­man v Su­per­man: Dawn of Jus­tice (2016) and the abysmal Sui­cide Squad (2016), we are fi­nal­ly get­ting a movie that is com­pa­ra­ble to the works of the Mar­vel Cin­e­mat­ic Uni­verse in terms of qual­i­ty — and the fact it is cen­tered on a pow­er­ful, in­de­pen­dent woman and brought to the big screen by a fe­male di­rec­tor (the first to work in a stu­dio su­per­hero movie) makes it even more spe­cial, a his­toric step that re­flects the very themes the film approaches.

Writ­ten by Al­lan Hein­berg from a sto­ry de­vised by Zack Sny­der, Ja­son Fuchs and him­self, Won­der Woman tells us the ori­gins of the Ama­zon princess known as Di­ana Prince. Seen for the last time in Dawn of Jus­tice, when she fought side by side with Bat­man and Su­per­man against evil, Di­ana (Gal Gadot) re­ceives a gift from Bruce Wayne and be­gins to re­call her ear­ly life grow­ing up on the is­land of The­mysci­ra, land of Ama­zon war­riors cre­at­ed by the Olympian gods to pro­tect hu­mankind. When Amer­i­can pi­lot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash­es there in 1918 and tells her about the on­go­ing world war, she de­cides to join him and leave her is­land to save Earth, be­liev­ing that what is hap­pen­ing is the work of Ares, god of war — who, ac­cord­ing to the leg­end, slayed all the oth­er gods and is now spread­ing hate among men.

Right off the bat, it is hard not to be daz­zled by the breath­tak­ing sight of The­mysci­ra. Shot on the Amal­fi Coast in South­ern Italy, the scenes that take place on the is­land look im­pres­sive and myth­ic with its blue-green sea and im­pos­ing rocks. The pro­duc­tion de­sign and cos­tumes con­tribute to that, stun­ning us not only with a ma­jes­tic hall where the Ama­zons de­cide Trevor’s fate but also with the de­sign of the Ama­zons them­selves, who wear leather and gold and look like a com­bi­na­tion of She-Ra and Xena with their toned legs and shoul­ders (for­get the clas­sic jin­go­is­tic out­fit based on the Amer­i­can flag, it’s his­to­ry now). Also, there is a great eye for de­tail, like the war scar on Antiope’s (Robin Wright) arm.

When Queen Hip­poly­ta (Con­nie Nielsen) tells her daugh­ter Di­ana about the his­to­ry of mankind, we see a vi­su­al de­scrip­tion in slow mo­tion that looks al­most bib­li­cal, like a mov­ing Re­nais­sance paint­ing. And if the vi­su­al ef­fects seem a bit too styl­ized some­times, bring­ing to mind the likes of Suck­er Punch (2011) and Bitch Slap (2009), they most­ly re­flect the story’s comics ori­gins in good style, es­pe­cial­ly when Hip­poly­ta spins in the air or when An­tiope leaps over the sol­diers in a bat­tle. Like­wise, I love the amaz­ing sight of bul­lets fly­ing in slow mo­tion and Di­ana div­ing from a huge cliff into the sea, not to men­tion the film’s im­pec­ca­ble de­sign of a gray Lon­don and of the dark trench­es on the war’s front line lat­er on.

The most in­ter­est­ing thing to ob­serve, how­ev­er, is how the sto­ry is shift­ed from World War II (in the comics) to World War I, which seems like a per­fect choice to dis­cuss sex­ism and women’s rights, since the 1910s were a time that saw women fight­ing hard for their right to vote. With pow­er­ful fe­male char­ac­ters like Di­ana, Hip­poly­ta and An­tiope not need­ing a man to save them, di­rec­tor Pat­ty Jenk­ins (Mon­ster) shows Di­ana as an out­sider who is shocked to find out what a sec­re­tary is sup­posed to do and the kind of clothes women need to wear in our world (ba­si­cal­ly to cov­er their en­tire de­cen­cy). It is ac­tu­al­ly fun­ny to see Steve try­ing to pro­tect her, but be­ing a woman doesn’t mean she is weak­er, and so it is she who gets to save him many times.

The fact that the words “men” and “hu­mans” are used so in­dis­crim­i­nate­ly is an in­di­ca­tion of the pow­er that men have held over women for such a long time. Ares be­ing a male god who brings this pow­er to men is only nat­ur­al, and so noth­ing more nat­ur­al than a woman to end this cy­cle of war. Ex­pos­ing the blunt sex­ism that was con­sid­ered com­mon sense a cen­tu­ry ago, Won­der Woman also dis­cuss­es the frail mas­culin­i­ty of men who can­not tol­er­ate be­ing seen as weak by women (like when Char­lie (Ewen Brem­n­er) feels em­bar­rassed af­ter Di­ana tries to com­fort him in the war) and finds space to dis­cuss racism when Sameer (Saïd Tagh­maoui) tells her how he nev­er be­came an ac­tor for hav­ing “the wrong color.”

With an ex­cel­lent sense of hu­mor, es­pe­cial­ly in the many hi­lar­i­ous in­ter­ac­tions be­tween Di­ana and Steve (Gadot and Pine are very charis­mat­ic and have great chem­istry to­geth­er), Won­der Woman also comes up with a fas­ci­nat­ing ex­pla­na­tion for the ori­gin of each of Diana’s weapons (the bracelets, the sword, the shield, the Las­so of Truth and her tiara), dis­ap­point­ing only with a weak vil­lain (a Ger­man gen­er­al played by an Amer­i­can ac­tor) and the fact that the big con­flicts don’t look big enough (sud­den­ly the sol­diers are gone and it’s all over).

But these are mi­nor flaws com­pared to what the movie ac­com­plish­es, that is, what it wants to say and how it does it. Con­grat­u­la­tions, DC Films, we are ready now to for­get the colos­sal atroc­i­ty that Sui­cide Squad was and wait for what you have in store for us next.


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