Diana (Gal Gadot) now works at the Louvre in Paris, but when she arrives at her office today there is something waiting for her: a photograph from 1918 that she has not seen in almost a hundred years. This is because she has a divine origin, and seeing the picture brings back a flood of memories, from her childhood when she was the sole little girl on an island populated by women, every one a master warrior who when they were not learning about history from the library were training for combat, should that ever arise. Diana longed to join them, but her mother (Connie Nielsen) forbade it, telling her of the time when the island was created, hidden from the world of men, and the god Ares, who warlike character these Amazons were sworn to deny...
After producing a series of blockbusters inspired by the DC universe, that major rival to Marvel Comics which had Superman and Batman in its arsenal, it seemed there was little universal acclaim for anything they could conjure up, with the likes of Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman generating a response that was lukewarm at best, dreadful at worst, unless you were truly committed to supporting those heroes no matter the quality of the movies (do not underestimate the power of fan adulation). Nevertheless, these efforts were hits, and after that battle between the two big protagonists the hero everyone was talking about was a heroine, Wonder Woman. DC knew they had better not mess this up, so an extremely careful project was arranged, one that had been in production for over a decade, but was finally coming to fruition under the tutelage of director Patty Jenkins.
That nurturing of Wonder Woman by a director who had wanted to helm such a film for a very long time, and had in that passage of years specific ideas of how to approach it, may have been a gamble, for Jenkins had only one feature under her belt, the true crime biopic Monster. That had won an Oscar for its star, but in the meantime she had been working in television, and it seemed there she would stay had Warners not been actively seeking a female director here. Would it make a difference had it been a man who guided the production? On this evidence, it would, as Jenkins was a self-proclaimed fan of the television show of the seventies, starring Lynda Carter and presenting a role model for little girls across the globe, and knew what she had to do to create a movie that would have that same effect.
Although there were the usual grumbles from those who flat out refused to indulge their inner little girl, mostly thanks to them being humourless men, the consensus was that this Wonder Woman presented the character with welcome skill. When spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine, cannily playing the eye candy with heart and intelligence) crashlands a stolen plane in the sea off the coast, Diana rescues him and is given a rude awakening as to the proximity of actual conflict as The Great War is raging, and Steve has been pursued by Germans who wish to kill him and reclaim the notebook of their chief scientist nicknamed by the Brits Dr Poison (Elena Anaya) which he has liberated, knowing if his side are aware of the devastating gas the Germans are producing, it will hasten the drive to bring the war to an end. Diana, now realising she can help and blaming Ares, sets off with Steve to stop war forever.
Now, we know that she did not succeed in that, there’s a reason the conflict depicted is called the First World War after all, but for a film that could have been insulting cheesy in that a comic book heroine does the job of real life nations who sacrificed millions to bring peace, the import of the battlefield was unexpectedly sincere. Indeed, there was not a couple of throwaway scenes reminding us the situation was no joke, the whole film was dedicated to making us aware that there was nothing simple about war, there were no quick fixes and humanity was terribly flawed in ways that saw us pitted against one another instead of working out our differences with compromise and reason. Diana learns this the hard way, yet her innocence is not shattered by this harrowing episode, for she refuses to give up hope that while everyone contains the capacity for evil, the opposite is also true. Gadot was surprisingly nuanced for what could have been a cardboard figurehead, handling comedy and action with aplomb, and when Diana settles on her solution that may be crazy amidst the carnage, you believe her. Wonder Woman was, dare we say it, better than pretty much anything Marvel had crafted in this era. Not bad for a girl. Music by Rupert Gregson-Williams (with a great theme, the majestic equivalent to the TV show's catchy song).
[Wonder Woman is out now on Digital Download and is out on 4K UHD, Blu-ray™ 3D, Blu-ray™ and DVD October 9.]
American director and graduate of the American Film Institute who made her feature debut in 2003 with the Oscar-winning Monster, based on the true story of serial killer Aileen Wuornos. She went on to work in television for the next decade until, after a lot of pre-production, she was picked to helm the Wonder Woman movie of 2017. This proved to be one of the biggest hits of its year, and Jenkins was kept on to create the sequel.