Film review: Wonder Woman

The previous entries in the DC Comics film series have met with mixed reactions. Can Israeli actress Gal Gadot deliver the franchise’s first unequivocal hit?


What does anyone want out of a modern big-budget superhero movie? A simple, no-frills origin story, a hissable villain with a limitless supply of disposable goons, three or four cracking fight scenes and, if we’re being fussy, a smattering of comic relief.

Wonder Woman gives us all that, and tops it off with the most likeable lead character in the DC Comics ‘universe’ that Warner Brothers are trying to build in order to match their rivals over at Marvel.

Every moment that Gal Gadot is on the screen – and that’s about ninety per cent of the film – is a delight. She is as perfect a fit for the rôle of Diana (no-one actually says ‘Wonder Woman’ on screen) as Christopher Reeve was in Richard Donner’s Superman films. She’s tough, luminously appealing, and evidently happy to be there.

It’s not a good night out for the religiously sensitive though. The plot turns on the existence of the Greek pantheon, with none of the cross-dimensional ‘magic is just advanced science’ fudging that Marvel tried in the Thor films.

The film opens on the secret island of Themyscira – home of the Amazons. They are charged with a sacred mission to protect mankind from the inimical influence of bloodthirsty Ares, god of war, but they seem mostly happy to practise their breathtakingly acrobatic combat skills in isolation from the rest of the world.

That is, until the rest of the world in the shape of American super-spy Steve Trevor and a pursuing cavalcade of German soldiers turn up for the film’s first thrilling action sequence. It’s a highlight of the movie; the Amazons’ battle style is somewhere between the Golden Horde and Cirque du Soleil.

That’s enough to propel Princess Diana of Themyscira – Wonder Woman to you and me – into the ‘world of men’ where the Great War is grinding to its bloody conclusion.

It’s an interesting choice, setting this film in 1918 and making Ares’s disposable goons ordinary German troops instead of, as the not dissimilar Captain America  did, Nazis so evil that they were ‘too extreme even for Hitler.’ 

Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman were all creatures of the Second World War era.

Superman first appeared in comics in 1938, Batman the following year and Wonder Woman made her début in 1941. In the face of incomprehensible evil people wanted simple uncomplicated heroes to come along and fix everything.

Having the near-invulnerable Wonder Woman carving her way through ordinary Europeans who were just on the wrong side of history instead of Nazis who were on the wrong side of humanity seems a bit of a misstep.  Even the 1970s-set Lynda Carter Wonder Woman series managed to squeak in a clone of Hitler for one episode.

Still, the action is astounding. The characters – including The Office’s Lucy Davis in a scene-stealing rôle as Diana’s friend and confidante Etta Candy – are all charming and while, as is so often the case in this kind of movie, the villain is somewhat underwritten it’d be an especially picky filmgoer who didn’t have a fun-filled two-and-a-half hours in the company of the Princess of the Amazons.

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