Film discussion

Looking Back at… Wonder Woman (2017)

It was the best sequence from a movie in 2017. The image of Gal Gadot bouncing bullets off her bracelets and eventually her shield, Rupert Gregson-Williams’ music score becoming ever more rousing. It’s a moment that had audiences practically cheering in multiplexes. Of course the road there was long and difficult.

Joss Whedon was involved at one time. The character was also set to appear in George Miller’s now mythic, unmade Justice League movie. The box office failures of Elektra and Catwoman meant Hollywood studios were indifferent to making any movie featuring a female comic book character (something that didn’t stop male equivalents being made in light of the failures of Green Lantern or Ghost Rider, or even Batman and Robin for that matter).

Sometimes, though, the stars align beautifully, and Diana Prince eventually made it to our screens this year in a blaze of glory. The omens were good. Her appearance in the divisive Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was very popular, the trailer was warmly received when premiered at San Diego Comic Con, and Patty Jenkins, a great filmmaker, was chosen to helm the project. Yes, the stars truly aligned.

From its opening act set in Themiscrya, to WWI-era London, to the now iconic No Man’s Land sequence, Patty Jenkins brings William Moulton Marston’s creation to the screen in a manner that is every bit the equal to what Richard Donner, Tim Burton, Christopher Nolan, Sam Raimi and Bryan Singer did with Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and the X-Men respectively.

If there are any problem or flaws, then it comes in the final act when the film turns into a flashy CGI punching sequence; although this has less to do with the film itself, admittedly, as it is with the comic book movie genre these days where nearly every movie falls into that trap (also see this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming).

The work up to that point is so good that it seems churlish to actually complain, and the emotional flow of certain story beats in that last act make it worth it.

Like the best superhero movies, the film is both action packed and romantic, not only in terms of presenting a love story within the narrative, but just presenting the character in a romantic sense. Some may criticise that Hollywood does nothing but make superhero movies nowadays, but the truth is comic book characters like the ones that come from the pages of DC and Marvel suit the silver screen. The costumes, the heroics and the visuals are a beautiful fit for a widescreen canvas, the characters themselves forever carrying within them a romantic sense of action and adventure, and Jenkins’ version of Wonder Woman is no exception.

The No Man’s Land sequence is near wordless, carried by the visuals, Gadot’s performance and Rupert Gregson-Williams’ gorgeous music score. The moment when it turns into the film’s best action sequence is cathartic and exhilarating.

Jenkins and Gadot do such a great job in bringing the character to the screen that it comes as a relief that Jenkins is coming back to make the sequel, whilst the anticipation for Justice League has went up a notch because we all want to see more of Gadot in action.

Best of all, the film doesn’t cop-out and sideline its heroine in regards to her relationship with Steve Trevor, played by the charming Chris Pine. He plays a big role in the movie, of course, but is never allowed to overshadow Diana, and the relationship that plays out over the course of the movie is sweet and charming and hits home massively in the final act, with one key moment, a simple conversation played twice over but in very different ways, carrying considerable emotional impact, even more so than the eventual battle with the Big Bad of the movie.

Love stories within superhero movies are great when they work, but can sometimes bring a film down whenever they don’t. Thankfully Wonder Woman’s central romance recalls the sweetness of Lois and Clark from Donner’s 1978 Superman:The Movie, as opposed to those that didn’t work as well.

Best of all, the film has been both a commercial and critical success, but maybe the real impact of the movie can be seen from what became the best image at this year’s San Diego Comic Con. A little girl, dressed in Wonder Woman costume, being comforted by the film’s leading lady. Many will talk about the box office, the fact it was directed by a woman, led by an actress and those are very important factors, make no mistake, but if you want to know how much of an impact the film has made, maybe all one has to do is look at that photo and see how truly important it’s going to be to a this and future generations of young girls.

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