It can’t have been an easy task to take on the first official Wonder Woman film; the iconic character has been around 75 years, and 2017 is the first time she gets her own solo big-screen outing. There’s a lot riding on this one; it needed to be great. Thankfully, we needn’t have worried. Director Patty Jenkins – who helmed 2003’s indie, Oscar-winning hit, Monster – has paved the way seamlessly with her – and the – first female-focused superhero movie and given us an action-packed, intelligent film with a smart heroine who knows her own destiny.
And yet when Hollywood does its usual thing and reincarnates every superhero known to man every couple of years – X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Spider-Man 3, Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice – via a male-driven gaze and they are considered critical and commercial failures, they still get more spin-offs. But Hollywood is nowhere near as forgiving when it comes to women’s stories; they get torn to shreds far faster with almost no scope for sequels. In fact, only 30 percent of female directors who make a studio film go on to make a second and frustratingly few are given budgets to make a Hollywood summer blockbuster.
In removing her gender as a talking point, Jenkins has allowed [Wonder Woman] to simply exist, in her own right, as a hero, equal to any male gone before her.
So to say that all eyes were on Jenkins, would be an understatement. Her vision is refreshing; she takes us right back to Wonder Woman’s origins. Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Princess Diana (Gal Godot), daughter of Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons who knew she was destined for greater things. We learn of the history of the Amazons (look out for Robin Wright, shining as a tough-as-nails warrior) and why their island is hidden from sight. The pace changes when a vintage fighter plane with Steve Trevor (played by a truly excellent Chris Pine), a spy for the Allies (it’s WWI), wearing a German uniform crash lands on the beach. The action hops to London and then to the trenches of Belgium, where the War to End All Wars goes on. She becomes Diana Prince and attempts to blend into society – with hilarious results.
This is, in part, why the film is such a success. Rather than have her abilities placed upon her as a burden, instead, they are her badge of honour. She carries them with self-assuredness and pride, knowing full-well she is carrying out her duty to help humanity. “I am the man who can,” she says when Pine says they were going to find the “Men who can help us fight.” She’s thrown right into a massively sexist environment, but she’s unaware of this – and her earnest idealism is a delight – finding the notion of a gender divide utterly absurd. Her gender is never the story’s primary thrust, something that Jenkins worked hard on, saying, “Wonder Woman’s story was so much bigger than her gender.”
Instead, Wonder Woman focuses on the horrors of war, the pleasures of camaraderie (with a gang of trusty misfit sidekicks), and old-fashioned superheroics – and it works. It’s a huge deal to us, the female audience that she’s a woman hero getting her time to kick some ass, but Jenkins focused on the task at hand: the fact that she’s a God who must save the world. In removing her gender as a talking point, Jenkins has allowed her to simply exist, in her own right, as a hero, equal to any male gone before her.
And so she fights as only she can, determined to stop Danny Huston’s slightly OTT portrayal as a German commander and Elena Anaya’s diabolical chemist from unleashing gas that will kill millions and find Ares, the God of War she believes is influencing mankind to act as they do. The action sequences are incredible to watch, but even when Jenkins’ camera follows Diana in slow motion, she’s shown as strong, powerful and sexy – but (finally) never sexualised, which hasn’t gone unnoticed by audiences or critics.
Wonder Woman (though interestingly, she’s never once called this in the film) questions her place in the world, before accepting the path she must follow, and, save for a heavy CGI battle sequence in the later half of the film that was cheesy and unnecessary, it’s a thrill to go along with her.
Go see it, and cross your arms that we’ll get a well-deserved sequel.
Wonder Woman is in Irish cinemas now, and for more on the film, read our interview with director Patty Jenkins in the June issue of IMAGE Magazine, on sale now.