Wonder Woman

 

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In a year congested with war films, Wonder Woman joins the fray in her fight against the Kaiser.

 

Wonder Woman

Princess Di (Gal Gadot) visits London for the first time

  

In the pantheon of superhero lore, there’s nowt so novel as Wonder Woman. Where Thor flexes his biceps, Diana, Princess of Themyscira, flexes her compassion. And unlike her fellow D.C. Comic cohorts, she is without cynicism or braggadocio. In short, she’s not only a symbol of female empowerment but a breath of fresh air. Sure, Patty Jenkins' $149 million production suffers from moments of familiar pretension and more than the occasional longueur, but overall it packs an emotive punch. In a year congested with war films, Wonder Woman offers a fresh perspective, as an outsider – Princess Di – struggles to comprehend the logic of mass slaughter. In fact, one gets two films for the price of one here, a mythological fantasy played out on a paradisiac island, and then a war film both in front of and behind enemy lines.

 

The film begins as if in another millennium, on the enchanted isle of Themyscira, where Diana learns of the myths of her ancestors and in particular the struggle between Zeus and Ares, the god of war. But for now there are no men, just (two-breasted) Amazonians who mingle in peaceful accord in between ferocious bouts of fight practice. After the shock of seeing Robin Wright in a helmet, we are then lulled into a false sense of contentment as these beautiful, strapping women of ethnic variety do battle with their swords and arrows. Sisterly combat is a national pastime, in essence a safeguard against the possibility of invasion. And as the populace has been brought to life by Zeus and clay, there is no need for any chaps.

 

Diana herself, albeit possessed of special powers, is an innocent. So when an American pilot, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), crashes his plane offshore, she is unprepared for the grim tidings he brings. Apparently, the whole world is at war and millions of innocent men, women and children have been slain. So, against her mother’s wishes, Diana leaves the island with Trevor to put a stop to this unnecessary bloodshed…

 

War is never more repulsive than when viewed through the eyes of the uncomprehending and the innocent. And Diana’s naïvety is heart-breaking. Why would heavily armed German soldiers gun down her sisters in cold blood? And as the film blends Greek mythology with modern military history, the madness of warfare is given a bracing perspective. But there’s fun to be had, too, as the sexism of London’s military personnel is put to shame by Diana’s blatant superiority. She can not only kick major ass but can speak hundreds of languages, too, both modern and ancient. And there’s the question of what she refers to as “reproductive biology,” while coming under the spell of Chris Pine’s manhood (well, as the blue-eyed wonder tells her, he is “above average”). For contrast, Diana and Steve Trevor are accompanied on their front-line mission by a fez-wearing Arab (Saïd Taghmaoui), a kilted Scotsman (Ewen Bremner) and a Native American chief (Eugene Brave Rock). Bizarre is not the word for it.

 

As Wonder Woman herself, the former Miss Israel and law student Gal Gadot is terrific. She not only looks the part, but conveys just the right amount of innocence and steely determination, along with a dash of deadpan humour. And the film, at a time of American isolationism and escalating belligerence between the superpowers, would seem to be as pertinent as ever. It’s a heady mix.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, David Thewlis, Danny Huston, Elena Anaya, Ewen Bremner, Lucy Davis, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Saïd Taghmaoui, Eugene Brave Rock, James Cosmo, Wolf Kahler, Rachel Pickup.

 

Dir Patty Jenkins, Pro Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder and Richard Suckle, Screenplay Allan Heinberg, Ph Matthew Jensen, Pro Des Aline Bonetto, Ed Martin Walsh, Music Rupert Gregson-Williams, Costumes Lindy Hemming.

 

DC Films/Atlas Entertainment/Cruel and Unusual Films/Tencent Pictures/Wanda Pictures-Warner Bros. 140 mins. USA/China/Hong Kong. 2017. Rel: 1 June 2017. Cert. 12A.