Wonder Woman

Year: 2017
Production Co: Atlas Entertainment
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Patty Jenkins
Producer: Charles Roven/Deborah Snyder/Zack Snyder/Richard Suckle
Writer: Allan Heinberg/Zack Snyder/Jason Fuchs
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, Elena Ayana, David Thewlis, Ewen Bremner, Wolf Kahler

To reveal that Wonder Woman is far better than most of the movies in the recent DC comics universe so far is very faint praise. After Man Of Steel, Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice fell on their faces creatively, Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins and writer Allan Heinberg (from TV's Grey's Anatomy) didn't have a very high bar to beat.

As the titular heroine (one the marketing hype will have us believe we've been dying to see headline her own movie), Israeli actress Gal Gadot is great. Sure she's pleasant to look at, but she has an overeager, wide-eyed and unashamed innocence that's easy to fall in with and which makes her perfect for this fish out of water origin story.

Whether the 32 year old continues to hold her own as a well-defined character remains to be seen when she joins the rest of the Justice League (in what will probably be a series of increasingly destructive and unengaging CGI smash-em-ups with decreasing concern for story and character).

We meet Diana as a little girl (Lilly Aspell) in her idyllic home Themyscira, an island cut off from the rest of the world by a force field that's hidden the Amazon race of caring warrior women from the world for centuries.

Despite everything you'll hear about what a feminist icon Diana is, the motif of the little girl who wants to go on adventures instead of playing with dolls is very shopworn, so it's no surprise that instead of studying at the behest of her mother Hippolyta, the queen (Connie Nielsen), Diana wants to emulate her cool, tough Aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) and be a soldier.

Eventually Hippolyta gives in and agrees to let Diana study the art of combat under her sister, and she grows into a young woman who's as fearsome as she is winsome.

But the reason Hippolyta has been reluctant to let Diana train is because she knows more than she's letting on to her daughter – the nature of humankind in the world outside is warlike, and the Amazonians' ancient history promises war will come again unless they're very careful.

It does so in the form of a downed World War One fighter plane carrying US spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), which pierces Themyscira's protective veil, crashes into the water and brings the might of the Kaiser's Navy in after it.

As Diana plunges into the water to rescue him from drowning, the Amazon warriors wage a bloodthirsty defence against the mechanised German Army on the beaches of their homeland. When it's over, the question about what to do with the interloper Diana has rescued from the sea arises. When he tells the Amazons about the conflict gripping the entire outside world, Diana is convinced it's the work of the war god Ares, determined to have humanity destroy itself as the old prophecy says.

She goes with Trevor to the grime and stuffy traditionalism of England, Steve thinking she's chasing phantoms, her thinking those conducting the war have lost their values of protecting the innocent. After jetsetting across the smashed towns and trenches of Europe, it all comes to a head as Ares reveals himself to Diana and she confronts her destiny.

Expectations seem to be high from everywhere – Warner Bros-owned DC Comics hopes this movie washes memories of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad's bad reviews away, and the common narrative about how audiences aren't only ready for movies about female heroes, but are starving for them, is going to be tested.

It's directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster), the first female to helm a $100m blockbuster, and after talk of opportunities for women in Hollywood reaching fever pitch over the last few years, and with Wonder Woman being one of the most recognisable characters in pop culture because of her gender, the studio probably knew giving the film to a male director would make for incredibly damaging PR.

But while that sounds cynical, Jenkins does a perfectly fine job behind the camera considering the modern job description of a blockbuster director – handling incoming clips from armies of visual effects subcontractors while shooting her actors against green screens.

There's also a lot of noise about Diana's female nature and how it makes for a very different superhero movie experience, and even though there are shades of that, none of it moves too far away from the traditional structure and orgy of computer-generated violence these films are made of.

If there is any feminist intent in Wonder Woman's existence (as opposed to in the story itself), it's something anyone with any brains would have found quite obvious despite the air of momentous feminism in the making, and it's that women – as Jenkins proves – are more than capable of directing big, fun movies.

Proof of her skill in wrangling the material can be found throughout the film. When Diana's told nobody can cross no mans land to rescue the French villagers trapped behind German lines, she throws her cape off to reveal the iconic suit, climbs the ladder in slo-mo and charges across the war blasted landscape, sending bullets ricocheting away with her signature magical wristbands.

Even though a spotlessly clean young woman in a blue and red swimsuit running across the muddy grey fields of World War I Europe should look absolutely stupid, the long awaited debut of Wonder Woman in action makes for a very cool sequence and you buy in to the rest of the story effortlessly as a result.

There are some funny individual lines and scenes that give both the movie and Gadot more personality than comic book movies usually manage, and even though she ends up in a small gang on her mission you're never in any doubt it's Wonder Woman's movie. Even the casting of the ever-bland Chris Pine as Steve Trevor seems intended to help Gadot stand out.

It's not going to win any awards, it's not going to reset the genre (Deadpool and Logan already did that) and it's not going to appeal to people who don't like comic book movies. But it's a lot of fun and at this point, both DC and the rest of us should be relieved they have an enjoyable superhero romp on their hands.

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