Wonder Woman saves DC Extended Universe
That heading is not an overstatement by any means. DC fans are still not over the disasters that were Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad as the onslaught of Marvel's tried and tested blockbuster formula continues. With Wonder Woman's standalone big screen debut, DCEU took a major gamble. Patty Jenkins is the first female director of a studio superhero movie. The result is a vehicle truly worthy of a demigod.
Would I call this a refreshing, feminist take on a genre that's usually associated with hypermasculinity? Sure. Diana is a warrior princess from Themyscira, raised by a fierce all-women clan. The action sequences featuring the Amazons training against the lush landscape of the mystical island hidden from the world are a thing of beauty. Connie Nielsen as Diana's mother, Queen Hippolyta, and Robin Wright as her mentor and aunt, General Antiope deserve special mention for their stellar performances.
The tranquility of this feminist utopia is broken by the crash landing of American pilot/spy Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine, being chased by the Germans. From him, Diana and the Amazons learn that a“Great War” [World War I] is underway and millions are dying. Persuaded by the creation story of her people, Diana believes that the god Ares is responsible for this war and accompanies Steve to Europe to put an end to this.
Jenkins masterfully puts a male empire under the female gaze without taking anything away from masculinity. Steve doesn't get turned into an emasculated dude in distress. Sure, Diana saves his life and he insists on being “above average” a couple of times, but he's no Lois Lane. Kudos to Chris Pine, Jenkins and the screenplay by Allan Heinberg for creating a male character who casually demonstrates the difference between masculinity and toxic masculinity.
What I particularly enjoyed about this movie are the light moments, as compared to the previous joyless DCEU adventures. The protagonists have great chemistry and all the jokes land perfectly.
Diana's coming of age is portrayed with a lot of sincerity. Through her curiosity, disbelief and outrage, the fact that wars are always started by men and women are left to suffer and pick up the pieces despite having no say in it is once again established.
If I had to nitpick, this movie would still be epic without the CGI battle towards the end.
Gal Gadot as Diana/Wonder Woman is flawless. It took only over 75 years for Wonder Woman to have her own live-action movie and I'd say as an actor, Gadot has lived up to that immense expectation. Off-screen, however, it's difficult for me to associate her with Wonder Woman, a pro-peace icon and a symbol of truth. Watching Gadot, as Wonder Woman, passionately trying to convince her band to march into a town under siege and free its people, I was baffled by the irony. I kept wondering what was going through the pro-IDF actor's mind when she had to enact this scene; how does she feel about Gaza, considered to be the “world's largest open-air prison”? FYI, Gadot had served for two years as an enlisted soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, serving as a combat instructor.
That said, fans and critics worldwide have given their verdict. Rotten Tomatoes has given it a 96 percent rating and the film has had one of the biggest opening weekends. DCEU can breathe a sigh of relief. For now.
Karim Waheed is the Editor of SHOUT and can be reached at [email protected]