Power. Grace. Wisdom. Wonder.
Gal Gadot’s lithe and feisty Wonder Woman was the best thing about 2016’s titanically dull Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and her Amazonian princess displays similar sparkiness in her first solo movie.
It’s an origin story, naturally, so after a brief Paris-set prologue that picks up a thread from that previous movie, director Patty Jenkins and her band of screenwriters deliver an extended flashback that shows Gadot’s heroine, Diana, growing up on a hidden island populated entirely by women and ruled by her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen).
Battle on the beach
As per legend, the Amazons are doughty fighters, ever vigilant for the return of their great foe, Ares, the Greek god of war. Despite her mother’s misgivings, Diana learns the arts of combat from her aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright). And comes to excel at them. However, the Amazons’ weapons are swords and arrows, and the like. Which puts them at a disadvantage when the 20th-century world breaks in on their timeless idyll.
A 1918 German warplane, piloted by Chris Pine’s American spy, Steve Trevor, crash-lands into the island’s waters, hotly pursued by the German navy. Diana rescues him and a ferocious battle on the beach duly ensues. For all their agility and unerring aim, the Amazons are outgunned, literally so. They prevail, of course. And in the battle’s aftermath Diana learns from Steve of the Great War currently being waged in the wider world.
Anguish and idealism
For Diana, this can only mean Ares is back. She sets sail with Steve when he leaves to complete his mission of foiling sadistic German general Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and his facially scarred scientist sidekick (Room in Rome‘s Elena Anaya) in their scheme to develop a deadly poison gas that will turn the tide of the war.
Their first stop, however, is London for some adroitly handled fish-out-of-water comedy in which Diana gets to grips with the idiosyncrasies of a male-centered world. She takes delight in ice cream and discomfort in women’s apparel. But it is her horror at the barbarity of war, witnessed at close quarters when they reach the front, which drives her forward.
Gadot does a great job of conveying Diana’s anguish and idealism – qualities that give Wonder Woman a soulfulness all too rarely seen in comic-book movies. And she’s equally impressive when Diana springs into action, armed with her trusty sword, shield and golden lasso of truth, deflecting bullets with her bracelets and biffing baddies left and right. To be honest, the fight scenes go on too long and the CGI is laid on a bit thick. It isn’t necessary. Gadot’s magnificent heroine is enough of a wonder woman in her own right not to need it.
Certificate 12A. Runtime 141 mins. Director Patty Jenkins