Janus Film Review Presents: Wonder Woman (2017)

as reviewed by Lynz.

Format Reviewed: Blu Ray/Warner Home Video (2017).


For me, Patty Jenkins' take on the iconic and (arguably first) dominant female superhero is surprisingly good. It features impressive cinematography with a well-structured story and appropriate heroes and villains, whilst maintaining an air of escapism and legend. Although I personally never understood why a heroic woman had to wear blue pants, and what is effectively a red corset, in the comic book series, I have always had a soft spot for the heroine who doesn't need the aide of a strapping, muscular hero. From this perspective, I was overjoyed to see some semblance of decorum and practicality applied to the costume design and representation of Wonder Woman. Indeed, the representation of the Amazons in this movie appears to be well-thought-out by both the writers and the director. It was refreshing to see a more ‘armoured’ approach to Amazonian fashion, rather than the Hollywood heyday's obsessions with flowing chiffon robes that left barely anything to the imagination.


Here is where my love of mythology creeps back into my reviewers’ mind. Let's be frank here: DC took an already established mythological epic and added in a modernised heroine for embellishment. Let's not forget the mythological foundations of Wonder Woman and her heritage. First and foremost, the Amazons are by mythic definition, a formidable tribe of warrior women who exist entirely independent of male influence (the matter of procreation, and the presence of Amazonian young, is suggested to be the result of captive men and near-enforced coupling, after which the male is effectively banished, whether living or dead). They live within a secluded, matriarchal society which is led and governed by their monarch, Queen Hippolyta (who is beautifully represented by Connie Nielsen), and they are renowned for their skill in warfare; particularly their prowess with the bow, and the slightly discomforting idea that they removed their right breasts in order to strengthen this ability. It does seem rather fitting that one of the first female superheroes born of comic book lore, should hail from this mythic tribe.


This pre-established backstory allows for greater artistic licence - owing to the fact that it is mythology and not history - and in this case the backstory is (thankfully) not all sunshine and roses. For me, as an admirer of all things Amazonian (predominantly the more realistic abilities of women as equal to men), the Amazons and Wonder Woman are given an impressive introduction. The sweeping scenes of battle and combat training leave little to the imagination, and sets the stage for the coming battles. Themyscira is indulgently presented as a lush, tropical paradise, and I was relieved to see the Amazons are rightly shown as well-trained, dedicated warriors with an admirable cause, and a sense of duty stronger than granite. I must say the casting here, with the aforementioned Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright, is notable. If I may be so bold as to suggest this, the casting of more established actresses, with an air of life experience, is extremely impressive. If the movie had perhaps had a different director, we'd have been looking at the likes of tween models; failing miserably to display the sense of agelessness and experience of almost-immortal warrior women.


This cinematic version adheres as closely as any movie can to the mythology of the Amazons, and neatly ties-in their relationships with the Greek Gods Zeus and Ares, with Zeus as their sire and protector, and Ares (magnificently portrayed by David Thewlis), as their mortal enemy. An enemy who is, in my opinion, intricately and despicably played, in the sense that the character has been moved away from the stereotypical ‘big and brawny’ bad guy. Thewlis' Ares has shifted to a point of evolution where to be god of war, there is no need to be physically intimidating, just clever enough to know the minds of men. Intelligent manipulation is much more terrifying in a modern world, where every superpower has a big red button they're always threatening to press. Here, Ares is almost a representation of the underhanded and unseen evil working behind the scenes of many conflicts, and quite aptly demonstrates the corruptibility of man. Nothing like throwing some life lessons into the midst of an epic saga! The backdrop of World War I is symbolic, for it was the first time any such conflict had taken place. The Great War was the first to actively utilise chemical warfare alongside the developments of the industrial age, creating destruction and terror the likes of which had never been seen before. Thus the connotation is this was not just a war made of men but of gods too, and would take a great power to overcome.


Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is well-cast, and owing to her seclusion, presents the audience with a sense of innocence. As a viewer, you feel like you are living through humanity’s wake-up calls as she experiences them. Something that is often missing from films of this ilk is at least here, as we witness her confusion and misunderstandings, and empathise with her learning as she weaves her way through life in the real world. With this embodiment of Diana Prince we see her grow and evolve and find her strength, as she simultaneously finds friendship and companionship, whilst witnessing the horrors of war and the suffering of humanity. These experiences all lead to the realisation that although Ares is at the centre of events (as Diana's beliefs hold her to focus on), he is but a drop in the ocean. Gadot carries herself well throughout the storyline, and the underlying will-they-or-won’t-they love story of Diana and Steve Trevor is just enough to lift the dark edges, and add a little jest and heartbreak to the screenplay. What would a heroine be without a little heartbreak, eh?


The culmination of Diana discovering that she does not wield the weapon to defeat Ares, but that she is the weapon herself, is almost a metaphor for the internal strength humanity has found time and time again, to rise up against oppression and to fight against injustice. For the times we find ourselves in now - with the battle of the sexes existing on more of an even keel - it could be argued that Wonder Woman herself represents the rise of women; especially when you look back to her introduction in 1942. This was an iconic time for women. They were encouraged to take part in the war effort by joining the work place, and entering into careers previously dominated by a male workforce; enjoying a level of social freedom that they had not previously encountered. Although this was not to last - especially in the USA during the 1950s, where even a college-educated woman was expected to leave her studies when she married - it could be argued that Wonder Woman was a sign of what was to come: the light at the end of the tunnel. This representation of our heroine definitely portrays the ability of a woman to be a stand-alone hero, as she leads and fights and takes on whatever challenges that may lie ahead. This could be a the reason for its popularity. That, or a lot of gentlemen liked the idea of Gal Gadot running around in a gold-adorned suit of armour; especially after her bikini-clad scene in the Fast and the Furious franchise.


Nevertheless, the film is well-paced and possesses a strong storyline in a familiar setting, that criss-crosses both the war and comic book movie genres, thus appealing to two sets of big screen fans simultaneously. The cast is well-considered, with enough big names to attract long-term fans: Danny Huston - always a villain, never a hero - alongside Chris Pine in a familiar, Star Trek-shaped skin, as well as the first lead role for Gadot. The representation of the Amazons is dutifully considered, and the mythological foundations are well-honoured in the career path chosen for Diana Prince. For this fan of mythology and of strong-willed, stubborn women, Wonder Woman is an enjoyable film that holds its own against the strength of the rival comic book universe (i.e Marvel). All in all an entertaining film, featuring a character that has continued to be strong in the follow up films of the DC Extended universe.

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