FILM: Wonder Woman
STARRING: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright
DIRECTOR: Patty Jenkins
REVIEWER: Sihle Mthembu
The female superhero film is a complex undertaking. Not only because female superheroes often exist as quasi-assistants in mostly male-hero universes, but also because female superhero characters often do not have a mythology as clearly fleshed out as their male counterparts.
They are composites of the tropes that make up the origin stories of other superheroes and often suffer from a chronic inability to distinguish themselves.
Catwoman, can you hear me?
Wonder Woman, the latest film from the DC extended universe, is under pressure for multiple reasons.
Chief of which is that after the disaster that was Batman vs. Superman, DC needed to stake a claim that it could at least compete with Marvel. And Wonder Woman is a triumph.
The film, which is part hero origin story and part war film, is deceptively entertaining.
The story centres on Diana (Gal Gadot), a young Amazonian warrior whose destiny is to help save the world. When on her home island she rescues an American soldier, Steve Trevor (a charming Chris Pine) after his plane crashes, Diana learns of a war going on and decides to join him and help stop it.
The two make a pact to fight the crazy general Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and his facially scarred sadistic chemist, nicknamed Dr Poison (Elena Anaya) and halt their efforts of developing a poison gas that will wipe out thousands.
What distinguishes Wonder Woman from other superhero films in that it is not overly earnest or takes itself too seriously.
Although set in the throes of WWI the film is able retain a sense of humour and does not ravel in its own horrors the way its predecessors in this universe have.
There is nothing funnier than unhappiness, says Samuel Becket, and through a sizzling chemistry and a smart script, Diana and Trevor are able to offer us some respite from the grimness of the world they occupy.
It was also refreshing to see a female superhero whose origin does not stem from some male-caused genetic defect or trauma.
Rather, Wonder Woman’s strength is drawn from the generations of women around her. They are the custodians of the light and make her into the fierce warrior that she is. In this place, men and the very notion of their existence is background noise.
The CGI in Wonder Woman is somehow kept at a manageable distance. The fight scenes are brilliantly choreographed and exquisitely photographed. While most superhero movies opt for long shots in battle sequences, in Wonder Woman we are right there in the thick of the fight.
Director Patty Jenkins’s use of sharp focuses, tracking and slow-mos give the action sequences a kinetic energy unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Although we have seen Wonder Woman in Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, this film feels like the start of something new.
Wonder Woman is positioned appropriately as ageless. What makes the film work is that it is stripped of the cameos and cultivating of future films that so often plagues superhero films.
It is a fine solo, an adult comic book film that actually works.