It has taken a long, long time, but finally we have a blockbuster based on a female superhero who leads, rather than one who follows others or is merely a non-descript cog in some team or other’s wheel. Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman – the latest big budget movie to depict DC’s expanded, none-more-murky universe – has plenty of feminist credentials, occasionally couched in asides that make fun of the sexism of the 1910s, the period setting for this story, and Gal Gadot’s performance as the titular Amazon warrior is impressive (whether she’s in physical combat with German soldiers during World War I or contributing to the film’s many tender or lighter moments). There’s also a good turn here by the consistently reliable Chris Pine, playing second fiddle. The leads have enough chemistry to make you believe and care about the relationship that develops between their two characters, meaning there’s the kind of emotional payoff here that has been sadly lacking from most superhero movies of late, DC or otherwise. It also has more humour than the other DC-related offerings, which is welcome given we’re going to see plenty more of Henry Cavill’s stoic and bland Superman and Ben Affleck’s growling, mirthless Batman in the next few years.
Unfortunately, though, these improvements are ultimately housed within yet another tightly-controlled and predictable superhero origin story, which hits the same old beats with showy, expensive set pieces that culminate in a grand night-time battle with the big bad, and it’s a shame that there’s no real attempt to break away from the tried-and-tested, formula-abiding superhero movie structure. I understand, though, that for many people the presence of a woman in the lead role means that this isn’t simply more of the same. For me, as much as I’m pleased to have seen this overdue day arrive, I’m no fan at all of the style that has been imposed on this franchise by Zack Snyder and others, which subsequent DC universe directors and DoPs – Jenkins included – are slavishly adhering to; this is as heavy on the slow-mo as Snyder’s Superman and Batman films, as well as David Ayer’s ballsed-up Suicide Squad, though at least it does not share with those movies a general lack of interest in real human beings. So, for a few reasons, this is a step in the right direction. (***)