Wonder Woman has been around since the 1940s, as a founding member of the well known Justice League, and in her own comics published by DC Comics almost continuously since the creation of her character. Her backstory, though, has been only very lightly explored in the comics and animated movies credited to the title, with not much more known than her status as a demigod and an Amazonian princess. The latest “Wonder Woman” movie explores Diana (Gal Gadot)’s backstory in much greater detail, and is also the first live action Wonder Woman movie.
The beginning of the movie shows Diana on the island Themyscira, where she had previously been shown to come from. She lives with the Amazons, and is trained as a warrior and told tales of gods such as Ares, but does not truly know her own superhuman power. This begins to change when US pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes into the waters near the island. Telling of the horrors of World War I, Cap. Trevor convinces Diana to join him on a possibly fatal mission to travel to the Western front, seeking an early end to the war. Diana, convinced that the war is Ares’s fault and that only killing him will end it, pursues a German General who she believes to be the war god in disguise.
Unlike many recent films that focus on the World War II era, this movie looked at the pain of World War I, which was almost equally devastating, and less thoroughly taught and portrayed. Setting the film during World War I meant certain weaponry unique to that era, including gases like mustard gas, which were important to the plot. All aspects of the setting were skillfully executed, including the costumes of the soldiers and the English citizens, and the portrayal of the horrible conditions on the Western front and surrounding.
My main complaint was that the film was overly expositional, which added to its runtime of 2 hours 21 minutes, but this mostly served to make the movie enjoyable even for those not especially familiar with the character of Wonder Woman or with the DC extended universe. For die hard fans though, this exposition and narration could be annoying, and it did detract from my enjoyment of the film.
One of the best features of the movie were the action scenes, which had wonderful stunts and special effects fitting of a superhero movie. The battles were well choreographed and executed, making sure that the fight scenes were engaging, from the final battle between Diana and Ares to the play-fighting Diana witnesses at age eight. Despite the interest that the battles provoked, the movie as a whole bounced back and forth too frequently between being engaging and less so, with very little other than scenes of intense action and the polar opposite, scenes that served little purpose other than to narrate a piece of backstory that might be unknown to those new to DC and the Wonder Woman title.
Even in these duller moments though, the humour of the film stayed fresh. What made the film more enjoyable for teen and adult audiences however, definitely contributed to its PG-13 rating. While not overly necessary for other reasons, the suggestive humour of this film made the rating necessary. While still appropriate for kids, the humour and the mild language of the film means that I would not recommend it for very young children under the age of about eight.
In summary, the latest addition to the Wonder Woman title might be a bit of a disappointment to die hard fans, but is still worth seeing for those loyal to the DC label due to the additional background it provides on Diana’s character and formulation. The film is also worth seeing for those not as familiar with the Wonder Woman title, as it is expositional enough so as not to be confusing to those who come in with little knowledge. It is appealing mostly for the realistic depictions of battle, and of World War I, as well as for the humour.