WONDER WOMAN ****
Directed by Patty Jenkins; screenplay by Allan Heinberg; with Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis; 121’; Usa 2017.
Diana grows up in the secret island of Themyscira as princess of the Amazons, women warriors voted to the protection of mankind from the terrible Ares, god of war and sower of violence and pain. One day Steve Trevor comes to the island, an american officer fleeing from the germans. It’s 1918 and the Great War is soaking Europe in blood. Diana realizes Ares is back, and decides to follow Steve into that same world she does not know but still wants to save…
Wonder Woman was perhaps the best character in the otherwise lackluster last chapter of the DC Comics superhero universe, Batman v. Superman. Here, she is back as the absolute protagonist in a story that tells the beginning of her mission and which promises to become an important piece of that universe.
This is the first real blockbuster with a female superhero protagonist (the mediocre Elektra and Catwoman are better left forgotten) in a predominantly male genre (although some interesting female charachter already existed, especially among the X-Men, and Black Widow is an important member of the Avengers).
It’s no coincindence that the producers wanted a female director in charge of the operation, and it is perhaps to this alternative outlook that we owe a less sexy and more fierce and regal version of the heroin fighting in a mini-armor tinted with same colors of the american flag.
The contrast between a bestial, warmongering Male and a Female that is still a warrior, and yet is devoted to protection and salvation (maybe in a somewhat naive and kitsch way, Diana claims to fight in the name of love against Ares lust for power) rather than to violence and abuse, is a fundamental theme of the movie.
Not that the story of the amazon princess warrior grown on an island of only women demonizes the male element altogether; on the contrary, the chemistry between the protagonist and Steve Trevor has the wit and the mood of certain comedies of the past, with a “Her” very intelligent but totally ignorant of “worldly” ways, and a “Him” who’s civilized but still challenged to recognize her as equal.
The story takes place at the end of the First World War: in the original comics it was WWII, but the producers wisely changed the scenario avoiding the (otherwise inevitable) confrontation with the adventures of Captain America, another pure-hearted superhero Diana has a lot in common with.
First of all, it’s a cynic-free look on reality – a real novelty, especially in Warner's superhero universe, which so far has favored the somber tones even with a champion of Good like Superman.
It challenges the senseless violence of the Western front trenches and reaffirms the confidence in the capacity for good of the human nature against her adversary's dark pessimism.
Always within the limits of mainstream entertainment, in fact, the film takes advantage of the historical context to attempt a little more complex conversation on the nature of war and the origin of human violence: free will, irredeemable nature, or supernatural influence?
The story suffers a somewhat slow start and does not, in truth, have really interesting antagonists (the standard warmongering general and a scientist who experiments with lethal gases, an unfortunately topical subject), while in the end, the canonic clash with cars and tanks thrown in the air seems by now a duty owed to the genre.
Nevertheless, thanks to Gal Gadot’s luminous interpretation, convincing in both action and comic relief moments, even if still far from Marvel’s best efforts, the movie is enjoyable and gives some hope for a change of course in the future of Batman, Superman and Co.
Problematic elements for the viewer: scenes of violence within the limits of the genre, a couple of references of sexual nature.