As Wonder Woman emerges, so does the anticipation. In 2013, when Zack Snyder brought Superman (literally) back to earth, the general consensus was that the superhero was too gaudy for reality-based film, ultimately leading to Batman V Superman, a more thorough examination of the comic book mythos.
From there, the D.C. franchise flitted from gritty to giddy, as was evident from the scattered Suicide Squad, which was two-thirds western flavoured anarchy, and a third catchphrase oriented comedy. By the time they steadied themselves on Wonder Woman, D.C. made the wise decision to let the story speak for itself, capturing a warrior in the midst of an impending war.
It came out at a when people were murmuring that Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey weren’t the altruistic gentlemen the trendy presses thought them to be, and the finished film – the first time Wonder Woman had her own venture – is a deeply feministic movie, understanding the complexities and paradigms of the world in question. And five years later, it still remains the most impressive of the films D.C. has put on commercial release.
The film made a superstar out of Gal Gadot, who imbued the film with a sense of vulnerability that made her character seem more rounded than Ben Affleck‘s more avuncular Batman. Behind the set-pieces and spectacle came the voice of a towering woman frightened for her life, as she finds herself embroiled in a battle for another time.
And yet there was a sincerity to the project, which likely stemmed from the research the creative team bestowed upon the titular character, giving her no less attention than the slavish detail that was bestowed upon her male counterparts. But director Patty Jenkins was also wise enough not to stick to the palette Snyder spearheaded, creating an interesting collection of sparkily produced shades that detailed the splendour, security and luxuriance of the world around them.
Trained as an amazon warrior, Diana Prince captured the essence of the island that made her the person she proved to be, determined to create a new character that could flit from one country to another. Wonder Woman asks other probing questions: Can love flower in a world of war? How does blood and battle compensate for a lack of domicile? Why is David Thewlis so damn charming?
Thewlis has form in playing villains (Prisoner of Azkaban, Fargo), and although nobody was fooled by the reveal, his character carries a certain devilish demeanour that flits between realism and fantasy. He brings Shakespearian pathos to a part that could easily have been performed by Patrick Stewart or Timothy Dalton, but Thewlis is so convincing in the role of demi-god that he brings certain credence and credibility to a series that had skimped on the bad guy front. Set against the backdrop of the First World War, the film also brings audiences back to a war that was commonly overlooked in the 1940s.
At the centre of the battle stands a woman, whose belief in the human evolution is steadfast, rooted in instinct and aspiration. And although it’s largely coincidental, Wonder Woman holds an aphorism that is reminiscent of Anne Frank’s final words in her diary. From the deep-rooted belief in the system that brings the world to its knees, based on foibles and failings.
“I think I actually have a history of looking at complicated character,” Jenkins recalled, “In Monster, who you could tell the story and then, and then, and then. But the truth is when you get into that person’s point of view, it becomes an interesting story in a different way. And hopefully, I did that with Wonder Woman as well. So applying that same approach to one of the most famous women in history, Cleopatra, the truth is, the only story that we know of her was told by the Romans who killed her and hated her. And so once we really start looking at what does exist elsewhere about Cleopatra, you see a pretty bad-ass, incredible leader. One of the great leaders in Egypt.”
Best of all, the film features a jaw-droppingly impressive setpiece in the middle of the battlefields, as Wonder Woman rises from the trenches to show her comrades, and audiences, that all it takes in life is bravery and a chance to risk everything for the sake of the world.