Friday 9 June 2017

Wonder Woman - Patty Jenkins

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is a turning point in cinema, despite the lack of publicity compared to her male equivalents. This movie is that rare thing: a super hero film fronted by a woman and directed by a woman. Not just that but a damn fine one too. In fact, it's a bloody good action film full stop. And in this day and age, that's gold dust.

For the uninitiated, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is Diana princess of the Amazons. Protected on a hidden island, her people vow to fight Ares the God of War when he arises to destroy humanity, should that time ever come. When else could that be but the terror of the Great War? And so the film creates an alternative narrative where it was Diana, along with a US spy (Chris Pine) who turned the tied of the war.

That clash of fantasy and reality worlds, ancient and modern time zones, has potential for thrilling action and humour, and the film has plenty of both, especially with Wonder Woman herself. Gal Gadot plays the role brilliantly: a naive ingenue who's both aggressive and inquisitive. She personifies not only fierce strength, but compassion - it's that heart rather than her physical skill or beauty (stunning though she is) that makes her so wonderful.

The film begins fantastically enough, in the beautiful crystalline waters of the island Themyscira and its matriarchy of female warriors lead by the fearsome General Antiope (Robin Wright, House of Cards). After some exposition we shift to patriarchal, muddy, war-torn Europe for a story that is, for the most part, rooted in reality and it's all the better for it. There's little fanciful rubbish to wade through, just a well-paced story that's far more grounded than the usual whimsical boy fantasies we've become used to. The villains too, experimenting in chemical weapons, are sadistic and terrifying for real world consequences and not super powers. That said, the climactic twists towards the end are a sudden jolt into cartoonish fantasy, shattering the illusion of reality.

What makes this such an entertaining film, though, is the clarity of its action. So many films are full of close-up fussy camerawork and too much CGI, and while Wonder Woman does suffer from the latter, it has distance shots that orientate the viewer and stylish use of powerful slow motion. For once we can lucidly follow every leap, kick, whip crack and sword thrust, which only aids us to get on side. Diana emerges from destruction, parrying gunfire with her wrists, launching into the air to thwart her enemies, all while that screaming musical theme blares out over the speakers. Few action films - female or male led - are quite so empowering.

Of course there are obvious politics here with its female lead, but really it's a film of equality, a clash of heroes and villains both male and female. If anything, that gender stalemate leads to a hugely enjoyable popcorn film that rises above politics to entertain us all.