Patty Jenkins brought us the 2017 smash-hit Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. Wonder Woman would be the 5th installment in the DCEU. It was released at a very tumultuous time for Warner Bros. After the divided reaction to both Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, its follow-up Justice League, and the mess that was Suicide Squad. These behemoths fell a little more than flat upon release, not only with the critics but also on the box office side of things.
With the considerable might of these well-known brands not enough to provide guaranteed success, the powers-that-be at Warner Bros. were left scratching their heads. This really was trying times for the DC universe and its cinematic future was in major jeopardy. In steps Patty Jenkins to helm the tale of Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman. With a script penned by Allan Heinberg (responsible for the Who Is Wonder Woman? storyline of the comic book), it would serve as an origin story for the legendary Amazonian Princess.
Before this iteration, many thought it impossible to make a modern version of one of the most recognizable superheroes in history. At the very most, before Gal Gadot’s appearance in Batman V Superman, Wonder Woman was considered a joke on a cinematic level. Many could point to Lynda Carter’s turn as Diana Prince but in my opinion, nobody captured the beautiful ferocity that lay within the tortured Themysciran Princess like Gadot.
Speaking of Themyscira, the utopian home of our titular hero is crafted here into an awe-inspiring paradise. The creators do an excellent job of bringing this mythical world to life, taking their inspiration from a myriad of cultures to construct this land filled with otherworldly beauty. They give the audience a real sense of the sacrifice that Diana is making by leaving such a place in the defense of humanity.
Even though this piece is clearly rooted in fantasy it does not fail to capture the real-world horror of its World War I setting. The story of the brave, somewhat naive warrior princess stepping out from her paradise-like world to prevent our world from turning into an even more hellish landscape. Diana quickly understands just like many humanitarians before her—that start out wide-eyed and bushy-tailed—that the odds she faces seem insurmountable. She enters this unknown world after encountering the American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and sets off on her hunt for Ares (David Thewlis) with her sword God Killer in tow. The chemistry between Gadot and Pine is so natural and an enduring strength throughout the movie.
During her journey, Diana is forced to bear witness to horrible atrocities as she searches for the God of War. She holds in the fury that rages within her until she can direct it at the one who is truly responsible for all the mayhem. Gadot plays these scenes well, showing her range without saying too much, it is clearly evident as the narrative plays out that her rage slowly starts to overcome her. She becomes more impulsive and less willing to listen to orders or follow protocol as she looks to expedite the end of the terror that is on the verge of consuming all the known world.
Even though she is faced with so much terror Diana’s story is always looking to inspire the audience to do good in the face of all evil. This inspirational tone is no better exemplified than in one of—if not the—most inspiring scene of the entire movie. When Diana finally reaches the front line and climbs up that ladder taking her first steps out of the trench and into No Man’s Land. To watch this Lioness, this woman of immense power striding across the land that no man dare set foot is spine-chilling.
The imagery Jenkins deploys is as astonishing as it is badass, Jenkins goes a long way in dispelling that old falsehood that women can not direct action. This is not the only scene that Jenkins would prove her astuteness for the action sequence. The earlier scene of the German soldier’s beach landing and the ensuing battle with the Amazonians is like nothing that had ever been shot before. The juxtaposition of the two fighting forces was striking and was captured expertly.
Wonder Woman is chockful of glorious badassery as I mentioned but that’s not all it is about. The social and political commentary of the time is slipped past our guard without us even noticing. Jenkins is very clever in how she instills her views on feminism. On more than a few occasions, female characters comment about their station in life. You’d think that our titular hero would be free from such things considering her power and beauty but she too is the victim of misogyny and chauvinism. Old ignorant men trying to quash progress at every turn, only seeing her exterior beauty and not her inner strength.
Even with all its strengths and they are numerous, there still are a few weaknesses that this bold blockbuster has contained within its action-packed narrative.
The first being how little flesh the supporting cast has on their bones. Each of the team members that are assembled by Steve Trevor is little more than the usual ensemble stereotypes.
Secondly, the villains of the piece are your run-of-the-mill big bads and lack any real depth. With the exception of a few, this is an accusation that is constantly leveled at superhero movies and rightly so might I add.
Lastly, the third act felt so out of place, it belonged more in a Zack Synder movie than a Patty Jenkins movie. The climax was hollow, explosion-filled chaos and felt like an abandonment of the smart, concise and original storytelling of the first two acts.
Unfortunately, just like other movies in the DCEU, the special effects that were used were rough, cartoonish and so halfbaked. Ares suffered just like Steppenwolf and was rendered looking like nothing more than a bad computer game character. It is good to note that these effects would be improved upon a lot in Aquaman as Warner Bros. and the DC Universe as a whole continues its resurgence.
That resurgence has come at a very important time and say what you want about the successes of Aquaman and Joker in the box office—both outings are billion-dollar babies. The latter of the two would also go on to earn much acclaim and many awards. These successes and all that they entail are mighty impressive without a doubt. But it is so very important to remember that when Warner Bros. and the DC Universe was flailing about, it was Patty Jenkins that took on the pressure of saving the future of one of cinema’s potentially most fruitful franchises.
In a world of fanboyism, it took a wondrous woman in her own right to come in and save the universe. She did it just like how her protagonist would do it, with grit, determination and against all the odds. Patty Jenkins went in with badass intent and successfully kicked ass. Even though Zack Synder was the one to cast Gal Gadot in the role of Diana, it truly was Jenkins who molded her into not only an inspirational superhero but also a fully fleshed out living breathing woman.
Jenkins may have been the one that molded Diana but it was Gadot that brought her to life. She was the total embodiment of everything we imagine Wonder Woman to be. Her portrayal of Diana is just awesome in the truest sense of the word. She shows us everything Wonder Woman is, was, and could be, showing women everywhere that they don’t have to be pigeonholed as just one thing.
That they too can be what they want no matter the obstacles—though admittedly I am not a woman—I can imagine that would be incredibly empowering for women everywhere. I know what I say might sound sentimental but I think the critical and financial response to Wonder Woman proves that my sentiment just might be correct.
I think the parallels between the cultural effect Wonder Woman had run deep with the effect Black Panther had on society. These two movies prove to us all no matter your race, your gender or if you come from a foreign land, that you too can be the hero of your story and that is something that can inspire us all.