There is a lot more to like about this blockbuster than you might initially think. In fact, if you disregard the first and last fifteen minutes, you could even say that it is pretty good – or at least a cut above the usual superhero drivel.
Director Patty Jenkins blew us all away with Monster (2003), her film about a female serial killer, and here she shows a similar understanding of her central character, Diana (Gal Gadot) – which is to say, it takes a dame to know a dame.
Diana’s early history, growing up on an island populated only by women (she was made out of clay and had life breathed into her by one of the gods), is candy-arsed and silly, with more back-story than is needed. But when Steve (Chris Pine at his most charming), an American airman, crashes into the sea, Diana is shunted into the real world of ordinary mortals and the film turns into something much more absorbing than just a parade of muscles and weird outfits. It is 1918 and the Great War is drawing to its bloody end while the victorious powers are negotiating the terms of the Armistice that Germany will sign. Ludendorff (Danny Huston, looking schmick in a German military outfit), disgruntled and unbowed, will never surrender and is developing a most horrendous lethal gas with which he will continue the fight.
He is, Diana believes, the manifestation of Aries, the god of war, who has poisoned the hearts and minds of mankind. She makes it her mission to destroy him. The beautifully created London of the period is so much more believable than the early island sequences, with sets and streets, props and richly textured and detailed costumes by veteran designer Lindy Hemming (of Batman fame) giving priceless authenticity to the drama. As a stranger in a strange land, Diana is confronted by moral questions that are usually skirted around in the superhero genre and it is a relief to find that Allan Heinberg’s thoughtful screenplay has something positive to say.