Takes place in the DC extended universe films that have come out recently. Wonder Woman actually made her first appearance in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (I watched it after this film since Wonder Woman was in it and still not impressed. Yes, Batman and Superman have canonically butted heads but would they really dissolve into fighting each other?) She also later appears in the full Justice League film (again, only watched once and not one I’m going to revisit).
However, this film is directed by Patty Jenkins and stars Gal Gadot as Diana. Chris Pine (most famous now as Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek films, but he’s played romance before in Princess Diaries 2) is the lead male, Captain Steve Trevor. Robin Wright (Buttercup in The Princess Diaries; there’s a saying going around with the movies that came out in the 2010’s, that our princesses, i.e. Buttercup and Leia, became our generals) is General Antiope. David Thewlis (Professor Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter franchise) is Sir Patrick, Danny Huston (a brief appearance as King Richard in Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood and we’ll see him as Stryker in X-Men Origins Wolverine) is Ludendorff, and that’s James Cosmo (he’s been in period films like Troy and Braveheart and is Father Christmas in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and was Jeor Mormont of the Night’s Watch in Game of Thrones) as Field Marshall Haig.
The film actually starts in modern days, with a Wayne Enterprises truck pulling up outside the Louvre, to deliver an old photograph to Diana. The story then turns to her upbringing on Themyscira; her desire to train alongside the other Amazons, but her mother forbidding it. She wants her daughter the remain a child as long as possible and tells her the story of Zeus’ creation of man and Ares’ jealousy. He poisoned the kind hearts of mankind, so Zeus created the Amazons as protectors of humans. The queen herself led the revolt against Area, but many gods were killed. They believed Area perished as well, but Hippolyta fears he is still out in the world and is content to remain hidden on Themyscira. Diana begins training with Antiope in secret for several years before her mother finds out (slightly retconned in the beginning of the sequel). Hippolyta demands that Antiope train Diana harder than any she has trained before, but the young woman cannot know the truth.
Fast forward several years, and Diana is sparring with the other Amazons, Antiope pushing her to release her full potential; “you’re stronger than you believe.” When Diana crosses her gauntlets, they create a shockwave, stunning Antiope. Diana is starting to wonder if there is something else going on, so she visits the cliffs to collect herself. And discovers an airplane crashing into the water by the island; the first outsider. She dives into the water to save the man, then the pursuing Germans attack. The Amazons fight back, their arrows somewhat effective against the soldiers, but they’re not prepared for the guns. Antiope takes a bullet for Diana when she’s distracted. The Amazons take the man Diana rescued for questioning, using the Lasso of Hestia to compel him to tell the truth. His name is Steve Trevor and he is an American assigned to British Intelligence to spy on the Germans. He discovered General Ludendorff’s and Doctor Maru’s newest toxic gas and stole the notebook so it cannot be fully developed and used on people. The Germans followed him to the island. Diana, raised on her mother’s stories and belief that the Amazons’ purpose is to protect humans, wants to join Steve fighting this terrible war. Obviously, Ares is behind it and it is the Amazons’ duty to defeat him. Hippolyta, knowing the truth of the world, feels they are better on their island and forbids Diana from going.
Diana decides to help Steve anyway and sneaks into the tower where there is the God killer sword, a shield, and a brightly colored set of armor (modeled after gladiator garb). She will sneak Steve off the island in exchange for him taking her to the war so she can defeat Ares; she believes it will be so simple. Hippolyta catches them before they board a boat, but she admits she cannot force Diana to stay. However, she can never return to the island. Steve and Diana have a rather…awkward conversation about relationships between men and women.
In the meantime, Maru continues working on her gas, though she discovered another one that restores a man’s strength and gives it to Ludendorff (yeah, there’s definitely some magic going on there because his reaction is not natural). Steve and Diana make it to London and meet Steve’s secretary, Etta. First, they need new clothes because Diana is going to standout in just her cape at some point. But she’s not accustomed to early twentieth-century garb and the fact that women are not meant to fight; corsets are not armor. She eventually settles on a long skirt and shirt. Steve puts glasses on her and as Etta points out, not the most camouflaging. The pair run into German spies who try to kill Steve, until Diana uses her gauntlets to stop bullets. When they go to British command, the men are dismissive of Diana and Steve is forced to take her out of the room. However, she’s the only one who can decipher the combination of languages Maru is using to make her notes. And she gets very upset when the men all insist that they cannot go after the gas factory because they cannot endanger the imminent armistice. Outside, Steve admits, using the Lasso to prove his sincerity, he is planning on doing the mission anyways.
Steve gathers his buddies; an actor named Sammy, a sharpshooter named Charlie, and a smuggler referred to as Chief so they can infiltrate Belgium, find the factory, and destroy it. Sir Patrick, from command, pays them a visit and even helps them along, allowing Etta to coordinate in his office. In Belgium, Ludendorff visits the other German generals (who do point out that this ongoing war is costing the Germans just as much as it is costing the allies and are willing to sign an armistice) and uses the gas on them. He and Maru giggle like children at the destruction they cause and set in motion the rest of their plan.
Steve and Diana pass through No Man’s Land, and Diana finally insists she can do something to help; there is a village trapped behind the German line. She drops her cloak, revealing her armor, shield, sword, and headband, and steps out of the trench. She draws the German’s fire and Steve leads his men after her, giving her an opening to take out the German weapons. They go on to the village (where we are treated to the energizing theme as Diana takes out her adversaries), Steve fighting alongside Diana. He recalls a move he saw the other Amazons use and launches Diana into the bell tower to take out a sniper. A local commemorates their victory with a photograph (the one from the beginning of the movie). There are a few tender moments between Steve and Diana that evening, after Steve has reported to Etta and Sir Patrick. Ludendorff will be at a gala nearby, but Patrick forbids Steve from going in. Diana has also come to the conclusion that Ludendorff is Ares. Everyone knows that Steve will disobey that order and go anyway. I do love the scene between Steve and Diana in the bedroom for the fact that there is no dialogue. Without words, Diana asks Steve to stay and he agrees. There is a kiss between the two and that is all we see.
On the way to the gala, Steve tells his friends the truth about Diana, and of course, Sammy wants to visit, since he’s been flirting with Diana in half a dozen languages. Steve attempts to order Diana to stay back while he sneaks into the gala, but she steals a dress and enters, breaking his focus on charming Doctor Maru. Ludendorff dances with Diana and Steve catches her before she executes the man. And admittedly, Ludendorff sounds very much like a god of war. Steve takes Diana out of the gala and they see a “firework” set off. Except it’s actually the gas and it hits the village they just saved. Diana is not pleased with Steve, but they follow the Chief’s signal to Ludendorff at a nearby airstrip. Diana goes after Ludendorff while Steve and his friends go after the gas being loaded onto a plane.
Diana has a bit of a fight with Ludendorff, but she overpowers him and runs him through with her sword. And the Germans don’t stop. How can this be? You kill the god of war; you stop the war. Steve doesn’t know either. Maybe humans aren’t wholly good like Diana believes; maybe there is no one bad guy to blame. He asks Diana to help him stop the gas, but she’s now disheartened and doesn’t follow him. Sir Patrick shows up and tells Diana that mankind only deserves destruction. It’s not Ludendorff who was Ares; Sir Patrick is Ares. “I’m not what you thought I was.” He did not spout war; he was not obvious. He hid in plain sight and manipulated behind the scenes where no one would suspect him. He tells Diana he is not the enemy; instead, he is the only one who truly knows her. He saw from the beginning that his father’s creation was evil; humans are inherently cruel and selfish [oh boy, does he sound like Lucifer from Supernatural]. Diana gears up for another fight, but Ares is able to break the sword. And reveals that the sword wasn’t the god killer, Diana herself is. “Only a god can kill another god.” Diana was not simply sculpted by clay and brought to life by Zeus, she is the offspring of Zeus and Hippolyta. Ares tries to convince Diana to join him, destroy mankind and the world will be beautiful again. He goes on, claiming that it was not him who made humans use weapons and wage war against each other, he only whispered inspiration in their minds.
Diana refuses to join Ares and their battle hits the tarmac. Steve intends to stop the plane, but he can’t ground it since it’s on a timer and they can’t blow it up because it will still kill everyone in the vicinity. The only way he can stop it is to take it in the air and hit it then. But he finds Diana first. Except the blow from Ares has messed with her hearing, so she doesn’t hear him at first. He leaves her to fulfill his mission and she goes back to her fight with Ares. He grounds her and she watches the plane explode, crying out and bursting from her bonds. She rips through the soldiers and Ares is pleased. He brings Maru in front of Diana and she picks up a tank. Ares goads her, saying again that humans are weak. Including Captain Trevor; he deserved to burn. Diana spares Maru and goes after Ares, finally recalling what Steve told her: “I wish we had more time. I love you.” Before Diana strikes her final blow, she tells her brother, “I believe in love.” There is a huge explosion as she shoots lighting back at Ares. And everyone is just grateful to be alive afterwards that they all hug one another.
At the victory celebration afterwards, Diana quietly meets up with Etta and the men and visit the memorial wall. Back in present day, she remarks that she decided to stay and fight and protect humanity. It is her mission, now and forever.
There are several aspects of this movie that I enjoyed. First and foremost, it shows a female superhero as the lead and she kicks butt! The action focuses on her and she gets herself out of trouble. (And totally cool that it is directed by a female.) And it’s sweet that Steve accepts her as she is; of course he has to struggle to get her to fit in with early-twentieth century London, but that’s to avoid awkward questions. He’s seen the Amazons in action and know they can defend themselves, so he trusts Diana to look after herself in that respect. It’s the minutia of “in polite society you really can’t do that” that he has to worry about (like, don’t assassinate the general in a room full of witnesses who are going to take the general’s side).
Part of why this film was moved to World War I as a setting compared to its run in the comics was to differentiate it from Marvel’s Captain America; you don’t want tow Captain Steves running around. But, it makes sense in a historical sense; the people who lived and fought in the first World War did not know there would be a second. It was called the Great War and they thought it was the war to end all wars, so that’s a perfect time to find this amazing warrior who helps turn the tide. And packs more of a punch when you realize that these people will live through another tragedy and Diana herself will witness the horror of the world dissolving into war again.
Also, Ares’ game plan. Upon first viewing, and taking into account that many of the audience view this character as kind Professor Lupin, Sir Patrick’s actions are good. He’s trying to end the war peacefully; he helps our heroes get to their destination. Yet, it’s Ares playing the long game. He knows how to maneuver people where he wants them without anyone suspecting. Let Diana see her friends try and fail to end the violence. It just cements his view that humans are inherently cruel and violent. Of course, he weakens his argument when he reveals that he is the inspiration behind Maru’s gasses and behind weapons’ designs.
Diana and Steve were cute together, so I was happy to see Steve return in Wonder Woman: 1984, though I do question why he had to take over someone else’s body (and that opens the door to questions we possibly don’t want answered.) The film features Kristen Wiig (oh hey, she voices Ruffnut in the How to Train Your Dragon films) as Barbara Minerva and Pedro Pascal (a big name recently as Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones and the titular Mandalorian) as Maxwell Lord. And the guy simply credited as “handsome man” is played by Kristoffer Polaha, a mainstay on the Hallmark Channel, including their Mystery 101 series. On the whole, the sequel was an enjoyable film, but there were plot holes. And stick around till the end because SPOILER, Lynda Carter (who played Wonder Woman in the 70’s TV series) makes a cameo as Asteria. There are also rumors of a third film in the works.
Definitely watch the first film, mainly because Gal Gadot is awesome as Wonder Woman.
Up Next: Starting the X-Men film series