NOTE: MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!
Before I launch into an explanation for the above statement that also serves as a title for this post – hey! don’t you dare give me the eye-roll, let me tell you, on some days coming up with a decent title is downright impossible – I must distract you with a little tidbit, a secret. It’s a side-note I know and probably not what you came here for, so I apologise, and promise that I will get to my explanation very soon. Just bear with me for a minute.
Ok, so here goes – When Gal Gadot was first announced as the casting choice for Wonder Woman, I was more than a little miffed and went around bitching about it, ignoring all the real world issues that I could have mulled over. The reason, to put it very bluntly, behind this behaviour on my part being that she wasn’t busty enough. But having seen her in action, in Dawn of Justice, and now Wonder Woman, I find myself in a position to retract any previous reservations I had and call myself a bigot of the highest order. Gal Gadot is a good Wonder Woman. Nah, scratch that. She is an absolutely brilliant Wonder Woman. She looks every bit the Warrior Goddess that Wonder Woman is – regal in her bearing, fierce and forthright in her demeanor and, absolutely and astonishingly, jaw-droppingly beautiful. And more than that I realise that my boyhood fantasies fueled by the comic book version of Diana Prince would be more than a little difficult to achieve in the real world.
Phew! So glad I got that off my chest; no pun intended.
Anyway, back to the real stuff.
Wonder Woman is, in my opinion, a brilliant film, with subtle homages to comic books and its previous adaptations, most notably the previous Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter; and it has some truly well-written scenes.
However, the one that takes the top spot, has to be the No Man’s Land scene.
Now, as to why I say this, it’s probably because it is such a powerful scene, so wonderfully constructed and it all leads up to – the transformation of Diana Prince into Wonder Woman. At the very beginning of the movie, we are shown a Diana who believes in an idealistic world; she is shown to be naïve and innocent, believing in the dichotomy of good & bad, as almost anyone would if they grew up in a protected atmosphere. And this shows in her way of thinking when she argues with her mother about what they ought to do, how they should help the humans end this war by killing Ares. Her mother, the queen, and the rest of the Amazons do not agree and so Diana takes matters into her own hands and decides to leave Themyscira with Captain Steve Trevor of the United States Army Air Services, to London; which she describes in her forthright way as hideous. Now, she’s finally confronted with the consequences of war. What it does to people. She finds no honour or glory in it. All she sees around herself is death, destruction and desolation. Men, women and children. 18-year-olds returning from war without limbs, with forlorn looks on their faces, having faced unimaginable horrors that will continue to haunt them for the rest of their lives. A man crying out from the unbearable pain of having both his legs blown off by a landmine. And she’s unable to do anything about it. She wants to and initially tries to go to them, but Steve holds her back, telling her that there’s nothing she can do for them.
Until finally she arrives at the frontlines and walks among the men in the trenches. She meets a sobbing woman who’s holding a baby in her arms and crying out in some language and generally being ignored by everybody else. But Diana, being Diana, stops, stoops down and talks to her who narrates her tale of woe, of her village, Veld, across the no man’s land being taken by the Germans. So Diana goes to Steve and tells him that they must cross the no man’s land, to save the little village. Now, Steve reacts to this as any normal human soldier would, dismissing the idea as preposterous and unworthy of being given the merit of consideration. He explains to her what no man’s land is and why it’s not possible to cross it. How they have been stuck here for a long while and have moved barely two inches forward. He tells her, that not everyone can be saved and they can’t just go running across the no man’s land. And this is what finally pushes her over the edge, literally and figuratively.
This is where you sense a shift in Diana’s character. She turns around so we see her back, and then removes her hair from her bun in one sweet and smooth motion, and then turns around where we can see her wearing the helm of Antiope.
She turns around, looks at Steve and goes “No. But it is what I am going to do.”
The next scene shows a shield rising slowly as a cloak falls off of someone’s back. The next, her hand grabbing the ladder and slowly starting the climb. The next one shows her lower body, as one beautiful leg, clad in her trademark boots rises up to climb the ladder. We can see the famous Lasso of Truth, attached to her waistband. And finally, we are shown a Diana rising out from the trenches and walking towards the German lines, clad in resplendent armour and looking every bit the warrior Goddess she’s destined to be.
There’s a subtle melody in the background which is so profound that all you can do is watch and listen with rapt attention. And, we are shown all of this in slow motion.
As she walks with a determined look on her face, the first bullet is fired at her, which she deflects with her Bracelets of Submission. Then the second, then a third, and then an entire barrage from the Germans. And she starts running towards it. The next shot shows her taking all the fire from the Germans and holding her ground, which sparks Steve and his company into action and allows them to take the German trench.
It’s an extremely well-written scene, constructed not unlike the way Rafa Nadal constructs a point during a 30 shot rally. The build-up is elaborate, and excruciatingly precise, as not a single shot is wasted. Throughout the entire build-up you sense the momentum building up towards a crescendo, not knowing what it’s going to be, but hoping that it doesn’t disappoint. And for once it turns out to be all that was promised it would. It is such an emotional – I cried – scene and it’s symbolic in so many different ways. The music dominates, without being jarring and that only adds to its beauty.
Damn! That was one good scene!
On a side-note, when Steve explains to Diana the concept of no man’s land by saying that no man can cross it, I really thought the film-makers could have made Diana say “But I am no man” in a not so subtle homage to Lord of the Rings. Seems like an opportunity wasted to me. Now as to why they would want to do that, I don’t know. On a whim maybe. But, ohh well, her dialogue wasn’t so bad either.