Wonder Woman and the Best Action Sequence of the Year
‘It means no man can cross it.’
(If you haven’t already seen it, spoilers ahoy!)
Wonder Woman has restored my hope. No, I don’t mean hope in DC’s upcoming slate of films (I am thoroughly past caring). I mean hope in its truest sense. The kind that makes you want to stand up and cheer, throw your fists in the air and scream positive affirmations like ‘YES!’ or ‘BRAVO!’ The only reason we don’t do these things is because everyone else in the cinema with you trying to peacefully enjoy the movie will stare with intense judgement and fear. At roughly the half-way point in Patty Jenkins’ woman-led superhero blockbuster, we get one such sequence that warrants a secretive mini fist-pump to oneself.
‘It means no man can cross it,’ barks Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor, after Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) tests his patience by suggesting they simply waltz across a war-torn field to liberate a village held under German control. It’s World War 1, and that field is No Man’s Land. Denying the fair logic of Trevor’s pleas and deciding to act, she dons her tiara and climbs the ladder that leads to this forsaken place. During the following ten or so minutes, there are countless moments which sent a shiver up my spine: the swirling music, Gadot’s incendiary stoicism, and the way that Jenkins moves the camera all digs into into why we connect with superheroes in the first place.
The sequence works because it crosses a line, and not just literally. There’s something about it that feels like it’s stepping on something sacrilegious, almost entering the touchy area of bad taste. Witnessing a colourful imaginary being with ridiculous powers stomp all over one of the worst man-made hells on Earth feels slightly wrong — but that’s the inherent thrill of the sequence: it shouldn’t work, but its dual transgression and symbolism make it the most profound and viscerally exciting action sequence of 2017 so far.
Jenkins fought to keep the No Man’s Land scene in the movie. No one seemed to understand why this superhero wasn’t fighting a supervillain; perhaps on paper, they felt it was an inexplicable detour. But this is the very heart of the movie: it comes slap-bang in the middle of Act 2, typically when our hero gains knowledge of what she has to do in order to truly overcome her weaknesses and, finally, save the day. Diana realises that helping people, no matter what, is her purpose. Are there any better places in history to learn that lesson than No Man’s Land?