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Warning: spoilers ahead for Wonder Woman's coolest scene. Read ahead at your own risk!
It's rare for a comic book movie to send a chill up the spine of a seasoned fanboy. Many try, but only a small handful ever manage to pull it off. There's the first reveal of The Joker in The Dark Knight, the airport battle from last year's Captain America: Civil War, and the funeral scene from Logan -- to name some of the few. Patty Jenkins is only a newcomer to the superhero genre with her work on Wonder Woman, but it seems that she has now effectively become one of the few directors to deliver a genuinely iconic and rousing superhero sequence that will go down as an historic moment for the genre as a whole. If you have seen Wonder Woman, then you have seen Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) claim "No Man's Land." If you have seen Diana claim No Man's Land, then you already know that this is the scene from Wonder Woman that people will talk about for years to come.
The No Man's Land sequence from Wonder Woman is not particularly complicated in nature. In fact, its emotional simplicity is one of its greatest strengths. As Diana, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), and the rest of our heroes march through the trenches on their way to confront General Ludendorff (Danny Huston), the Amazonian princess sees the horrors of World War I all around her as the Americans fight to free a Belgian hamlet known as Veld. Seeking hope in a hopeless situation, Diana stops dead in her tracks, ditches her disguise, and climbs onto the battlefield to meet the Germans head on. Oh, and she deflects bullets with her Bracelets of Submission. Like a total boss.
It's a moment of pure pathos; Rupert Gregson-Williams' score swells, and fear turns to hope as Diana makes her way into battle. Then the machine guns and cannons open up on her. Diana takes the fire and presses forward with grit and determination, but her action inspires action among those around her. Steve joins the fight, followed but the rest of the squad -- and then the American soldiers join in as well. Diana leads the way, gritting her teeth and powering through the pain with every step. What follows is a phenomenal action sequence that moves from the trenches to the town, and culminates in Diana destroying a church belltower just by hurling herself into it like an Amazonian missile. In a film packed to the brim with applause-worthy moments, the climax of this battle invariably induces the loudest cheers among audiences.
The beauty if this sequence is that it cuts to the heart of Diana Prince. Yes, she's a warrior, but she's a warrior fueled by compassion for every living creature on Earth. She fights a few to save many, and she ends each violent encounter as quickly as possible. There's a sense of mercy and efficiency to her fight scenes missing from most other superhero films, and the highly technical choreography (not to mention Gal Gadot's amazing physicality) makes it feel like a Wonder Woman comic book has come to life. If movies like Richard Donner's Superman and Tim Burton's Batman captured the essence of their respective heroes, then the No Man's Land sequence from Wonder Woman exemplifies how Patty Jenkins has done the same with this third of the DC Trinity.
Distilled to its most basic elements, the liberation of Veld in Wonder Woman harkens back to an awesome quote about Diana from DC Comics icon Gail Simone:
That ultimately leads to the best aspect of the No Man's Land scene from Wonder Woman: the moment the fighting comes to an end. There's a moment in which we see Diana stand on top of the church tower that she destroyed, and she observes the destruction that she has caused. It's not until the townspeople begin to cheer for her that she opens up and starts to smile. The happiness expressed by the citizens of Veld after her first real battle as a bonafide superhero validates her mission and her sense of purpose, and the way in which she openly greets those she has saved with a smile that completely skirts the idea of the "conflicted" or "brooding" hero. In a DC landscape primarily defined by darkness, Diana's willingness to enjoy herself so openly as a hero is a breath of fresh air that reminds us why we love these characters.
It's heroism for the sake of heroism. It's the essence of a superhero in its purest form, and it never fails to engender optimism amongst audiences. Not only is the No Man's Land sequence a perfect example of solid comic book storytelling and action filmmaking, but it also hammers home the idea that Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot have deep understandings of this character. Make no mistake; Diana Prince is clearly in fantastic hands right now. With Wonder Woman garnering near-universal critical acclaim ahead of its release (coupled with optimistic box office projections), it seems entirely likely that Jenkins and Gadot will be able to bring this understanding to a sequel within the next few years. Now it's just a question of what they will do next to top this showstopper.
What did you think of the No Man's Land sequence in Wonder Woman? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below! Diana Prince's first solo movie is now in theaters, so if you haven't seen it yet, make sure to check it out!
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