After months, and for some of us, years of anticipation, the first big screen feature presentation of Wonder Woman has arrived. And for those who were hoping that DC Extended Universe would hit their first home run... you can put your concerns to rest, they did.
Wonder Woman, as of now, is the highest rated DC movie on the popular review website rottentomatoes.com and has garnered praise from publications that tore its predecessors Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice and Suicide Squad to shreds. Alas, Warner Brothers seems to be on the right track and they have delivered on a project that shines as a stunning example of the superhero genre.
If you want BvS or Suicide Squad, prepared to be let down. Wonder Woman, even though it has its serious moments, is way lighter on the tone and a semi-optimistic finale make for the ideal summer blockbuster. For the purpose of this review I'm not going to spoil anything for you, go out and see this movie, you will not be disappointed. But what I would like to do is highlight some of the different aspects of it that worked very well and maybe some that don't (and yes, there are a few).
First let's discuss the story:
This DC film is straight forward, balanced, a plot where the set up is cohesive, the story is clear, easy to follow, but leaves room for twists and action. After a brief introduction to the character in the modern day, we are taken to the beautiful island world of Themyscira. Diana is a child who desires to become an Amazonian warrior. Her mother, Queen Hippolyta, is against it but Aunt Antiope, the General of the army secretly agrees train her.
During this time, the setting and history of this world are perfectly explained to the audience. There is a Man Of Steel-esque sequence where a painting comes to life and gives us everything we need to know. Even though there have been some modifications to the characters original beginning, it works. We also find out that the island of Themyscira exists on Earth but is cloaked by a force field created by Zeus to preserve the Amazonians who are tasked with maintaining a level of harmony in society. Being a period piece in the early 1900's, and satellite imagery of the planet is non-existent, the fact that this paradise could go undiscovered is believable.
Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands into the ocean surrounding Themyscira, followed by a small fleet of German soldiers. A battle is fought which leaves Antiope dead and Diana determined to save the world. She steals the Godkiller sword and the Lasso Of Truth, then it's off to London.
The story then takes us to the heart of World War I where our true hero is born. Diana struggles to understand man's desire to destroy itself and she believes once Ares, the God of War is destroyed that this sort of spell would be lifted and the war would cease to exist. This element of the story does have resolution but if you want to know how... get to the theater!
The co-existence of Gods and man are balanced well with the appropriate amount of each. Sometimes, movies like this (where there is some sort of divine persona) fail to set the rules and the limits of the character are not defined. Not true with Wonder Woman, minus a big reveal in the end, you know what Diana is capable of, her weaknesses, and how her abilities interact with the world around her.
"First and foremost, Gal Gadot is a star."
Now let's talk characters...
First and foremost, Gal Gadot is a star. For a relatively unknown actress, she's got the on screen presence to not only carry the franchise but put the entire DCEU on her shoulders. Her warriors instinct is complimented by this classic "fish out of water" persona, which makes for an excellent, well-rounded character. It's amazing that she could go from dominating the front line of the battlefield to learning how to slow dance, all in ten minutes of movie time, and you buy it.
I will say the "fish out of water card is pretty much all screenwriter Allan Heinberg has to play here, but it is executed wonderfully. We get these humorous scenes where Diana combats the societal norm for women in early 20th century London. Then there are these very serious parts where her Themysciran colored glasses are removed to reveal the awful side of humanity and it really hits her. The audience can feel what she does and that contributes to the overall greatness of her performance.
Chris Pine as Steve Trevor made me realize how exactly how much I could like Chris Pine. Don't get me wrong, I think he's great in the Star Trek movies but there was something about his chemistry with Gadot that really clicked and became a great vehicle for character development. He's almost like the straight man who not only serves as a teacher role for Diana but one who is a person of substance, with beliefs and motivations that drive the story.
Of course there was going to be a romance element but it didn't feel forced. Her impact on his life and what he feels is right, set up his hero moment at the end where Trevor get his time to shine.
A quick shout out to some of the supporting cast....
Sameer (Said Tahmaoui), Charlie (Ewen Bremmer), and The Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) were the rag tag group of regular people turned soldiers were a lot of fun to watch. Then there was Etta (Lucy Dais) whose wit and undeniable British charm was a pleasant addition to the project. I personally underestimated how much I would laugh at her remarks.
Ludendorf (Danny Huston), who I also call German Anthony Bourdain, and Dr. "Poison" Maru (Elena Anaya) supplied the antagonistic characters we hated from the first moment we saw them. There is obviously a main villain at the end but these two couldn't have been a better fit to show the ugly side of World War I.
Now for a couple critiques...
Remember nothing is shy of a couple criticisms.
Even though the villains of Ludendorf and Dr. Poison were great, I wanted a little bit more of them. Like I said there is a main bad guy, and I like how he is used at the end, but let's face it, the final confrontation between good and evil is mostly for action sake. Wonder Woman may be the last hurrah where heroes catapult themselves long distances and crash through a bunch of walls as a demonstration of their durability. This may be a problem that deserves further exploration but where Wonder Woman at least deserves a "check in the plus column" is the big fight at the end is used not only for action but for the final piece of the character development pie where she learns her true potential.
I would have liked more of the DCEU as a whole in the movie. No doubt it's a standalone project but a post credits scene where Affleck makes a cameo wouldn't hurt.
"Patty Jenkins has arrived!!"
A couple random notes:
Patty Jenkins has arrived!! Her filmmaking talents are in a league of their own and one can only hope that she has opened the door more female directors in Hollywood.
Allen Heinberg should be in the writer's room for every DC project from now on.
I was surprised that DC made something this good. I don't think the world has yet to comprehend exactly how significant Wonder Woman can be. It will be interesting to see how it is viewed ten years from now.
Well DC, pat on the back, hand shake, buy you a drink? Paint your house? You've restored my faith. I can only ask that The Justice League is as phenomenal.
What did you think of Wonder Woman? Let Nerdbot know in the comments!