Movie Review: Wonder Woman
Directed By: Patty Jenkins
Staring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, David Thewlis, Lucy Davis, Danny Huston, Elena Anaya, & Robin Wright
Based on a Character Created by William Moulton Marston, Elizabeth Marston, & Olive Byrne
Since her introduction to the world back in All Star Comics #8, in the fall of 1941, Wonder Woman has been a mainstay of comic books and the media spawned from them. Over 75 years of continuous stories, changes, adaptations, toys, costumes, political usage, & television. Yet for all the characters from all the multitude of comic book publishers who have made their way to the big screen, one of the biggest household names has been absent from those credits. Until Now.
Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. Raised on a sheltered island paradise, when an American pilot crashes on their shores and tells of a massive conflict raging in the outside world, Diana leaves her home, convinced she can stop the threat. Fighting alongside man in a war to end all wars, Diana will discover her full powers and her true destiny
Wonder Woman, brought to the big screen by Patty Jenkins (replacing the initial director Michelle MacLaren), represented a huge risk/reward scenario for Warner Brothers and DC Films. The DC movie universe that has been building under the auspices of Zach Snyder have been financially successful, yet extremely divisive in comparison to their direct competition; and while Marvel Studios has made 15 films (damn) in their connected universe so far, not a single one has had a female lead, and neither will their next 5. If DC could find a way to deliver what has kept this character in the forefront of comics and in the heart of her fans for the better part of a century and put it up on the big screen, it could be a game changer for the way female characters are looked at for the future.
Using her introduction in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as a springboard to tell her story, Wonder Woman succeeds in a myriad of ways that the other DC Films have not. That’s not to say it’s a perfect film, but it is a big step in the right direction. Casting wise, Gal Gadot is superb as Princess Diana. The internet voices were out in full force when the former Israeli soldier was cast, questioning everything from ethnicity (why isn’t an Amazon a white woman) to breast size, yet she delivers a performance that has much more depth to it that we have seen before. This Wonder Woman is still new to her role in the world, and there is a fair amount of ‘fish out of water’ archetype at play.
Getting a chance to see Diana on the hidden paradise of Themyscira and interacting with the Amazonians is a sight to behold, I only wish we could have had more time before moving on. Chris Pine as Steve Trevor was the casting I had the most reservations about going in to the film. While Pine generally does well in his films, I didn’t look forward to a purse carrying crybaby, as was my expectation. Happily I was wrong, as not only does Pine bring a full character to bear, he is a fine compliment to Diana, as she leaves Paradise Island to join him in ‘man’s world’ to help end The Great War.
This entire second act, where we have our heroine facing what she feels is her calling is quite a mixed bag, unfortunately. Once we get to London, the color palate used is unacceptably garish most of the time. Yes I understand this is WWI, and it is important to create a distinction as we normally don’t face this time period in these films, but while this is beautifully shot from a cinematography standpoint, the reliance on Zack Snyder’s previous introduced color palate is simply put, not good, as it saps some of the brightness that Diana, Trevor, and their company are bringing as they trounce their way through the European countryside. The reliance on everything being shot at twilight sets it in a non-stop field of grey that feels under lit and belies what is happening on screen. While I can (and will) complain about that monochromatic look, the action scenes we get throughout the film are wonderfully pulled off. They are kinetic in design and the stunt work and training coupled with Jenkins directing are fluid & exciting and full of fist pumping moments. It’s in one of these sequences where we also get a moment that is amongst the best superhero moments ever put on film, one that had the entire theater holding its collective breath. It’s in these scenes that Wonder Woman brings the HERO that has been lacking for much too long. Yet in doing so, it also severely upstages the final act, which just cannot compete in action, emotion, or in pure awe. This highlights and draws attention to some of the pacing issues that are also present throughout.
While Wonder Woman is not a perfect movie, most will find it the most rewarding and enjoyable film in this DC Films universe. Still, it has story issues reaching back to the Zack Snyder story & Allan Heinberg screenplay. The final battle feels way too similar in tone and look to the final battle in Dawn of Justice, and that’s simply not ok at this point. But, Wonder Woman is a damn good movie. The supporting cast consisting of Danny Huston & Elena Anaya bring a simmering menace to the film. Lucy Davis’ Etta Candy is sparsely used, yet to good effect as a way to insert laughter and a sense of whimsy. The opening sequences and time on Themyscira spent with Amazons such as Wright & Nielsen are beautiful yet too short. All the Amazon/Paradise Island/training sequences are stunning to watch, though I wish they had more time to breathe. While Gadot portrays Diana as new and ignorant to the world of man, she does it with self-assurance of her purpose in the world; and a strong, confident, powerful sense of woman that DC can and should build its cinematic universe on. One of the places where this is most evident is on the fact that this movie exists and succeeds on its own merits. This is not a movie full of teases and dropped hints to what may come in the future, nor is it a ‘Justice League’ commercial; quite the opposite in fact as there is no teases to the rest of the DC Universe.
This Wonder Woman film stands & succeeds on her own with equal parts fists, hope, & heart.
Wonder Woman is a must see for those who have been looking for where the ‘hope’ is in the DC Films universe. It’s been found
Wonder Woman Movie Review