Movie: Wonder Woman
Director: Patty Jenkins
Cast: Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Danny Huston as General Eric Ludendorff, Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta, Elena Anaya as Dr. Isabel Maru/Dr. Poison, Ewen Bremner as Charlie, Said Taghmaoui as Sameer, Eugene Brave Rock as Chief, Lucy Davis as Etta Candy with Robin Wright as General Antiope and David Thewlis as Sir Patrick Morgan/Ares
Genre: Comic Book/Period/Action/Adventure
Best Scene: Wonder Woman is unable to hear Steve’s last touching words to her, but they mean a lot.
Best Dialogue: there are two, “It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love. Only love will truly save the world.”-Diana
“[to diana] I can save today. You can save the world.”-Steve Trevor
The DC Extended Universe is a cinematic world meant to establish their DC Comic properties just as rivals Marvel has done in the past decade or so.
Unfortunately DC hasn’t found the same critical and commercial love of their rivals and are faced with a series of films that while serviceable don’t necessarily bring anything fresh to the table.
As such their latest is a change in a new and thankfully great direction.
Wonder Woman is one of the first and only successful female led superhero films, the only to be helmed by a female director.
It’s blockbuster success and critical acclaim is proof that even women can lead films, not that the public needed any proving on that.
But finally Hollywood can get it through their thick skulls that even women can be wonderful at the box office!
Dialing back the time literally and figuratively; Patty Jenkins presents Wonder Woman!
Script to Screen
Wonder Woman is effectively an origin story.
The superhero who was introduced to moviegoers in last year’s Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, makes a full fledged character debut right here.
The film begins with Diana living her life of isolation in present day France, working for Wayne enterprises.
Bruce Wayne AKA The Batman sends her an original copy of a photograph featuring her and her friends during World War I.
The touching reminder, allows Diana to narrate her story.
And what a story it is!
Diana is born in Themyscira, an island paradise that features only women known as the Amazons.
These women were made by the (Greek) Gods as companions to Men who had become to involved in war and corruption. They were to save mankind.
Unfortunately they could not and under the leadership of Queen Hippolyta they fought for their freedom and went into exile on the island.
Since then the gods had issues among themselves, Ares; the god of war, sought to prove that Man was effectively evil and created corruption in their heart.
His actions caused a rift with his father Zeus and Ares then slay the other gods before being banished.
Zeus in his final breath left Themyscira with a god killer weapon to protect them and the world from Ares;
From there the story takes place in the 1910’s.
World War I is set to end, but the Germans specifically General Ludendorff and his chemist Dr. Maru are unwilling to let the peace treaty be signed.
Instead they design a poison that could wipe out millions. In his bid to warn the world; a spy Steve Trevor is hunted by the enemy after being discovered.
He lands up on Themyscira.
Though the Amazons are skeptical, learning about the horrors in the world of humanity; naive Diana decides to accompany him to stop the power at the center of the war:
The story effectively takes a fish out of water element, planting a naive and heroic Diana in a conflicted war space.
World War I unlike its successor (the Second World War) was a far more complex affair.
The themes of war and its complexities as well as atrocities committed on both sides is well explored.
It helps that the writers have a powerful and interesting character arc centralized around the protagonist.
Diana is in her heart a pure hero and her mission to kill Ares, which she believes will stop war is a touching notion.
However her slow tragic realization that man is evil adds for a powerful arc that culminates in her battle with Ares; not the god of war but rather truth!
Although this connects to her 100 year odd exile in between this prequel and the Batman/Superman film.
It is altered by something even far more potent;
Diana understands and accepts the flaws of humanity but also is able to see that the power of love can truly redeem them.
It does so in her poetic romantic arc with Steve Trevor.
The central romance of the film, is one of the many things Patty Jenkins manages to infuse with a classic touch.
The film itself rides against the cynical nature of war and current DC led dark and gritty comic book movies by returning to the genre’s classic roots.
It has a Richard Donner styled Superman vibe that knows how to effectively build its hero as a hero, rather than a tragic character.
Yet it never loses sight of any depth, unlike most to often funny Marvel movies.
Instead Wonder Woman carries the burden of being a brilliant feminist icon.
The film is grounded in the history of time and speaks of minority struggles such as the Suffrage movement, the razing of Native Americans and prejudice in even cinema against people of other colors.
Wonder Woman scores thanks to Jenkins ability to understand these issues, inject some humor in them and let them flourish with depth thanks to the central character.
Jenkins understands because like any female in Hollywood, she has faced the brunt of unfair opportunities.
This is her first film since her Oscar winning work Monster in 2003.
A whopping 14 years is an unfairly long time, but Jenkins makes the film her own.
The action scenes while containing a bit too much slow motion are still fluid. They retain a purity that the genre has long since lost and feature some stunning sets and choreography.
Moment to moment, Wonder Woman proves her mettle.
Though I wish the third act CGI climax had been cut short, it is the only time the movie truly begins to fail.
Yet on the shoulders of a fine leading lady, Wonder Woman rises above the hate!
The Art of Performance
Gal Gadot is a natural fit in the costume, embodying the perfect mix of innocence and strength with the character.
She shines in the comedic fish out of water sequences and convincingly pulls of the action.
As Lynda Carter did years ago on TV, Gadot becomes Wonder Woman!
She is able supported by a fine cast, especially Robin Wright as General Antiope which amounts to an exciting cameo.
But by her side sticks a charismatic and charming Chris Pine.
The actor is a bundle of talent but blockbusters rarely move away from his typical bad boy charms.
In Wonder Woman though, he creates a fine genuine chemistry with Gadot.
They both manage to say a lot in the silences, his final hurrah becoming a heart breaking scene.
Unfortunately Steve’s moving heroism means that later sequels will miss the pairing of Gadot and Pine.
The villains sadly are a mixed bunch.
Elena Anaya tries in her limited time as Dr. Poison.
Yet both Danny Huston and last minute villain David Thewlis are a disappointment.
As for the technical aspects, the cinematography brims with great visuals.
The rugged looks given to the World War I portions add to the haunting theme of Man’s evil while contrasting well with lush gorgeous Themyscira.
As for the editing, at time it gets clunky but at least for the silent and action portions the filmmaker is aware of how to let the story naturally flow.
The VFX looks a bit ropey at points, which is sad considering the budget but isn’t too distracting.
Sound and score engages on many levels as Wonder Woman’s theme is going to eventually become a classic call sign for the superhero in years to come.
Wonder Woman: Final Thoughts
Wonder Woman is eventually a cheer inducing fest and an indication of empowering tales Hollywood should and can still tell.
Though packed with a disappointing last act and shoddy visuals, Wonder Woman rises above thanks to a detailed story and an engaged director.
Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman and thankfully she is here to stay!