REVIEW: Wonder Woman
Directed by: Patty Jenkins
By Christopher Spencer
Directed by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman stars Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Elena Anaya, with Robin Wright, and Connie Nielsen. Before she intervened with the Doomsday fight in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Diana of Themyscira remembers back to her first adventure, intervening on World War I and a godly plan of evil.
The fact that the character of Wonder Woman has existed for the same time as both Batman and Superman, but has never been given her own movie is astonishing. Sure, there was the goofy 70s TV show, as well as failed attempts from the likes of Joss Whedon and numerous TV pilots, but never a full solo film. Now we have it from the director of 2003’s Monster. Is it even good? Does it suffer the same fate as other DCEU movies?
A huge YES to the first, and a resounding NO to the second. Wonder Woman is beyond Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad because it simply is its own thing. There is literally one reference to the DC world, and the rest of the movie is just Wonder Woman’s story. That is exactly what the first films for Batman (1989) and Superman (1978) both did so well: they told just the story of the title character.
Gal Gadot was a standout in Batman v Superman, but here she has her own movie from which she illuminates every frame of. Gadot has so much to play with, Diana being shown from child to teen to adult, but still so naïve and innocent to the corruption of mankind. Gadot is able to show that Wonder Woman is not some precocious character, wide-eyed and amazed by everything, but she is confused, estranged and conflicted at all times. The way that this character has been written, executed in direction, and above all performed by Gadot is truly something, setting the bar for how you make an audience deeply care for a brand new character.
A big surprise for myself and I’m sure for many out there is Chris Pine as long-time comic companion to Diana Prince, Steve Trevor. Not only does Pine have the funniest lines and scenes which he nails, but his chemistry and relationship with Gadot’s Wonder Woman give the emotion and power needed to the story. Those scenes they share remain some of my favourite of the whole movie, and it works because of how much Pine and Gadot both dive into their interesting and lovely characters.
Wonder Woman is easily the funniest movie of this DCEU (not saying much), but it is also the darkest, most heartwarming, and most energetic DC movie to date. That is because Patty Jenkins explodes right out the gate and shows how great she is at mastering the perfect tone for a superhero movie with so much on its shoulders. It explains the mythology well, it’s funny at the correct times, quite disturbing at the right moments, and above all it is inspirational from start to finish.
The movie itself has exhilarating action sequences, solid writing, great cinematography using 35mm film from Matthew Jensen, decent music (especially the Hans Zimmer theme), and contains powerful themes and content that push this comic-book movie beyond. Setting Wonder Woman in 1918 and showing in almost full detail the horror and trauma of The Great War makes it not only more cinematic, but unique as it is an effective depiction of a horrible war often forgotten by Hollywood.
Wonder Woman is not totally amazing, and doesn’t reach ultimate greatness because of a simple flaw that many other comic-book movies suffer from: a standout villain. There is a twist to who Wonder Woman’s villain is, and while that is narratively effective, the actual character is just standard instead of something spectacular. It isn’t a huge detriment to the greater movie, but if that villain was a stronger presence, the third-act would feel more epic and emotional. And at 140-minutes, the climax not being as effective means that the runtime’s weight starts to be felt.
Wonder Woman is ultimately the best way to introduce this iconic character, and Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot are a true wonder team, making this superhero larger than life and bursting from the screen. You feel the power, the grace, the wisdom and the wonder long after the credits roll, because Wonder Woman is a testament to belief, love and the simple power of a true hero.