I admit it, I’m biased. Wonder Woman is one of my top ten favorite superheroes. The only show (other than the Bionic Woman) guaranteed to get you cut if you interrupted my mom watching was Linda Carter’s Wonder Woman and I sat in the floor and watched Every. Single. Episode.
Diana Prince has always been the definition of a ride-or-die chick; only she’s not looking to have her man’s back, she’s saving the world one lassoed evildoer at a time. Regardless of this character’s comic incarnation Wonder Woman’s always possessed a deeply-rooted sense of agency and aptly illustrated that brains, beauty and badassery can harmoniously exist without a woman compromising a single thing. So it goes without saying, I did a stupid girlie hop (it’s stupid because I’m a grown ass woman with no business hopping about) when Warner Brother’s announced Wonder Woman would get its own movie in the DC Extended Universe.
Diana Prince’s appearance in Batman v Superman, proved some of the only unequivocally enjoyable moments in that desperately problematic film and whet audience’s appetite for more. Fueled by a viscerally driving rhythm, Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL flung open the gates of Themyscira heralding Wonder Woman’s entrance into the DC Cinematic Universe with a bloodthirsty war cry. This overtly aggressive theme song coupled with this brief glimpse justifiably raised the bar for her stand-alone movie.
Based on a (thankfully coherent) story by Zach Snyder and a vivid screenplay by Allan Heinberg, Wonder Woman’s director, Patty Jenkins, took up the challenge of bringing the first solo female superhero movie in a decade to the big screen…and bested it. Wonder Woman is packed full of wit, whimsy, fantastical action sequences, accessible human drama, and an unbelievable amount of heart. This is how you introduce a (well-known) superhero.
If the question of “who run the world” remains unanswered (pfft we all know), Wonder Woman, in all her fearless Amazonian glory, leaves no doubt.
Coming into the summer as one of the most highly anticipated films, (and undisputed front-runner for the year’s most poorly-and under-marketed film by a studio award), Wonder Woman brings its A game. Giving a master class in how to do a tie-in to a much larger franchise universe.
As the movie begins, we find modern day Diana Prince taking possession of a gift; one that perfectly frames the events that set Diana on her current superhero path and reminds us of her connection to Gotham’s Batman. The time period for Diana’s coming of age story’s been shifted from World War II to World War I but the change in no way compromises the narrative quality of the story told on the screen. The audience is then immediately cast back in time to the idyllic isle of Themyscira and a nation of Amazon women. Princess Diana is the beloved child of Queen (of the Amazons) Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) raised among the Amazonian warrior women and seemingly warrior-born herself. These Amazons are led by the battle-tested General Antiope portrayed by Robin Wright with grit, grace, and fierceness. The women cast to fill the warrior-women ranks are a mix of heights, weight and skin tone with one thing in common. They are all incontrovertable baddasses who’s importance in this film can’t be overlooked for being mostly silent characters.
You’ll know from the trailers Diana’s mother is keeping a secret and it’s a doozy (shut up I like that word). Jenkins navigates the time from child Diana (Emily Carey) to idealistic young warrior woman (Gadot) with ease. Diana’s wide-eyed innocence juxtaposed against her later internal struggle with the nature of the world beyond her paradise home is all the more credible and compelling having seen her journey to adulthood and heard the between those responsible for raising her to fulfil her destiny.
Wonder Woman is not without its hiccups but none of them are enough to overshadow everything done right in this film but I’d be just a “fangirl” if I didn’t mention it:
- There are a few moments when some dialogue or exchanges lean a little too heavily on comic book styling. It creates a few beats where interactions feel too stiff or overdone. They’re just slightly out of sync.
- As Diana journeys through cities and war zones, the effort to demonstrate her struggle to reconcile her teachings about the nature of man and what she’s observing are sometimes overlong. I’m all for character depth and scene development, but more than a few moments could’ve been shorter and just as effective. The editor was “feeling himself” and let some scenes run long.
- The sub-commentary on the nature of war and the blurred lines about who’s right and wrong are simplistic and oft times inconsistently rooted in the overall story about the horrors occurring in real time. Everyone wants that touchstone moment that makes the action on screen relatable to “the now” but under-developed side commentary is muddy. Although Jenkins makes the most of what she’s been given and the actors handle it with skill, the script just doesn’t commit to the message.
- The Amazons were an advanced society and I think those elements would’ve worked to make kingdom’s reluctance to get involved pay better in the cheap seats.
- The villain – for all the buildup – is mostly one-dimensional and sets the stage less for a true big boss fight and more for CGI overdrive. The end sequences are crazy packed full of the special effects. More than a few are counter to the gritty, realistic edge the majority of this movie’s maintained but in the land of fantasy, magic will have its way and I won’t lie, I was surprised at how well the movie restrained itself up to this point.
- I was slightly annoyed Wonder Woman’s moment of epiphany centered around a dude and his fate. It’s like they couldn’t help themselves and just had to slip it in.
But all-in-all, the film’s story progression (from beginning to end) makes sense, none of the heartfelt or comedic moments feel forced, the dialogue just pulpy enough to remind you of it’s comic book roots and you move forward with a clear sense of character motivation and the gritty world Diana steps into. The secondary characters don’t feel secondary and when the action goes big it does it with wicked explosions, balletic choreography, and stop-motion moments that bring to mind perfect comic book panel movement.
Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is effortlessly sensuous, and seriously ready to kick ass; she’s leading a cast loaded for bear and prepared to deliver on that theme song’s implicit promise.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
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.
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Houston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Ewan Bremmer, Elena Anaya, Lucy Davis
Directed by: Patty Jenkins
Screenplay by: Geoff Johns, Allan Heinberg