Review: WONDER WOMAN

Absolutely Wondrous.

How did it take this long? Wonder Woman, a.k.a. Diana Prince, has been a beloved and iconic character basically since she first showed up on the comics page in 1941, and after the success of Richard Donner’s Superman and Tim Burton’s Batman proved to Warner Brothers that superhero films could be a worthwhile venture, in a perfect world she should have been next in line. But alas, it’s not a perfect world, so we had to wait until 2016 for the character’s first live-action appearance on screen in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and until 2017 for her to get her own standalone picture. Despite that, it was almost worth the wait to have this be her real cinematic debut, because it is about as perfect an introduction to this character as one can get.

Diana (Gal Gadot) lives alongside her people, the Amazons, on the hidden paradise of Themyscira, going against the wishes of her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), to train with General Antiope (Robin Wright) for a long-prophesied battle that may never come. However, when Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American spy working for British Intelligence during the first World War crashes on the island while fleeing German troops, Diana becomes horrified by his stories of suffering innocents and opts to accompany him back to man’s world, to stop the war and bring peace to man’s world.

Director Patty Jenkins (of the ever-so overlooked Monster) has cited Donner’s Superman as her primary inspiration for the film, and it shows. Wonder Woman even shares that movie’s primary flaw — that being an overcooked finale that slightly murks up the themes of the previous running time. But it also shares all of Superman‘s strengths, especially in regards to one: the essence of the character. Wonder Woman believes that humans are inherently good, and that with compassion and love, she will show them the way to peace, and the movie absolutely nails Diana’s devotion to that principle.

Speaking of Diana, Gal Gadot absolutely knocks this out of the park. Gadot is everything Wonder Woman is and more: passionate, warm, inviting, tough, and witty. Gadot has astounding chemistry with the entire cast, handling herself extremely well during the lighter, comedic moments and absolutely slaying dramatic scenes. There is one moment in the film that completely encapsulates Diana as a character, where she dresses down a British general for refusing to act on information that Trevor brings back about a new gas weapon that could add millions more to the war’s already devastating death toll. It was that moment where I completely fell in love with her performance, because Gadot sold Diana’s sincere devotion to what she believes in. She is an absolute revelation here in every way imaginable, and I imagine that in 25 years people will talking about this turn the way people still discuss Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent.

She also has a damn fine supporting cast to back her up. Chris Pine shines as Steve Trevor, playing a shining light of non-toxic masculinity in a world where that was the default. Trevor is sweet and funny and charming, but best of all is that he never once feels threatened by Diana, instead being nothing but supportive of her mission, even with some doubts. If anyone had any doubts about Pine, I’d imagine that they’re all gone now. Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright shine in their brief roles as Hippolyta and Antiope, as do Eugene Brave Rock, Ewen Bremner, Saïd Taghmaoui, and Lucy Davis as the team Steve rallies to assist Diana.

This leads us to the villains, played by Danny Huston and Elena Anaya for a large part of the film before a third act reveal that I won’t spoil for those who have not looked it up yet. For the most part, Huston and Anaya ham it up as standard, fairly one-note villains. But while Huston’s sadistic German general never really gets more development outside of that, Anaya as his chemist henchman, Doctor Poison, becomes fairly sympathetic. There’s a scene during a banquet where Steve Trevor is trying to get information out of her, and Anaya delivers an absolutely beautiful monologue in response that leads to a fantastic moment in the final battle.

But what really pulls the movie together is Patty Jenkins’ direction. Thank the gods that she’s directing movies again, because this film is absolutely stunning. The first act on Themyscira is absolutely gorgeous, but even when it transitions to the David Yates-esque color palette of WW1-era London and Belgium there is visual beauty to behold, especially when the Lasso of Truth is involved. Even after a decade out of the game. the action is still far above average; It’s clean and clear, confident and assured, and fun as hell to watch. Jenkins’ use of speed-ramping may be grating for some, but I absolutely adored it. The middle-act showstopper, a raid by Diana and her team across a trench battlefield in order to save the citizens of a nearby village, is arguably the greatest action set-piece of the year so far, a propulsive and cathartic sequence that will be hard to top in future movies featuring the character.

Wonder Woman is nothing short of a triumph, a fun and hopeful movie that is downright inspirational. It is almost exactly the movie I imagine that many people have been waiting ages for, and not only does it deliver, but it delivers in spades. It is an absolute must-see, and I cannot wait to see it again.

  • Woo hoo!

  • Andrew Clark

    Such a great review, Bee! I really love this movie and I’m realizing it more and more as time goes by. It is something to celebrate indeed.

    My favorite thing about Diana is how whenever a man tells her she can’t do something she immediately goes and does it anyway.

  • YayMayorBee

    Great review. I co-sign 100%. I do want to highlight that mid-film trench set-piece, though. It is indeed a complete showstopper–so much so that I’m honestly having a hard time thinking of any MCU or DC action scene that measures up. It’s well-shot, well-choreographed, unbearably tense, and ends with a moment of catharsis so potent that I actually teared up. Other action scenes have been pretty, or tense, or emotional, but rarely all of the above. If the movie did nothing else right, that scene alone would be worth the price of admission. But, of course, the movie does virtually everything else right too. I alternated between fist-pumping and being misty-eyed through pretty much the whole run-time. I absolutely loved it.

    And I, for one, am ready for Gal Gadot to take over the world. “A revelation” is right.

    • Ian Abbott

      The lead up to her hopping out of the trench, too. She was fed up with everyone’s shit and it was time to do something about it.

      • YayMayorBee

        Yeah, come to think of it, even the beginning of that scene is cathartic.

  • Awesome. I’m looking forward to seeing it.

  • Public Mistake

    Enthusiasm, optimism, to find in this review, and the movie apparently. I’m down for that.

  • Ian Abbott

    I”m sure I’m going to get into the shit with this, but I also found it to be one of the more affecting anti-war films I’ve seen in a long time.

    • YayMayorBee

      Definitely. Because in a “real life” war movie, you could never have a character tell straight truths about the wickedness of humanity the way Diana does here.

  • WONDER WOMAN isn’t perfect, but it’s probably the best superhero origin film in quite a while (Maybe since IRON MAN?), and it’s the platonic ideal of what a DC Comics movie should be.

    It’s a movie that understands Wonder Woman, that presents her as she is and what she means. It feels different from the MCU, just by virtue of the fact that its title character is unlike any Marvel creation, while bringing in the heart, humor and heroics that made the MCU so popular.

    Great review.

  • jeves23

    This is the DCEU that I want. WONDER WOMAN managed to feel different from the MCU without being contrarian, and dealt with its themes through strong character work. And the film’s characters do work – this is a Wonder Woman who I want to see more adventures of, who I want to spend more time with, and who I am invested in. And if she manages to bring Sameer, Charlie, and The Chief along with her?* All the better.

    *Also, I wonder if they will do something with Doctor Poison? She seems like she could have a redemption arc in a sequel to WW.