After decades of keeping a potential live-action Wonder Woman project hitting development, Warner Bros finds itself in an interesting situation. With its third iteration of franchises for both Batman and Superman struggling to keep pace with Marvel, the interest in the upcoming Justice League film gets a huge boost from the very project DC was trepidatious about. Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins have quite possibly saved the multi-billion dollar film universe.
Book-ended with a look into what Diana Prince is doing in the present day, WONDER WOMAN gives viewers a refresher on her history and enough mythology to fully appreciate what the character is all about. The magically-hidden island paradise of Themyscira provides the Act I setting, where the training regimens of the badass, all-female army are on full display. As Antiope, Robin Wright gives a great performance as a general who wants to see Princess Diana grow into the most formidable warrior of the group, hinting that there is cause for the God of War, Ares, to inevitably track her down. Connie Nielson has a much easier task as Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons who wishes to shield her daughter from conflict before realizing it may be inevitable. When Chris Pine bursts onto the scene with his plane crash, his Steve Trevor character becomes the catalyst to not only jolt the film into its second act, but also adds considerable levity to otherwise tense scenes.
WONDER WOMAN is a great superhero movie for a few reasons. Of prime importance, the action scenes are great. When Diana goes into a room of German soldiers and single-handedly beats them all, audiences get wow’ed by the creative ways she uses her sword, shield, and glowing lasso. When she shield-and-shoulder blocks someone through a window and charges through the wreckage with them, you can feel the roar. When she partners up with Pine and their associates to take out a sniper from his tower perch, eyes go wide and there’s likely to be some cheering. Sure, there are some scenes which are slightly eye-roll inducing, like when she climbs out of a foxhole and starts walking across the battlefield with almost a smirk on her face as she deflects bullets with ease, but those moments are far outnumbered by ones like Robin Wright leaping into the air, turning, and firing off three arrows at a time with the ease of someone who looks to be born for battle. And the final battle of the film easily rivals the big showdown in Batman V Superman, and surpasses much of what Marvel has on the table.
The lighter moments of the film also help WONDER WOMAN reach an upper eschelon of comic book movies. While it didn’t have the humor of Thor, there were enough moments during dialogue between Gadot and Pine to add the “smile” that most critics tore into the other films serving to build up to Justice League for lacking. It’s a credit to the filmmakers and Pin that the Steve Trevor character doesn’t end up completely over-shadowed by the power of Wonder Woman, giving him plot points and moments of action that show that although he’s nowhere near her equal, that he’s a partner with a different-but-useful set of skills. He’s in awe of Diana where appropriate, and holds his own where needed. It’s perhaps this aspect of the film that helps it from seeming too much like a feminist “girl power” vehicle instead of the badass superhero flick which just happens to focus on a female character who was raised in an all female society. Steve Trevor is a big part of the reason why I wouldn’t expect to hear any guys complaining about the film’s strong message of female strength, despite him literally getting saved by Diana on at least three occasions I can think of from the film.
Despite having a small role in the film, quite a bit of the levity should be credited to Steve Trevor’s secretary Etta, played quite nicely by Lucy Davis (who fans of the Cornetto Trilogy or the British original version of The Office will undoubtedly recognize).
Although I won’t go too far into details about any of the characters, part of the success of this film should be credited to the villains. Whether it’s straight-up villainy or that of red-tape and bureaucracy, the film finds ways to give the protagonists something to fight against. Though Danny Huston did a fine job as Ludendorff, I think the part would have been more effective had a more well-known actor of higher profile been cast in the role. Elena Anaya did great as the “witch chemist”, her jarring look a great aesthetic choice for the film. And as always, I’m a big fan of David Thewlis, and he was absolutely a great choice for his multi-faceted role.
Having heard that critics and broader audiences were enjoying WONDER WOMAN, I was optimistic heading into my seat on Friday night that it was going to be a good time. I wasn’t expecting a film to glide up into the heights of the original Superman films and the first two Batman films from the late 80s / early 90s. I won’t be surprised at all if this film hits the billion-dollar revenue spot world-wide by the end of its run, or even just surpasses what Man Of Steel and Batman V Superman did in terms of box office success. They put together a great movie, they deserve it.
My rating: 92 out of 100