2017, PG-13, 141 mins.
Gal Gadot as Diana / Wonder Woman / Chris Pine as Steve Trevor / Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta / Robin Wright as Antiope / Danny Huston as Ludendorff / David Thewlis as Sir Patrick / Said Taghmaoui as Sameer
Directed by Patty Jenkins / Written by Allan Heinberg, based on the DC Comics character created by William Moulton Marston
As a boy I
fondly remember growing up and worshipping Richard Donner's SUPERMAN: THE
MOVIE and how that film elicited in my young mind equal sensations of
limitless awe, wonder, and unbridled joy as a fan of super heroes and
comic books. For the first
time ever, I marveled at the exploits of the Man of Steel and, despite
his extraterrestrial nature and godlike powers, he felt like a relatable
average Joe to me. Superman
WONDER WOMAN -
the fourth film in the DC Extended Universe - is arguably the first super
hero film that I can think of that made me feel the way SUPERMAN: THE
MOVIE did decades ago. The 76-year-old William Moulton Marston comic book creation
is as significant and recognizable in the annals of super hero fiction as,
yes, Superman and Batman, but it's astounding to consider that the third
member of this DC Comics "Holy Trinity" has never been given
proper silver screen treatment until now. The
greatness of WONDER WOMAN and why it deserves worthy comparisons to
Donner's film is that its titular character, much like Christopher Reeves' turn as the Last Son
of Krypton, is an unwaveringly noble minded force of change and good
that legitimately inspires those around her. That,
and she's a hero wholeheartedly stripped of obnoxiously moody cynicism, a trait
that typifies far too many super hero films these days.
If you want a respite away from the rampant edgy darkness that
permeates the well worn genre, then WONDER WOMAN will be a revitalizing
breath of fresh air for you.
herself (in an absolute star making turn here by Gal Gadot), made her
first movie appearance in last year's highly polarizing BATMAN V SUPERMAN:
DAWN OF JUSTICE, but most fans and critics would undoubtedly agree that she
ostensibly stole the thunder away from her two male co-stars during her
climatic appearance near the end of that film.
WONDER WOMAN serves as both a sequel and prequel to the events of
BATMAN V SUPERMAN in terms of it opening in the present day after the
events of Snyder's film, but then flashes back to reveal how this
inordinately powerful Amazonian warrior came to be.
Much akin to CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST
AVENGER, WONDER WOMAN
ostensibly takes place during a real life past global conflict - in its
case, World War I - and uses it to introduce us to the character's origins
as she struggles to make sense out of a senseless war.
Despite the film's fantastical elements, cementing Wonder Woman in
the "war to end all wars" helps ground the character on
relatable levels; she inhabits a world and time we're abundantly familiar
with, which makes her feel all the more authentically rendered.
introduces us to young Diana's upbringing on the mystical
"paradise island" known as Themyscira, one that was created by
Zeus and populated only by women, hidden away from the "evils of
man" to forge a safe and productive society apart from them.
Diana isn't any ordinary Themysciraian Amazon girl - she was molded
in clay by her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielson) and brought
to life by Zeus himself - and from the very beginning she's been
cryptically removed from being trained as a battle hardened soldier for
reasons never explicitly explained early on. Diana is nevertheless secretly taken in by her aunt, General Antiope
(Robin Wright), who believes that training her will rightfully help defend
Themyscira from the inevitable invasion by man.
Predictably, the Queen is steadfastly opposed to this, seeing as
she wants to protect her young daughter at all costs.
several years and we catch back up with the adult Diana (Gadot), who has a
very chance meeting with - gasp! - a man, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), a WWI
spy that crash lands his plane off the shores of the island.
Diana rescues Steve from drowning and is immediately mesmerized by meeting
her first male ever, arguably as much as he is to be on an island
populated by Amazonian women. Steve
relays stories of the horrors of WWI to Diana and her mother, which sparks
her into joining him back in his world and on the frontlines.
From here, WONDER WOMAN becomes a delectably droll fish-out-of
water tale of Diana acclimatizing herself to the society and politics of
1918 Europe while realizing that she must fulfill her duty to defend life
and seek a swift resolution to the war.
Her quest is made all the more personal when she thinks that one of
the more ruthless German generals (Danny Houston) may actually be Aries
the God of War in disguise, a being that her kind has sworn to vanquish.
WONDER WOMAN was
directed with great soulful passion and boundless enthusiasm by Patty
Jenkins (her very first film since 2003's MONSTER), a self professed
devotee of the character. Even though this is her first foray into big budget and
lavish scaled super hero action films, she manages to helm WONDER WOMAN's
sense of awesome scale on multiple locations with the poise of a
blockbuster veteran. With
bravura production design by Aline Bonetto, costume design by Lindy
Hemming, and cinematography by Matthew Jensen, Jenkins pulls out all the
stops to finely craft a WONDER WOMAN film that taps into and placates all
of our collective fantasies of what we want a film like this to look
like. Themyscira is a lushly beautiful and heavenly oasis on
earth, which is wonderfully contrasted later by the ominous shadow that
the war casts over London and surrounding countries.
Not only is WONDER WOMAN a thrillingly designed fantasy picture, but it also
works spectacularly well as an immersive and handsome period film.
The film's best and most memorable moments occur with Steve introducing Diana to early
20th Century modernity, during which time she absorbs in every sight and
sound with the wide eyed inquisitiveness and naiveté of a child.
When she's not trying to get accustomed to the sight of technological
advances like automobiles and airplanes, Diana struggles with making
herself look like a more presentable woman of the period (she hates that
the long and ornate dresses she's forced to wear to conceal her identity
stymies her abilities to fight). Perhaps
her biggest emotional battle is the one she finds herself waging against the
oppressive and regressive gender norms of the time, which feel altogether
foreign and deplorable to her nature and upbringing.
When she begins to notice the ills of the world as the war wages on
- with human suffering and lost lives being an everyday occurrence - she
lashes out at men in power who seem impotent to do anything.
ambition of WONDER WOMAN is most welcoming, especially in a relative genre
that's too overstuffed with monotonous formulas and familiar storytelling
troupes. Setting the film in
WWI and not WWII (as was the case with the early comics) is a masterstroke
move in the sense that it allows Diana to explore her own identity and
sense of place in the larger world while examining some of the era's more
damning cultural norms. Diana occupies
a world where women still cannot vote or serve public office, but she
remains defiant in becoming a beacon of hope for those that have none and
eventually becomes the leader of a larger war resistance movement with
Steve. WONDER WOMAN has been labeled
as a staunchly feminist work, but Jenkins never allows for her
film to fall back on being a simplistically preachy "message
film" (i.e. - women = good, men = bad).
The feminist tone and sprit of the film is never beaten over
viewers' heads to the point of apathetic submission.
WONDER WOMAN contains heroes that are both men and women that band
together to rid the world of evil for the mutual good of societal change
and mankind as a whole. The film treats both genders with tremendous
Gal Gadot is a
revelation here. The Israeli born actress (best known before for her work in a
few of the FAST AND FURIOUS films) has silenced most of the
critics of her casting in the sense that she's the perfect of embodiment
of what Wonder Woman should be: a combination of captivating beauty,
guileless determination, physical and mental might, and commendable
earnestness. There's also an inherent innocence to Diana that makes her so
endlessly likeable as a character; when she sees a human baby for the
first time she swoons over it with ecstatic fascination and then later
when she experiences the pleasures of ice cream she takes time to walk
over to the salesmen to inform him that he "should be very proud" of
his creation. More
importantly, Gadot never awkwardly struts around and announces that she's
playing a super hero; like Christopher Reeves' immortally charismatic turn as Superman, Gadot economically
embodies her hero with
grounded sincerity and graceful compassion.
When she finally makes an audience rousing appearance in full
costume it's a moment that feels earned and deserving of our stunned amazement.
That moment in
question occurs when Diana has had just about enough of the human lives
being taken at the hands of the Germans on the Western Front and decides to
selflessly take matters into her own hands in a sequence of great power
and heroism. She emerges on
the battlefield in full Amazonian regalia, sword and shield in hand, and
single handedly plows her way through the heavy German artillery, after
which time the battle culminates on the streets and shows Diana tossing
soldiers and tanks around like they were crumpled paper.
Jenkins, if anything, infuses the action here with a sense of
operatic gravity that seems kind of lost on super hero films as of late.
It's not only a stunning sequence of visual effects ingenuity and stunt
choreography, but it's also unexpectedly moving because Diana's fighting
for something that matters to her on deeply personal and ideological
Chris Pine may be
this film's secret weapon in the sense that he has to play the thankless
role of the audience conduit and reactionary straight man witnessing the
frequent sights of a woman in fetishistic bikini armor battling amidst
oppressively bleak war ravaged scenery.
It could have approached eye rolling camp, but Pine never plays Trevor like a one-note stooge that's in the film
as a woefully prosaic love interest, male damsel in distress, or stale
comic relief. Romantic sparks
do indeed fly between Diana and Trevor, but the chemistry between Gadot
and Pine is palpably natural and nuanced; both characters are on their own
respective journeys of discovery and make their own inherent sacrifices
when the chips are really down. Pine has always been an underrated and understated actor, and his work
here reinforces that as his character never becomes diminished by sidekick
the titular character, he too has an arc that's compellingly relayed and
pays off in dramatically impactful ways, especially in the film's climax.
WONDER WOMAN perhaps falters during this final act, which features yet another CGI heavy battle between a hero and supernaturally powerful deity that coasts by on autopilot a bit to mechanically for its own good. That, and the film's multiple villains become somewhat marginalized by a big twist in the end that makes all of their scenes beforehand seem inconsequential. Yet, these minor nitpicks don't really seem to take away from the overall triumphant spirit of this whole enterprise. WONDER WOMAN is a stupendously realized entertainment, filled with joyous optimism, gallant heroism, boisterous energy, and a main character that's so inescapably appealing and dignified that you feel like you're watching the second coming of Christopher Reeve. Leaving WONDER WOMAN I felt confident that it will inspire a whole new generation of young girls - and hopefully boys - the same way SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE did for me decades ago.
You couldn't ask for a better hero right now.
WONDER WOMAN SDCC Trailer - Reaction Video
WONDER WOMAN Trailer 2 - Reaction Video
Watch me talk about this film on my annual
BEST/WORST of 2017 Midterm Report Card CTV Segment: