Wonder Woman is one of most iconic superheroes in the world, and after 75 years she is finally getting her shot at a solo superhero film. Can Wonder Woman deliver a worthy origin story as well as set the DCEU on course in the minds of critics and general audiences? Short answer is absolutely.
Wonder Woman is an icon. She is part of the DC Trinity alongside Superman and Batman. A character and symbol recognized the world over. Yet even though superhero films are some of the most popular forms of entertainment in the 21ST century, Wonder Woman has yet to have a major motion picture. While other iconic characters have been given films and television shows, the world has been waiting on Wonder Woman.
The big names like Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, the Hulk, Fantastic Four and the X-Men have gotten multiple films. Audiences have seen three Captain America and three Iron Man movies before a Wonder Woman film. Green Arrow and Flash have more screen time on television in recent years than the Amazon Princess. D-list heroes like the Guardians of the Galaxy got two films before the first female superhero got one. That should be some sort of crime.
Wonder Woman arrived with as much baggage as her comic book version did. It is the first female lead superhero film in this new age of superhero blockbuster (the last one was Elektra back in 2005 and was treated as a B-film for Fox). One of few films with a budget of $100 million to be helmed by a woman. Patty Jenkins is one of two female directors to helm a superhero film (Lexi Alexander helmed the 2008 Punisher: War Zone). It also had to impress audiences and critics who were not as kind to the past three films in the DC Extended Universe; Man of Steel, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad. Some said this would be the film that would have to save the entire universe. So obviously a lot of pressure was put on Wonder Woman… and it delivered and then some.
Wonder Woman is a great film. Saying it is the best film in the DCEU doesn’t give it the credit it deserves. It is better then Deadpool. it is better than Spider-Man. It is better than Iron Man. It easily belongs in the Top 10 Superhero films discussion and is one of the best films I’ve seen all year.
The plot is a retelling of creator William Molten Marston’s original origin for the character. Diana (Gal Gadot) lives on Themyscira, an island populated only by warrior women called the Amazons, and trains to be the greatest fighter to stop the eventual return of Ares the Greek God of War. One day pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands on the island. He tells the Amazons news of a greater global conflict with two villainous characters, real life WW1 General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Houston) and Wonder Woman villain Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya), has developed a weapon that will kill millions of innocent lives. Diana chooses to leave the island with Steve to venture to man’s world because she thinks that Ares is behind this threat and if she kills him mankind will be restored to good. Along the way, they meet a cast of colorful characters and Diana becomes Wonder Woman; a hero the world needs at that moment while also learning the truth about not the nature of humanity but also her own inner strength. Some details are changed. WW2 has been changed for WW1 because of the moral grayness of that war and it also draws heavily from George Perez’s 1987 Wonder Woman comics with a greater focus on Greek Mythology.
Much of the acclaim must go to director Patty Jenkins. The fact that this is her first film in 14 years since her critically acclaimed and Academy Award winning film, Monster, is a crime. Audiences have been missing out on films from this visionary talent for far too long. She loved Wonder Woman and held a lot of respect for the material and it shows in every frame. Apart from the bookends of the movie focusing on the photo first seen in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman is very much a standalone film. There is no big world building or set up for the next four DCEU films. It is a Wonder Woman first and foremost. It keeps the focus on Diana and her character arc from Princess of the Amazons to Wonder Woman. This film could be watched apart from the rest of the DCEU and nothing would be lost. Props to DC and Warner Bros. for trusting her vision with the character.
Wonder Woman will certainly be compared to the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe films. This is because of its more hopeful tone than the previous DCEU entries. It is questionable though because while the film is brighter than some of DCEU films recent offerings it certainly has darker deeper moments than any of the MCU films (some very graphic horrors of war are on display that I am proud they didn’t shy away from).
Wonder Woman has the most in common with the origin stories for her fellow members of the DC Trinity, 1978’s Superman: the Movie and 2005’s Batman Begins. In so much as they all set out to tell definitive origin stories for larger than life characters. They take key elements from the comics but don’t elect to tell one straight adaptation. They chose instead to treat it more like a fusion of the larger communal cultural idea of the character. Finding the core fundamental elements needed for the idea of the characters and then bring them to life. Generations have imagined what these characters would be like in real life. What was originally only a dream is now up on the screen in the glory it always deserved. This connection also isn’t without merit. Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins and Batman Begins director Christopher Nolan have often cited Richard Donner’s Superman: the Movie as a key influence on them as filmmakers and for their superhero adaptation.
Jenkins has also surrounded herself with some wonderful talent to bring her unique and impossible vision to life. Screenwriter Allan Heinberg wonderfully (pun intended) finds the commonality between the Wonder Woman origin story with elements from popular films like The Little Mermaid, Casablanca and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Production designer Aline Bonetto does a great job visualizing the paradise of Themyscira in traditional Greek aesthetics while also crafting a historically accurate WW1 setting and making these two very distant styles mesh together.
Costume Designer Lindy Hemming (who worked on all three Nolan Batman films) perfectly crafts Wonder Woman’s costume to look both functional and fitting with the Greek battle armor but also look ironically like the traditional Wonder Woman outfit. Anyone who sees it immediately knows that it is Wonder Woman. She creates a wardrobe and culture for the Amazons that seems thought out and lived in and whose work is so well done in the period wardrobe Wonder Woman could have a strong chance for Best Costume Design come next year’s Academy Awards.
Cinematographer Matthew Jensen and Jenkins work together to not only shoot the film in a gorgeous color palate that separates the lush fantasy of Diane’s people and home world with the moral grays of war visualized with literal grays. They also cleverly subdue the male gaze and never frame Diana in a sexual suggestive light. It is Chris Pine’s character who gets sexually suggestive shot. Wonder Woman is framed in the traditionally powerful strong iconic superhero possess that most her male counterparts are normally afforded.
All the department’s work accumulates in the No Man’s Land sequence. A sequence Jenkins fought to include in the movie. It is instantly iconic and probably one of the greatest superhero reveals ever put on film. It is powerful, gorgeously framed, wonderfully color graded and perfect combination between comic book splash page and great cinematic shot to create a true hero sequence.
I cannot praise Gal Gadot more. This is a star-making role for her (even though the same role in BVS last year made her a star). A lot of skepticism followed Gadot when she was first cast as Wonder Woman back in 2014. Some of it what slightly sexist (as Henry Cavill was never really questioned when he was cast as Superman or Chris Hemsworth as Thor) but a lot of it just was people never knew what a perfect Wonder Woman would be because it is such a difficult character to imagine as a real person. Wonder Woman is so much more iconic than any one actress could ever pull off. The best course of action was to go with someone relatively unknown which would be easy if Wonder Woman was a strange-looking character. But she isn’t. The character layout for Wonder Woman is beautiful, charismatic, strong, and athletically fit. The producers were tasked with the job of finding someone who could act, fit this super specific definition of perfect and that nobody had ever seen before.
Gal Gadot delivers the perfect performance as Wonder Woman, that I feel bad because she wasn’t really playing Wonder Woman as much as she embodies the character. As much as Christopher Reeves is Superman, Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man or Hugh Jackman is Wolverine she is the perfect embodiment of the character. Like she leaped off the page and on to the screen as you imagined her. She is sweet and kind, but also powerful and fierce. She listens but also will call people out for their nonsense. Naïve in some areas but never stupid. She knows more than people would be lead on. The film allows Diana to be feminine but everyone knows she is the most powerful person at play. There is a scene in the film where she shows such pure joy at the sight of a baby, and a few minutes later takes down a whole alley of dudes with guns at such a brisk pace. Gal Gadot IS Wonder Woman.
Chris Pine also delivers as the role of Steve Trevor. Pine has always been an underrated talent. The Star Trek films showed he could be charismatic movie star. Movies like Into the Woods and Horrible Bosses 2 showed off his comedic range and Hell or High Water just proved he was not an actor to be taken lightly. What makes his character work so well is he never lets Diana’s gender become a factor in their dynamic. He takes everything she says with an “alright fine” attitude. Both Pine and Gadot have such wonderful chemistry and makes their romance one of the great film love stories.
The rest of the supporting cast deserves praises. Connie Nielsen plays the stoic Amazon Queen Hippolyta with the same gravitas that both Marlon Brando or Russell Crowe brought to their Jor-El’s. I don’t want to call it a comeback because she never went away, but Robin Wright has done a real boost to her career in the role of Antiope. Lucy Davis brings her comedic talent to the role of Etta Candy. Danny Huston is born to play villains and here, while not given much, makes the most of every moment. The real standout is Elena Ayana as Doctor Poison who brings an extra level of sinister to every scene.
The Hero We Need: Wonder Woman
I’ve seen Wonder Woman three times and each time I’ve found something more to love about it. There are minor elements I can nitpick, but that is what they would be. Nitpicks. The small minor issues don’t take away from the greater film as a whole
75 years is a long time to wait for a Wonder Woman film, maybe too long. But if this is the product we got then it was worth the wait. This is the Wonder Woman film that anybody could have hoped for. You will leave the theater with a smile on your face and joy in your heart. Which given the state of the world is a hard thing to imagine? It can be hard to be optimistic and hopeful. Real world threats seem to be growing and many people’s way of life are at stake.
It’s hard to imagine a movie can solve the world’s problems. It may not solve them right away, or take away the pain forever. But for two hours it will transport you to a mindset where you can believe in heroes. Gives you a hero to believe in, one to aspire to. Wonder Woman comes as a symbol of hope and love. A reminder that even though the world may seem dark, with love and compassion we can make a difference.
Movies are entertainment. But they are also art. Great art helps the view understand reality and speak to a greater truth. Maybe one day that piece of art will shape the future. Wonder Woman will live on in the hearts and minds of children for generations as a landmark film. It will inspire them to go and create and make a better world. It is the beginning of a new moment. has come at the right moment and may be the most important film of 2017 as well as one of the most important films of the 21st century. The world in 2017 needed Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman gets an A+.
What did you think of Wonder Woman? Where does it rank among other superhero films? Let us know in the comments below!
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