I am sure everyone is wondering right now: does this movie break the trend? I am of course referring to the never-ending shit train of DC movies that have absolutely sucked the meat missile with all the gusto of a porn star. To be fair, Man of Steel was okay. I will even admit that I own a copy of the film on Blu-Ray. It’s definitely the best of the past three DC movies and featured Zack Snyder doing less on-screen visual masturbation than usual. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was next and amazingly self-indulgent with the only two highlights being Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne/Batman along with a brief appearance from Wonder Woman although Gal Gadot wasn’t given a whole lot to work with in the movie. Suicide Squad was the worst of the three and almost made me swear off any DC comic book movie for the rest of time. Thankfully, i was finally proven wrong when my expectations were shattered.
Wonder Woman tells the origin story of Diana (Gal Gadot), Princess of Themyscira, who lives on an isolated island among other Amazon women where they regularly engage in combat training so that they may be ready should Ares, the God of War ever return and wreck havoc. Instead, what does happen is an American pilot named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash-lands in the water surrounding the island and entices Diana to bring him back to England. He has top-secret information regarding a deadly weapon the Germans are trying to build in order to win the war and Diana wants to go because she believes this whole thing to be the work of Ares. As they cross into England, Diana and Steve must recruit a team and stop the Germans from launching their attack before they enact their devastating plans to conquer the world.
Boy, oh boy. Where to even begin here? I had a really good time with this movie. Despite the first few minutes that were a bit exposition-heavy and a tiny bit slower compared to the rest of the film, I enjoyed this entire movie immensely and it’s easily the best thing DC has produced since The Dark Knight Rises. The movie gets it correct right away by having an origin story for Wonder Woman and easing us into the story rather than having the first hour be weird, self-indulgent and seemingly every deleted scene being left in the film. Sorry, I’m still bitter about BvS. We get a great character introduction to Diana and her homeland to understand her behaviour later in the film. We learn about her warrior background, her intense loyalty but also her humanity. This is a superhero that will step up to the plate and kick some ass if she needs to but she will also go out of her way to save as many lives as possible.
Gal Gadot is simply a revelation in the title role. The Israeli-born actress puts in a fantastic, emotional performance with several layers that you don’t always see in a superhero film. She obviously got a lot more to do in this film as opposed to her work in her previous appearance and her work in some of the more emotional scenes is incredible. She is also a gorgeous statuesque beauty; Gadot IS Wonder Woman. Chris Pine is utterly charming and his sharp comic timing is on point because yes, folks: this movie occasionally has a sense of humour. The chemistry between Gadot and Pine is wonderful and they seem like such a natural pairing with parallels between them that never feel forced in any way. Danny Huston and Elena Anaya play the German villains and though they can be a bit broad in their performances, they are both deliciously evil and dastardly enough to provide great foil for Diana. Lucy Davis is a very fun bit of comic relief as Steve’s secretary and she gets one great ‘heroic’ moment as well. The rag-tag crew that Steve puts together are pretty entertaining as well, specifically Ewen Bremner as Charlie, a marksman deeply affected by his time in battle and mentally scarred by all the things he’s seen over the years. Small appearances by Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen as fellow Amazons are on-point as well; they make the most out of their brief amount of screen time.
The battle scenes, of which there are plenty enough to satisfy action fans, are very well-done and are allowed to breathe rather than being rapidly-edited pieces of fluff. A lot of this has to do with director Patty Jenkins. Despite Jenkins not having very much experience with vast amounts of CGI or even action (her other feature film directing credit was 2003’s Monster), she knows how to direct a scene with high levels of drama and emotion without seeming too forceful or exploitative. The cinematography is beautiful as well, especially all the stuff on the island and then when it compares to 1910s England and we get the murky scenery, it makes for a great changeover.
There is some subtle feminism at work in the sub-text of the film. My own personal feelings on the movement aside (that’s a whole other article), it is handled really cleverly here. The way in which Diana handles things (like walking into a room full of men who are astounded that a woman would walk into this forbidden area) is great because her character is unaware of the social norms that would prevent her from doing the same things men would do in that time period. She doesn’t think much of any of the rules like that because she’s not even aware of the whole thing.
Terrific job, DC. Unfortunately, The Justice League is coming out in November so perhaps that will be one bump in the road before the comic book franchise finally gets into the midst of a hot streak.
RATING: **** ½
Less than * (Actively offensive to one’s intelligence)
* (Brutal; bottom-of-the-barrel)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)