Movie Review: Wonder Woman

The success of the Wonder Woman movie was something Hollywood had told us was never going to happen. A female lead Superhero movie, let alone by a female director, was something that was often spoken as a disaster waiting to happen. It’s no secret that the whole industry is plagued by sexism, and it’s not just exclusive to the film industry, as many of these Superhero films are designed to sell toys, generally to a young male audience and several of the female characters would be kept from the spotlight because simply, “the toys wouldn’t sell”. This was a huge issue with the promoting of Avengers with Black Widow being kept from much of the film related merchandise, and this was also an issue with Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens not being included in much of the Star Wars related merchandise, and the fans were outraged.

The Wonder Woman movie had an insurmountable amount of pressure placed upon it, as the DC shared universe films had yet to largely impress moviegoers, and not to mention the degree of skepticism of the success of a female lead Superhero movie let alone by a female director. Wonder Woman is as action packed as it is full of heart, a film that delivers where the DC shared universe films have failed. Director Patty Jenkins and screenwriters Geoff Johns and Allan Heinberg have delivered DC’s best movie in years, and hopefully a turning point in the quality of their films to come.

Patty Jenkins, apart from her feature film debut as Director of 2003’s film ‘Monster’, is a name normally known for directing TV shows like Arrested development, Entourage, and AMC’s The Killing. Jenkins was also previously attached to direct Thor 2, before her and the studio both had very different ideas on where the film would go. Despite being blind-sided by Zack Snyder’s casting of fairly unknown actress Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Patty Jenkins had lobbied hard to make the film and eventually was impressed by Gadot in the role as the Amazon Princess.

“I remember when I read in the news that Wonder Woman had been cast and my heart sank. I’m sure we wouldn’t have made the same choice. But, frankly, I think they did a better job than I could have because I don’t know that I would have scoured the earth as hard to find her.  She’s brave, strong, kind, loving, badass – every adjective you can think of for Wonder Woman, Gal is.” – Patty Jenkins.

It seemed as though both Marvel and DC were waiting for a company to risk investing in such a movie; Marvel afraid of creating it’s first potential financial bomb, and DC, pressured to create a popular shared universe film after the critically failed Batman V Superman. While Marvel had finally announced that they will indeed create a female lead movie with Captain Marvel in 2019, Wonder Woman is here now, performing to incredible numbers, proving that a female lead Superhero movie was not doomed to failure, but one of much-deserved success. DC has beaten them to the punch, and Wonder Woman has one hell of a left hook.

While Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman made her on-screen debut in the widely criticized Batman V Superman, the story her own movie tells takes place during World War 1, detailing not only her origins from Diana to Wonder Woman but that of her first exposure to humanity in the form of Steve Trevor. The premise of the story is that Diana learns that humanity is engulfed in war, and she suspects that this is the work of Ares, the God of War. Convinced that she has to leave her home to stop this conflict, she embarks out into the world for the first time in her life.

I was really impressed with Themyscira, the island of the Amazons. The whole island is beautifully shot, featuring a sense of life and realism that was missing from Asgard in the Thor series of films. Themyscira is bright, sunny and full of color, something that seemed to be lacking in many of its competing genre films. The Amazons themselves consist of powerful women, and characters that while have limited roles in the movie, are written so well that you’ll remember them well after the movie ends. One of my favorite characters in the whole movie was Antiope (Robin Wright). This 51-year-old woman was a force to be reckoned with, and such a well conceived character. Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, (Connie Nielsen) was another of the Amazon’s that was really impressive in the movie. Her desire to protect the young Diana is touching, as is the moment when she knows that Diana must leave to protect the world. The beginning of this film is some of the best stuff in the movie and it’s largely due to this wonderful cast of women.

There is a decent amount of the film’s first and mostly second act that deals with Diana learning about the outside world, discovering what a wrist watch is, wondering why the world of man would allow such a small device to tell them when to do things, or learning what marriage is, or how women are treated in man’s world. The film does fall into that trap of having that ‘fish out of water’ approach that is the basis for a vast amount of films, but it counters this in some ways when Steve Trevor himself is surprised at some of the revelations that Diana makes about her life and the culture on Themyscira. While these moments can be enlightening and humorous, they do tend to become distractions to the main quest that Diana herself is on. The clothing scene, while rather funny, mentions she’s tried on hundreds of outfits, yet when Steve Trevor needs to make a quick stop to handle some affairs, Diana presses him towards the urgency of having to stop Ares.

The one distraction that is handled with a believable sense of necessity is when Diana steps in to save a village under siege by German troops, in a place called No Man’s Land. This is the scene in the trailer where she, with her shield out front, is under fire by an entire German battalion, thus inspiring the troops behind her that have been in the trenches for months. This retaking of the village has some powerful and wonderfully staged action scenes that has Wonder Woman flipping tanks, using her lasso, and some fantastic sword and shield play that we haven’t seen in a Superhero movie thus far. This whole scene is a great example of how well they adapted Wonder Woman to the big screen without changing or altering the character’s morals or because of a tone they were looking to create for the film.

The final battle in the film is really entertaining and features some intense moments with both Wonder Woman’s fight as well with the other event taking place during the battle. There are moments here as well as during the village battle that features some mediocre visual effects with regards to a computer generated Wonder Woman doing a lot of the Superhero feats. While this very apparent use of visual effects doesn’t ruin the movie, it can break the immersion of how we are supposed to believe that is Wonder Woman doing all these heroic things. That being said, the power set that is on display here during the final battle makes me wonder if Diana was holding back when taking on Doomsday in Batman V Superman.

While the Amazon’s themselves were fantastic, the remaining supporting cast were not as well handled in the film. There are some characters that have a few ok moments like Steve Trevor’s allies; Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui) the master of disguise, Charlie (Ewen Bremner) the heavy-drinking Scottish sharpshooter, and Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) An opportunist who trades with both sides of the war, or Steve’s secretary, Etta Candy (Lucy Davis). Each of these characters have some alright moments but fail at being very memorable. Regarding the villains, there’s Doctor Poison, (Elena Anaya) who is sadly not used well enough and only briefly becomes interesting. There’s also General Ludendorff, (Danny Huston) who comes off a bit of a generic villain and a bit over the top at times. Lastly, there is the main villain who I truly felt was miscast, but visually still looks rather cool due to some well designed visual effects.

When Gal Gadot was cast as Wonder Woman, there was a large part of the community that was dumbstruck. This thin and accent heavy actress with very little on her resume was not what people thought of Wonder Woman when they would visually imagine the character on screen. I personally, was a huge fan of Gal Gadot, as she was my favorite character in Fast Five. I was more than willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and see what she could do. I’ve read and watched many reviews from critics that were dead set against her, and see them eat their words in regards to how fantastic she was in the film. Gal has a warmth and approachability to the role and yet has the determination and fire in her to make you believe she was perfect for the role.

Chris Pine was a fine choice for Steve Trevor and brings an almost more toned down version of James Kirk to his performance here. His interactions with Diana are written well and each of the two actors share some good chemistry together. Chris has a very contagious personality to him that allows you to immediately like him, and he’s been very smart in his film choices as of late. His role in The Finest Hours was rather remarkable, and the moments in this movie that get very dramatic, are enhanced by his performance.

I’ll also point out the amazing score in the movie. The Wonder Woman theme, which was first heard in Batman V Superman, is tremendous and one of the few movie themes that have really stuck with me since the first Pirates of the Caribbean. As for the 3D in the film, I barely noticed the 3D effects at all, nothing was remarkable about it, but the clarity of the image in Ultra AVX, as well as the sound quality, make it a must for seeing this film.

It was essential for Wonder Woman to do well, in an industry that will allow male produced Superhero movies to fail again and again, and yet still, keep making them, the same cannot be said for a movie starring a female lead, it’s a sad and unfortunate truth. Thankfully, Director Patty Jenkins has given us a wonderful film that rises above the preconceptions of what many were expecting and delivers a truly entertaining film that deserves all the success it has earned. It is truly a wonder.

Wonder Woman was seen in Ultra AVX 3D.

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