by Michael B. Hock
Wonder Woman had a lot going against it heading into it’s opening. There were some critics and bloggers who, while pushing their narrative that “superhero movies are over saturating the market, unless they’re produced by Disney”, continually nitpick the little things in DC Comic movies. I’ll admit they aren’t great, but they don’t deserve the hate they get. We can’t ignore that this is a female led-superhero movie, directed by the woman who as fired from Thor: The Dark World. (which may have been a blessing.) So naturally, it was also being attacked by online trolls before filming started. These combined in a perfect storm of “all eyes on this movie to see how it will do.”
Patty Jenkins hasn’t just created a wonderful superhero movie, but a great movie in general, one that has twice the heart of any superhero movie I’ve seen, wonderful action sequences, and embraces the mythology of the character in a way I don’t know I’ve seen before. Go see this movie.
Wonder Woman is about Princess Diana (Gal Gadot) born and raised on the island of Themyscira, an island paradise and home to the Amazon Warriors. She’s the daughter of Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), and notably, the only kid on the island. After a brief introduction and an even briefer training montage, a plane crashes on the island bringing Steve Trevor (Chris Pine, proving that he was probably better at commanding the Enterprise than flying it) and World War 1 onto the shore of the island paradise. Well, they’re still calling it the War to End All Wars, because it was a naive time back then.
Anyway, the young woman who was brought up on hearing about how the sacred duty of the Amazons was to kill Ares, the God of War, hears all about how there’s now a War to End All Wars, decides to join Steve back on the front lines in order to kill Ares and actually end all Wars. So, she heads to London for a part war movie/part superhero movie/part fish out of water comedy. Fortunately it spends more time of the first two than it does in the latter, but that comes into play in a big way later.
I loved this movie. It’s no secret I love superhero movies in general: I was there for the midnight showing of the Avengers, (This was back when movie opened on Fridays and only had midnight showings as the first one. It was a dark time, kids.) I enjoyed Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman, even if I don’t consider them in the top ten movies of all times featuring a guy dressed in blue who can fly. So, I was going to go into Wonder Woman excited to start with, but what surprised me is how much I enjoyed this movie. Not that I thought it would be bad, it just managed to surpass every expectation I had for it.
I’m going to start with the fish out of water stuff, because watching the previews that was the part I was the most worried about. “She’s walking around with a sword! In World War 1 London! Isn’t it wacky?” But Director Patty Jenkins uses these moments as an interesting contrast. Yes, they are funny… I mean, Wonder Woman is walking around World War 1 London with a sword, how is that not funny? But Jenkins uses this as a slow build, one that starts with moments like that, and eventually gets to Diana asking why she can’t do more to help. She uses this outsider-ness of the Princess of Themyscira to maximum effect, so when she eventually becomes Wonder Woman, it’s a natural outcome of being told repeatedly that she can’t or that she’s wrong. It’s an amazing moment, and more directors who work with superheroes should study it.
What really works are the actors and how they manage to play off each other in a natural way. Gadot embodies a warrior with real heart. I hope that comes across properly, but what I mean is that she manages to show a warrior who cares about what she is fighting for, not someone fighting simply to fight. She shows a warrior who wants to save the world, but understands that the the world are the people in it. Pine brings his usual charm to the role of Steve Trevor, Diana’s sort of guide to this strange world. A real stands is Elena Anaya as Dr. Poison, a chemist who… well, creates poison. She often straddles the line between real threat from World War 1 and comic-book super villain, but does so in such a deft way that I was never really rolling my eyes. A great moment of this is an actual, honest to god super villain laugh with co-conspirator Ludendorff (Danny Houston) after a comic book moment, and I found myself… well, not really rooting for them, but the moment played a lot better than I thought it would have.
The other element of this is the comic book moments. I don’t meant to turn this too much into a “DC vs. Marvel” fight – I’ll leave that to others – but for all it’s faults the DC Extended Universe of films really embraces its comic book origins more that Marvel cares to. A bookending sequence involving another superhero seems a little out of place, but it helps to establish where Diana is now, especially as her next appearance is going to be in Justice League. I was particularly impressed with the integration of both Wonder Woman’s origin stories, including the more recent version.
Overall, I was extremely impressed with this film. It’s a win that DC needed critically, and mostly, it’s a win that this character needed. We’ve had enough Batmen to fill a Justice League of their own, we’ve had three Flashes, we’re on our third Spiderman (and second reboot in recent years.) This provides a fresh take on a character that is finally getting a chance to shine. And it’s in great hands. I honestly have never felt better after leaving a theater than I have after seeing this movie. Go see it.
Hamlet T. Wondercat Says
Out of Five