After years of waiting and many attempts Wonder Woman has finally gotten a big budget movie. After an appearance in the massively lackluster Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice last year, WB/DC finally got itself a hit with a good film. Only took four tries. But hey maybe “fourth time’s a charm” is the new three. What could have been another disappointing disaster ends up being one great comic book movie. From start to finish this is the movie fans have been waiting for.
We meet Princess Diana, secretly hidden on Themyscira Island, being raised by the greatest fighters created by the god Zeus. Diana, who has been trained to the best warrior among the Amazons, meets US military pilot Steve Trevor when he washes ashore. After learning from him about the ongoing events of World War 1, she leaves her home for London to bring an early end to the war. She believes the God of War, Ares, is the cause for the war and it is her duty to stop him and save the world. This is an origin movie worthy of the first and most powerful female superhero in the world, keeping with themes and stories from her 75-year history and adding new elements that round out the character even more.
It’s no secret that the DC/WB movies have had a rough start of it. Not in profit of course, their movies have made money back. But critically, fans and Internet trolls and most other people tend to not enjoy those first three films: Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. Those films are like beautiful paintings from afar, but once you get too close you see all the cracks. They treat their legacy characters without respect, lacking in depth and plot. But with Wonder Woman it seems they have finally gotten their house in order, at least for this movie (who can say about Justice League, which comes out this November.) But at least for the time being, DC/WB can very proud of this one film.
Gal Gadot is the Wonder Woman for our modern times. She is fantastic. Only getting a small moment of screen time and showing us what we could expect in BvS, here she gets time to shine, and shine bright she does. She embodies everything that Wonder Woman is about: love, compassion, and honor. On top of being the badass that we all have been waiting for, she manages to be the strongest warrior who has compassion for humanity with one look. Some of the best moments are watching Diana just be herself and learning about the new things in “man,s world.” A highlight is watching her experience something small like ice cream for the first time. Each scene is golden and shows off her talent as an actress taking on the role of the pop culture icon.
Chris Pine is a great leading man. But we knew that; in his role as Captain Kirk in the Star Trek movies we’ve seen him be this type of character already. But here he gets to be the good soldier without all the Kirk bravado. Here we see just a man who feels the need to do something for the greater good, to fight for something bigger than himself. Gadot and Pine have instant chemistry and you just want to watch them. They work well together and both seem to really understand who these characters are. Pine makes a lot of great acting choices within scenes: certain looks, a body movement or just the way he says things. There’s naturalism to his acting that really gets to shine here.
The remaining cast is fantastic and adds many layers to an already wonderfully layered film: Lucy Davis as Etta Candy is amazing. Her role is small, but she makes the best of it and has many wonderful memorable lines. Steve Trevor’s team is made up of the standard military/rogue archetypes, but each is fun and adds something great to the overall movie: Saïd Taghmaoui as Sameer (the secret agent), Ewen Bremner as Charlie (the heavy-drinking Scottish sharpshooter) and Eugene Brave Rock as Chief (the tracker). Each brings a quality to Trevor’s team and to the film. Each character is flushed out and was given much thought on the paper, verses other comic films from the past.
The villains of the picture are solid: not the most notorious for a comic book picture, but solid enough. Elana Anaya plays Doctor Maru who “the boys in the trenches call Doctor Poison.” It was nice to hear an old-school comic book villain name done organically rather than sounding stupid in dialogue. Danny Houston plays General Erich Ludendorff, a high-ranking German General who wants to use Doctor Poison’s new chemical warfare to end the war insuring German’s victory. And of course the God of War, Ares, who looks great when armored up. He’s very reminiscent of his comic book appearance, yet adds some new flare, overall a pretty good version of the character. His agenda is very “twirl his mustache” evil, but makes sense for the plot and if you know his evil ways in the comic. Each has their own agenda and they’re all solid adversaries for our heroine.
The last two members of the cast that stand out are Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta and Robin Wright as General Antiope. Both are amazing. Nielsen brings the warmth of a loving mother but the strength of a warrior effortlessly: such a great casting choice for her to play the mother/queen of the Amazons. Wright plays the leader of the Queen’s army and she is a totally badass. She is Diana’s main trainer and she trains her harder than any Amazon before. Wright is great in the role and so talented. She manages with one look to convey years of wisdom and love. Both are a pleasure to watch.
As many hands this script went though it could have been dreadful. But having actual Wonder Woman comic book writers pen it helped. Also having someone as passionate as Patty Jenkins in the director’s chair didn’t hurt. She could have been way over her head, having only two other feature films under belt, but if you listen or read anything she says in interviews she understands who and what Wonder Woman is. She knew what movie she was making. Knowing there were massive studio notes, she managed to work though all that and make an entertaining film with meaning. There are many themes in Wonder Woman that relate or are parallel to our current state in the world: quite eerie how that works out. Shame we don’t have our own Wonder Woman to look to in the face of great crisis.
The special effects are huge and expensive looking: enormous sets, CGI in almost every scene and long fight sequences that took days to shoot. But they all mix together flawlessly. There are some obvious CGI issues with putting the actor’s face on top of clearly a stunt actor. But it’s nothing too terrible or anything that pulls you out of the movie. The Wonder Woman armor/costume looks fantastic in motion. As does the Lasso of Truth. The attention to detail and care given is quite apparent and looks great, it’s time well spent.
Wonder Woman is great and is the DC Comic movie hopefully fans have been wanting for. It hits all the marks that, as a Wonder Woman fan, I needed to see/feel. It’s also nice to see such care given to an iconic character that means so much to so many people. Hopefully this is a new direction for the DC/WB movies. With the right talent and people who care behind these projects, only good things can be on the horizon.