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Movie Review: Wonder Woman
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Wonder Woman Header Image

Wonder Woman
Director: Patty Jenkins
Screenplay: Geoff Johns, Allan Heinberg
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date: June 2, 2017

Given that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad received such poor reviews (including from me), it’s easy to believe that WB could not put out anything remotely entertaining within the DCEU. Their constant meddling and the films’ lack of care certainly proved that they were not up to the task of competing with their rivals at Marvel Studios. But then came Wonder Woman. And this isn’t just about her own standalone film, which opens this weekend — we’ll get to that later — this is about her literally carrying the weight of the DCEU on her shoulders. For it was her who saved Batman v Superman from being a complete abomination. Her wit, her mystery, her power, and her inspiration that carried on throughout that film that had many asking when is Wonder Woman going to get her own feature.

Now that time has come. After years of standing on comic book shelves, the character has finally gotten her own film, simply titled Wonder Woman. Her own story to tell, with no assistance from the Dark Knight or the Man of Steel. Through stunning grace, incredible power, and mighty courage, not only is Wonder Woman what a superhero film should be, it showcases an empowering figure who should be an inspiration to anyone, but most importantly to females who have waited for a character they could look up to.

The story takes place in two time periods, but about 95 percent of it taking place during World War I. Diana (Gal Gadot) provides a bit of a history lesson behind the creation of the Amazons that would soon prove useful during the progression of the film. In the beginning, Zeus’s creation of man is corrupted by a jealous Ares who poisons Zeus’s vision with hate and violence. In order to stop his wrath from spreading, Zeus created the Amazons, a group of fearless women who manage to stop Ares and bring balance to man, but only for a short time. So Zeus creates two security measures, one of which is hiding the Amazons on the mystical island of Themyscira. The other is a mighty sword called the Godkiller, which by name is self-explanatory.

The film then flash-forwards to a very young Diana who is eager to become a warrior like her sisters despite her mother, Queen Hippolyta’s (Connie Nielsen), discretion to keep her away from violence. Eventually, Hippolyta lets Diana train to become a warrior, but only if General Antiope (Robin Wright) makes her one of the most powerful warriors on the island. Soon, Antiope learns that Diana has the potential to be truly unstoppable, and that’s when Steve Trevor’s (Chris Pine) plane crashes through the barrier that keeps Themyscira hidden from man and exposes the island to the enemy. That’s when Diana learns about the events of World War I and accepts her destiny as the person who would bring peace to the world by bringing an end to the war.

Thematically, Wonder Woman works on so many levels. Its message is clear. The film takes place during a time where women could not vote and could only get secretarial jobs. It reinforces the idea that women weren’t considered equal, and to some extent, they still aren’t. But in comes Diana Prince, a woman who is a fish out of water but isn’t exactly afraid to speak her mind.

It is that naivete and child-like innocence that adds to Gadot’s charm. Watching Wonder Woman understand the world of man through her eyes makes the title character that much more endearing. She sees customs that were never on her island. The concept of courtship is completely foreign to her. And she doesn’t quite comprehend why secretaries don’t just call themselves slaves. It’s a beautiful sentiment. She’s a lot like a curious child asking why isn’t this the way things work. She must know because this isn’t the way things are done back on Themyscira.

But she is troubled by the women having mundane secretarial jobs. Surely a job is a job, but it feels like she’s planting the seeds for women like herself to aspire to become greater things.

So the film weaves in the superhero element with female empowerment, and director Patty Jenkins has found the delicate balance in telling both stories. The director manages to add humanity to our superpowered heroine by making her actions and motivations deeply personal and affected by grief and loss. In an incredible battle sequence between the Amazons and Germans that take places on the beaches of Themyscira, we see Amazons swing into battle with grace and ease. Meanwhile, the Germans storming the beach look very primitive and brawny.

It is in the heat of battle that the Amazons discover a weapon they’ve never seen before: guns. So Diana is forced to do what she believes is right when a soldier kills a loved one. It adds to her depth and makes her look vulnerable. Which in the end, all superheroes are. So when she leaves the island with Steve and risks never being able to return, she does it not only to save man, but to discover who she is. Because if she stays she will never truly understand where her place is in life.

From there, she travels with Steve to Europe to hand off Doctor Poison’s (Elena Anaya) notes to the Allied Forces, who are working on a peace treaty. Even without her notes, Doctor Poison is still a huge threat to the war, and General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) will stop at nothing to see the allied forces under his thumb. Yeah, it’s probably not the most ingenious plot. Still, it’s fun to see a superhero period piece. It has worked so well with Marvel before, and seems like the perfect setting for Wonder Woman.

And that’s what the film is really about. On the surface, it’s a great superhero film. But not because of the actions or visuals. It’s because of the title character herself, and what she means to her fans. Wonder Woman carries the torch for empowerment, justice, and all that is good. And it isn’t a gender specific. It’s for everyone. When she witnesses what men are capable of, she soon realizes that defining good and evil isn’t as cut and dry as she first thought.

Watching her struggle with the idea that there isn’t just one person to blame and that, maybe, everyone is culpable for this war is very powerful and rarely ever heard. So Jenkins turns the idea of the destined one to bring peace and restore order to the world of man on its head. It puts into question if she is fighting on the right side of the war and if she is just a mere tool being used to win the war. But it is Steve who tells her to fight for what she believes in and not what fight for what is deserved that really hits home.

The chemistry between Gadot and Pine is probably one of the best since Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell in Captain America: The First Avenger. Diana’s belief that men are inherently good is a stark reminder that the world isn’t as innocent as we all like to believe. But it is her optimism that moves the story swimmingly. So when she steps foot into the world of man, nothing makes any sense to her, and Steve has to act as two guides, one of which guides her through war and the other social norms.

Still, Steven cannot help but be attracted to her optimism and naivete. Their comedic timing is spot on as both try to understand each other about sex, anatomy, dating, and marriage. It’s actually a funny reminder of how things work today. So while Diana comes in as an adolescent, she grows into something more powerful than any of the supporting characters could have imagined.

It is that child-like innocence that really lightens the film. Wonder Woman is quite literally the light in the DCEU’s darkest hour. Who knows how the film would have been if it had been as dark and grim in tone as Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and even Suicide Squad. Its light-heartedness is what truly separates it from its predecessors. And there is something that has been never heard before in any of these films. Genuine laughter. Again, it comes down to Diana’s naivete and innocence, and Gadot channels all of that effortlessly.

Wonder Woman isn’t a perfect film; it’s damn near close, though. It’s clunky, visually blinding third act doesn’t ruin the film completely nor does it take you out of enjoying it. But it does make it feel very bloated. It’s not as though Jenkins was running out of gas, but how poorly conceived the third act truly is. In fact, the effort it takes to get us to this point sort of ruins the twisting reveal.

So the truly awesome action sequences lie within the first two-thirds of the film. Try not cheering and applauding as Diana rises up the ladder and out of the trenches and singlehandedly uses herself as a shield, and creates a breach in the opposition’s defenses for the allied forces to infiltrate and destroy. It’s an amazing feat that is outdone when she breaks into the heart of the opposition’s territory. In an amazing display of strength and beauty, she leaps across the screen fighting soldiers one by one. Watching her use her glowing lasso of truth just took my breath away.

For Wonder Woman, the good certainly outweighs the bad. And there is plenty of good in this film. Sure the film may be aesthetically pleasing and uses familiar elements to fill the quota to make it a superhero flick, but it is the character and what she represents as a whole and how she is able to carry herself in the movie that was important to convey. Jenkins hammers down the idea of “It’s not what you deserve, but what you believe.” So Diana chooses to believe in love, knowing that even though men have difficult choices they must make and that she cannot influence or make it for them. It’s not what is right or what is wrong, but love that will save the world, and that is the kind of belief that anyone can get behind.

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