The time has come for the premiere woman superhero to finally get a feature film after 75 years. Sure there has been a TV show in the 70’s but after that, it has been little to nothing. There have been numerous attempts at feature films and live action shows that have never materialized. There was a fairly popular animated movie in 2009. But now that the DC Extended Universe is off and running and making a small appearance in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman’s chance has finally come. How does it succeed?
Arguably this is the best movie in the DCEU canon and one of the best superhero movies in years. Origin movies are usually the best way to go especially with heroes whose origins aren’t commonly known. So this was the route chosen for Wonder Woman as well as setting the bulk of the movie in the past during World War I. Wonder Woman is usually tied to World War II but since Captain America: The First Avenger handled that war, you can see why they shifted it. After spy Steve Trevor crashes on Themyscira, Diana (Wonder Woman) agrees to take him back to mainland Earth where he has information on a new weapon to help end the war of wars. People tend to forget how brutal World War I was and this change does not diminish Wonder Woman’s plight against the God of War, Ares.
Gal Gadot as Diana/Wonder Woman is serviceable as the titular hero. She is not necessarily great in the role. No fault to her as her acting resume is thin with a lot of roles that asked nothing of her. But when she does shine, she does. I can see her growing into the role and becoming a better actor in the process. Chris Pine steals the show for me in the movie. I’ve always been so so on him as an actor until fairly recently. In this movie, he plays a spy who has become world weary due to the war happening. While he is jaded, he always shows that he believes in the good of people. This is a good contrast to Diana’s more naive black and white view of the world. When these two interact, their chemistry is great and help sell the movie. The Amazons played by Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta, Diana’s mother and Robin Wright as General Antiope, Diana’s aunt are strong presences in the movies despite limited screentime. Diana and Steve’s compatriots played by Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner and Eugene Brave Rock are solid and help flesh out the war side and also help flesh out the world for Diana. Danny Huston, Elena Anaya, David Thewlis and Lucy Davis are the rest of the supporting cast are solid and help flesh out the movie.
Patty Jenkins deserves all the credit in the world for this movie. The tone for the movie was perfect. There wasn’t humor just thrown in for the sake of humor. A lot of humor comes from Diana being a fish out of water. The contrast between Themyscira and the actual world is such a beautiful contrast. When Diana enters the modern (circa 1918) and sees London, you can just feel the pollution on the screen. When the war scenes happen, even though it is not an R rated film, you feel the effects of this horrific war. There are no hidden shots of missing limbs or anything like that, you see them. I think it was a tricky balance to not be too heavy but also show the effects of the war and what it is doing to the world. So when Diana finally does step in and become a beacon of hope, you really feel it.
The action in this movie is top notch as well. Since Diana comes from a warrior group of people, they are much more melee based combat. This reflects in her combat style as she frequently goes for the legs. The opening action scene between the Amazons and German soldiers is unique to see this group of trained warriors go up against modern weapons that they know nothing about, which helps makes things even. Whenever Diana steps into battle, it is memorable since she is no normal person and can do things like no other. A unique battle shows that even though she is all powerful, she can not do everything and it is juxtaposed with her teaming with soldiers and their weapons to help turn the tides of battle.
This is also a gorgeous movie. As mentioned earlier the contrast the modern world and Themyscira is palpable. Themyscira is a gorgeous place (probably why it’s nickname is Paradise Island) and the hues of greens and blues make you just want to visit the place. Then when entering the modern world and seeing the effects of war and everything is black and gray helping to sell that the world is really at war. Seeing the world in 1918 is also pretty much being like in a different world. Seeing London in this era and war torn Europe is nothing like the world today. The fashion, the vehicles, the lingo, everything about it.
Is it a perfect movie? No. The third act is a little long winded. The whole thing with Ares is a bit on the thin side. He’s a serviceable villain but not much to him. But it is nice to see a movie about a superhero who actually wants to be a hero. Everyone involved in the movie should be proud of themselves for creating one of the best superhero movies in recent years.