Wonder Woman is a good movie that suffers from some of the typical issues with DC Comics movies, namely a weak third act and a villain who is simultaneously overpowered and not very well realized.
Overall it’s a good film, and is the best DC Cinematic Universe film to date (this includes Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad).
Wonder Woman has always been one of my favourite heroes. She appeals to my interest in mythology, particularly Greek mythology. I had a massive crush on Lynda Carter in the 70’s, and I loved the Denny O’Neil Wonder Woman comics of the 1970’s where she was a super spy.
In 1987 George Perez rebooted Wonder Woman and focused heavily on the Amazons, and on the Greek pantheon of gods. His stories had her fighting Ares, Demios, Phobos, Minotaurs and other godly creatures, in Perez’ rendition, Themyscira was built to contain all manner of horrors, and they were constantly breaking out. Her supporting characters included a much older Steve Trevor and a revamped Etta Candy who was now Steve’s love interest.
During the New 52 Reboot in 2011, Wonder Woman’s origin was revamped again, she now used a sword and shield, was no longer created from clay, but was in fact the daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta. She was also the goddess of love, and the entire Greek pantheon was remade in strange and interesting ways. Much of that has been undone in an unnecessary “Rebirth” by Greg Rucka that others have raved about, but which I see as a backslide into less interesting territory.
When she was announced as part of the Batman v Superman movies, I had my hesitations. I don’t think that Zack Snyder is a very good director, I think he is a poor storyteller, and while he’s got a knack for presenting scenes right out of the comics, he is incapable of tying scenes together to make an interesting whole. I knew Gal Gadot from the Fast and Furious movies (which are a guilty pleasure), but she didn’t really strike me as Wonder Woman material. Little did I know that she’s a legit badass, she’s 5’10” tall, and makes a kick assed Wonder Woman.
She was hands down my favourite part of Batman v Superman.
The Wonder Woman movie had a good pedigree in Patty Jenkins (who was formerly attached to Thor: The Dark World – who is also only the second female director to be given a budget over $100 million). The film was written by Alan Heinberg, who on top of solid comic book chops, is a great TV writer, especially of stories centered around women. Of course, Snyder had his hand in producing, but my hope was it would be kept minimal.
Those hopes were dashed when the first teaser launched and it was full of bright colours and crushed blacks…but there seemed to be a hint of humour and a touch of something unique.
First the good parts.
Gal Gadot is incredible. She embodies the character in a way that not even Lynda Carter ever did. She is powerful yet vulnerable, graceful yet still finding her way, and through it all you can tell she loves a good fight…there is a subtle half smile when she is facing her opponents that shows how much she enjoys doing the thing she has trained since childhood to do.
The direction is very well done, Jenkins allows for a lot of very wide shots, especially on Paradise Island, and only tightens the scene during pivotal battle sequences, but largely allows the entire drama to unfold in wide shots.
The movie was fun, there were plenty of little laughs and moments that made the film enjoyable. It wasn’t Guardians of the Galaxy, where I left the theatre with a sore face from smiling so much, but it was still fun.
The initial scenes on Paradise Island are phenomenal, it is lush, tropical and bright, and the first act contrasts so hard against the face of “Man’s World”, which is the exact opposite, dark, oppressive, and polluted.
The Amazons are very well realized, with Connie Nelson’s Hippolyta and Robin Wright’s Antiope truly standing out. Antiope has a scene that is called back to later in the film to great effect.
The contrast from Paradise Island to England is a stark reminder of how dirty the beginning of the industrial revolution was. I loved the setting of WWI, because it’s a time we haven’t seen a whole lot of. Everything is so much more primitive, and it allows Gadot’s Diana Prince to be a fish out of water.
The Wonder Woman theme song with the crunchy cello by Tina Guo is the greatest superhero theme song since the Spider-Man animated series.
The WWI Supporting cast is great, the con man, the sniper, the tracker, and the spy are all great archetypes, and none of them are played as foolish. Everyone is essential to the team, and they are all important to the story.
Doctor Poison is a very cool villain, and serves as a wonderful reminder to how brutal WWI was, and how far the advances we’ve made in plastic surgery have come.
Chris Pine is charming as hell as Steve Trevor, and there is a distinct chemistry between Pine and Gadot.
The third act doesn’t revolve around a massive swirling garbage dervish like in Man of Steel and Suicide Squad!
The bad things:
The movie is long, there is quite a bit in the middle that could have been tightened up.
I wanted more Themyscira, especially battles with otherworldly beasties which would have been a great contrast against the mundane world of man.
The big battle in the third act. Super Hero movies are at their best when the protagonist is pitted against a villain who is their opposite number.
- Batman has the Joker, a character with no moral code.
- Spider-Man has Doctor Octopus, a scientist who experienced tragedy and it broke him
- Iron Man has Sebastian Stane, the worst aspects of his personality with no morality
- Daredevil has the Kingpin, a man who has no interest in the law, only power.
Wonder Woman’s villain isn’t her opposite number, and I feel like the entire final battle was just muddled and ridiculous. Frankly, her opposite number should be Hitler, but that would be 20 more years.
Despite its flaws I enjoyed the movie, and it makes me hopeful for Justice League, which comes out in November!