It's almost mind-boggling to think that seventy-five years old, Wonder Woman is still heavily impacting modern culture - and yet, it's only now that we're finally getting her solo feature film on the big screen. Thankfully, the long wait proves to have been worth it.
The Wonder Woman movie picks up after the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, as Diana Prince is reacquainted with that infamous photo she was searching for - a photo which reveals her adventures from other lifetimes ago...
Those adventures start with growing up as the only child on the Amazon's mystical island Themyscira, where Diana was trained in secret to be the greatest champion the Amazons ever produced - despite her mother, Queen Hippolyta's (Connie Nielsen), staunch objections. One day, while contemplating her destiny, Diana sees a man in a strange machine fall from the sky into the waters around Themyscira. Acting selflessly, Diana dives into the waters and saves the man - an action which in turn brings an entire warring squandron of men to the Amazon shores.
After the resulting battle with the invaders leads to some costly casualties, the Amazons interrogate the man Diana found, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). From him, they learn there is a war going on in the world outside - destruction and brutality so great, the Amazons surmise that their ancient foe, Ares The God of War, must be behind it. Hippolyta wants no Amazons losing their lives in service of man's world, but Diana's compassion and heroic spirit can no longer be curtailed. The young princess steals some mystical weapons and armor from the Amazon stronghold, and sets off with Steve Trevor to the world of man, where she hopes to cleanse the savagery of war by using her sword, The God Killer, to end Ares reign once and for all.
Directed by Monster's Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman is (simply put) the game-changing turnaround that Warner Bros. and DC Films have been hoping for. It's gorgeously shot, well plotted, with performances and a rousing score that actually capture the heroism of its DC Comics superheroine. Best of all, Wonder Woman manages to walk the line between being a universal story of heroism, and a distinctly (and blessedly) feminine one.
On the directorial front, Jenkins manages to rise to the hard task of finding a tone and visual pallete that makes the colorful comic book world of Amazons, Greek gods, and superheroes, all feel right at home in the drab world of WWI Europe, and the gritty industrialism that goes along with it. At times, Wonder Woman is a powerful and moving war film; at other moments, it's light and fun comic book fantasy; and in some of the film's most impressive action sequenes, it becomes the best of both worlds (see: that "No Man's Land" scene). Jenkins manages to perfectly capture the iconorgraphy of the character's DC Comics legacy, while still creating her own unique and soon-to-be iconic visuals onscreen. Wonder Woman offers a version of the character that is both timeless and refreshingly novel, and for finding that correct balance on all fronts, Jenkins has elevated herself to a new level of professional accomplishment, on a blockbuster stage. If there is one major criticism of the film, it is that the third act battle with big, bad, Ares goes a bit too overboard with all the CGI sequencing and green screen backdrop. However, that flaw is by now par for the course for the entire superhero genre, and Jenkins does a solid job at keeping the bombastic third act visuals actually weighted in real, well-earned drama that helps keep viewers invested in the fight.
There's a similar takeaway from the story by comic book writer Allan Heinberg, Pan writer Jason Fuchs, and Zack Snyder. The script is filled with some of the flimsy tropes of your average superhero origin story, but there's also real substantive insight and understanding of the characters and their comic book roots; smart use of the historical setting and events; and some powerful thematic ideas (about war, duty, brutality, compassion), which are, unfortunately, ultimately superseded by the comic book movie tropes that must take precedence.
What truly bolsters the film, however, is the esteemed quality of its cast. Gal Gadot owned the Wonder Woman role for her short time in Batman v Superman, but stepping into her own solo film she proves all the haters wrong, playing a complex and nuanced version of Diana, while still looking convincingly powerful and badass in the action scenes. Chris Pine plays perfectly off of Gadot’s wide-eyed idealism, as the cynical but compassionate allied spy, Steve Trevor. It's Pine who must ground a lot of the silly comic book melodrama with timing and wit, while still boosting his co-star to the heroic heights she needs to reach. In doing both so effectively, Pine arguably gives his best blockbuster movie performance yet (sorry Star Trek). Other talented actors like Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Danny Houston, Lucy Davis and David Thewlis, help bring both the comic book fantasy and historical drama of the story together into one cohesive world, creating some of the best and most memorable characters in this cinematic universe (some of them, hopefully to return in future projects).
In the end, Wonder Woman is the turning point the DCEU needed, offering fans the first DC Comics movie where the superhero actually feels inspiring and heoric. It's been a long seventy-five year wait, but thanks to Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot and the rest of the cast and crew, Wonder Woman's time has now truly come.
RATING: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Wonder Woman will be in theaters on June 2. It is 2 hours and 21 minutes long, and Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content.
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- Director On Diana Versus Other Superheroes
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Wonder Woman currently has a 4.10 out of 5 ComicBook User Anticipation Rating, making it the ninth most anticipated upcoming comic book movie among ComicBook.com readers. Let us know how excited you are about Wonder Woman by giving it your own ComicBook User Anticipation Rating below!
(Photo Credits: Warner Bros. Pictures)