WONDER WOMAN (2017)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 21 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sequences of Violence and Action, and some Suggestive Content

Directed by: Patty Jenkins

Written by: Allan Heinberg

(based on the WONDER WOMAN comics by William Moulton Marston)

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya & Lucy Davis

A WONDER WOMAN movie has been in the works since the mid-90s and this superheroine has finally received her own film in the DC Extended Universe’s fourth installment. To this point, the DC Universe has been mixed in its output. MAN OF STEEL was okay (though heavily flawed), BATMAN v SUPERMAN was a disappointment (with more negatives than positives), and SUICIDE SQUAD was dumb fun. WONDER WOMAN marks the highest point in the DCEU so far! DC’s competition isn’t exactly fierce, but this blockbuster should be celebrated for being one of the best comic book movies in recent years. I’m positive that this film and LOGAN will go down as the two best superhero films of 2017!

On the mystical island of Themyscira, Diana (Gal Gadot) and her fellow Amazonians were created by Zeus to protect the humans from fabled god of war Ares. When WWI pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash-lands in the ocean near Diana’s uncharted home, it becomes clear that a potentially endless war is raging and Diana becomes convinced that Ares is behind it. The determined Diana sets out on a quest to slay Ares and free mankind from his corrupt influence. This adventure takes her across the battlefields of WWI and behind enemy German lines. Of course, things aren’t as simple as they initially seem though.

Gal Gadot was easily one of the biggest highlights of last year’s lackluster BATMAN v SUPERMAN and she comes back in full-force as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. Because this film plays out like the main origin story of Wonder Woman, we watch a more naïve version of the character discover the pleasures and tragedies of the human world. Gadot completely sells the viewer on her self-assured, but very innocent heroine. Her fish-out-of-water reaction to the concepts of fashion, the treatment of women in the early 1900s, and (even) the frozen dessert of ice cream all provoke humor and understanding from the viewer. Gadot also kills more emotional moments of realizing just how messed up the humans inhabiting the world can be.

On the sidelines, Chris Pine has the pleasure of taking the role-reversal of Wonder Woman’s guy-in-distress. This isn’t done in an over-the-top manner, but rather in a subtle way. Pine gets lots of the laughs, but also provides a caring friend/loving companion for Diana. His scenes with Gadot’s Wonder Woman later in the film provide some big emotional pay-offs. Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen make strong impressions in the film’s opening 20 minutes as Diana’s watchful protectors. Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Brenner, and Eugene Brave Rock are enjoyable as Pine’s soldier friends. David Thewlis is great in his side role and Lucy Davis is amusing as Steve’s comic relief secretary.

This story doesn’t have a lot of focus when it comes to its villains, because the main antagonist of this movie is war itself. It’s an odd approach that works phenomenally well. That being said, Danny Huston is good in the role of snarling General Enrich Ludendorff (based on an actual historical figure) and Elena Anaya is creepy as deadly chemist Doctor Poison. This villainous pair share a handful of scenes together before ultimately engaging in the main confrontation between Wonder Woman and Steve. Even though they aren’t developed extraordinarily well, they serve as capable human baddies.

As far as spectacle goes, WONDER WOMAN is perfect. The action scenes are exciting, the effects are great, and the settings are highly detailed. Some viewers may wind up thinking that slow motion is overused, but these bits echoed the original MATRIX (in a positive way). The action isn’t constant from beginning to end either, because WONDER WOMAN devotes time to developing characters and naturally laying out stakes. This careful storytelling results in action sequences that are much more adrenaline-pumping, because there’s depth behind them. I particularly love the final stand-off for many reasons (all of which I can’t give away because they’d be spoiling big surprises).

My only complaint with WONDER WOMAN comes in an unnecessary prologue and epilogue. These bits make up about of five minutes of screen time, but seemed tacked on to remind the viewer that a JUSTICE LEAGUE movie will be hitting theaters in November. These forced book-ends weren’t horrible or particularly bland, but they didn’t add anything to the proceedings. Their inclusion was the equivalent of having an end-credits scene start and end the main movie.

To say that WONDER WOMAN is DCEU’s best film thus far doesn’t seem like enough of a compliment, because it’s easily one of the best superhero films to arrive in the past five years. Director Patty Jenkins, screenwriter Allan Heinberg, and actress Gal Gadot have crafted a special kind of superhero film that extends beyond familiar conventions and functions as a deeper emotional story. This is a historical war film with a superhero in it (but it’s much better than Marvel’s CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER) and strays from the norm. At the risk of sounding clichéd and corny, I’m going to say that WONDER WOMAN is a wonderful cinematic experience. If you like comic book films or superhero entertainment, this is a must-see!

Grade: A

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