“Wonder Woman” is a film many (myself included) have been waiting for for a long time. For decades, DC and Warner Bros. have stood behind the live-action versions of Batman and Superman, rarely ever giving other characters a decent shot. It’s gotten to the point where we no longer need their origin stories told in live-action and yet we keep getting them. Thankfully, things are slowly shifting. As the first live-action superhero film led by a woman (it’s 2017, this is sad), “Wonder Woman” is important in many ways. As a standalone film, it’s equal parts endearing, charming, serious, full of humor, and wonderfully powerful. It isn’t perfect, but, filled with optimism and hope, it’s easily the best film in the DCEU thus far and a strong film in its own right.
Having been brought to life by the god Zeus for Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and raised on the island of Themyscira by the Amazons, Diana (Gal Gadot) has never seen the outside world, the world of humans she’d only ever heard and read about. She fights hard in order to be trained from childhood by Antiope (Robin Wright) and quickly learns the true reason behind why the Amazons live in seclusion. They’re hiding from the god Ares, who wants nothing but to see mankind and any remaining gods destroyed. Everything changes for Diana when Steve Trevor’s (Chris Pine) plane crash lands on the island. With him, he brings news of “the war to end all wars.” Diana is compelled by this, feeling the need to help in any way she can and is convinced that Ares is behind the war and the killing of millions. With her pure of heart and inclination to help those in need, Diana sets off into the unknown, with only her compassion and strength to guide her.
Wonder Woman has always been unique in that she doesn’t adhere to the male-dominated dynamics typical in the superhero genre. Powerful enough to take on Superman in a fair fight, she is physically powerful, yes, but she’s also emotionally powerful and the film uses this to its advantage. Diana leaves Themyscira knowing she’ll never be able to come back shows a strength of character and bravery. She knows she can help and she wants to do so for unselfish reasons because she thinks it’s right. Diana’s conviction is powerful and her trust in goodness pure. Her naivete regarding mankind isn’t played up to make her look stupid or inept, but rather her confusion and wonder at this new world and what it holds is beautifully portrayed as part of her continued learning experience. The film doesn’t treat its audience like children either and certain aspects, like what the lasso of truth does, is shown doing what it’s supposed to do rather than having the characters give a long explanation about it.
Director Patty Jenkins not only helps to capture the spirit of Wonder Woman’s character, but also knows the significance of her journey and development. It’s clear to see that the Diana in “Wonder Woman” is the same fierce character we meet in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” but she’s also very different in ways that are noticeable. In “Wonder Woman,” it’s quite easy to see that development take shape with every new experience she has. The film manages to balance screwball comedy with heroics, heart, and without an immense brooding darkness.
The movie itself is quite beautiful to look at and filled with incredible shots. The action scenes, specifically the first fight on the beach of Themyscira and later No Man’s Land, are amazing to watch. So much so that they brought goosebumps to my skin and tears to my eyes. As Diana shouts that she can’t leave anyone behind and charges into battle on her own, it’s a call to action that is so astoundingly moving. In this moment, Diana doesn’t just want to help, she needs to help and every minute of this scene is outstandingly executed and captures her main character attributes so perfectly. Her unawareness regarding human customs really highlights how ridiculous it is that women were left out of government or and (still) treated with a double standard. Diana’s power doesn’t just lie in her physical strength, but also with her emotional intelligence and kind heart. She proves quite often that it’s ok for a woman to have both and not be considered less than a man. A particular scene that stands out is a small one and may be easily dismissed, but it’s quite lovely. When one of her team members is calling himself useless because he couldn’t shoot his gun in time during battle, it’s Diana who puts her hand on his shoulder and assures him otherwise.
Gal Gadot and Chris Pine have intense chemistry and even while they’re opposites in how they view certain things, Pine’s Steve Trevor provides some realism to Diana’s ideals. This doesn’t always work and near the end, his continuous pressure for her to just see things clearly (and in one case, to stay put) is cause for some frustration, but not necessarily irritating enough to warrant outright annoyance. However, Steve is quick to follow Diana’s lead despite having only just met her. Because when she makes a decision, she sticks to it and he rallies the troops behind her, deciding to take the risk even though he doesn’t quite believe her stories about Ares. He believes in her and that’s enough. They do try to make Steve more of an equal partner (something I wish they’d do for supporting female characters in male-led superhero films, but that’s another conversation), and it’s really nice that he never degrades or talks down to her despite her not being aware of several human customs. Steve respects her power and doesn’t cower in fear because of it.
Even with all the good, not everything in the film works. For example, the last action sequence goes on for too long, the villain is not completely developed, and it would have been nice to spend more time on Themyscira. The third act is definitely the weakest of the three, but none of the film’s issues overshadow what’s great and wonderful about it. Because there’s certainly a lot to love. “Wonder Woman” is a good superhero film, but more than that it’s a good film period. It’s inspiring and builds up a character who is concerned about people and their well-being. Wonder Woman is fierce, but more importantly, she’s good-natured, just, and filled with the earnest need to stand up for what is right. Her journey in realizing that humans have a darkness and light in them is a tough lesson to learn, but her continued belief in that light is nicely done. Superhero fan or not, “Wonder Woman” is well worth seeing.
Wonder Woman is fierce, but more importantly, she's good-natured and just. Her journey in realizing that humans have a darkness and light in them is a tough lesson to learn, but her continued belief in that light is nicely done. Superhero fan or not, "Wonder Woman" is worth seeing.