Movie Review: Wonder Woman

“A WONDERful movie, and refreshing change of pace for the genre.”

Director: Patty Jenkins

Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine

Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content

Trailer: Click Here!

Wonder Woman is finally out and has been receiving virtually universal praise. It’s for good reason as having seen the movie, it is excellent. This is good news for DC, as there’s a lot riding on this movie for several reasons. Not only is this the first time the Amazon princess has had her own standalone movie, but the DC movie universe (DCEU) needed to do something to get back into movie goers good graces as the last few films have been polarizing.

There’s also been a ton of girl power buzz for this movie. It is undeniable that the vast majority of superheroes that make it to the big screen are men and there hasn’t been a female superhero movie that I can remember…ever. (well technically there’s been a few, but they were all horrible). Not only do we get an incredible leading female hero here, but one of the villains is female as well: Dr. Poison. In addition to the female cast, Patty Jenkins, the director, is also in a field that is dominated primarily by men. Jenkins excels in only her second big screen movie and does an excellent job giving us a great story with strong female characters without making the male characters appear completely helpless in exchange.

Danny Huston and Elena Anaya as Genral Ludendorff and Dr. Poision.

Gal Gadot is perfect as Diana. She is gorgeous but comes across as classy and not an over sexualized wonder woman that is sometimes depicted. She’s a good balance. Gal also looks capable in the fight scenes, and like she would have no problem kicking anyone’s butt. And while she does great in the action scenes, some of the most enjoyable sections of the movie involve Diana discovering the world outside of her island for the first time. She has a great arc through the movie, as you see her grow from an innocent and naïve warrior, into the strong female hero we first saw in Batman v. Superman.

Chris Pine was a good choice for the american spy Steve Trevor. He and Gal have great on-screen chemistry that works well for the story. The core, multicultural group that ends up joining Diana and Steve on their mission were decent, but at times almost felt like caricatures of their specific ethnic backgrounds…especially the Scottish guy. He was too “cartoony” feeling at times, but fortunately wasn’t bad enough that it hurt the movie.

Group shot! The only two you’ll care about are Diana and Steve.

All of the locations in the movie are brought to life in great detail and there is a noticeable color difference between the green and blue island of Themyscira and the darker greys and browns of London. This was a smart way to emphasis Diana’s journey from her “perfect” world where right and wrong is very clearly laid out, to the world of men, where things are more bleak and the lines of morality are blurred.

In addition to the color differences, it’s also interesting to see the social extremes of both Thymescira and WWI era London contrasted with each other; which are essentially two sides of the same coin. On Thymescira, men are shunned and held in much lower regard, while in London we see the same thing happening to women. There’s one scene in particular where Steve is trying to get his superiors to listen to what he is telling him, but all they can focus on is why Diana is even in the same room. The movie isn’t one sided, and cleverly shows the foolishness of holding either sex in higher regard than the other.

This is our first time seeing Themyscira in the DCEU.  Seeing a magical hidden city on screen has become common place these days but the movie does a great job making it look unique and also believable. All of the amazons looked tough and ready for any battle…I was honestly half expecting Xena to show up somewhere!

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Paradise Island

The first half of the movie is essentially Wonder Woman’s origin story, and while it may sound tiring to watch yet another origin story play out in a movie, it’s done in a way that’s refreshing and fun to watch. Seeing Diana grow up and discover the full extent of her abilities is a treat. And even though the first half of the movie is mostly exposition, there are still a couple great action scenes that help to keep things moving along. Once Diana walks out onto the battlefield for the first time, it’s game on from there on out.

Wonder Woman successful steps away from the common tropes of the superhero genre. The villians are more complex than the one dimensional “mustache twirling” fiends that are so common. There are deep philosophical themes that analyzed such as the nature of evil and whether or not mankind deserves to be saved. In the real world there isn’t just one sinister villian at work; people overall arent completely innocent. Watching Diana wrestle with these dilemas give the movie a sophistication that a lot of superhero movies are missing. Of course it wouldn’t be a superhero flick without that final knock down, drag out boss fight, and Wonder Woman is no exception.

The fight scenes are very well done for the most part and fun to watch. The way Diana uses her lasso in battle is very creative and one of my favorite elements of her fight scenes. There are a ton of slow motion shots, and they reminded me of movies like 300 and The Matrix…or even like the finishers in the Arkham video game series (you know what I’m talking about if you’ve played any of those games). It looks awesome, but it’s used a little too much. When the CGI is good, the slow motion looks fantastic, but there’s a couple times when the effects are a little less than stellar and the slow motion only serves to make that stand out like a sore thumb.

Uh oh. You’ve made her angry. You’re screwed.

Wonder Woman is essentially the female equivalent to Superman, and, I’m glad the snuck in some great subtle nods to that similarity. There’s a scene with Diana talking to her mother before leaving the island that gives off some vibes of similar conversations Superman has had with his father, Jor-El. Also, there’s a scene where Steve is trying to help Diana blend in while in London, and she puts on a pair of glasses.

No one will recognize you with these…

A heavy criticism thrown at the DCEU up until this point is that the movies are for the most part “joyless”. While I disagree with that claim to an extent (I’ll save that argument for another post), they are truthfully extremely heavy. Wonder Woman does a much better job at being more tonally balanced. Patty Jenkins has done what Zack Snyder has been unable to do so far in that she’s figured out the right formula for making a movie with darker themes, but also with the right mixture of laughs, fun, and hope that movie goers are looking for. Diana is extremely hopeful throughout the movie, even in the darkest moments. Maybe some of that will rub off on Superman in the future…

Wonder Woman is everything you would expect and more, and succeeds in putting the DCEU back on track for many fans. It will be interesting to see which direction Justice League takes later this year.

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