REVIEW: Wonder Woman (2017)

Release Poster – Warner Bros. Pictures

The following is a review of Wonder Woman – Directed by Patty Jenkins.

Although there are a lot of female heroes to read about in comic books, few of them have been given a chance on the big screen. In fairness, Hollywood has tried to make female superhero films work before, but when those attempts didn’t work out well, they weren’t really interested in pursuing other similar projects.

Jeannot Szwarc’s Supergirl was critically panned, as was both Pitof’s Catwoman and Rob Bowman’s Elektra. Now, in 2017, we are finally getting a good film about a true feminist icon. Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman is here, and while it isn’t perfect, it is a strong origin story for an important comic book character.

Set primarily during the time of the First World War, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman tells the origin story of Diana (played by Gal Gadot), princess of the Amazons. When a spy of the Allied Powers – Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine) – crash lands just outside of the paradise that is the Amazon island of Themyscira, Diana bravely saves him from drowning.

However, German soldiers are in pursuit of Trevor and soon they attack the mysterious island. A battle between the fearless Amazons and the German soldiers breaks out, and the soldiers, ultimately, kill one of the most skilled Amazon fighters. Once the fight is over and the Amazons have won, they question Trevor’s intentions.

Trevor explains that a war is taking place all over Europe, and Diana is convinced that it is a battle worth fighting to stop Ares – the God of war. Against the wishes of her mother, Diana leaves with Trevor to go to Europe where Diana learns that the real world is much more complicated than she thought.

Let’s talk about the two female stars of the film, the first being the director. Patty Jenkins – the first female director of a superhero blockbuster film – has done such a fantastic job with Wonder Woman, which feels incredibly refreshing even when it borrows elements from other films.

It is such a nice feeling to finally again enjoy a DC superhero film to this extent. I was completely on board with everything Jenkins did with this film from the moment a young Diana runs around on Themyscira, until she was about to fight a certain German General towards the end of the film. I had some issues after that, which I’ll get to later in the review, but everything up to that point was basically perfect superhero storytelling.

The scenes on Themyscira were my favorite parts of the film – like the early scenes on Krypton in Man of Steel also were for me – but the chemistry that Gal Gadot had with Chris Pine made the rest of the film a, frankly, wonderful experience. I was laughing along with the rest of the theater, and I was enjoying every emotional scene, all of which were masterfully handled.

I wasn’t ever sure about Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman before I watched this film. Even her scenes in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hadn’t convinced me. But Gadot really does a great job with the character here. It isn’t one of the best performances ever given by a superhero lead performer, but she is really, really good.

As is Chris Pine, who I think is just one of the most underappreciated major motion picture actors of our day. He is a very good Captain Kirk in the new line of Star Trek-films, he was absolutely fantastic in last year’s Hell or High Water, and, in Wonder Woman, he gives such a lovely and charming performance.

If you look past the fact that it features a female superhero, then it is pretty easy to see that Wonder Woman isn’t a unique film. It is obviously inspired by Richard Donner’s Superman as one scene in particular has been directly taken from that film, but it also resembles Kenneth Branagh’s Thor and, especially, Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger.

Like Johnston’s film, Wonder Woman takes place, as mentioned, during the time of one of the two world wars, and was thus probably always going to remind me of Captain America: The First Avenger. But it is more than that, as you will find out in the film. The fish-out-of-water element of Wonder Woman reminded me very much of Branagh’s Thor, but that isn’t a unique concept in Thor either, obviously.

Unfortunately, Wonder Woman also borrows some of the unfortunate elements of popular superhero films. The central villain in Wonder Woman doesn’t work well. The film tries to sweep the rug out from under you at one point, which I thought was a shame as I appreciated how the film was trying to speak to the complexities of mankind.

But that interesting concept was almost abandoned towards the end following Wonder Woman’s final battle with the central villain, which is a complete CGI-nightmare of a dark battle scene that reminded me very much of the end battle in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

In fact, I was surprised by how the CGI looked in the film. Some characters looked almost as if they were made out of rubber, and the villain’s appearance towards the end made the character look like a villain from an old video game cutscene.

There was one element of the film that made me concerned, when I was watching the trailer, and that was the slow-motion. It seemed like the film was relying too much on a slow-motion effect that had gone out of style. Unfortunately, I was right to be concerned, there is way too much slow-motion in Wonder Woman. However, it didn’t bother me as much as I had feared. Ultimately, it is the villain and the end battle that stopped Wonder Woman from being one of the very best superhero films.

In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Martha Kent reminds Kal-El that he, ultimately, doesn’t need to be Earth’s savior, as he doesn’t owe the world anything. It’s a cold message for a cold movie universe that featured a take on one of the central superhero characters that was unenjoyable for the general movie going audience.

In Wonder Woman, there is a similar message given by a maternal figure. Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, tells Wonder Woman, her daughter, that mankind doesn’t deserve her. She’s right, but her daughter doesn’t listen. Her daughter is guided by principle, and that is the refreshing part about Wonder Woman. It feels genuine.

Having now seen Wonder Woman, I can say that the DC Cinematic Universe – the worlds of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad – doesn’t deserve Wonder Woman. Regardless, it is what the universe needs right now. Wonder Woman is a sincere, refreshing, and exciting film that is going to give the film universe the shot of adrenaline it needs.

8 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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