Review - Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman (2017), PG-13, 141 minutes - Anticipation for this film has steadily increased over the past year, since the world first got a glimpse of Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, an appearance of limited screen time that was arguably the highlight of the film. As superhero films have risen to box office dominance over the last seventeen years, there has not yet been a successful female led superhero film released. That all changed this past weekend with this film directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gadot (reprising her role from Batman v Superman). Wonder Woman is a breath of fresh air for the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) and has already broken box office records.

Wonder Woman uses a present day sequence (that loosely ties into existing DCEU continuity) to frame Diana's (Gadot) origin story, which is told via a World War I era flashback.  Diana grows up as an inquisitive, rebellious youth on the secluded, Amazon-inhabited, island of Themyscira, veiled from man's world by the Gods. Against her mother Queen Hyppolyta's (Connie Nielsen) wishes, she trains to become a warrior with Antiope (Robin Wright), the Amazonian General.  After Diana rescues pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) from his plane's wreckage just off Themyscira's shores, she is introduced to the world and ways of man.  Queen Hippolyta feels the Amazons should not get involved in the problems of man, but Diana believes that only Ares (the God of War) could be behind the 'War to End All Wars' that Steve speaks of and vows to help in any way that she can.  After all, she argues, the Amazons were placed on Themyscira to one day combat Ares' evil. Queen Hippolyta decrees that the Amazons will not help mankind, causing Diana to rebelliously makes a bargain with Steve: she'll show him the way off of the island of Themyscira if he will take her to he front lines of the war so that she may combat Ares.

Gal Gadot looked the part of Wonder Woman in her short time on screen in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but she fully realizes and embodies the character in this film. My generation grew up with Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, and she set the standard for the character in much the same way Christopher Reeve did with Superman, but make no mistake, with this film Gal Gadot takes the reigns of the Lasso of Truth and owns the roll in every way possible. She's strong, beautiful, sensitive, empathetic, confident, humble and is just an all around bad-ass, just as seventy five years worth of comic book history dictates she should be.  Her supporting cast is equally as impressive, with Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, and Chris Pine all fitting their characters perfectly.  Even the secondary characters were wonderful, leaving you wanting more than the limited screen time in which they are seen: Lucy Davis (Etta Candy), Saïd Taghmaoui (Sameer), Ewan Bremner (Charlie), Eugene Brave Rock (The Chief).  And don't forget the villains: Elena Anaya (Dr. Maru/Poison) and  Danny Huston (General Ludendorff), both of whom provide a very realistic and potentially devastating threat to the world.

Director Patty Jenkins did a wonderful (no pun intended) job of balancing the drama and the action throughout the film.  She expertly crafted a coming of age tale that in no way undermines the character's core characteristics and values.  We see a little girl grow into a strong, steadfast woman, hellbent on doing what is best for the whole as opposed to that of the few.  We see that woman dropped into an unknown world, causing just as much distraction and confusion as she is experiencing herself.  We see her fall in love and suffer through anguish. There is war and battle and death, but virtually no blood. And there is no bad language that I can remember.  Jenkins does this all so deftly as to not rely on any gratuitousness or over-sexualization. Wonder Woman is the epitome of an all ages friendly PG-13 film and is a very nice change from the over-all grim darkness of the previous DCEU films.

The score, provided by Rupert Gregson-Williams is also enjoyable.  I've listened to it a number of times over the past week since seeing the film and the thunderous Wonder Woman theme that debuted in Batman v Superman doesn't stick out nearly as badly as I feared it would.  It definitely still stands out the majority of the rest of the score, but the way it was worked into the film actually fits pretty well.

Patty Jenkins has said that she already has an idea for how to handle a sequel, but I don't believe she has officially signed on yet.  I for one hope that she does.  I feel like she has a handle on this character and how she should be dealt with in much the same way James Gunn does with Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy.  The good news for Wonder Woman fans is that we don't have to wait long to see her on the big screen again as she'll be an integral part of this winter's Justice League film. Whether you are a long time Wonder Woman fan or you are new to the character, you'll more than likely love this film.  All in all, I can easily say that Wonder Woman is my favorite DCEU film to date and I can't wait to see where they go with her next film.












*****SPOILERS*****


- Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston in October 1941's All-Star Comics #8.

- Patty Jenkins has said that she drew the most inspiration from two highly regarded comic book runs: George Perez's from Wonder Woman (1987) #1-62, and Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang's from Wonder Woman (2011) # 0-35.

- I absolutely loved that they melded the original origin story (both Moulton Marston and Perez) with the more modern take (Azzarello) to create Diana's origin story for this film.

- Before I get any farther, I have to mention David Thewlis.  I purposely didn't mention him in the main body of my review as I was trying to keep it as spoiler free as possible.  The twist that his character, Sir Patrick, was actually Ares and that he was the one manipulating everyone in an effort to make Diana see his side of things was well done.  Kudos to Warner Bros. and DC for keeping not just Ares' involvement in the film fairly under wraps in general, but specifically the fact that Sir Patrick was the main villain all along.  That is the sort of thing that generally gets out to the public during the production of a film.

- Lucy Davis' portrayal of Etta Candy was wonderful.  She added a lot of humor to the film in her limited time on screen.  None of it felt forced, which is always important when it comes to adding humor to a film like this.  Her bits were all naturally occurring from interactions with Diana and Diana's attempts to adjust to man's world. 

- Diana is not actually referred to as Wonder Woman at any point during the film.

- My one nit-pick would be that there were too many slow-motion action sequences. This is a problem across all of the DCEU films in my opinion.  It is a visual style that Zack Snyder has always incorporated in his films, and it can look really cool when it isn't over done.  I had hoped that since this film was the first DCEU film directed by someone other than Snyder that this effect may not be incorporated as much.

- The scene in which Diana is fully revealed as the Wonder Woman we all know is a really cool sequence, despite the overuse of slow motion.  She climbs out of the trench on the front lines and fights her way across the war-torn wasteland to the small village of Veld, then liberates it with the help of Steve and his men.

- Zack Snyder, DCEU architect and director of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had a cameo in this film.  He was a soldier by a tank in the background when Diana, Steve, Sameer, Charlie, and The Chief had their picture taken after liberating Veld.  I didn't notice this myself, but read about it online.

- I didn't recognize her myself (pulled this from the web also), Ann Wolfe, who many would argue is the greatest female boxer ever, played Artemis.

- The scene in which Diana discovers ice cream is adapted from both the comics and DC's animated line of films.  It first appeared in Geoff Johns' Justice League (2011) #3, and then again in 2014's animated Justice League: War.  I love how it shows how the simplest things that we take for granted on a daily basis, can be so amazing to those experiencing them for the first time. 

- I really liked how we were shown Diana being inquisitive and rebellious as a child.  That's the way it seems at first, but later we learn that Diana is actually the 'God Killer' being protected by the Amazons and not the sword of the same name as she was told.  So was she acting out of rebelliousness or was it just her nature all along?

- While interrogating Steve on Themyscira, the Amazons use Wonder Woman's classic Lasso of Truth and refer to it by its name from the comics: The Lasso of Hestia.

- At one point in time Steve doesn't even try and pronounce Themyscira.  Instead he refers to the island of the Amazons as 'Paradise Island', a nickname for Themyscira from the comics.

- I loved how they went back in history and used a World War I era setting to tell this tale (similar to the way Marvel did with Captain America: The First Avenger's World War II setting).  I also really liked how they handled the relationship between Diana and Steve.  I feel that his death fit the story, and the timeline well - he would be ancient in present day, but it does suck in that he was a very well-rounded, likable character.  I guess it just adds that much more weight to his death. 

- The present day framing sequence revolving around Bruce Wayne sending Diana the original photo of her, Steve, and his men after they liberated Veld works very well in splicing this World War I era story into the greater DCEU. 

- Wonder Woman has already broken the box office record for largest opening by a female-directed film, taking in over $100 million its opening weekend.  That spot was previously held by Fifty Shades of Grey (2015), directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, which opened with $85.1 million.

- Prior to the last year, I had not read much of Wonder Woman's seventy five year comic book history.  And while what I have read in that time is still an overwhelming minority of the material out there, Wonder Woman has become one of my favorite DC characters and I have really enjoyed what I have read, specifically the material by George Perez, Greg Rucka, and Brian Azzarello.  Rucka's current run on Wonder Woman with artists Liam Sharpe and Nicola Scott for DC's Rebirth-era has been quite good and is a wonderful starting point for anyone looking to get into the character.  

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