In Review: Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is a blast of optimism, hope, and joy that DC films have woefully been lacking.

Wonder Woman

Premiered on June 2, 2017. 141 minutes, rated PG-13.

Directed by Patty Jenkins

Screenplay by Allan Heinberg, from a story by Zack Snyder & Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs

Does it live up to the hype? Compared to all the other DC Universe films, oh, yes. Is it the best superhero film made? No. However, this is the most enjoyable DC film since 1978’s Superman. This will be the first DC superhero film my household purchases when it comes out on DVD.

Normally, origin stories are an utter drag in a comic book film, because the audience is so familiar with a character’s beginnings. Not here. Most people know the character lived on women-only Paradise Island and left in an invisible jet to help the world. This origin is much more tied into the classical gods and the movie has a very creative way to give the origin, in a tale told to little Diana by her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). It’s concise and visually impressive. Wanting to learn to fight like everyone else does on the island, Diana sneaks away from her bed at night to train with Antiope (Robin Wright). The Queen and Antiope clash over the child’s training as Hippolyta fears it will only draw “him.” However, the Queen realizes she needs to continue, in fact to be trained harder than anyone Antiope has trained anyone before. A smooth transition to the present, Diana is now played by Gal Gadot and is quite the fighter. When she loses her focus momentarily, Antiope tears into her, prompting a response from Diana that has her realizing she is very different.

Upset at what she’s done, she runs to view the ocean in contemplation and that’s when a plane crashes into the water, penetrating the invisible border to the island. She dives in and rescues Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). She barely has time to learn his name and discover that he’s a man, when those that were pursuing him arrive. There’s an awesome battle on the beach where the Amazons fight the soldiers, and it’s ugly on both sides. Trevor is interrogated with the lasso of Hephaestus and tells them why he was being chased and about the world war, the war to end all wars. This terrifies the Amazons, but Diana wants to help, recalling her mother’s tales how all wars are started by Ares, and if he’s killed, all war will stop. She wants to find and kill Ares to stop the war. She leaves the island with Trevor and the first third of the movie is done. As a side note, there’s a lot more of Pine in this movie than in any other film he’s done. It’s absolutely appropriate for the story and made my wife, and several other women in the audience, very happy.

There’s a fun scene between Diana and Steve on their trip to England, her meeting with Etta Candy (Lucy Davis) is also fun as she acquires more suitable garb before meeting Sir Patrick (David Thewlis), whose guidance sends her and Steve to the front line. There she meets with Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui), Charlie (Ewen Bremner), and the Chief (Eugene Brave Rock). Sameer is the most developed of the characters and has the most to do and the best lines. The horrors of the war hit Diana hard and she decides to take action, because she can. The action sequence where she and her allies take on the Germans is spectacular. It is one of the film’s highlights. What follows after this is terrific character building. Nothing is filler or fake. It is as fantastic as the action. The scenes where Diana and Steve just talk rival the action constantly. If the movie had ended after this, I would have been perfectly happy.

It’s the last third of the film where it begins to suffer. The heroes are split up, rightfully so, but Diana’s battle was too much. It was too predictable for who the villain is and how the battle played out. It was the expected superhero fight that all hero movies, be they DC or Marvel, have to end with. Its outcome held no tension whatsoever. What was surprising is the fate of one of her friends, actually eliciting gasps from several in the full theater when I saw the film. The film ends in the present, as it started, with a nice nod to a Mr. Wayne.

The final line: The acting is great, the action tops, the special effects believable, the laughs honest, and the message outstanding. Wonder Woman is a blast of optimism, hope, and joy that DC films have woefully been lacking. The only nick is that final, all important battle. When I left the theater, a little girl no older than six was dressed as Wonder Woman and was running around her parents proudly saying who she was with a smile. It’s about damn time. Overall grade: B+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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