This review contains spoilers for the 2017 film, Wonder Woman.
After debuting in comics 76 years ago, DC Comic’s iconic heroine, Wonder Woman, finally gets her solo featured film. There was a reason for concern, however, as history has not been good for superheroes films with a female lead. With films such as Elektra and Catwoman, they have underperformed at the box office and the heroes failed to inspire. The same can also be said of the recent films from the DC Entertainment Universe (DCEU) (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, and Man of Steel). With the films generally regarded as disappointing with uninspiring heroes, the DCEU needed Wonder Woman to be a hero in more ways than one. I’m extremely happy to say that Wonder Woman is the film that will turn the corner for the DCEU to bring that sense of hope and optimism to its heroes and provide the spark needed to let studios know that superhero films with a female lead can be successful. Wonder Woman is a film that contains plenty of heart and heroism to inspire women, men, and children alike.
Directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster) and starring Gal Gadot (The Fast and the Furious), Wonder Woman is an origin story about Diana, Princess of the Amazons. They reside on the island of Themyscira, also known as Paradise Island, a majestic island of women created by the Gods (as told through an amazing animated sequence where the painting comes to life), which has gorgeous waterfalls, lush foliage, beautiful architecture and is just heavenly to look at. When an American spy, Steve Trevor, crashes down into waters near the island, he informs the Amazons that there is a war raging outside of Themyscira. It is a war to end all wars and Diana believes that the God of War, Ares is behind it, and she vows to put an end to it.
Written by Allan Heinberg with contributions from Geoff Johns, Jason Fuchs, and Zack Snyder, they manage to deliver a story of a hero that can inspire others (which is something sorely missing from the previous DCEU entries). Diana is the hero we need, for the DCEU and for the audience to look up to during our troubled times in the real world. She is a hero of love and kindness who believes humanity is worth saving. She wants to make the world a better place and will fight to end wars and help those in need. Patty Jenkins and company really knocked it out of the park in bringing this heroine to the big screen.
Dance of the Amazons
When it came time for the battle between the Amazons and the German forces who have followed Steve Trevor, I was not ready for what Patty Jenkins would deliver here. Patty directs this battle with wondrous grace and beauty. Despite seeing glimpses of the battle in the first trailer (the only trailer I watched out of the 20 or so released), I realized the trailer did not do this scene justice. The battle was absolutely remarkable. When the Amazons came down to fight, their style of fighting, in contrast to the men with firearms, was graceful and a beauty to behold. The women swung down on ropes and spun around in the air as if they were in Cirque du Soleil. There was so much happening I felt if I blinked, I was going to miss something. Robin Wright (Princess Bride) as General Antiope was just awesome, as she flipped and twirled about in battle while incredibly shooting three arrows at one time. I truly wish we could have spent more time with her and the Amazons. Kudos to Jenkins direction here as the fighting style of the Amazons was just a joy to watch.
No Mans Land
If there is one scene that the audience will remember from this film, it will be Diana’s entrance into No Mans Land. Before Diana’s arrival to No Man’s Land, where the Germans and Brits have been unable to advance for a year, she is exposed to the horrors of war as she passes by the mistreatment of animals and people either injured or fatally wounded from the war. Diana wants to stop and help them but is continuously told that there is no time and she cannot save everyone. Eventually, Diana cannot take anymore and can no longer sit idly by and allow such suffering. Steve tells her “there is nothing we can do”, but she’s had enough. “You’re right,” she says. “But it’s what I am going to do.” Diana removes her cloak, revealing her armor, and slowly climbs the ladder out of the trench. She steps onto the battlefield as a shining beacon of hope through the gray and slowly makes her way across, continuously deflecting man’s gunfire with her wrists shot after shot, and charges forward until she eventually makes her stand with her shield taking all the fire. Steve Trevor is inspired and yells at the men to follow. The way Patty Jenkins captures the moment, along with the impeccably timed score by Rupert Gregson-Williams is emotionally epic. The very sight of this woman, this compassionate hero, making her appearance alone on the battlefield to fight for the people in the small village who cannot, and inspiring the men to follow her is powerful, moving, and I bit my lip hard as I began fighting back the tears. This is Wonder Woman, and this is one of the best scenes in superhero film history.
Diana and Steve and 1918
We only got to spend a brief time with Gal Gadot as Diana in Batman v Superman, in which she was the highlight of, and for the most part I am only familiar with Gal’s acting as a co-star in the Fast and Furious films, so this film was a true test to see how Gal would perform as the Amazon Princess and as a lead in a big blockbuster film. Quite frankly, Gal was amazing. She really surprised me with the range she displays in this film. She pulls off her comedic bits wonderfully, such as Diana’s moments in London where we see her turn to mush over the sight of a baby and later getting a delicious taste of ice cream which both brought a big smile to my face. Gal handles all this in charming fashion. In contrast to this emotion, when a village Diana had previously liberated is hit with gas, she arrives to find them dead. The pain this compassionate hero feels is heart-wrenching, and this along with the confusion of how something this awful could happen are on full display on Gal’s face. Lastly, when Diana hears in a meeting room that the military is willing to send soldiers to their deaths while the British general sits comfortably in his chair, she is enraged and scolds him, letting him know that a good general would fight alongside his men. Gal was able to deliver this brilliantly with heart and strength and made me want to raise my fist in the air.
Gal and Chris Pine are charming as the two leads and the time spent with them was a joy. As Diana and Steve made their way to London in a small boat, there were some great comedic moments that occur such as Diana revealing to Steve that she is the daughter of Zeus (which is “neat”), a talk of . . . pleasure on Themyscira, and the two banter about where one should sleep. It is a fantastic scene that Gal and Chris apparently ad-libbed. Thanks to a wonderful script by Allan Heinberg, Patti’s direction, and a great chemistry between the Gal and Chris, the romance that develops between Diana and Steve is one of the best in the superhero genre. Their romance is not forced, but one that develops through respect and admiration of one another.
Everything was going so well with this film. The pace was great, the action was stylish and dramatic, the comedic moments hit so well and Diana’s arc was very well done. Then the final 20 minutes arrive and the ending comes down to a CGI battle between her and Ares. Having to include some big computer-generated battle tends to be a common thing in the superhero films, good or bad, and here it would have benefitted from not having it. For example, when Diana kills General Ludendorff (Danny Huston), and she finds he is not Ares, it would have been better if it came down to how Diana struggles with Ares not being real and whether or not humanity is truly good or bad and worth saving. Luckily the end battle is not enough to ruin the film as it is interlaced with a touching moment between Diana and Steve, where she comes to the realization through love and sacrifice, humanity is worth saving, despite our flaws, and this ignites her godlike powers within to unleash upon Ares and defeat him.
I absolutely loved this film. Sure it takes a bit of a tumble in the last 20 minutes with the typical superhero CGI battle, but the rest of the film is 5-star territory for me. Patty Jenkins directed the hell out of this origin story and Rupert Gregson-Williams’ soaring score with pounding drums at all the right moments help make this a truly epic experience. Diana is an inspiring compassionate hero and it’s incredible that Jenkins and company captured her heroic heart so well. Other superhero films have their heroic acts such as Spider-man saving the subway train from falling off the tracks in Spider-man 2, the Avengers helping the civilians during the battle in NYC, and of course Superman (Christopher Reeves) saving Lois in the helicopter in his first film, but none has hit me more emotionally than Diana’s actions in the No Man’s Land scene. Full of heart and heroism, Wonder Woman is one of the best superhero films out there and is an inspiration to everyone.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ½