Wonder Woman: Carrying The DCEU Without Breaking A Sweat

Boy, it sure has taken a while, huh? Hopefully, you’ve read our piece about why it took so long for a Wonder Woman movie to be made. Don’t worry, the author of that piece isn’t done talking about this film. His review will be more educated than mine, but it wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t wedge my thoughts in first.

Oh geez, I started a review of Wonder Woman with the word “boy” didn’t I? Well, my backspace key is broken. Let’s jump right in!

 

THIS IS A WONDER WOMAN ORIGIN STORY, SO IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED ON THAT, SKIP AHEAD.

The movie both opens and closes with Diana Prince in the present day. We see her receiving a very special picture, the same one that we see briefly in Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, revealing her almost ageless quality. Bruce Wayne requests to hear her story sometime, and this serves as our framing device for the film.

We begin on the mystical island of Themyscira, home of the Amazons. We meet a young Diana, who desperately wants to train to be a great warrior. Unfortunately, her mother is Queen Hippolyta, and she adamantly refuses to allow this. She tells her daughter the story of how man was created in the image of the (Greek) gods, and how they enslaved the Amazons. Ares, the god of war, corrupted man and turned on his fellow gods, killing all of them. Just before his demise, Zeus leaves a special secret weapon for the Amazons to defeat Ares in the event of his return, and we are shown a sword with an inscription along the blade.

Kids will be kids, and Diana begins training in secret. When she is discovered, her mother decides that the only way she will be trained if she goes through the most difficult training that anyone has ever had to go through. Since she’s the title character and very special, she succeeds, though she doesn’t entirely know her own strength.

While looking out over a cliff, Diana sees an airplane appear through the forcefield that shields the island from the outside world. It crashes in the ocean, and she dives in to save the pilot. This just happens to be Steve Trevor, an American working as a spy for British Intelligence. Not far behind him are several German ships carrying soldiers, who chase after Steve and storm the beach. Diana’s fellow Amazons arrive to help turn the fight, though they take casualties. Antiope, Diana’s aunt and trainer, dives in front of her to take a literal bullet before Trevor can shoot the soldier.

The Amazons debate over whether to kill Steve or just keep him captive to protect their island as he tries to explain the war going on all around them. They all remain unconvinced except for Diana, who steals the sword, a shield, and some armor in order to break Steve out and escape. Hippolyta catches them just before they set sail, wishing her well in her quest.

Through the trip and upon their arrival in London, we get some fairly typical fish-out-of-water storytelling about Diana not understanding the way things work here, and Steve is constantly trying to make sure she doesn’t stand out. Steve delivers his intel to his superiors, but they conclude that he is to make no action of them since they’re working towards an armistice. Diana challenges Steve’s bravery, not realizing that he plans to go through with it anyways. He begins to assemble a team, when he runs into one of those superiors from the war cabinet, Sir Patrick Morgan. Morgan believes that Steve is right, but had to put on a show because of his position. He agrees to secretly fund them as they try to destroy a German factory creating poison gasses, led by General Ludendorff, whom Diana believes to be Ares.

The next section doesn’t play nearly as well on paper as it does when watching, so I’ll try to be brief (since I haven’t been so far, oops). When they get to the trenches, Diana is faced with the horrors of man-made war. Instead of shrugging it off or hiding from it, she refuses to allow it to continue, and begins to charge the enemy forces by herself. Seeing her courage and strength, the soldier follow her lead take the enemies down. Diana, Steve, and their compatriots keep moving to a town that has been overrun, and they work together to clear out the German soldiers, leaving the citizens to celebrate their new heroes.

They discover that Ludendorff will be attending a gala relatively nearby, so Steve and Diana try to infiltrate the party. They end up splitting paths because they differ on how to move next. Steve wants to be very careful in his moves and have all the information he can, but Diana just wants to destroy the man she believes to be Ares. She takes off and finds him, and she kills him after a struggle, but nothing changes. Her very belief system is shaken as Steve tries to explain that sometimes people aren’t always good.

It turns out, Diana was right about Ares being behind it, but it was actually Sir Patrick Morgan, who appears and explains how all he has done is whisper ideas to people, and it was their choice to follow through with it. She tries to destroy him with the sword, but the sword practically evaporates upon contact. Ares explains that the actual “godkiller” is Diana herself, as she is a true child of Zeus. As he overpowers her, Steve hijacks a plane filled with the deadly gas. He knows that a timer is set and the gas will go off regardless of the location of the plane, and he realizes that he has to fly the plane as high up as he can and detonate the gas. He aims his pistol at the canisters, takes a second to process it, and pulls the trigger. Seeing the plane explode, Diana’s rage fills her with strength, and she’s able to destroy Ares.

We cut back to the present, where she thanks Bruce Wayne for bringing Steve back to her. Cut to black.

 

WHEW, THAT WAS LONG WINDED. MY BAD. SPOILERS ARE DONE.

I definitely have a few issues with this film, but they are so relatively minute that I’ll get them out of the way first.

For a film that this sort of budget, the CG at times was perplexingly bad. There were a couple of moments that my mother (who doesn’t pay too much attention to CG quality because she isn’t a monster like me) brought up how fake things looked. Even though this isn’t a Zack Snyder directed film, there is still an egregious amount of slow-motion in fight scenes, which is distracting. Like most superhero movies, the villains are really good actors playing “characters” who probably are just one adjective on a sheet of paper, but the adjective this time is “German”. The dialogue has some incredibly cheesy tendencies as well, and most actors wouldn’t be able to pull that off, so I don’t blame Gal Gadot.

Speaking of Gal Gadot, let’s get into why this film works. Prior to Wonder Woman, I wasn’t entirely sure how well I trusted her as an actress. Many people claimed that she was the highlight of Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice but I thought she did her job without stealing too much spotlight. I recently came around to her performance in Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6, but that’s mostly just natural charisma and chemistry with Sung Kang. Now, though, I see real and true improvement in her ability. Sure, you don’t need to be trained in Shakespeare to lead a superhero film, but Gadot handles it with ease. She still is a ball of pure charisma and screen presence, but she’s also much better at carrying it through smaller scenes, and I believe she’ll get better every film at this rate.

I don’t necessarily want to make Wonder Woman all about a dude, but I feel it would be a crime to not emphasize just how much of a national treasure that Chris Pine is, and he should be treated as such. He’s the biggest reason that 2009’s Star Trek and it’s sequels have worked as well as they did, he was the best part about Into The Woods, and he branched out in smaller films like The Finest Hours and Z For Zachariah. Last year with Hell Or High Water, Pine proved that he was a top-tier actor who truly deserves our attention and praise, and he does wonders (oh man, my bad) with Wonder Woman. His comedic sensibilities bring most of the lightness in between war scenes, and he does it all without upstaging Gadot, and that is not easy to manage. His sole purpose in this film is support Gadot and he does it with flair.

Clearly, we need to talk about Patty Jenkins. Some people were in an uproar that studio execs may have been nervous about a second-time feature director taking on a big budget blockbuster after making a small (although acclaimed) film over 10 years earlier. To be fair, Wonder Woman a budget of almost $150 million compared to Monster‘s $8 million, and I was equally apprehensive about Colin Trevorrow on Jurassic World and Gareth Edwards on Godzilla. Deep down, I knew I had nothing to worry about, and Jenkins reminded me of that by making a damn good movie. She really understood her characters and worked to elevate them in every scene possible. She made the film more about the people and their interactions instead of the fights and explosions. I would even go as far as saying she surpassed Monster, which is a mostly good film with a terrific performance.

Not only is Wonder Woman arguably the most significant superhero film, it is absolutely worthy of the praise. It isn’t perfect, of course, but it is absolutely in the upper echelon of the genre. Hopefully, the success of this film means not only more female-led blockbusters but also more female-directed films as well.

 

Wonder Woman: 8/10

Nick Potter

Co-founder of The Filmsmiths. Degree in Broadcast & Cinematic Arts with a minor in Cinema Studies from Central Michigan University. Pretty much the barbecue sauce of people but I'm doing my best.

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