Wonder Woman (2017)

Directed by Patty Jenkins

Contains spoilers.

DC has finally brought the big guns to the big screen. Other entries like Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn and Justice have been floundering in their portrayals and reception. Wonder Woman breaks the downward trend.

Princess Diana has only ever experienced life on the island of Themyscira, growing up sheltered by her mother, Queen Hippolyta. Raised under the belief that Ares, the God of War, will return and wreak havoc on the world, Diana believes wholeheartedly that herself and the Amazons have a responsibility to return to the world and protect it; Hippolyta wants nothing more than to protect her own people. Diana rebels from her mother's control, looking up to the ancient stories of her fellow Amazons, and asks her aunt, General Antiope, to teach her how to fight. When an American spy crashes his plane near the island, closely pursued by Germans, a battle ensues on the beaches. When the spy is interrogated he relieves the war raging through Europe and Diana decides that she must leave the island and stop Ares.

I'm going to get right to the point and say that the story is great. The events play out perfectly paced, building up tension and releasing it exactly as needed, until the very end when Ares is revealed. Throughout, Diana's naivety is underpinned by Captain Steven Trevor and his noblest desires to stop the war despite knowing [falsely, as it turns out,] that Ares doesn't exist. Diana believes that Ares is the reason the war has been ongoing, that he's the reason millions have died; Trevor doesn't want to disappoint her and, in truth, needs her strengths and abilities to help end the war, so he leads her on. At the same time, Jenkins and co. builds up German General Erich Ludendorff as the mastermind and ultimate evil. In the end, the revelation that Ares is actually behind everything is a shocking, underwhelming surprise, elevated by a disappointing exposition dump. The only salvation for Ares' involvement is the superpowered action that follows. Ultimately, using Ares and his powers of turning peace into war is something of a bombshell. Following his apparent demise the war seems to end spontaneously, with previous enemies embracing in peace.

 

Where can the DC universe go, now that there's no reason whatsoever for random violence? We could accept Ares' explanation that humans are inherently corrupt, susceptible to violence, but that would mean his involvement served absolutely no purpose except as Diana's reason for leaving the island. This catch-22 means that the better solution would be that Ares has actually been long dead, since the days of the Greco-Roman pantheon. It's a maddeningly disappointing inclusion in what's otherwise a fantastic story, even moreso because Ares actually seems like a fun villain. He should've either played a more prominent role throughout or Diana's naivety should've become unavoidably present as General Ludendorff turns out to be the reason for the war's continuation.

The characters are fantastic. In fact, as the movie continues it feels more and more like Gal Gadot has found the role she was born to play. Wonder Woman is brought to life with every facet of her being in perfect harmony with her actions, words, and the rest of the cast. Her naivety, strength, faith, belief... everything works. Gadot's chemistry with Chris Pine makes the characterizations all the better. There isn't a single character who feels out of place or unbelievable, with the exception of Ares.

Matthew Jensen's photography works well throughout the film, creating expansive environments and immersive atmospheres in every setting. The bright paradise of Themyscira contrasts beautifully against the start murkiness of Europe's industrially revolutionized skies and war-ravaged landscapes. And the imagery is amplified by Rupert Gregson-Williams' utterly electrifying, riveting score.

I'm utterly impressed. It's entirely possible that DC's failures thusfar have created lower expectations, but I don't think that's it. Gadot, Pine, Jenkins, et al have come together beautifully. The story of the lone Amazon intervening in World War 1 is brilliant to see. In truth, Wonder Woman has incredible similarities to Marvel's Captain America, but that can't really be helped; the two characters have had similar backgrounds since their inceptions.

While Ares' story is a letdown, his fight with Diana is not. The beauty and emotion brought to the fight and it's consequences are palpable. In truth, Wonder Woman is the big screen success that DC has been chasing in Marvel's wake. It's intriguing, pulse-pounding, action-packed, beautiful, and immersive.

That's really all there is to say. The movie is incredibly entertaining, funny, touching, beautiful, thrilling, and more, and all while being very well told and expertly shown.

 
 

TL;DR: I wanted to like this movie so badly. Thank Zeus, I haven't been let down. I've said for a while that Wonder Woman would be the Captain America of the DC cinematic universe, and now I get to say that I'm right. DC's TV shows are utterly campy and only moderately successful; their movies are underwhelming. Wonder Woman will henceforth be the savior of the company. That's all there is to it. Her strength, faith, bravado, innocence... and all under the guise of Gal Gadot. Where could this team go wrong?

  • Acting – 18 / 20
  • Story – 16 / 20
  • Cinematography – 18 / 20
  • Soundtrack – 9 / 10
  • Entertainment Factor – 9 / 10
  • Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Action – 7 / 10
  • Other – 6 / 10
 

Grade B = 83 / 100