Wonder Woman FILM REVIEW
Director: Patty Jenkins
Screenplay: Allan Heinberg
Story: Zack Snyder & Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Lucy Davis, Elena Anaya
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content
Running Time: 2 hours 21 minutes
**** out of *****
Photo: Warner Bros./DC Entertainment
Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) takes a stand for humanity during World War I.
After three films, MAN OF STEEL, BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE and SUICIDE SQUAD, it appeared as though the DC Extended Universe was in dire straits. Financially the property is doing just fine but creatively there was much to be desired. The cinematic universe had yet to achieve the level of its rival, Marvel Studios, and it certainly looks like it will always remain in its shadow. One of the problems the films have faced thus far is that many considered them to be too dour, too serious and by all accounts they really needed to lighten up. Time and again, Marvel has found that delicate balance between the light and the dark and the proof is in the pudding. Well, after three efforts and many lingering questions the DC Extended Universe finally has a noteworthy film in director Patty Jenkin's WONDER WOMAN.
When we first met Diana, Wonder Woman, it was in Zack Snyder's BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE. In that film we are told that she intervened once before in the follies of men and swore to never do it again. Jenkin's film not only presents the character's origin story but also what occurred during that intervention and how it shaped Diana's worldview. The film effectively introduces us to a world we have not seen before, albeit part of it through some lengthy exposition, the realm of Themyscira and its inhabitants, the Amazonians. The Amazons are a race of fierce and proud women warriors who are preparing for the return of Ares, the Greek god of war, their sworn enemy. The inhabitants live in isolation from the outside world, but are well aware of it, and it isn't until a downed pilot emerges that sets the inevitable in motion and Diana's journey of discovery begins.
WONDER WOMAN has numerous things working in its favor; many of which address the problems the other films had. Prior to her first appearance as the title character, most fans really only knew of Gal Gadot from the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise. Her brief stint in BvS certainly left an impression but the lingering question of could she carry an entire film let alone the mantle of a such an iconic character remained. The answer is a resounding yes. Gadot's earnestness and enthusiasm is quite infectious. She has a commanding presence and does a great job of portraying her character's convictions, feelings and empathy. The film has plenty of humor. It's easily the funniest of the films thus far. Unlike the other films, the humor is natural and doesn't feel forced. The 'fish out of water' element is a tried and true staple of film comedy and it works very well in this film. Not to say this film is a comedy by any stretch but the balance of comedy and drama in this film brings 'fun' to the DCEU. Unlike her fellow Justice League members, Diana has the benefit of having never had her own film before. There is no baggage or preconceived notions to hinder it. Well, it goes without saying this isn't meant to be Lynda Carter's WONDER WOMAN. This is a fresh and original take, for the DCEU at least, and as a result leaves a much more favorable impression.
Gadot has great chemistry with her co-star Chris Pine who plays Captain Steve Trevor. Pine would likely be considered the biggest name in this film but does a fine job of supporting Gadot in the title role. Much of the film's humor derives from the playful banter between the two of them and the levity is such a welcome diversion from the overwhelming seriousness of previous adventures. Trevor is a very likable character and is worthy of his own spinoff film with his fellow mates in combat. The film also stars Connie Nielsen as Diana's mother, Hippolyta. Robin Wright as Antiope, the Themyscira's greatest warrior. Danny Huston as the villainous Ludendorff. Lucy Davis has a humorous turn as Etta, Trevor's secretary.
Working from a screenplay by Allan Heinberg, author of the graphic novel "WONDER WOMAN: WHO IS WONDER WOMAN?", director Jenkins has crafted a very engaging and fast paced film that, for the most part, doesn't even feel like 141 minutes. There appears to be some Snyder influence, the use of slow-motion in particular, but this is very much her vision and it's quite exquisite. The juxtaposition of Diana in full regalia on the battlefield would invite snickers in the hands of other directors but in her hands it it is just simply damn cool. To paraphrase a character from the film 'terrifying and arousing.' The action set-pieces are well staged. The most memorable being where Diana joins the battle and we begin to really see just what she is capable of. Jenkins handles her first Hollywood blockbuster, she last gave us the Academy Award winning independent film MONSTER, with aplomb. Fans can rest easy knowing she will be at the helm of the sequel.
WONDER WOMAN may not be the perfect comic book film, I had some issues with third act plot developments, a rather telegraphed character reveal and an abundance of CGI, but it by all means has given the DCEU a nudge in the right direction. It is certainly the best film in the DCEU and has brought a sense of fun to the mix, a three-letter word that the franchise was sorely lacking. Buoyed by a strong performance by Gadot, solid chemistry between Gadot and Pine, a compelling origin story and assured direction by Jenkins WONDER WOMAN is a solid film that not only will have you wanting to see it again but looking forward to the next adventure. Diana will appear in Zack Snyder's JUSTICE LEAGUE, out November 17, 2017, before returning in her next stand-alone film.
***** = Outstanding ****1/2 = Excellent **** = Very Good ***1/2 = Above Average
*** = Good **1/2 = Mediocre ** = Fair *1/2 = Poor * = Bad 1/2* = Abysmal