Movie Review: Wonder Woman is a Vast Improvement Over Her DC Counterparts
I have not been a fan of DC's attempts thus far in their connected cinematic universe. The films have relied too heavily on nu-metal reimaginings of classic comic book figures as if they believe audiences want darkness and despair.
Man of Steel turns the Great American Boy Scout Superman into a reluctant killer who does not attempt to limit collateral damage when entering battle. Batman v. Superman turns Batman into a gun lover when an integral component of Batman's character is his "no gun" rule due to the fate of his parents. Suicide Squad wants desperately to be the Hot Topic remix of Guardians of the Galaxy.
Based on my experiences with these prior films, I was weary about Wonder Woman 's chances to be a good film, but I remained carefully optimistic based on Gal Gadot's prior performance in Batman v. Superman as well as the fact that director Patty Jenkins's last movie Monster is a terrific film. Fortunately, Wonder Woman is a delight.
The film takes its time establishing Wonder Woman's mythology as an Amazonian warrior living on the hidden island of Themiscira, far away from the reach of mankind. She trains for battle against Ares, the God of War, when British spy Steve Trevor (played with affable sincerity by Chris Pine) crash lands on her island. Wonder Woman then takes off to assist Steve, as she believes she alone can stop World War I.
While the description of the film sounds like it can get dark, Patti Jenkins imbues the film with much needed levity and gives Wonder Woman not just physical strength, but empathy and warmth. Wonder Woman wants to help, and she cannot stand the pain of seeing others suffer. She is also incredibly naive as to the ways of man, after living on an island for thousands of years populated only with Amazonian goddesses. This characterization allows the audience to care about her and her plight, and also allows for great comedy bits between its lead characters. Gal Gadot and Chris Pine have great chemistry together, and their relationship is believable.
This is easily the best film in DC's extended franchise, and it treats the characters with respect for their historical comic book portrayals. The film evokes Richard Donner's Superman in its setup and in the way it focuses on its characters in the first 2/3rds of the film.
The film does get darker once Wonder Woman is on the front lines of battle, but that is to be expected in a movie with a World War l setting. There are a few moments that I am concerned about letting my 7 year old daughter watching, but I will still let her see the film because despite the sadness and darkness that plagues the last portion of the film, Wonder Woman remains a shining beacon of hope that fights for what she believes in. I think there's a lesson here for my daughter, and I believe she will feel empowered by it.
The final 20 minutes turn into a CGI battlethon, which is expected in films like this, but everything that comes before makes this an instant classic.