By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
After getting a brief, but exciting cinematic introduction in Batman v. Superman, Wonder Woman returns with her own feature film entry in the DC Extended Universe, and gets a proper origin story treatment that actually rivals some of Marvel’s top hero movies. Directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster), Wonder Woman offers a thrilling movie full of heart and gravity, but one that has plenty of lighthearted humor. Jenkins and the writers remain true and faithful to the mythology of Princess Diana of Theymyscira, as well as her role as a wartime superhero. Fans of the comic stories should have a great time with this adaptation, but even audiences not that familiar with the character will find plenty to enjoy in this highly entertaining summer blockbuster.
Even though Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) recently joined Batman and Superman in battle against Doomsday, her age is far beyond her vibrant and youthful appearance. Wonder Woman was born Princess Diana of the paradise island Themyscira where she and other Amazon women live in a hidden part of the world. During World War I, Allied spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands in the ocean near the island and Diana saves him from drowning. Trevor explains to the Amazon women that a “war to end all wars” is taking place not far from there, and that it is only a matter of time before the Germans and the Central Powers try to conquer the island. Compelled by Trevor’s descriptions of the war and highly curious about the outside world, Diana leaves with Trevor to help the Allies win the war.
Written by Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder and Jason Fuchs, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman is the first DCEU film to perfectly capture the spirit and tone of its hero and presents her story almost flawlessly. The movie shares some common elements with both Marvel’s Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, but has a heart and style of its own. Jenkins and the writers do an exceptional job with the character development of Diana showing her as a strong and defiant young woman who not only proves herself as a warrior, but one capable of leading and inspiring others. The filmmakers also present a good-natured and slightly innocent side of Diana, but not one that is completely ignorant or weak-minded. Diana represents an ideal woman–physically strong, mentally sharp, but with a heart full of love and compassion.
Diana’s altruistic earnestness discovers the painful, harsh realities of war, and the ugly darkside of humanity. Jenkins, her cinematographer Matthew Jensen and the production and effects teams offer some extraordinary visuals that juxtapose the flawless, colorful beauty of Themyscira with the bleak, stark and incendiary hideousness of Europe during World War I. The CGI does have some weak moments, particularly in some scenes where Diana is leaping or showing her incredible strength, but these gripes are pretty minor, considering how well executed everything else is.
The movie has an excellent cast with most of the actors offering outstanding work. On Themyscira the lovely Connie Nielsen delivers a stellar turn as Diana’s mother Queen Hippolyta. Talented, Texas-born actress Robin Wright brings the perfect amount of fierce intensity and strength to Diana’s aunt, and leader of the Amazon warriors, General Antiope. Danny Huston also brings a hunger and intensity to his role as German leader Ludendorff and Elena Anaya portrays his head scientist Dr. Maru with creepy and cold-hearted collectedness. Chris Pine offers a great, but deliberately restrained performance as Steve Trevor, a charming leading man that never tries to outshine the star of the movie Gal Gadot.
Gadot is definitely given her moment to shine here, and shine brightly she does. The beautiful and statuesque actress is not only tremendously easy on the eyes, she superbly portrays the spirit, strength and lovable personality of Wonder Woman. In the supporting roles, David Thewlis brings a Shakespearian quality to his performance as Sir Patrick a British politician with a surprising backstory and French actor Said Taghmaoui brings much wit and comic timing to his amiable turn as mercenary Sameer. Actors Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting 1 & 2) and Eugene Brave Rock portray his associates Charlie and The Chief with much aplomb. Finally, Lucy Davis often steals the show as Steve Trevor’s sweet and rather amusing secretary Etta.
Sweet and amusing are also two fine words that describe this movie, but only describe two of several positive elements of this latest entry in the DCEU. Patty Jenkins, crew and cast have delivered not only a great DC superhero movie, but one that honors and celebrates the strengths and hearts of our extraordinary women in the world. It is not only about time that Warner Bros. and DC have come through with a film that could compete with films of the MCU, it is about time that a female hero gets to enjoy the spotlight in her very own movie. It is both a step in the right direction for DC and for cinema as a whole.