Movie: "Wonder Woman"
Director: Patty Jenkins
Runtime: 2 hours 21 minutes
Release Date: June 2
Superhero movies are so commonplace now that it’s difficult to stand out from the excess of CGI-infested punch fests of so many Marvel and DC films. Obviously standing out comes second to making exorbitant amounts of money, but DC has routinely separated themselves from their competition. Unfortunately, it has not been in favorable ways. While “Man of Steel” kicked off DC’s own cinematic universe with a lukewarm reception, “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad” completely bombed. This reviewer still claims that “BvS” is a much better movie than most believe (especially the extended cut), but one of the elements that was virtually universally acclaimed was Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman.
Just over a year later, Gadot reprises her role as Wonder Woman, this time in her own film. It may be redundant to comment on Wonder Woman’s importance to the film industry and the superhero genre, but there is a reason why it is being talked about so much. Boasting a female lead and a female director (Patty Jenkins), along with the added pressure of rejuvenating the DC Extended Universe, “Wonder Woman” was put in a very difficult place. Thankfully, Jenkins and crew do not have to deal with the disappointment and ire of fans like previous DC films. “Wonder Woman” adequately serves as a course correction for DC and proves the power of the superhero genre.
That being said, “Wonder Woman” is not a perfect movie. As much as humor was desperately needed in DC’s films, there are times that it feels out of place. The final 20 minutes of the film relegates itself to just another CGI-infused slugfest, and the slow start might annoy some. Still, these aren’t unique critiques and they could be attributed to almost any modern superhero movie. Wonder Woman is the most Marvel film yet, and it worked. But Wonder Woman did not forfeit the themes and cinematic style that writer Zack Snyder and others have helped create.
Spoilers aside, Wonder Woman’s story begins on the fictional island of Themyscira on which Diana Prince, daughter of Queen Hippolyta and the god Zeus, learns the history of the Amazons and of her own heritage. It’s quite a bit of set up, but it’s also never uninteresting. “Paradise Island” serves as a fantastic foil to the dark grey skies of London and the dirty trenches of war-torn Europe, and it finally brings much needed light to DC’s color palette. Once Wonder Woman’s mission is finally laid out, Diana leaves to bring peace to the world with American soldier Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) in tow.
Trevor’s inclusion in the film is a no brainer for those who know Wonder Woman’s origin story, but Pine brings a palpable charisma to a relatively bland character from the comics. It would be disingenuous of me to shy away from praising Pine’s role in the movie, as I believe his chemistry with Gadot turned a good movie into something even more. Pine plays the sidekick/romantic interest part so incredibly well that it’s a shame that we are unlikely to see his character again. However, Gadot is in no way outshined by Pine. Diana is unmistakably the protagonist and the film aims to tell her story through and through.
Gadot plays Diana with endearing naivety (not unlike Chris Evans’s Captain America, with which many people will draw comparisons), but also knowingly shows her military roots when Diana makes her way to the front lines. Her “coming-of-age” moment, in which she crosses No Man’s Land and helps the Allies move forward, will be talked about for years, but so will Diana’s sincere anguish when she personally sees the damage done by years of war. Perhaps the biggest theme of DC’s movies thus far has been that, as inherently evil as men seem to be, something allows mankind to be good. Bruce Wayne vocalizes this sentiment in “BvS,” and the entirety of “Wonder Woman” aims to reassert this claim — but with real hope and humor. As brutal and nonsensical as war can be, Diana discovers (or rather, confirms) that love and peace still have a place in our broken world.