One of the most stunning things about Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman is not its thrilling action, but its overall ambition. Rarely has a summer blockbuster been so in tune with the foibles of mankind while still being a thoroughly entertaining ride from start to finish. It is not everyday you come across a film that takes a moment, even if a brief one in some instances, to comment on the nature of war, the unlawful appropriation of indigenous land, racism in Hollywood and PTSD.
All of this while single-handedly carrying the battered and bruised DC Extended Universe (DCEU) on its back.
The first female superhero movie to be released in over a decade…let that sink in for a minute…Wonder Woman is exactly the type of comic book movie that the DCEU should be building its universe around. Aside from having a fully realized female lead kicking ass, the film also embraces diversity in the most natural way. No female character is treated as an object to stimulate teenage boys, and the minority members of the cast, specifically in Wonder Woman’s rogue team, all have meaningful contributions at every stage of the mission.
An origin story told via flashback, Jenkins’ film shows that Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) had the warrior spirit within her from a very young age. Raised on the island of Themyscira, an Amazonian land made by Zeus, Diana desired to learn the fighting techniques of the Amazon, like her aunt General Antiope (Robin Wright), much to the chagrin of her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). In hopes of swaying her daughter away from discovering her true destiny, Hippolyta relays the story of why the Amazons train on the secluded island in preparation for the return Ares, the God of War.
Banished by Zeus for his betrayal, Ares is determined to destroy mankind. However, only the Amazons possess the weapon on their island to defeat him. Living in secret for years, Diana’s peaceful existence is disturbed when Allied spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes into the ocean just off the island; bringing the harsh realities of the World War occurring outside Themyscira’s boarders with him. Believing that Ares is behind the war, Diana joins Steve on his mission to return to the UK to deliver the plans he uncovered for a new toxic weapon being created for German general Ludendoff (Danny Huston) by the sinister scientist Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya).
When government politics gets in the way of the search for Ares, Diana and Steve enlist a special team to go on an unsanctioned mission abroad that will be overseen back in London by Steve’s secretary Etta (the wonderful Lucy Davis who deserves more screen time) and politician Sir Patrick (David Thewlis). Aided by a spy named Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui), a smuggler referred to as Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) and alcohol loving Charlie (Ewen Bremner), Diana learns the hard way that humanity is often the makers of their own destruction.
Featuring a refreshing dose of humor and copious amounts of action, most of which utilizes the speed-ramping technique to maximum effect, Jenkins constructs a film that pleasantly defies expectations. While the first part of the film is somewhat plodding, and could have used more Themyscira and less London, when Wonder Woman is finally let loose, in the warzone commonly known as No Man’s Land no less, it is a glorious thing.
Gal Gadot perfectly embodies the strength, charm and heart that has made the character so endearing and inspiring for over seventy years. Her overall chemistry with the supporting cast really helps the film to overcome some of its flaws, most of which are associated with the usual trappings of the superhero film genre. Most notably the climatic fight with Ares that feels uneven and not as interesting as the human action occurring around the fringes.
Thankfully though, Wonder Woman does not feel beholden to the three DCEU films that came before it, nor does it waste time setting up future films. Instead Jenkins’ film, like Wonder Woman herself, marches to the beat of her own drum; confidently wrapping its lasso of truth around the legs of, and proceeding to toss aside, the patriarchal standards that Hollywood reinforces with each new superhero film. When Queen Hippolyta tells Diana that the world “doesn’t deserve [her]” she is right. We do not deserve a film as entertaining as Wonder Woman, considering the hassle Jenkins went through to get it to the screen in the first place, but we are glad it is here nonetheless.
For me, the best film of 2017 so far and the film the world needs more than ever.
It is definitely up there for me, though not quite at the top of my list for the year. I hope Wonder Woman’s success will help to foster much needed diversity and inclusion in the superhero genre.
Great write-up. 🙂 I absolutely agree. Wonder Woman is more layered than what I had expected, and thematically excellent. I also love that it was a true standalone, which is rare for the genre these days.
The third act was a bump in the road, in what is otherwise a thoroughly enjoyable story. It’s such a shame that many made it political and refused to give the movie a chance, before it was even released.
In regards to the politics, sadly this seems to be the trend that occurs with many female driven blockbusters. There is still a large section of men (some of which who run studios) who feel threatened when they are not catered to in every single blockbuster. Hopefully this film will help to change those views, but I think we will need many more female driven blockbusters if we truly want to eradicate this type of gender politics.
Absolutely, I think so too! It’s crazy how few female-led comic book movies there are. And even fewer female directors who are hired to helm them. I hope this will change with Wonder Woman’s success. It is just refreshing to see diverse perspectives, with different stories to tell.
I totally agree about the last fight with Ares, which was interesting at first but then less so as it kept going and going. I did like the London parts because they were a nice break from the expected beats. That scene in No Man’s Land is up there with one of the more thrilling scenes that I’ve seen this year. And Gal Gadot is so good! I didn’t expect to be so drawn into the story, and it was also just fun. I took my daughter, and it was really fun to see it with a full house.
Being a Fast & Furious fan, I had faith that Gadot would be good, but the recent DC films had me wondering if we would be getting more of the same messy storytelling. Thankfully this film delivered the type of blockbuster that we have been lacking for the past two summers. How did your daughter like the film?
I think she liked it. It was different than Rogue One where she was excited about it going in, but she seemed to enjoy it overall. I wondered if the war scenes would be a bit much, and she got a bit restless during the long final battles, but she seemed to have fun.
I can’t imagine anyone else but Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman now, really kicked off the DC Universe properly. A fantastic review for a fantastic film.
She definitely made the role her own. Hopefully she will be come the centerpiece of the DC universe moving forward.
“No female character is treated as an object to stimulate teenage boys.” Come on, Court…the other characters are literally drooling over here the entire movie. I was doing massive eyerolls out of my head.
True many of the men in the film gush over her beauty, but there are no moments where I felt like Jenkins was including a shot just to stimulate teenage boys (which is something Suicide Squad did to death with Harley Quinn, and the Fast & Furious or TMNT franchises have been routinely guilty of). Wonder Woman and the rest of the Amazons came across as smart and strong women, rather than being scantily clad background scenery as is often the case in these superhero films.
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