Movie Review: Wonder Woman
PG-13 | 2h 21min
Director: Patty Jenkins
by Jason Koenigsberg
Finally, DC made a decent superhero movie that is not directed by Christopher Nolan. The reason why Wonder Woman succeeds as a film where her predecessors Batman and Superman have failed in their recent efforts is so mind-numbingly stupid. Zack Snyder’s films with Batman and Superman and David Ayer’s Suicide Squad never bothered to develop any of their characters. They simply introduced them and then action followed. They coasted on our familiarity with them even though their Batman, Superman and other DC comic book heroes and villains were wildly different interpretations than many audiences expected. Therefore they were met with negative reactions. Here we see the origin of Wonder Woman since she has never had a live action theatrical film and because of that, after we meet her we learn about her and actually care about what will happen to her. It’s so simple. At this rate, audiences are likely to be treated to a better Aquaman movie than their two biggest icons Batman and Superman. It is truly a sad state of affairs in the blockbuster movie world, but judging each individual movie on its own merits, Wonder Woman has a decent amount to cheer about.
First of all, the setting. Having the bulk of the film take place during World War I is a very welcome change of pace. The first act the audience is treated to gorgeous CGI enhanced cinematography of Diana Prince/Wonder Woman’s home island. The scenery on her home turf was very refreshing compared to the normal action movie and was visually pleasing to the eye. Once the film transitions to the second act the audience is given a deliberately different and very distinctive smoggy look of World War I era London. The exotic and historical locales greatly attributed to making Wonder Woman a memorable comic book movie.
It also helped having a female behind the directors chair. Patty Jenkins who has not done much since directing Charlize Theron to her Best Actress Oscar win in Monster (2003), brought the right amount of emotional empathy and steely professionalism to Wonder Woman. It never seemed patronizing that our superhero was a woman, just a matter-of-fact quality that made the movie flow smoothly from scene to scene.
The opening shot was of Earth from outer space with some Gal Gadot narration. Ms. Gadot is reprising her role from last years turgid Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice but here she is finally given something to do other than her best Scarlett Johansson impression. She is undeniably a beautiful woman and has a great screen presence. This film was designed to make her into a movie star and she adeptly carries every scene. Despite the fact that Gadot is beautiful and capable of portraying Diana Prince/Wonder Woman some may argue that she is too thin for the role and that her pixie body will set a negative example for what women should look like and exploits females as sexual objects in movies. That should be left up to the viewer to decide, but there are a lot of slow motion shots of Wonder Woman soaring into action right at the camera, more than most male superheroes. Only the individual can decide if that is a strength or a flaw of Wonder Woman.
The plot involves the military introduction to chemical warfare as the German army uses gas as a weapon for the first time. The scenes in the trenches in No Man’s Land were some of the best in the movie and although they do not add anything to the superhero or war genres, they are better than anything audiences have seen in a DC production in several years. One of the weakest aspects of Wonder Woman was the humor which seemed condescending and forced. It was laced throughout the script but always felt annoyingly unnatural. Chris Pine does a fine job supporting Gal Gadot as the love interest and did what was required, never surpassing or underwhelming in his scenes. The villains were once again rather bargain bin stock characters that could have been played by any actors. We have not had a great screen villain, possibly since Heath Ledger’s Joker, in quite some time. Plus some scenes in the second and third act go on a bit long.
The costumes are excellent. In the first act on the Amazonian island they are so faithful they look to be straight out of a Wonder Woman comic book. The music score by Rupert Gregson-Williams was subtle when it needed to be and he knew exactly when to cue the rousing Wonder Woman theme that we were introduced to in Batman vs. Superman. In the end, Wonder Woman is worth the price of admission and is a breath of fresh air from the otherwise melancholy DC output, mainly for it’s strong central character and how she is developed, and the refreshing mythical and historical change of scenery.
Instead of giving you the trailer, here is that awesome Wonder Woman theme.