This is my better-late-than-never reivew of DC’s new superhero movie, Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, David Thewlis and Danny Huston.
Wonder Woman debuted in All Star Comics in 1941, four years after Superman premiered in Action Comics #1 and two years after Batman made his debut in Detective Comics #27 in 1939. The origin story of Wonder Woman as a comic is fascinating and oddly parallel in many ways with what is happening in the DC cinematic universe. Back in the 1940s, comic books were controversial because of the gratuitous violence and sexual overtones rampant in most of them, even if the heroes did end up saving the damsels in distress and eventually defeating the bad guys. Writer William Moulton Marston created Wonder Woman as a female antidote to the “blood-curdling masculinity” he said was comic book’s worst offense. A man ahead of his time, Marston wrote that Wonder Woman was meant to chronicle “a great movement now under way – the growth in the power of women.” And he was absolutely right. Women’s rights and recognition in the legal and social arenas has radically advanced since Marston created Wonder Woman and this movie is a reflection of just how far we have finally come.
Just like Wonder Woman came to the rescue of Superman and Batman back then, and doing so in an entirely positive and feminist fashion, she is doing so again with what has been a bit of a disaster in the DC Cinematic Universe. If you don’t know or have forgotten, Man of Steel, Batman vs Superman and Suicide Squad were not exactly great movies. In fact, they were mostly terrible in terms of following the theme and spirit of what these characters are about and why they do what they do. Superman especially was given the Ayn Rand treatment by Zack Snyder, a moral repositioning that is not in any way in alignment with Superman’s values and which I talked about in some detail in my review of Batman vs Superman. I’m not going to re-hash all of that here. The good news is that despite Zack Snyder’s name being on the writing credits for this film, Wonder Woman is a wholly different experience from what has come before in the DC movies. In fact, there’s a lot more history I could break down right now about female superheroes in general and how badly they have been presented over and over and over again, but there’s a lot of other critics doing that so I’m not going to repeat it here. Let’s just say that I’m old enough to remember Kathy Lee Gifford playing Wonder Woman on TV in 1974 against Ricardo Montalban, a few years before Lynda Carter put on the golden tiara and lasso. Hollywood has been screwing up female superheroes forever so it is no small thing what has been done here with this film. Wonder Woman is not just a good film – it’s a great one and hands-down the best that DC Productions has put out.
So let’s talk about the movie itself. It’s divided into three pretty distinct acts, the first involving Diana’s origin on Themyscira, otherwise known as Paradise Island, her journey into the world of men and machines during World War I and her final confrontation with the supervillian who has been lurking behind the scenes the entire time. During the course of this, she learns the folly of idealism, the realities of war and death, the consequences and sacrifices of violence and most important, the dualistic true nature of mankind. Pretty weighty concepts to pack in between intense and well-choreographed action sequences but that’s where Wonder Woman is different from the earlier DC output. This movie has a strong emotional center but is also intelligent. Whereas the other DC movies were tossing around big ideas, they kept fumbling about with them or dropping them entirely between the cracks of logical inconsistencies and plot holes you could drive the Batmobile through. Wonder Woman stays true to its central theme and never loses sight of its positive and distinctly feminine message, one which we all need to hear in this day and age of violent conflict in the real and social media worlds.
Now that all being said, there are some things about Wonder Woman that I didn’t like. These were mainly a couple of plot points which were necessary for the sake of the overall story but didn’t really make sense for the characters themselves to do, at least not given how the characters were presented. I won’t go into spoilers about them, but they involve a decision that Diana’s mother makes that forces Diana to choose between Paradise Island and the outside world, and a predictable but unnecessary sacrifice at the end of the movie which I would have liked to have seen resolved a different way.
In terms of technical points, there are tiny errors and problems in some of the fight sequences but overall this is superhero action writ large and it’s really fun to watch. There’s a mixture of real world, battlefield combat violence mixed in with comic book magic and if you can suspend disblief and just enjoy what you’re seeing – which I think is not a problem for comic movie fans – you’ll love the action and combat that Wonder Woman presents.
The number one thing that sets this movie apart from the rest of the DC movies is that it is not cynical or pessimistic, it’s not trying to make bad guys into good guys and it’s not trying to tear down its heroes in order to make them seem edgier or tougher. Diana walks a hero’s journey in this film and changes and grows as a result, but she never loses sight of who she is. She has integrity and honor and she sticks to her guns, staying true to her principles and fighting for what she believes in. I think that more than anything else is what makes superheroes super and why we idolize them.
Overall I’m giving Wonder Woman a rating of Sheer Awesomeness. This movie is enjoyable, fun, interesting and an overall great time. I highly recommend it for everyone. Let me know what you guys think in the comments. If you haven’t subscribed to my channel, now is a great time to do so and I hope you’ll share this review around the interwebs. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next time.