a WONDER WOMAN musing
Gal Gadot, an Israeli ex-military stunningly beautiful and incredibly stern woman, shines in what should have been her debut as Wonder Woman. After BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, I was not jumping at the bit to call her a great Wonder Woman, especially since she had all but 7 lines or so in the movie (and didn’t stand out so much in the FAST & FURIOUS franchise). But after she showed major depth in WONDER WOMAN, I can gladly say I was proven wrong. This movie not only confirms that the DCEU is back on the right track, but also reaffirms that Director Patty Jenkins can bring out great performances from all of her actors and make one heck of a movie that is incredibly hard to separate from its cultural significance.
From the opening sequence in Themyscira, an isolated and hidden island, we follow a young Diana wanting to fight like the other women on the island. She’s a cute girl, wanting to do what the adults do, and knowing that she will be a warrior, it’s easier to stick with her and sucks you in from the get-go. The Greek-inspired mythology of Themyscira via the comics is well-explained and recontextualized, and the story as a whole mostly has no ties to the rest of the DC Extended Universe, for the better. Diana is taught only peace and love, but when Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) washes ashore followed by WWI German soldiers, she gets her first glimpse of real war and death. This sets her on a collision course to find and defeat Ares, the God of War, to end all wars.
The movie shines a light on Wonder Woman’s optimism and strength, isn’t afraid to delve into the darkness of war, and the direction of the actors and their performances elevate the movie tenfold. Gal Gadot excels as a fish out of water when she leaves Themyscira, but thrives even more when battling the baddies while still portraying the determination to be good. Chris Pine is great as the American spy who helps Diana, propels her story forward while not being treated as lesser than her. Steve and Diana have a mutual respect for each other, and it’s much easier to care about their relationship because it’s not difficult to understand. There is comedy always present, but it doesn’t feel forced, contrary to what I was expecting, and it was extremely refreshing to get laughs out of these character beats and situations rather than making a joke for a joke’s sake. The other men in their outfit were serviceable at best, but didn’t really add anything for me. More time in beautiful Themyscira would have only improved this movie even greater, but hopefully that mystical land gets explored further in JUSTICE LEAGUE or WONDER WOMAN 2. For my other problems with the movie, I must go into spoilers, so beware…
*SPOILERS HERE. SCROLL DOWN TO SKIP PAST SPOILER TERRITORY!*
The third act was when the movie started to lose steam, as the group gained access to the gala. Something about it felt too obvious that the supposed bad guy, General Erich Ludendorff, was too easy to get to. When Diana drives her sword through his body, the real Ares shows up in a twist reveal: Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis) was him the whole time! But wait, who was he and why was he important? All we know is that he was Steve Trevor’s superior in some capacity and helped Diana and her group to the front lines, but nothing more than that. Most forgot he was in the movie and even his name. There is not much connection to Diana and this Sir Patrick that made this reveal very interesting at all, other than the fact that Ares is now out there. It just seems like a coincidence that he just so happened to embody this Sir Patrick Morgan, it was hard to buy. Then the movie devolved into a CGI-fest, albeit with some interesting character moments. But other than that, there wasn’t much to complain about.
None of the negatives could swing me to the just liking or hating of this movie. WONDER WOMAN excels when it explores Diana Prince and her unwavering optimism and determination. Gal Gadot surprised me with her acting ability, and Chris Pine continues to deliver after his magnificent performance in HELL OR HIGH WATER last year. The DCEU can only go up from here, and just like Wonder Woman’s unshakable idealism, I’m more excited than ever to see what comes next in this universe and from the incredible Director Patty Jenkins.
RATING: BEST OF THE BEST
(Refer to my rating system HERE!)