Film Review: ‘Wonder Woman’

DC’s iconic female superhero bursts onto the big screen in her first solo feature…

Spoiler-free review

Starring:  Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nelson, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Ewen Bremner, Lucy Davis, Elena Anaya, Eugene Brave Rock

Directed by:  Patty Jenkins / Written by: Allan Heinberg (Story by Zack Snyder, Allan Heinberg & Jason Fuchs) / 141 minutes

What’s it about?

Rescuing crashed pilot Steve Trevor, Diana, princess of the Amazons, leaves her homeland to bring an end to the Great War which is ravaging humanity…

In review

Despite the relative financial success of the DC Extended Universe thus far, there’s no escaping the divisive opinions from various fans and critics that loom over Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad.  Could Wonder Woman turn the negative critical tide and foster some much needed appreciation for the Warner Bros’ DC Comics films?  Thankfully, Wonder Woman is a resounding success on various levels.  It retains a layer of gritty seriousness that will please those that actually enjoyed the previous DCEU entries and deftly marries it with a vision of hope and optimism in dark times and a heartening message that although humanity has it’s ugly side, good will ultimately prevail over evil…all it needs is a hero to lead us into to the light.

An origin story told via flashback, Wonder Woman opens on Themyscira, an island paradise populated by the Amazons – a female society of immortal warriors lead by the wise Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielson).  It’s here that the Hippolyta’s daughter, Diana grows to adulthood and trains under the guidance of Antiope (Robin Wright – House of Cards).  When Diana rescues American pilot Steve Trevor after his crashes off the shores of her homeland, she learns of a great conflict raging across the outside world – one that she believes is being orchestrated by the god of war, Ares.  After German soldiers storm the beeches of Themyscira, Diana, in defiance of her mother’s wishes, decides to pursue the callings of a hero and accompany Trevor back to the war-torn theatres of the First World War and bring an end to the bloodshed and needless suffering of the innocent.

After making a memorable debut as DC’s iconic Amazonian princess (created by William Moulton Marston and first appearing in All Star Comics #8 in 1941) and champion of justice in Batman v Superman, Gal Gadot delivers a pleasingly nuanced performance as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman in a turn that conveys equal measures of strength (both physical and emotional), compassion and heart with a touch of innocence and naivety as she embarks on her hero’s journey.  Despite her relative inexperience as an actor, Gadot is actually quite wonderful in her first solo DC outing, demonstrating a clear affection for the character and embodying the values and spirit of an important and enduring pop culture icon with reverence and conviction.  Star Trek Beyond’s Chris Pine is the perfect co-star, infusing his portrayal of Captain Steve Trevor with charm, humility and a dose of earnest humanity.  He also shares great chemistry with Gadot, a key component to the film’s rich and often touching emotional core.

There’s some well implemented comic relief from Lucy Davis as Trevor’s plucky secretary, Etta as well as drunken marksman Charlie (Ewen Bremner) and fellow comrade Sameer (Said Taghmaoui) that along with participation from Gadot and Pine provides dashes of levity that feels natural and fitting without compromising the film’s more dramatic moments.  Although underdeveloped, Danny Huston and Elena Anaya provide adequate enough villainy as devilish German General Lundendorff and the deranged Dr. Maru respectively, their plot to unleash a deadly new gas creating reasonably high stakes for Diana, Trevor and their group (which also includes “The Chief”, played by Eugene Brave Rock) to grapple with.  Ultimately, it’s the characters and themes, bolstered by a solid script that really makes Wonder Woman work.

Director Patty Jenkins (at one time in the frame to helm Marvel’s first Thor sequel) draws fine performances from her cast that lift the overall package whilst proving skilful in presenting grand visuals (enhanced by the finely tuned eye of cinematographer Matthew Jensen) and staging some thrilling and slickly executed action sequences (with composer Rupert Gregson-Williams adding to the excitement as he incorporates Hanz Zimmer/Junkie XL’s WW theme from BvS).  Some viewers may feel fatigued by the bombastic CGI-laden finale, yes, we’ve seen it in numerous superhero films by now, but it’s arguably necessary to close the film on an epic high and it’s executed with some satisfying emotional beats.  Yet there’s no denying that Wonder Woman’s finest and most effective set piece comes from earlier in the film as Diana, frustrated by the horrors and injustices of war, emerges from the trenches as she heroically pushes her way across the battlefield, plunging through the barrages of the German war machine.

It’d be all too easy to cynically write-off Wonder Woman as a mere symbol of feminism, but peel away the layers and she’s so much more, with all that’s wrong in the world these days heroes are needed and though a work of fiction, blended with popcorn entertainment and comic book fantasy, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman is an inspiring tale and one filled with plenty of heart.

The bottom line:  A triumph for the DCEU, Wonder Woman is an exciting and epic story of a hero’s origin that’s enhanced by strong characterisation, dynamic action and great chemistry between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine.

Wonder Woman is in cinemas now.

WW

Ready for action: Gal Gadot stars in ‘Wonder Woman’ from Warner Bros.

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13 thoughts on “Film Review: ‘Wonder Woman’

  1. Excellent review, my friend. You definitely covered everything in such an eloquent way. It was such a great surprise. I loved how they kept the dark color tone of the DCEU movies and yet made the movie feel so much lighter through the characters and the writing. I was also sooo happy about those action scenes. They gave Wonder Woman and the Amazons a unique fighting style and made it look so devastatingly beautiful. It gives her character something that no other hero possesses. Even Batman’s fighting style (where the environment and him are one) is nothing like Wonder Woman’s, and I’m sure their styles will be complementary in the future. I also loved how the story had multiple layers and wasn’t super simple and similar to brainless popcorn-flicks (i.e. Fast and Furious movies nowadays).

    What’s your thoughts on the godkiller sword? Do you think that was a teaser for Deathstroke in some way? Maybe Deathstroke will get a godkiller when he appears in the solo Batman movie and Wonder Woman might have a minor role to play in it too? That would be pretty sick. 😛

    Again, brilliant and thorough review! I really can’t wait for Justice League now. Guess we’ll have to leave that in the trunk for now so we can enjoy the next superhero movie: Spider-Man! 😀

    • Thanks for the kind words as always Lashaan! Yep, I was pleased with the look and feel of the film, it wasn’t a totally jarring transition from the darkness of BvS (which I argue was necessary for that story) but injected just the right amount of hopefulness that fit the universe of WW.

      I hadn’t thought about the god killer sword tbh, I’ve heard speculation that Deathstroke is either no longer going to be in the Batman (perhaps to appear in another DCEU film instead?) or he will be one of a set of villains. I think that would be best as I don’t think he’s a strong enough villain to be the one and only big bad in a Batman film.

      Yep, can’t wait for JL now, curious to see what Joss Whedon’s involvement might add to it?

  2. Glad we’re in agreement on this one Chris! Yes, it’s thrilling but also emotional. Gal is absolutely perfect in the title role!

  3. Pingback: Everybody’s Chattin’ + ‘Professor Mars & The Wonder Women’ Teaser Trailer – FlixChatter Film Blog

  4. Oh the No Man’s Land scene was such a highlight indeed. The big finale had so many moving moments throughout that it didn’t bother me, also I’ve just seen the ultimate cut of Batman v Superman few days before this and the finale there was just terrible, it felt like it lasted an hour. Hopefully DC keeps making films as good as WW.

    • Well, I’ve seen BvS a few times now and I’ve actually grown to really like the Doomsday finale – I think Superman’s sacrifice to save humanity is redeeming and emotionally charged. The final battle in WW is also quite satisfying in that there’s some feeling to it given the character’s journey and Gal Gadot’s performance that elevates above just the standard CGI climax.

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