Wonder Woman Movie Review
There has been a lot of anticipation and curiosity leading up to DC’s WONDER WOMAN. After MAN OF STEEL, BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, and SUICIDE SQUAD, will DC finally make a movie worth watching? Will the first big budget feature film with a female superhero as the lead be successful? The answer on both accounts is, YES! But… it’s not as resounding as you may have heard or even what many of my colleagues are saying.
Lets begin with the positives. The best thing about WONDER WOMAN is Wonder Woman! Gal Gadot is perfectly cast as the Amazon Princess. She’s strong, confident, charismatic, has a natural sense of humor and most importantly she has the heart of a hero. The story actually utilizes this idea of not just making the character Super, but also a Hero. On more than a couple of occasions, the film gives the audience that “hero moment.” A moment that has sorely been missing from previous DC films, where the audience can cheer or have a sense of an emotional response, not just to the action on screen but also from the decision to do that action because it is the right thing.
Raised on a remote paradise island filled only with women, Diana / Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is the Princess of the Amazons and the only child. Trained as a warrior, Diana is unaware of her power and true identity, which has been shrouded in mystery and kept hidden from her until a U.S. military pilot, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), crashes his plane in the surrounding sea. After Diana rescues him, Steve tells them of the massive conflict and World War happening around them. Diana is compelled to go with Steve to stop the war to end all wars and fulfill her destiny.
DC is learning from its previous mistakes. For one, humor actually plays a part in WONDER WOMAN. Things feel lighter like people actually enjoy living in this comic book world. Brighter colors and a bit more personality is infused into the story. Another strong casting choice was choosing Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, the American spy with a good heart and a playful sense of humor. He also happens to be the first man Diana has ever laid eyes on. Pine is the perfect “average man” route through which the audience can learn more about Wonder Woman.
Placing a female eye in the director chair with Patty Jenkins (MONSTER) was a smart move by the studio. While the film doesn’t fully alleviate that pesky male gaze in cinema, it definitely is another step in the right direction. In a way, WONDER WOMAN is the first of its kind with a strong female superhero as the film’s protagonist and a female as the big budget picture’s director. Unfortunately the story, action and all around superhero movie feel, while positive, is still very familiar.
While it is terrific to finally have a female representation who is carrying the picture in a superhero film worth rooting for, it would be dishonest to fool ourselves into believing this is an amazing cinematic achievement. WONDER WOMAN is waaaaaay too long. At 141 minutes, I found myself restless several times. That’s not to say that the film isn’t engaging, it’s simply unnecessarily excessive. Marvel has made a point of trying to keep their films at two hours, which DC should take note. Twenty minutes of stretched dialogue or extended scenes could have easily been trimmed and tightened. While sometimes visually effective, slow motion and special effects linger a bit more than they should. Ultimately this goes back to the time issue which is the films biggest deterrent.
WONDER WOMAN is definitely DC’s best film among the recent crop of combined storylines through its extended universe. But that’s not saying much. It’s even better or on par with a handful of Marvel films. For the record, I don’t think all of them are all that great either. For comparison, WONDER WOMAN (sorry, no after credit scenes) has a sort of THOR plus CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER vibe to it. But those came out in 2011 when this giant superhero universe was still fairly fresh. Ranking among recent films, I might compare my enjoyment level to DOCTOR STRANGE or ANT-MAN, which were not great but passable entertainment. What you think of any of these four films might be similar to what you think of this one – If you love them, then you’re in for a treat. While generally good, most of these films are feeding the beast of superhero fatigue that I continue to get a wave of outside of the occasional GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY or AVENGERS film. Still, WONDER WOMAN gets a small step up (or perhaps giant leap for woman kind and film lovers alike) by achieving a long overdo accomplishment as the best and first truly successful female driven superhero film.