First off, the nerd kingdom is still surprised at how good the DC-produced Wonder Woman is, and we congratulate director Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot and Chris Pine for delivering a great film. It’s just fitting that Wonder Woman’s first theatrical outing be a great thing. We can probably say that the Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman film is DC’s counterpart to Christopher Reeve’s Superman. The film is reported to have set another record for the lowest Friday to Friday loss percentage for a Superhero film and has beaten Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella’s Superman. The film is reported to have set another record for the lowest Friday to Friday loss percentage for a Superhero film and has beaten Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella’s The Mummy and may have eaten into Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’s worldwide earnings pie as well. This continues as internet hype, and word of mouth continues to spread.
By now, most of you have watched the film at least once so we can now proceed to spoilers and what we think made the film so great and those little flaws that need to be ironed out. One of those little flaws involves Wonder Woman joining the ranks of Marvel Cinematic Universe films in terms of villainy. Still spoiler alert for those who have yet to watch the film. Please do whether or not you’re a comic book fan. Personally, I have not read a single issue of DC’s Wonder Woman, but I have been exposed to other media, mainly on TV beginning with Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman, then the Superfriends cartoons, the 90s Justice League and other DC Animated Universe films. The film borrows some elements to her animated film by the way.
First off, this is not your typical DCEU film. The sun exists in this movie. Patty Jenkins is not afraid filming in the sunlight because she probably won’t sparkle like Zack Snyder does (we know he’s having a hard time, so this ends here). The film begins by immediately telling us that this is DCEU connected by showing us a Wayne Security van bringing a package to Diana Prince. Sorry, no guys from Powerless are shown here, but that was the first thought that came to mind upon seeing the van. Well, still dreary skies over the Louvre but Diana takes the audience back to Themyscira upon seeing her World War I picture last seen in Batman V Superman.
This is where we finally get to see sunlight in the DCEU. Yes. It’s a big thing. With the sun comes colors and Themyscira is the paradise that it’s supposed to be. We first see Diana as a child kept by her mother Queen Hippolyta from training with the other Amazons. But from the beginning, we see that Diana already has a passion for fighting and is seen by her aunt, General Antiope. Against Hippolyta’s wishes, Antiope trains Diana. From here, there’s also a mystery of Diana’s true nature which is the reason she’s forbidden to train. The release of Diana’s fighting spirit would make her easier to track and would expose Themyscira to the outside world. Once discovered, Hippolyta tells Antiope to train Diana as hard as she could in order to prepare her for her destiny.
During a training session, Antiope trains her so hard that something is triggered in Diana that releases a burst of energy that may or may not have affected the protective field around Themyscira and allows a plane, piloted by US spy Steve Trevor into crashing near the island’s shores. Diana rescues him but he is soon followed by German mariners, and a battle ensues. Due to the animated features, one would think that Amazonians are more powerful than they look but when thrust into battle with German guns, they’re just as vulnerable as normal beings and here, the Amazons, as well as the audience, are shown the realities of war and death. You’d think that these Amazons have not dealt with death for thousands of years as they’re immortal except for mortal wounds. The Germans are wiped out at the cost of several Amazons including Antiope which adds to the drama. But the action here from the training to the fighting is pretty intense and well-choreographed. Many of the Amazon fighters cast female athletes by the way. So it’s evident that the film doesn’t start slow. The action is spread out quite well.
The second chapter reveals the circumstances of Steve Trevor’s arrival. Steve is a US spy in German territory who discovers the Germans’ ultimate weapon and steals its notes but is pursued by German forces. The flashback to that has its own action sequence for Steve as he escapes in a plane and delays the Germans efforts by bombing the chemical weapons factory before escaping. Steve describes to the Amazons that the war occurring in the outside world is the war to end all wars. This makes Diana obsessed that the God of War Ares is behind all of it. Growing up, Hippolyta told Diana stories about the world of men, that the world was a beautiful and peaceful place until Ares gave men their hostile nature and that after his defeat Ares will someday return and that it will be up to the Amazons to stop him.
Why World War I?
Let’s stop here for a minute about World War I. Like Captain America, Wonder Woman’s origins are tied to World War II. But in this film, DC took a different approach. World War II is basically done to death but there aren’t many films that depict World War I. World War II is also associated with Nazis, and that gives any film about that war a definite villain. The film’s aim is to show a little ambiguity. No Nazis, no Hitler, no Holocaust, just the horrors that come with it.
Diana’s convinced that Ares has to be stopped and makes it her quest to do so. Against her mother’s wishes, she volunteers to help Steve back to men’s world on the condition that he take her to the war and to Ares. She’s convinced that the war will end after taking out Ares. Diana steals the Godkiller sword which is said was made to kill Ares. In doing so, she discovers that she is somehow stronger and invulnerable than the others. She takes a shield, and the magic lasso used to make Steve divulge his mission.
Steve and Diana are met by Hippolyta at the coast. Instead of stopping her, Hippolyta gives her blessing to the mission accepting that the whole thing is destiny. Wonder Woman’s origin differs here as she didn’t enter into a contest to prove who should be worthy to be Themyscira’s representative and receive the bracelets, the bodice, and lasso. That would make her fellow Amazons equal to her. In the comics, fellow Amazon Artemis took the mantle of Wonder Woman, even Hippolyta herself became Wonder Woman. I was hoping to hear Artemis’ name mentioned.
Anyway, Diana’s quest to kill Ares and end the war makes up most of the film but grown up audiences know full well that war is complicated and that Diana is naïve and childish. The real quest is knowing how Diana discovers that she’s wrong. That underlying plot gives the film some of its charm.
Darkness and Humor with a Purpose
Steve and Diana make it to London, and we’re back to the DCEU’s dark and dreary atmosphere. But London and much of the world is in the period of the Industrial Revolution. A period of industry and pollution when man didn’t know any better, and that makes Jolly Old London hideous to Diana. That and the smog and fog often parodied in mainstream media. So the dreary atmosphere actually serves a purpose in the film. The pollution as well as the fog of war. The film isn’t dark and gloomy for the sake of it. Hopefully, other DCEU films after Justice League films follow suit because we’ve already seen the trailers.
This is the part where she’s a fish out of water which is much expected. She struggles to fit in London assisted by Steve and secretary Etta Candy. This is also the part where much of the humor takes place. Speaking of humor, it’s not forced or shoehorned into the film. The humor is quite natural. It’s part of the film like Diana’s reaction on seeing a baby, wearing modern clothing and tasting ice cream for the first time as well as her interactions with Steve.
More than Support
Like Diana, Steve Trevor is much more than a love interest. He has his own quest which coincides with hers. The war is in a phase of armistice due to the Germans’ lack of resources but the villains General Ludendorff and chemist Isabel Maru (Dr. Poison) have other plans, and after seeing their weapons, Steve needs to return to the front and stop them. Britain’s imperial war cabinet forbids further intervention despite Diana deciphering the contents of Maru’s notes. Diana is also distressed that she cannot go to the front to seek out Ares. Steve promises to take her along with his own ragtag band in an unsanctioned mission to stop Ludendorff. Sir Patrick Morgan (played by David Thewlis, Harry Potter’s Remus Lupin), part of the imperial war cabinet gives his support. As mentioned in our non-spoiler review, Wonder Woman has similarities with Captain America: First Avenger. Steve here has his own Howling Commandos composed of Sameer, a French-Moroccan spy; Charlie, a drunk sharpshooter and Chief, a Native American smuggler whose an expert in getting through enemy territory.
A Great Action Sequence
Perhaps one of the greatest action sequences I’ve seen in a superhero film is when Diana penetrates the front lines. Diana who can no longer endure the suffering of civilians affected by the war decides to punch through the lines to rescue a besieged town. This happens as the team make their way to Ludendorff ignoring the suffering along the way. This is when Diana basically becomes Wonder Woman for the first time. Gal Gadot carried that same charisma she had when she first entered the scene in Batman v Superman but multiplied several times in this scene. The audience cheered as she walked towards the enemy and deflected the bullets with her magic bracelets. She then becomes instrumental in allowing the allied forces to leave the trenches and finally reach the town where she really kicks ass. Patty Jenkins direction is awesome, and you’ve got to see it to believe it if you haven’t yet done so.
After that, there’s a time of lightness, and some celebration for the team and the town and Diana and Steve get to consummate their budding romance. This is when the photograph of the team was actually taken.
This is the part that I like the least in storytelling when the protagonists come at odds with each other which kind of ruins the fun but is essential to practically all plots. The German High Command is holding a gala attended by Ludendorff as a demonstration of his new weapon which Maru reworked despite the loss of her notes. Steve forbids here as their mission could get jeopardized, but she is determined to get to Ludendorff, convinced that he’s Ares. Ludendorff gets away but not before launching his demonstration killing everyone in the town. Diana blames Steve for intervening with her mission and proceeds to attack Ludendorff’s nearby base where he’s about to launch his offensive in the front. Steve and his team follow her. Diana fights Ludendorff enhanced by one of Maru’s potions and kills him. But her hopes of ending the war disappear as the conflict continues despite Ludendorff’s death. Steve meanwhile boards Ludendorff’s plane containing the chemicals.
This is when Ares makes his appearance in the guise of Sir Patrick Morgan and tells Diana that war is inherent to humans and that he only nudges them with weapons and ideas. This is when Diana’s true nature is revealed that she is the true weapon that can destroy Ares and not the Godkiller sword which Ares destroyed on a whim. That Diana is actually the daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta and not a clay child given life. Ares tries to convince Diana to join him in destroying humans to rebuild paradise, but she refuses. Almost beaten, she gains more power upon seeing Steve sacrifice himself to blow up the chemical plane. Ares tries to use Diana’s anger to have her turn dark side by killing Dr. Maru but with Steve as an example, she tells Ares that humans are as capable of good as they are of evil and should be nudged in the right direction. The two have a final battle and she finally destroys Ares releasing a momentary burst of energy that temporarily removes hostility in the area.
The story then switches back to the present day. Diana thanks Bruce for the photograph and she dons her costume to patrol the world.
The film has it all. Intense action, drama, adventure and humor. The film almost follows the Marvel MCU formula but not quite as most MCU films have an inherent lightness to them. Anyway, what becomes similar to the Marvel films are the forgettable villains. Who the heck are Ludendorff and Dr. Poison? Dr. Poison is one of Wonder Woman’s recurring enemies in comics. Not sure if she already made a TV appearance anywhere including Lynda Carter’s series which I was too young to remember. Ares, we know is a major villain for Wonder Woman and is also the major villain in the Wonder Woman animated film. From TV, many would probably identify Cheetah, Giganta and the witch Circe as her rogues’ gallery. Perhaps this is one reason why Wonder Woman had to wait over 75 years to get a movie. She lacks identifiable villains despite her many years in animation. This is probably the same reason the Adrienne Palicki TV series failed to take off. That and her wonder pants.
But this villain problem isn’t really a problem when it’s really the hero that takes center stage. Who was Kaecillius in Doctor Strange? Who was Yellowjacket in Ant Man? Who was Iron Monger in Iron Man? Who was Malekith in Thor 2? With films like these, the villains only serve to move the plot along in identifying the hero. They’re not meant to be really remembered though it would be nice if that were the case. A rare case is Loki in Thor.
With Superman who has a long history, everyone knows his chief enemy is Lex Luthor. As for Batman, who is popular as heck, the common person won’t think twice in mentioning The Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, Riddler and Two-Face. Perhaps it’s also because the budgets for such human villains aren’t so outlandish to execute unlike Spider-Man’s villains like Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus that require a lot of special effects magic to pull off. At least, hopefully with Wonder Woman, Ares has already cemented his position with Cheetah and Giganta as one of Wonder Woman’s opponents aside from being the Greek God of War.
Aside from the villains and being rather slow during the non-action sequences, Wonder Woman is a great film. If we were to rate this film, let’s say 4 out of 5 sounds about right.
Film Review: ‘Wonder Woman’
Reviewed on May 24, 2017. MPAA rating: PG-13. RUNNING TIME: 141 MIN.
PRODUCTION: A Warner Bros. Pictures release and presentation in association with Ratpac-Dune Entertainment, Tencent Pictures, Wanda Pictures of an Atlas Entertainment/Cruel and Unusual production. Produced by Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder, Richard Suckle. Executive producers, Geoff Johns, Jon Berg, Wesley Coller, Rebecca Steel Roven, Stephen Jones.
CREW: Directed by Patty Jenkins. Screenplay: Allan Heinberg, from a story by Heinberg, Zack Snyder, Jason Fuchs, based on DC’s Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston. Camera (color): Matthew Jensen. Editor, Martin Walsh. Music: Rupert Gregson-Williams.
WITH: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock, Lucy Davis, Elena Anaya