Movie Review: “Wonder Woman” (PG-13)
“Wonder Woman” is DC’s strongest cinematic venture since 2008’s “The Dark Knight.” For those keeping score as of late, that might sound like faint praise at best. But the truth is that this movie is really entertaining, and there’s a kind of warmth, a sense of fun, and an inspirational quality here that was sorely lacking in both “The Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman.” Furthermore, even though “Wonder Woman” resorts to the same sort of bombastic and dull, prolonged climactic finale that plagues a lot of superhero flicks, the character moments are completely earned. It should also be noted that “Wonder Woman” is a hell of a lot more cohesive than “Suicide Squad.”
Inspired by the famed comic book character of the same name, this big-screen adaptation of DC’s “Wonder Woman” ditches the cheese of the amusing Linda Carter-headlined TV series from the ’70s and opts to exude a spirit more akin to the likes of Richard Donner’s version of “Superman” and Joe Johnston’s interpretation of “Captain America.”
In “Wonder Woman,” we see this multifaceted character as a tenacious youngster with a fighting spirit, an amazonian warrior, a hero for the people, and a complex woman who’s eyes are suddenly opened to the way our world truly works. But thankfully, this movie refuses to drown in a sea of gloom, doom, and cynicism. Through the aid of noble Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and a handful of supreme do-gooders, “Wonder Woman” emerges as a fun, inspirational, and hopeful interpretation of this iconic source material. Yes, there is bad in this world, but there’s plenty of good, too.
As wonder woman Diana Prince, Gal Gadot positively kills it bringing heroism, toughness, charm, stunning physicality, and childlike innocence in equal measure — and quite honestly, this may be the smartest casting choice in the DC movie universe since Christopher Nolan cast Heath Ledger as the Joker. As fantastic as Gadot is, though, director Patty Jenkins and crew give their central player a worthy male co-star in the form of Chris Pine. As a man of principle during a time of war, Pine is absolutely superb in this movie. Together, Gadot and Pine deliver the kind of spot-on chemistry one could only hope for, and even when the film falters a bit in the story department, these lead performances bring weight and undeniable likability to the picture every step of the way.
“Wonder Woman” benefits from a handful of wonderful supporting performances as well, most notably a plucky and positively adorable Lucy Davis as Trevor’s cheeky secretary. Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright also do terrific work as two strong woman who have a monumental influence on Diana’s life.
DC and Warner Brothers were very smart bringing in director Patty Jenkins (“Monster”) to take this movie on, because while “Wonder Woman” is a big superhero film with tons of special effects, massive set pieces, and hyper-stylized action (clearly inspired by the Zack Snyder school of filmmaking), this picture is, for the most part, character driven. This isn’t to say that “Wonder Woman” isn’t without its missteps. There’s a lot going on in this picture, and the film struggles to find its rhythm early on (parts of the first act feel rushed and oddly truncated). But once the movie hits its stride about 30 minutes in, it’s quite a joy to behold. And rousing! A sequence in which Wonder Woman shows her true colors on the battlefield is enough to make you jump to your feet and cheer!
True, the battle between Wonder Woman and the big bad guy is a bit on the dull side, and the identity of the villain is pretty apparent early on. Furthermore, the great Danny Huston isn’t really given much to do while a fantastic Elena Anya is equally short-changed as Huston’s disfigured right-hand woman. In the grand scheme of things, though, this movie really works and goes a long way to suggest that DC can do it up right when they get the right people involved. Most of what works here falls squarely in the lap of a dedicated and passionate Jenkins, but some of the credit should go to Snyder, who had a big hand in developing this movie. It’s clear that the man behind both “The Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman” has listened to what the fans have said and taken it to heart.
Now to address the baby elephant in the room. To simply suggest that “Wonder Woman” is just a feminist power play is to dismiss the strength of both this character and the movie as a whole, so much so that I even hate bringing it up because by doing so I’m just feeding into the political circus. Yes, Wonder Woman is a great role model for girls. But guess what? She’s also a great role models for boys. While we’re on the topic, Wonder Woman fights for the entire human race. Like all great heroes, she stands for unity. Case in point, there’s a pivotal moment in this picture when a character looks up to Wonder Woman during a time of victory and says, “You did it.” Without missing a beat, this stoic and graceful hero replies, “No. We did it.” Truer words have never been spoken.