****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!!****
My Rating : 4 out of 5 stars
My Recommendation : SEE IT IN THE THEATRE.
Wonder Woman, written by Allan Heinberg and directed by Patty Jenkins, is the story of the DC Comics superhero Wonder Woman, the Amazonian Warrior-Princess. The film stars Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, with Chris Pine, David Thewlis, Robin Wright and Connie Nielson in supporting roles.
Just to set the record straight…I have always loved Wonder Woman. When I was a little kid, Lynda Carter starred on the TV show Wonder Woman and I watched religiously. Back then, every year for Halloween I would dress up as Wonder Woman. That tradition has continued well into my adulthood and has extend beyond Halloween. In fact, I am wearing my Wonder Woman garb at this exact moment as I type. Ok, truth be told, nothing in this paragraph is true. Well, not nothing, Lynda Carter did play Wonder Woman on TV in my childhood, but I never watched, and frankly, sorry ladies, but I have little to no interest in Wonder Woman as a character. I know, I know, I am a misogynist mansplainer for the patriarchy…guilty as charged.
Wonder Woman, in case you do not know, is the fourth film in the current DC Universe, with the first three being Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad. All three of the previous films have been very poorly received by critics, and even though they have made gobs of money, audiences haven't been too thrilled with them either. Like most, I greatly disliked Man of Steel and Suicide Squad and unlike most, I actually enjoyed Batman v Superman. So when I heard Wonder Woman was coming out, due to the previous films and my own feelings about the character, I was a bit ambivalent, to say the least. That said, I readily admit that when Wonder Woman appeared in the Batman v Superman film from last year, I thought she jumped off the screen and was one of the better elements of the film.
I was not alone in my skepticism about the film leading up to its release. While the recent buzz surrounding Wonder Woman has been overwhelmingly positive, that hasn't always been the case. Just this year there were rumblings that Wonder Woman was a disaster waiting to happen and that Warner Brothers were scared to death they had a gigantic flop on their hands. The box office receipts, nearly $500 billion so far, strongly suggests those fears were entirely unfounded.
Quite to the contrary, in fact, Wonder Woman has tapped into a nerve and is resonating across our cultural consciousness like none of the previous DC films were able. Women in particular have embraced the film as a feminist power totem and have reported crying during scenes where the female superhero is at her most forceful. I knew all of this heading into the film, and while that got me excited to see the movie, I assumed my high expectations would not be met. I was totally wrong.
Simply stated, Wonder Woman is as good a superhero origin story as you are going to get. Is it a perfect film? No, not even close, but it is a really good superhero movie that is exceedingly well made, acted and entertaining.
The key to the film is that it is grounded in reality, and from that reality all of its power flows. Set in Europe during World War I, the film does not shy away from the brutality and suffering inherent in war. Part of Wonder Woman's appeal is that she has a pure heart and wants to help and save everyone, and cannot grasp the cold and callous approach of mankind that permeates the war to end all wars.
A lot has been said about the tone of Wonder Woman, which is lighter and more humorous than the previous DC films. While this is true, that humor is never forced, rather it is born out of the main character's orientation, or disorientation as the case may be, to the film's reality. It is funny, for instance, that Wonder Woman has to learn the baffling female etiquette demanded by a male dominated world. To the film's great credit, it never pushes or distracts with its comedy or lightheartedness like the Marvel films do, it lets that humor grow spontaneously out of setting and situation.
Director Patty Jenkins does a stellar job with the look of the film. All of the DC films have a grainy, gritty and dark visuals, and Wonder Woman is no exception, but that effect works exceedingly well in bringing this period piece to life and making it feel real. Jenkins does a remarkable job of setting the right tone and maintaining a solid balance between love story, action, comedy and drama. Jenkins walks a tightrope, and never falls into the trap of turning the film into a self-conscious farce, one of the weak spots of the Marvel films.
Wonder Woman does suffer from some script problems though, but that is not Jenkin's fault. The film gets a little lost trying to make itself bigger than it needs to be, but that is a problem with which nearly every superhero film struggles. I believe the wiser choice for these types of films is to do less, and be more simple, but what the hell do I know?
As for the acting, Gal Gadot does superb work as Wonder Woman. Gadot, a statuesque beauty, imbues Wonder Woman with a strength, sincerity, earnestness and ferocity that makes for a compelling character indeed. Her battle scenes are believable because of Gadot's natural grace, athleticism and magnetic intensity.
I will be interested to see if Gadot can crossover from non-superhero action films and make a mark in pure drama. She has all of the tangible qualities, beauty, intelligence, charisma, that make for a movie star, but she also possesses the intangible qualities that make for a great actor, emotional intelligence, compassion and complexity. I hope she gets to spread her dramatic wings in the future, she has the makings of an intriguing artist.
Chris Pine continues his recent run of top notch work, following up last years stellar Hell or High Water with his turn as the love interest Steve Trevor opposite Gadot's Wonder Woman. Pine is outstanding as the rogue and daring spy trying to stop the Kaiser's war machine. His light comedic touch and dramatic sincerity elevate Wonder Woman to heights it would not see without him.
The rest of the cast have minimal roles but do consistent work. David Thewlis, Danny Huston, Ewen Bremmer and Said Taghmaoui solidly buttress Gadot and Pine's more demanding work. And Lucy Davis does exceedingly well as Etta Candy, Steve Trevor's secretary. Davis brings a subtle, yet masterful bit of craftsmanship to her role which would have been a throwaway in lesser hands.
Wonder Woman is a top notch superhero movie that feels particularly relevant in a world filled with strongmen, from Trump to Erdogan, to Duterte and Putin. Wonder Woman gives voice and vision to the anima in our collective unconscious that yearns to be actualized in the real world. The reason Wonder Woman is resonating so deeply with audiences in general, and women in particular, is that the archetypal feminine energy, the anima, has lost its value and power in our modern world by trying to imitate and mimic the masculine, the animus. Wonder Woman is a force not because she is mimicking masculinity, but because she is uber-feminine. Contrary to what many women will claim, it is not men that need to learn that lesson, but women, and Wonder Woman is a great place for them to reconnect to the primal power inherit in the anima and to engage in therapeutic psychological catharsis.
In conclusion, Wonder Woman is a well made, entertaining and ultimately satisfying film that both men and women can throughly enjoy. It isn't Citizen Kane, but it is a top-notch superhero movie that gives insight into the character Wonder Woman, and propels the DC Universe forward in a positive direction. I wholly encourage you to spend your hard earned dollars and go see Wonder Woman in the theatre. You never know, the anima you save, could be your own.