Wonder Woman Review: One of the Best Superhero Films…Period.
There was a time not so long ago when seeing a superhero on the big screen felt like a truly special experience. As of late, I have been feeling what many have deemed “superhero movie fatigue” because Hollywood has gone overboard with these movies. Each year, there are at least four (usually five or six) superhero films released and while I always go to see them, rarely do I walk out of the theater with a sense of awe.
This brings me to Wonder Woman which marks the first time in over a decade that a major studio has released a female-lead superhero film based on a popular comic or graphic novel. Wonder Woman tells the story of Diana, Princess of the Amazons, played by Gal Gadot. When we first meet Diana, we learn that she is the only child on this sheltered island that was created by her father Zeus in order to help protect his people. Diana spends most of her life training alongside her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and Aunt General Antiope (Robin Wright). Hippolyta and Antiope spend years training Diana to become the greatest warrior on the island. But when a jet pilot named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands near the island, Diana comes to his rescue. While recovering from the accident, Steve ignites Diana’s desire to leave the island. Diana joins Steve as he returns to London to help put an end to the war that will supposedly end all wars.
Wonder Woman is a wonderful character-driven film that is filled with emotion, humor, and heart. It is a superhero film that stands out from the others because the story shapes and develops the characters first instead of simply throwing them directly into battle. Wonder Woman spends a lot of time creating a backstory for its characters and giving the audience a reason to care about them. Therefore most of Wonder Woman‘s runtime is spent building and bonding the characters before ultimately becoming a superhero film. This is one of many reasons as to why Wonder Woman works so well narratively.
Steering this female-driven ship is Patty Jenkins, who is honestly a breath of fresh air when it comes to a genre that is typically directed by men. Jenkins, who comes from an indie background and also helped earn Charlize Theron her first Oscar, is someone who I always greatly admired as a storyteller as well as a filmmaker. While Jenkins didn’t write the screenplay this time around, you can tell she had creative control over a lot of what was going on in the film and telling Diana’s story. Jenkins was the perfect choice to help bring the Wonder Woman story to life and she knew exactly how much time was needed to make audiences connect with the characters before the action kicked in.
While this is without a doubt an origin story, it feels fresh and different. Allan Heinberg‘s script, which was based on a story written by Zack Snyder and Jason Fuchs has a lot going on but unlike a lot of other superhero films, it doesn’t feel overwhelming. There are several characters throughout the film, but the focus always seems to be on Diana and how what was going on affected her. It is so refreshing that a superhero film worked so hard on grounding its characters in reality even though some of them are not of this planet. I truly believe that strong character development is one of the main reasons why so many people loved Nolan’s Batman trilogy because it was all about developing the characters first and then building the drama and action around those characters. The same thing can now be said about Jenkins’ Wonder Woman.
However, unlike Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Wonder Woman isn’t afraid to be light-hearted and fun. There is no question that a lot of Diana’s story is serious and emotional but it’s nice that Jenkins and the writers weren’t afraid to add in some much-needed comedy here and there. A lot of the comedy occurs between Diana and Steve trying to discuss their “attraction” towards one another. While most of these jokes didn’t make me laugh out loud, they do lighten the mood and will more than likely get quite a few hearty chuckles from the audience.
There is a great scene between Diana and Steve while they are on the boat traveling to London. In this scene, Diana and Steve have a conversation about sleeping with each other and Diana takes a jab at men and how they are unnecessary when it comes to pleasure. This moment is awkwardly amusing because you can tell Steve is somewhat scared of admitting his feelings towards Diana. The most comedic scene in the film involves Diana trying on various outfits at an upscale London boutique. While trying on clothes, Diana is most interested in the ones that are the most practical if she has to burst into battle. This scene was so much fun and hilarious to watch unfold.
While there are a lot of characters in Wonder Woman, this is without a doubt the Gal Gadot show. She owns this film and disappears into the role of Diana. Gadot’s performance and character are such an inspiration to women of all ages. I love that the film isn’t afraid to poke fun at males while also showcasing how smart and strong-willed Diana is despite being an outsider. Diana has a lot to say and isn’t afraid to say it no matter who is around. There are several scenes where characters including Steve tell Diana that she can’t do something but Diana turns around and does it anyway. This is so inspiring because while Diana isn’t always right, it shows that she is capable of making her own decisions and goes with her gut instinct. There is something powerful about watching Diana take charge and does what she believes is right.
The film takes place during World War I which wasn’t exactly the era of feminism. However, Wonder Woman’s story tackles the whole lack of respect shown to women that occurred during that era and in some ways is still happening today. I absolutely adored seeing Diana fighting against the government and in one of the film’s finest moments, Diana stands up to the General after he mentions that soldiers sign up for war and are aware that one of the consequences of war could be death. Diana responds this by stating that he should fight to help them instead of doing nothing and watching them die. It is such a powerful moment and one that shows the ethics of Diana, even though she was raised as a warrior.
There are at least three incredibly emotional moments in Wonder Woman that got me a bit choked up. I don’t want to spoil any of these scenes but one involves Diana going into War, another involves Diana’s Aunt Antiope, and the last one, involves Diana seeing the aftermath of war. These scenes are truly special and sparked so much emotion within me. The scene where Diana springs into battle for the first time is truly special. I couldn’t help but get goosebumps while watching this scene play out. These same goosebumps also occurred several other times throughout the film’s runtime as well.
Gal Gadot and Chris Pine have wonderful chemistry and bounce off one another rather nicely. The scenes where they bicker back and forth is entertaining but when they argue about what is right vs. what is wrong, it is very emotional and honest. I think these two work well together and have totally different personalities. Gadot and Pine work so well together and their characters moral rationale helps to really shape their actions in the film.
The main supporting cast includes Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya, Robin Wright, Lucy Davis, Danny Huston, and David Thewlis. All these actors and actresses bring their A-game to this film. It is so amazing to see so many great actresses given meaty roles and being a part of a huge summer blockbuster. All the female characters outshine their male counterparts with the exception of Chris Pine, who as I said earlier, embraces every scene and plays off Gadot with such ease. The male characters aren’t bad at all, so don’t get me wrong, but they just don’t shine as brightly as the women. This is perfectly fine with me since this is the Wonder Woman movie after all.
I can’t end this review with discussing the few minor shortcomings in the film. The third act definitely feels a bit too much like most of the other superhero movies released in recent years. It’s strange saying that the film works better when it isn’t a superhero film but its honestly the truth. I also thought it would have been a little more impactful to the story if the audience was able to spend a little more time with the villains. While I understood what they were doing and why I just felt like the film could have had about 5 to 10 more minutes of screen-time with them to build up their mission a little bit more.
Filled with humor, action, and a whole lot of heart, Wonder Woman is the cure for superhero movie fatigue. Wonder Woman is a game changer because it is not only the best film of the DCEU but one of the best superhero films ever made. While I will never understand the whole Marvel vs. DC. nonsense, I will say that DC did it first and set the bar pretty high for any upcoming female-driven superhero films. Even with Captain Marvel being announced and starring one of my favorite actresses, I think Wonder Woman‘s grand entrance on the big screen will be hard to top. Needless to say, Wonder Woman‘s big screen debut is everything a superhero movie should be and more. It is exactly what I wanted from a movie like this and I think it will be incredibly hard to beat as 2017’s best superhero film.
Scott “Movie Man” Menzel’s rating for Wonder Woman is a 9.5 out of 10.