Year: 2017
Director(s): Patty Jenkins
Writer(s): Allan Heinberg
Region of Origin: US

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rating: PG-13
35mm, Color, 141 mins

Synopsis: When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, she leaves home to fight a war to end all wars, discovering her full powers and true destiny. (Source)

While previous DC films (Man of Steel, BvS) have doubled down on muddled ideology, a distinct misunderstanding of their characters and a barrage of mind-numbing destruction, Wonder Woman is the antidote, an optimistic, invigorating look at nobility, sacrifice and duty. As turns out, the DC universe sorely needed a woman’s perspective, and director Patty Jenkins empowers her heroine and fans with a character who shines like a bright light amidst a hopeless world. As an origin story, the film shares tonal similarities with Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor, but, as it should, stands on its own, finally giving the world’s first female comic book hero her due. Honestly, it feels good to finally have the Amazonian Princess introduced to a new generation, and this film cements her as a power to be reckoned with – it’s a crowd-pleasing mix of adventure and brazen sincerity, and star Gal Gadot stands tall as the film’s towering embodiment of justice and hope.

On the Amazonian island of Themyscira, young Diana (Gal Gadot) hopes to one day become a warrior like her Mother, the great Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). Created by Zeus, this race of warrior women where created to keep the peace between unruly humans swayed into destruction by the God of War, Ares. Though the Amazonians had their time, man eventually could not be saved, and they retreated into seclusion after Ares was mortally wounded by his father, Zeus. Now, Diana is secretly trained by Hippolyta’s sister, General Antiope (Robin Wright), in hopes of one day living up to her lineage. Flash forward some years later, Diana is now a strong capable woman, yet not tested with real conflict. Her mettle is called upon when a British spy named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands on Themyscira. He talks about a war to end all wars (WW1), and that if he doesn’t rejoin the fight with a pivotal finding, all will be lost. Upon hearing of this terrible war, Diana believes that Ares has returned, and that he must stopped at all costs. At the risk of never returning (and to the sorrow of a mother who has tried to shield her from the horrors of war), Diana crosses over into 1900’s London with Steve, hoping to find Ares and put an end to his meddling. Once confronted with humanity, Diana learns of a devastating truth, but also finds beauty amidst the horror.

As a film, what Jenkins has done couldn’t be farther from previous DC efforts, and it feels like a breath of fresh air. What Jenkins has managed to pull of is a satisfying mix of fun adventure and character building, blending broad myth making, fish-out-of-water humor and tense battlefield sequences into a feminist anti-war story. Though the pacing can be uneven at times, all of these segments work coherently, forming an origin story that feels timeless and reclaims a lot of the hero’s magic while also tackling socially forward genre stereotypes. At the core, Jenkins focuses on what makes Diana a real hero, not her super strength, her gold bracelets or lasso of truth, but her inability to stand by and do nothing while innocent people suffer in a world brought to the brink. The story finds complexity in presenting Diana’s journey as an awakening – she is bred for war, but appalled and heartbroken by the reality of it. Rather than give up on humanity, she chooses to believe in the good that it is capable of, even despite the horrors we propagate against one another – a simple, but timeless idea, but a message that resonates now more than ever.

Of course, another asset in the film’s arsenal is its bright cast, top lined by the amazing Gal Gadot. As Diana/Wonder Woman, Gadot ticks all the boxes. Gadot is charming, sincere, carrying a radiant warmth we can’t resist, but she also puts it down with the film’s more physical aspects, lending a ferocity that is powerful, but not brutish. Gadot carries the film with ease, and its because of her that so much of the film packs a wallop, both emotionally and thematically. As Steve Trevor, Chris Pine shines as well, as Diana’s perfect equal. He carries the same sense of duty and honor as Diana, and he’s funny and endearing in a way that compliments Gadot’s more straight-laced sincerity. Jenkins uses both stars perfectly, allowing them to play off each other with ideological, thematic and romantic tensions which sizzle off the screen. Trevor’s stalwart mates, Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner (Spud!!) and Eugene Brave Rock are also great in their diverse, respective roles, while Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen shine brief in Amazonian roles which are all too brief. On the other side of things, Elena Anaya villainous Dr. Poison has a few diabolical moments of her own, but there isn’t much for Danny Huston’s Ludendorff to do – this is perfectly okay in respect to the latter, howver.

Wonder Woman is a dense experience; it tells a simple story and packs in so many details, but it’s best that they’re seen without being spoiled. This thing isn’t just a good DC film, it’s a good film period – there isn’t a single moment of cynicism throughout, and there’s a grace to be found with Gadot’s triumphant performance. While Jenkins doesn’t shy away from the horrors of war and the mindsets which perpetuate human cruelty, like Diana, the film has a beautiful, hopeful view of humanity, one that celebrates forgiveness and prizes innocence a light that can overshadow the darkness if we only let it. Under the hands of any other director, this outlook could’ve been dated or hollow, but it instead feels necessary and urgent. If there’s a minor weak spot, it’s the way the film handles its violence – sure, its a war film, and I don’t mind that baddies need to be killed, it’s just the film doesn’t articulate how its villains are little more than fodder to be mercilessly laid to waste. Still, this isn’t something that ruins the film by any stretch, and what Jenkins has pulled off will make you want to stand up and cheer. Above all, this is a great film that understands the necessity of heroes and why their symbolism is needed in dark times such as now. And like that, Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot have single handedly saved the DC film universe.

SG