Film Review: ‘Wonder Woman’

Wonder Woman twitter
Courtesy of DC Comics

Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot breathe some fresh air into the DC film universe.

It may have taken four films to get there, but the DC Extended Universe has finally produced a good old-fashioned superhero. Sure, previous entries in the Warner Bros. assembly line have given us sporadically successful, demythified takes on Batman and Superman, but they’ve all seemed skeptical, if not downright hostile, toward the sort of unabashed do-gooderism that DC Comics’ golden-age heroes exemplified. Never prone to stewing in solitude, and taking more notes from Richard Donner than from Christopher Nolan, Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman” provides a welcome respite from DC’s house style of grim darkness — boisterous, earnest, sometimes sloppy, yet consistently entertaining — with star Gal Gadot proving an inspired choice for this avatar of truth, justice and the Amazonian way.

Although Gadot’s Diana Prince had a decent chunk of screentime in last year’s “Batman v. Superman,” “Wonder Woman” assumes no foreknowledge of any previous franchise entry — or of the character herself, for that matter. With most of the film’s presumptive audience too young to remember TV Wonder Woman Lynda Carter, Gadot and Jenkins have an unusually broad license to introduce the character to filmgoers, and they remain largely faithful to her comics origins while also crafting a hero who is both thoroughly internationalist and refreshingly old-school. In her earliest iterations, Wonder Woman was an all-American figure with a mythical background; here, she’s an essentially mythical force who just happens to fight for America.

Like far too many films before it, “Wonder Woman” offers yet another origin story, but at least it’s one we haven’t already seen several times onscreen. And perhaps more importantly, it’s almost entirely free of the distracting cameos and seeding of future films’ plotlines that so often keep modern comic-book films from functioning as satisfying standalone stories.

After a brief prologue in modern-day Paris, the action whisks us away to the secluded island of Themyscira, home to the all-female society of Amazons. Drawn in lush, misty colors, the island is a sanctuary for the tribe, sheltered by Zeus, whom they helped in fighting off a coup from the war god Ares. On guard against Ares’ possible return, the Amazons have all dedicated themselves to the arts of combat.

All, that is, except young princess Diana (Lilly Aspell at age 8, Emily Carey at 12), who’s the only child on the island. Yearning to learn the ways of her fellow Amazons, Diana is shielded from combat training by her mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). Fortunately, her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright, cutting an imposing figure and affecting a strange accent) is the tribe’s chief field general, and she agrees to train the girl in secret. By the time she’s reached adulthood, Diana (Gadot) is ready to take on all comers, her traditional battle skills augmented by supernatural abilities of which she’s only partially aware.

Themyscira seems a realm outside of time, but the film’s 1918 setting abruptly announces itself in the form of a crippled German warplane that crash-lands in the ocean just beyond the island’s shores. Diana swoops in to rescue the pilot, an American soldier named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Once under the influence of the Amazons’ lasso of truth — a potentially silly device from the comic’s lore that the film adapts admirably — Steve reveals he was undercover with the Germans as a double agent, dispatched to collect intel on their experimental new weapon: a powerful poison gas developed by sadistic general Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and his facially scarred star chemist, nicknamed Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya).

When Diana hears Steve describe the Great War raging outside their protected enclave, she immediately suspects Ares has returned, and resolves to head to the front lines to confront him. She and Steve sail to London, and the film takes an unexpected, largely successful detour into light comedy, evoking shades of “Encino Man” as Diana stumbles wide-eyed through the big city, her rapport with Steve growing closer all the while. (Steve is the first man Diana has ever seen, and the film acknowledges the elephant in the room with some choice volleys of double-entendre.) The plot snaps back into focus when Steve and Diana learn Dr. Poison’s gas will soon be ready to launch at soldiers and civilians alike, and finding little help from military brass, they take off to the Western front themselves to intervene.

It says quite a lot about the general tenor of the DC cinematic universe that a film set in the trenches of WWI, with a plot revolving around the development of chemical warfare, is nonetheless its most cheerful and kid-friendly entry. But while “Wonder Woman” may dabble in moments of horror, it never revels in the vicissitudes of human depravity quite like its predecessors. A huge factor in its ability to convey a note of inherent goodness lies in Gadot, whose visage radiates dewy-eyed empathy and determination — and whose response to the iniquity of human nature isn’t withdrawn cynicism but rather outrage.

“Wonder Woman” is the first major studio superhero film directed by a woman, and it shows in a number of subtle, yet important ways. As skimpy as Gadot’s outfits may get, for example, Jenkins’ camera never leers or lingers gratuitously — Diana is always framed as an agent of power, rather than its object. When she finally unleashes her full fighting potential in an extended battle sequence on the front lines, the movie comes alive in a genuinely exhilarating whirl of slow-motion mayhem, and Diana’s personality is never lost amid all the choreography.

From this high point, the film begins to falter a bit in its final act, with some credulity-straining staging — a thunderous mano-a-mano battle appears to take place in full view of dozens of German troops, all of whom continue to blithely load cargo — and a final assault that lapses into the type of deadening CGI overkill that the film admirably avoids in the earlygoing. Approaching 2½ hours in length, “Wonder Woman” does fall victim to a fair bit of blockbuster bloat, and a trio of comic-relief comrades (Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock) don’t add nearly enough to justify their long-windup introduction.

Pine plays second-banana with a great deal of good humor: making little attempt to de-modernize his diction, he nonetheless registers as a noble yet sometimes lunkish jarhead, and it’s clear why Diana might find him attractive while also failing to be particularly impressed by him. None of the film’s villains get much of a chance to distinguish themselves, though Lucy Davis makes a good impression as saucy sidekick Etta Candy.

It’s an open question how much of the tone and aesthetic of “Wonder Woman” will extend to the innumerable future films in which her character is set to appear; subject to an exhausting amount of both kneejerk second-guessing and kneejerk over-praise, the DC Extended Universe has been figuring out just what it wants to be in fits and starts. But for once, it’s easy to stop the armchair executive producing and simply enjoy the moment.

Film Review: 'Wonder Woman'

Reviewed at AMC Burbank 16, 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

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  1. Prince says:

    This was by far the best movie I’ve seen all year ! Better even than the guardians of the galaxy 2 .. loved the story.. only if we all made sacrifices for each other in real life instead of fighting and bickering over personal achievements. This movie should not be labeled as a woman’s movie . Just a great movie all around regardless of who directed it or was in it .

  2. minny5ca says:

    I’m sorry but this movie doesn’t cut it for me. World War I? Please Diana was introduced during World War II. Steve Trevor was an American pilot not British.

    And daughter of Zeus? Please.

    Years where Steve Trevor is Diana’s boyfriend later as Steve Howard with blonde hair that Diana hated.

    I understand there different versions but still …. please. This goes too far. Great actionand I like the costume but no this is one I would not buy on DVD.

  3. Zoe says:

    The director was good but the fact that the director was a woman doesn’t show at all. Zack Snyder directed the film in which this Wonder Woman first appeared; no difference in how she was shot that suggests any male/female director difference. The main difference is that the movie, Wonder Woman, actually had a good script and good actors, while Batman v. Superman had Gal Gadot going for it and nothing else. If you hadn’t noticed, reviewer, most male super heroes wear skin tight suits. In fact the artists literally draw naked bodies, simplify the reproductive parts, and then color them bright blue, red, and so on. Wonder Woman wears more than Superman, Spider-Man, and most others.

    • Mark says:

      This movie was horrible, $150 million just to hear her people talk for an hour and a half…this is an action and adventure film and all they did was talk …I want a refund..do not I repeat do not spend good money on this, give it to charity
      This is a bad decade for DC

  4. MrChocollate says:

    The accents of the non-Israeli actors weren’t strange, they were just poorly done. What were they thinking. It’s like the borderline racist “Mexican” accent heard in Logan from New York native Elizabeth Rodriguez.
    Directors have to have the courage to accept when an accent isn’t working and tell the actor to drop it.

  5. drug bunny says:

    Finally, women in film getting the respect they deserve!

  6. Sarah says:

    Did no one else notice that Chris Pine was actually playing a British spy (not an American as you wrote in the review) but yet never bothered to attempt an accent?

  7. David says:

    He’s not a double agent.

  8. Juan says:

    I also think Wonder Woman will end the bad taste Ghostbusters left with its silly and dull feminism. Here we have a better female lead without the need to step on gender problems.

    • Alexandra Kopko says:

      I see your point, but I’ll just point out that Wonder Woman was LADEN with feminist points, and themes that were there specifically to speak to women’s experiences, but it did it smartly and in a subtle, story-driven way. I always appreciate that more!

  9. Criticizing a critic is absurdly misguided. See the movie, share your opinion…then let go of it.

  10. Ken says:

    Happy for the women that they got now a decent female superhero movie…it took a long time.

    It looks good, especially Gal Gadot is totally credible. Only by looking at her you feel aroused, but at the same time you wouldn’t dare to get near her or even ask her for a date ;-)

    I’m curious to see if a female director really makes much of a difference for how women are filmed.
    The camera never “leers or lingers gratuitously” in the other superhero films, too. But they often wear very sexy dresses where you see every curve, so how do you film them in an un-sexy way ? Nearly impossible.

    Wonder Woman’s new costume makes all the difference: It’s female, but not too female.
    Gal Gadot looks sexy, but still powerful enough to credibly punch a guy. The costume and the casting is the real key to success for a female superhero movie.

    And Patty Jenkins is simply a very good director. “Monster” was great.
    The studios should always pic great indie directors.
    The results are better.

  11. Kevin says:

    Crew: Production Design by Aline Bonetto

    • Mark says:

      If women want to claim this crapfest so be it, this was a horrible movie plain and simple…all the talking…the avengers was way better…next time get the director of hellboy, women aren’t ready for action films and I don’t care if it makes me sound sexist… To all the people that wanted to see an action move …just skip to the end …I still can’t believe they spent $150,000,000 for four action scenes (can I get a refund)

      • Luciana says:

        hahaha
        That’s funny. I checked my text messages during the action scene at the end, but I loved all of the movie. I enjoy the mind action more than destructive action. If it’s about corporal skill, I like it. If it is about destroying a bunch of things, I look away and wonder when that part will be done…or I ask something to my boyfriend who is INTENTLY watching those parts haha…but he also talks to me when they are talking about something really interesting! Haha we like differring parts of movies.

      • Luciano says:

        hahaha
        That’s funny. I checked my text messages during the action scene at the end, but I loved all of the movie. I enjoy the mind action more than destructive action. If it’s about corporal skill, I like it. If it is about destroying a bunch of things, I look away and wonder when that part will be done…or I ask something to my boyfriend who is INTENTLY watching those parts haha…but he also talks to me when they are talking about something really interesting! Haha we like differring parts of movies.

      • Steve says:

        No.

  12. Jeff says:

    Good review. Sounds like one of the few movies worth seeing. Just not sure Gal’s..er..umm..”lungs” will measure up to Lynda Carter’s.

  13. maorlevy says:

    Can’t wait to see the movie

  14. Daniel Aquino says:

    Patty Jenkins isn’t the first female director in the super hero genre. Lexi Alexander directed Punisher War Zone.

    • CelluloidFan35mm says:

      This is true but in the eyes of the mainstream and the eyes of the fanboys/fanfgirls and outright fanatics, that’s small potatoes and is irrelevant to them.
      They want the big fish because for them, it makes a better narrative.

  15. Timely Comment says:

    It’s nice that Patty Jenkins’ WONDER WOMAN is getting favorable reviews!

    FINALLY after the critical drubbing of the previous 3 entries and underperforming for their Box Office in the DC Films Universe, the comicbook cinematic opposing choice to MARVEL/DISNEY’s theatrical dominance has arrived.

    Concerns about being burned by Snyder/Goyer’s shaping of the DC characters for the films— killing off Superman in just his second movie— and slapdash treatments of characters in SUICIDE SQUAD— tempered my wait for this film. Added to the casting of ex-supermodel Gal Gadot as the titular Amazon Princess (she must have had the right Amazonishe punim?) with a costume that emphasized her uh, visual strenghts to the DC Trinity made this comicbook fan cautious…

    Source material fidelity made sad that the Marston original clay birth and WWII setting for “Diana Prince”— imo, central to her comics identity and importance as a hero as male soldiers fought the War— was changed to fit her newer non-clay New 52 origin and WWI setting (for the re-reboot DC Rebirth?) for this movie.

    I’m glad WONDER WOMAN still is a good movie despite this.

    (And people hungry for a good WONDER WOMAN film should look at how DC/WARNER BROS kept repeated fidelity to the comicbook origins of Batman and Superman in the movies— and changed them for Wonder Woman in HER first film. The fact that she’s a FEMALE superhero™ didn’t factor in the hegemonic corporate decision to do so?)

    But let us not waste our time in idle discourse of Rotten Tomatoes reviews of the previous entries, nor sexual politics in WARNER BROS boardrooms. I’ll wait for Gadot to finally schematically save the DCFU, and I’ll see for myself what the movie is like…

    I Superman-“S” it’s good.

  16. Lazada says:

    Erica Durance would be a great choice to play Wonder Woman.

  17. CalvinballPro says:

    It looks like they just remade Captain America: The First Avenger, only with a female lead in an earlier World War.

  18. Jack West says:

    William Moulton Marston was the inventor of the Lie Detector and he incorporated its ideal in the creation of The Lasso of Truth.

  19. CelluloidFan35 says:

    This is just yet another dime-a-dozen superhero movie that Hollywood won’t quit churning out so it really doesn’t matter at this point.

  20. Amazonia says:

    I am furious that a man was allowed to watch this film let alone pass judgment on it. Movie houses across the country are forbidding men from watching the movie; this must expand nationwide.and men must be barred from viewing, renting or buying this movie.

    • Yirmin Snipe says:

      Well they can only allow women to see it because men are notoriously honest and would quickly tell others that the movie sucked… Women on the other hand are notoriously weak willed and because each screening included paid shills that were attractive women with designer handbags in hand gushing about the movie they can be certain that the women in the audience will yammer endlessly to other women about how great it was such that more women will foolishly line up to see it and proclaim its greatness even though most will still have never bother to take their eyes off their cell phone long enough to even see the opening credits.

    • Steve says:

      Be funnier.

    • TopBrash says:

      Thats the spirit!

    • DC Spence says:

      Obvious troll is obvious.

  21. Big Money Savlia says:

    I watched an advance screening this morning, and all I can say is that this article is mostly untrue.
    Gal Gadot’s acting can easily be described in one word: Wooden. Her monotonic dialogue wears thin fast so it was almost refreshing to have her not saying much in some scenes.
    The plot wasn’t too bad (much better than BvS or S.S.) but GOOD LORD the pacing was terrible. It will be dark and gloomy and then some forced 8 year old knock-knock tier joke ruins it and leaves you feeling confused about what the movie is trying to convey.
    Every action scene: Fast action, slow motion, back to fast pace, 4 quick cuts in a row, more slow motion, another few more quick cuts, then back to slo-mo, then back to quick pace but not before at least half a dozen more quick cuts.

    I’d put it on par with Man of Steel, it’s about 6.5 out of 10. The first act was good, the second act wasn’t that good, and lucky for the movie I like big CGI mess fights but otherwise the third act was disappointing.

    • David says:

      First of all it’s not an article, it’s a review. Second, it can’t be untrue because it’s just his opinion. It’s neither true or untrue. He has his review. You have yours. The only difference is that his is better written (Oh and he’s a professional critic and you’re not).

      • Danny says:

        Don’t give me that bullshit about being a professional critic. Like you said, its purely based on opinion. And in my opinion, that film had a terrible final fight. Bad lead up, no suspense, no character development for Ares. Ares also turns out to be some old British dude… The backstory was bullshit, anyone who reads comics or knows anything about the Greek gods will know Ares couldn’t have possibly killed all the gods AND Zeus. And then Diana strikes him down with some lightning?

        Also the plot twist that Diana was the godkiller was sooooo obvious. General Ludendorff was also obviously not Ares. He had to sniff that steroid thing to even match close to Wonder Woman’s level. Anyone who watches any form of superhero movie would find the plot bland and uninteresting.

        The only cool part of the film was the Amazons fighting at the beginning. Meh. And of course Gal Gadot’s acting was trash. Yep. Compared to the recent DC movies, this movie is a breath of fresh air. But its still pretty shit.

      • Wonderer says:

        Hehehe, you’re also not a professional critic and are criticising the other non critic… Where does that leave you? Wait… I’m also not professional critic, Where does that leave us then?…

  22. Kajol says:

    “Saucy sidekick Etta Candy”
    I’m in! :D

  23. Jacques Strappe says:

    Nice to finally read positive reviews for a DC universe franchise chapter. Equally nice that it stars a woman superhero and is directed by a woman. Hopefully, the reviews are glowing based solely on the film’s merits and not the under represented gender aspect. One can only imagine all the social media backlash from women’s groups if reviewers were to love the first super hero chick flick.

    • Big Money Savlia says:

      After reading what Rotten tomatoes said, it is clear that the ONLY reason this movie WON’T be torn apart by the critics is because it is about a woman. It will suffer the same fate as the rebooted Ghostbusters – a below average movie saved by bleeding heard liberal progressives putting their agenda first.

      It’s pretty much the first Captain America movie combined with Thor 2. The plot and writing was better then BvS and a million times better than S.S., but I still liked BvS more. This is the type of movie that you will look back on 6 months later and realise you don’t like it that much

      • “The plot and writing was better then BvS and a million times better than S.S., but I still liked BvS more.”

        Basically tells me everything I need to know about you and your opinions.

      • Steve says:

        Hm. MRA?

      • Dunstan says:

        What on earth does politics have to do with this film set decades ago? You’re so off-base, you’re not even in the stadium.

      • harunist says:

        Never heard that before what an original comment, comparing this to two other comics that have no relation to this whatso ever. If you aren’t a Marvel Fanboy then you are just trolling which is worse, I don’t understand the need for the negativity for DC, get a life. I swear I’m going to the same when Spiderman comes out just to spite these people. It’s totally worth it. Yes, I’m going to sink to you’re level, sometimes you’ve gotta fight fire with fire. I will be the bad guy that Marvel c*nts want so desperately.

      • I love how people are so convinced they understand what we’ll like better than we do. It’s like entertainment isn’t subjective or something.

  24. anonyman says:

    Yeah, but does she spin around or not?

  25. paully says:

    I will wait and see.. WB/DC has disappointed me on most every film so far.. I will never forgive WB/DC for screwing up Green Lantern..

    • Ian Hirst says:

      Exactly Paully. You make up your own mind. I have been so looking forward to this. I actually liked Green Lantern. Yeah the villain was rubbish but Oa, the Lanterns, Mark Strong and Ryan Reynolds were great.

      • CelluloidFan35mm says:

        I’m not a comic book fan not have knowledge of them but I, too enjoyed Green Lantern.
        Not perfect but was an entertaining flick.

    • liquidmuse says:

      Why do people think “DC” directs movies? You should be mad at Martin Campbell, or Zack Snyder, or David Ayers, NOT Patty Jenkins. You’d think someone who reads Variety would know that,

      • Ellie says:

        JoeM

        Think it’s funny how the studio is blamed if a movie stinks and recieves little no credit if a movie is good. How about sharing the blame? V few movies are made or broken by any one entity.

        If you were being sarcastic. . .oops.

      • jedi77 says:

        I think it’s safe top lay blame at the hands of the people in power. A director is hired to direct based on the leaderships belief in his or her ability to do so.
        Producers are also to blame, btw.

        If the WB/DC leadership is as incompetent, as it’s previous films suggest, they derserve to be chastised along with the directors.

      • JoeM says:

        More accurately, blame WB’s interference and not Ayers and Snyder. You’d think someone who reads Variety would know that.

  26. Steve says:

    Stop stealing.

  27. Rex the Wonder Dog says:

    Like Paula said, there are lots of manly men in the Baywatch reboot for you to feast your eyes on if women frighten you.

  28. Paula Stiles says:

    Wow, it’s almost as though you’re being forced to go watch it–oh, wait.

    Well, you can always check out the Baywatch reboot. That sounds more your speed.

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