By Mark Di Stefano
Rating: 8 out of 10
The character of Wonder Woman has always been curious an interesting one to the public eye. Always taking a backseat to other DC staples like Batman or Superman, up until last year we’ve never seen Wonder Woman on the big screen and by March of 2016 we were on actor #3 for Superman (Henry Cavil) and actor #5 for Batman (Ben Affleck). Of course, I’m talking about Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, a film that was heavily anticipated but just fell flat for many for being too dark and bloated with storyline.
The only saving grace from that movie was when during the final battle, we see the first Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot) to hit the big screen. She stole the film and her name wasn’t even in the title.
Jump ahead 15 months, and we’re introduced to Wonder Woman’s first solo film, and it wins on all fronts; for the DCEU, for superhero movies, for positive female representation and for movies in general.
While Marvel has introduced intriguing female characters in its MCU, they never had the sole spotlight. That’s one area where DC finally gets a point on the scoreboard.
Wonder Woman is much more than a score count and not solely defined by gender: it’s the most fun, engaging superhero movie of the year so far and one of the better origin stories out there.
Wonder Woman is the story of how Diana, Princess of the Amazons, would become the hero she was destined to be. Set during WWI an American pilot crash lands on the shores of Diana’s home, an island hidden from the rest of the world. He tells her of The Great War happening outside their realm and she convinces herself to leave her home and fight alongside mankind in order to stop the war to end all wars, and discovers the full potential of her powers in the process.
Gal Gadot is becoming the next great action star, and having done most of her own stunts in the movie and the amount of fighting she does, it’d be hard to argue otherwise. She brings to life a much younger Diana, naive to the ways of the world and different from the Diana we first met in contemporary times. Watching her react to the ways of the world during smaller scenes is equally as entertaining as the big action sequences. Gadot is entertaining from beginning to end and I’m excited to see her again in Justice League. Chris Pine is great as Steve Trevor, the American pilot, and the rest of cast including David Thewlis and Robin Wright, are all fun to watch.
Director Patty Jenkins, whose last film was 2003’s Monster, doesn’t let the energy drain. She keeps the pace upbeat and the audience engaged, and the action here is the most energized I’ve seen in recent years. That engagement is also found in it’s compelling score and through the beautiful colors captured, making it feel like the brightest film in the CDEU slate.
Wonder Woman, while fun and exciting to watch, is a movie that we have seen in some fashion before. Let’s go over the bare-bones plot: A period film about an extraordinary do-goer tries to stop evil forces from taking over the world during wartime with the help of a ragtag crew. You could probably name at least a dozen movies that have that plot point, but if you had to compare it to one other film, to me it would be Captain America: The First Avenger. If you swap out Diana Prince for Steve Rogers and the setting of WWI for WWII, it’d essentially be the same movie. Now, of course, these two superheroes are different with each having their own respective abilities and their circumstances are certainly different, but as a story Wonder Woman doesn’t have the most original one.
While the outline of the movie may be the same as other origin movies, its essence and attitude make it feel fresh. For one, having a blockbuster superhero movie set during WWI and having chemical warfare at the center of it, is uncharted territory. Having that uncharted territory with a hero like Wonder Woman, making her own first steps, makes it seem new all the way around. We’ve also been bombarded with heroes that have their own personal demons. Wonder Woman gives us a hero who’s unwavering in her journey to defeat evil and who doesn’t break easily. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen that on screen.
Any faults or nit-picky things you may find are completely forgiven five seconds later when Diana leaps from the ground to the top floor of a building to beat up some bad guys, or five minutes later when she’s crossing No Man’s Land by herself like it’s no big deal while soldiers watch in awe. You don’t need to watch any of the other DCEU films to understand it nor does it depend on them; tt stands on its own. It’s an awesomely fun superhero movie that will likely cure your fatigue towards the genre. It already became one of my favorite summer movies so far, and it’s the best film the DCEU to date.
Now I’m not one to end a review with a news update, but let’s point out a couple of things: This past week Jessica Chastain, who was on the jury panel for the Cannes Film Festival, mentioned how she was disturbed by how females were portrayed in most of the films and called for more female-lead storytelling. Just last week, Diane Kruger admitted that she’s never been paid as much as a male co-star. Finally, this past Friday, a big-budget superhero movie made history being the first to have both a female lead and a female director, and will most likely get the #1 spot at the box office this weekend and probably the weekend after.
Whether you want to call all that coincidence or not, I’ll leave that to you. It’s not nothing though. There is a shift in Hollywood moving towards equality both in front and behind the camera, with more people every day taking a stand for their craft and what they believe. If Wonder Woman, an incredibly exciting film about a female superhero fighting for good and justice for all in a world lead by men, is leading that charge today, I can’t think of another film more worthy to have that honor.