WONDER WOMAN Review: MFR Says DC Delivers A Timeless Adventure With Loads of Heart
Let’s just get this out of the way: Wonder Woman is the best DC Comics film since 1980’s Superman II.
To clarify, that doesn’t mean it’s a better movie than The Dark Knight, but it’s a better DC Comics movie. While Christopher Nolan’s gem of a Batman movie in 2008 was a great film, it wasn’t necessarily a comic book movie. At times, what Nolan and writer David Goyer created seemed more like a straightforward crime saga that just happened to have a guy dressed up as a bat in it. It seemed self-conscious of its comic book heritage and, because of that, felt like an entirely different animal. Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins, fully appreciates and embraces its comic book trappings and, in doing so, gives us a heartfelt adventure that fires on all cylinders.
It’s no accident that Wonder Woman calls to mind the Christopher Reeve/Richard Donner era of Superman, as Jenkins has gone on record as saying Superman: The Movie was one of her inspirations while directing this DC epic. It even follows the now-classic structure of that 1978 classic: First Act Takes Place On Hero’s Mystical Homeland, Second Act Places Our Heroic Fish Out of Water In A Bustling Big City Setting, Third Act Finds Our Hero Coming Into Their Own As They Foil The Villain’s Nefarious Plot While Learning Just How Cruel Humanity Can Be And Why It’s Their Destiny To Protect Them From Themselves.
What’s remarkable about Wonder Woman is the way it accomplishes so much while maintaining a straightforward simplicity to its storytelling. In an age where similar films are filled with convoluted subplots, conflicted heroes, and overly drawn out “world-destroying” finales, Jenkins has delivered a film that keeps the focus squarely on our heroine’s journey. The script, by Allan Heinberg (and an uncredited Geoff Johns), surrounds Gal Gadot’s Diana with likable characters, played by a strong ensemble cast, who are able to convey an awful lot with remarkably economic screen time.
You may be surprised by how little time we get with certain characters, and yet they all fulfill their purpose beautifully. They make their impact on Diana, and on us, and then we move onto the next thing. This streamlined focus allows the film to keep Diana front-and-center, while fleshing out the world around her seemingly effortlessly. And the fact that Wonder Woman isn’t filled with unnecessary twists and turns allows for the two big shockers towards the end of the film to feel truly monumental.
By not over-thinking things, or trying to reinvent the wheel, Jenkins and her team have created a film that’s timeless.
The movie has a clear message and point-of-view: The only way to achieve peace is through love and compassion, and so war is just about the most cruel and unnecessary thing mankind has ever created.
Everything we see in Wonder Woman is in service of that message and, in these troubled times we find ourselves in these days, it’s an idea that transcends its cinematic trappings. Because of its ever-present big, beating heart it’s hard not to feel moved at several points throughout the film’s two hour and twenty minute running time.
And make no mistake about it: Gal Gadot is the movie’s heart. The Israeli actress is absolutely magnetic as Diana, and she brings a presence and energy to the screen that is sure to resonate with audiences around the world. She plays Diana with such empathy and determination that it’s impossible not to root for her. Unlike some of her other DCEU counterparts, Gadot’s Diana is a true blue hero with nothing but good in her heart. She’s a character that’s incapable of sitting idly by while innocent people get hurt, and it’s so refreshing to see a movie embrace a classic hero with such open arms.
The other big standout here is Chris Pine. His Steve Trevor comes close to stealing the movie at times, as the actor really brings his all to a role that could’ve been fairly paint-by-numbers. Pine brings so many layers and dimensions to Trevor, in such an understated and nuanced way, that his performance really helps Wonder Woman soar to new heights.
The rest of the cast, as noted earlier, makes for a fairly spectacular ensemble of supporting players. It’s hard to single anyone out here, as they all really make the most of their parts, but suffice it to say that you’ll be left wishing for more time with Sameer (Said Taghmaoui), Charlie (Ewan Bremner), and The Chief (Eugene Brave Rock).
Another area that Wonder Woman succeeds in where so many others have failed is in its villain. Without spoiling anything, let’s just say that the primary antagonist in the movie has motivations that are so well thought-out that you may actually find yourself agreeing with them. The villain is great in that they not only represent the perfect foil to Diana, but they also mirror some of the more sinister things that we as humans encounter and witness in our daily lives. By the end of the film, you’ll not only want to see our heroine vanquish this evil, but wish there was a way to face their ideas head-on in real life.
On the technical end of things, Wonder Woman is well-paced, superbly-edited, beautifully-designed, and the score hits all the right notes. If there’s a complaint here it’s that the effects occasionally look a little jagged and unpolished, but it’s nothing too distracting. Also, there are two or three times where things veer slightly into the area of heavy-handed melodrama, but those detours are kept mercifully short.
Much has been made about the film’s third act battle feeling a little generic but I- for one- disagree. For the many reasons cited earlier, I was fully invested in the multi-tiered finale, and found the conclusion very satisfying. There were no portals opening up over major cities, no faceless armies of henchmen, no mood-killing quips, and no distracting amount of collateral damage. It was just a good old-fashioned battle between good and evil, waged on a couple of fronts, that was shown in a very heartfelt way.
All this, and more, makes Wonder Woman the best DC Comics movie in nearly 40 years, and certainly the most promising entry in the current DC Extended Universe. If you’re someone, like me, who was put-off by the first three films in this new canon, this movie should fill you with optimism for the DCEU’s future.