Director: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Professor Lupin
Runtime: 141 minutes
A Wondrous Woman Indeed
"Wonder Woman" is a movie that most people had formed an opinion about before it came out, myself included. I was really, really excited, not because I thought it was going to be good, but because I’ve developed a formula about the process that any movie in the DC cinematic universe not directed by Christopher Nolan goes through. It is as follows:
- The movie is announced. Everyone is really excited.
- Casting choices are revealed. People rightfully question them.
- The first trailer, made by one of the studios award-deserving trailer-makers, is dropped. Phrases like “This is the one that’s finally gonna be good!” and “They had to have learned from the last one, right?” optimistically circle. Morale is high again.
- The movie comes out. It sucks. Everyone is disappointed and angry. It wins Razzie awards. Ben Affleck is sad.
- The next movie is announced and the cycle repeats.
I know this because I got caught up in it with Suicide Squad. I was bamboozled.
So, cynically, I was excited to see this process happen again with "Wonder Woman". It’s been this way since "Green Lantern" in 2011. "The Dark Night Rises" is the exception, but "Man of Steel", "Batman v. Superman" and "Suicide Squad" (undoubtedly the worst offender) are all guilty of this.
However, it is with great pleasure that I can say that I was wrong.
Wonder Woman isn’t just some vigilante. She’s a warrior. A beacon of hope in an ill-fated DC cinematic universe. The exact heroine that not just the studio, but the genre as a whole desperately needed. Not since "Guardians of the Galaxy" has a superhero movie challenged the tired formula of the genre so successfully and comprehensively.
I left the theater wrestling with exactly what it was that they got right in "Wonder Woman" that they didn't in the others. The list is long, certainly, but I think the main difference-maker is the quality of the characters. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is a fully dynamic inspiration of a character. She is equal parts powerful, idealistic, naïve, stubborn and skilled. Steve (Chris Pine), in perfect chemistry, is reckless, morally flawed, charismatic, silver-tongued and cynical. To see these two characters grow together on their journey is a treat for every second it lasts, and the backdrop of World War I just makes it that much better.
I won’t spoil it here, but there’s a section of the movie where Wonder Woman leads the charge on the front right through No Man’s Land. All I’ll say is that this section of the film (it’s a few scenes long) is worth the price of admission alone. It’s perfect.
On that note, it goes without saying that this director does a lot better than Zack Snyder. That bar is extraordinarily low, of course, but when the action hits, it’s a sight to behold. There’s never a moment where you’re left wondering what happened. It’s crystal clear, with just the right amount of style to bring the film to life in a way that’s easy to lose yourself in.
My only criticism of the film is that there is probably one too many scenes structured like this:
I’m going to do a thing.
No. Don’t do that thing.
*does thing anyway*
On a script level, however, it never feels repetitive. And, like I said, this film manages to be so unique in this superhero space that I can’t knock it for this. Most of these scenes were enjoyable and led to either great character development or Wonder Woman doing something awesome, as she does.
At its core, "Wonder Woman" is a movie about choices and their consequences. It’s about how beautiful of a thing it is that none of us get what we deserve. It implicitly screams that the world doesn’t operate on some simple construct of karmic retribution, but rather a much more nuanced and complex system – a belief in a totally undeserved measure of grace from the divine. A grace that leads to love that breaks down walls of hostility that nothing else could. Sure, its claims are vague (“It’s not about what you deserve, it’s about what you believe!”), but I believe that they are hitting at a radical and necessary truth. The actions of one save us from what we deserve.
I’ve never been happier to be wrong about a film. With the fantastic characters, great chemistry, breathtaking action and a refreshingly unique story, "Wonder Woman" left me in awe. Or in Wonder, if you will. It was Wonderful. Wonder if it’s a one-hit Wonder? It’d be a small Wonder if it weren’t.
Okay I’m done.
If you have the time and the means, go see "Wonder Woman". You won't regret it.
Check out the rest of my reviews here.