Wonder Woman Film Review: A Movie Worthy of its Heroine

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Well it’s finally happened, gang. After decades of watching the boys get movie after movie, we’ve finally got a Wonder Woman solo film. And here’s the good news: It’s really, really good. Great even. Full of heart and action and excitement. It’s far and away the best film from the DC cinematic universe so far and, more importantly, it does Wonder Woman justice and captures the heart of the character well. Let’s dig into it all, first with some spoiler-free general thoughts, and then with full on spoilers after a jump so anyone who hasn’t seen it yet won’t have anything ruined for them.

So gosh, where to start? With Wonder Woman herself, probably. Gal Gadot is pretty much a perfect Wonder Woman. We got to see her for a few minutes in Batman v Superman and she totally stole the show, and now with a show all of her own, she absolutely shines. Gadot captures the heroism and compassion of Wonder Woman so well; she’s fierce when she needs to be, kind when she needs to be, and just has so much heart. She smiles a lot, which is a lovely contrast with the grim darkness that’s dominated other DC movies, and it’s the most earnest and charming smile. It’s Wonder Woman’s smile, really. It’s something that could easily turn corny, but Gadot makes it utterly genuine, sincere, and believable. And while Diana’s got an interesting journey throughout the film, a sort of loss of innocence as she leaves her utopian home and experiences the horrors of war, Gadot does a fantastic job playing this evolution and it’s darker, questioning moments without losing the heart of the character. She’s just so good. I want to see her continue to play Wonder Woman again and again and again.

Holding his own with such a stunning take on Wonder Woman was a tall order for Chris Pine, but his Steve Trevor was excellent. I’m steeped in Wonder Woman comics and very familiar with every incarnation of Steve Trevor, and this was my favourite version of him ever, by a considerable margin. He was written really well; it’s a sidekick/love interest role that keeps the focus squarely on Wonder Woman, and Pine plays it spot on. He’s a tough guy with some skills, but he very quickly realizes he’s no Wonder Woman and is totally okay with that, in part because he’s just kind of in awe of her. Gadot and Pine’s chemistry together is delightful, Pine’s got charm to spare and is also hilarious, and the two of them made for a really winning partnership.

The supporting cast is pretty solid, too. Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright do great work as Hippolyta and Antiope, guiding the film well through it’s early scenes with young Diana. Wonder Woman’s crew in Europe are all fun too, but Lucy Davis’ Etta Candy is a total scene stealer. She’s so funny and enjoyable, albeit underused. I could have done with a lot more Etta Candy! The bad guys were suitably evil, as they should be, if somewhat underdeveloped, but such is the case with most superhero films.

In terms of the directing, Patty Jenkins did a remarkable job. While Wonder Woman had a lot of the beats you expect from a superhero movie, it also had its own unique style and tone. The action was especially spectacular; I’ve never seen fighting like that in a superhero movie, particularly some of the amazing acrobatics we got from the Amazons. They were astonishingly good. I also loved the little touches throughout the film, like the gorgeous, sweeping establishing shots we got for Themyscira, London, and the front. There was a real flair to the film that set it apart from other superhero movies. Jenkins also smoothly married the action and stunning visuals with the emotional aspects of the film. All of the humourous, romantic, and quiet reflective moments rang true, and everything flowed together nicely.

It was just fun to look at, too. Themyscira was so epic and cool, uniquely ancient and breathtaking in its scenery. I want to go to there. A lot of the movie was spent in the cramped confines of London or on the front, all of which was nicely done, but there was a good amount of time spent outdoors in lovely, natural settings that were shot exquisitely. On top of the settings, the costumes were quite striking. Wonder Woman wore an updated version of her Batman v Superman outfit, one that actually had colour this time, and it looked fantastic. All of the Amazons got cool costumes, with everyone wearing something a little bit different but yet thematically similar to the each other. The costumes in the outside world were a little bit drab in comparison, of course, but all of the major supporting characters had their own special look that suited them well.

If I wanted to nitpick, there are a few things I would change. For me, the final fight scene wasn’t quite as cool as the earlier ones and got a bit messy with all of the fire and chaos and CGI. Also, some of the supporting characters got outshone by the leads. To be fair, Gadot and Pine were ridiculously good, but a few folks did fall a bit flat. And there were a few changes to the Wonder Woman mythos I didn’t love, but we’ll save that for the spoilers section.

All in all, though, it was a great movie. Well executed on every level, so much fun, and most importantly, true to who Wonder Woman is and what she means to so many fans. I loved it. Now, that being said, I’m not sure that this is the movie they should have made. Setting the film in World War I was a big change that made a lot of elements very different from what we usually get with Wonder Woman, and while it was all done well and a lot of those changes were interesting, I don’t think it was the best showcase for what is great about Wonder Woman. Don’t get me wrong, it was an excellent showcase for Wonder Woman, but in an intriguing alternate universe way rather than a relevant, modern way. An origin set in the present day could have been more resonant and more reflective of the character, her past, and what she means, especially in terms of tackling modern women’s issues rather than poking fun at sexist attitudes that are a century past. I get that the film is what it has to be given the existing framework of the DC cinematic universe, and it succeeds triumphantly at that, capturing the heart of the character beautifully. I just think that setting up Wonder Woman as this older, wise superhero who predates Batman and Superman limits her in certain ways, and I’d rather see this young, plucky Wonder Woman dealing with the modern world, rather than the more experienced, somewhat world-weary Wonder Woman we seem to be getting with Batman v Superman, the framing device of Wonder Woman, and what we’ve seen from Justice League thus far. But so long as Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman, it’s absolutely a Wonder Woman worth watching, and Patty Jenkins and the whole team did an amazing job making this new setting and backstory work for the character and stay true to who she is.

Let’s move on to some spoilers now, after the jump!

And we’ll  add a little more space just in case anyone didn’t notice we’re in SPOILER territory now.

SPOILERS!

COMING UP NOW!

HERE WE GO!

We’ll just run through these in point form, to keep things simple:

  • So we got the daughter of Zeus origin, which, ugh. However, I appreciate that they didn’t dwell on it too much. It was a thing that was hinted at a bit, later revealed, and then the film kept rolling on without much drama. I don’t love the lightning powers, though. I think they’re goofy and not very Wonder Woman-ish, and I hope we don’t get too much of that moving forward.
  • New origin for the Amazons in a lot of ways too, with the dead gods and Zeus setting them up on Themyscira. The Zeus focus is not my jam, because I like it when it’s the female deities. Also, the lack of the classic Hercules narrative is a bit of a downer too, just because I love the old school origin. It’s not a bad origin, though; we’ve seen much worse.
  • Diana leaving Themyscira on her own rather than winning the tournament is a change I actually did like. The tournament is classic and iconic, but I think that what’s central to that narrative is Diana taking her destiny into her own hands by entering the tournament even though she’s forbidden to. Her deciding to leave on her own captures that same spirit.
  • I followed all of the Wonder Woman news really closely, so the Ares reveal was spoiled for me by some article at some point a while back. Thus I can’t really grade the twist of it all, since I knew it was coming. I didn’t much care for him in the role, though. Or rather, once he was full on Ares. Initially, the speechifying and such in his British lord guise was kind of interesting. He just didn’t have the physicality for the fighting, and the armour and everything wasn’t the best. It was all too much CGI for me.
  • Poor Steve!! I figured that something bad had to happen for her to be largely out of commission for the next hundred years, so I was worried going in it might be Steve, and it was. But it was a good death and I LOVE LOVE LOVE that even in the face of losing the man she loved, with the evidence of the horrors of mankind all around her, Diana still stayed true to herself and chose love over war. “I believe in love” was such a perfect line because there’s the Steve bit, of course, but there’s obviously something much deeper to it than that. Loved that so much.
  • It would have been fun to get to know the Amazons a little bit better. I know that we had the rest of the movie to get into, of course, but what we saw of them at the beginning was so good and fun and left me wanting so much more.
  • Gal Gadot IS Wonder Woman in a way we just haven’t seen from the other leads in the DC cinematic universe. Everyone’s going to have to seriously up their games in Justice League or she’s going to blow all of those poor boys out of the water (again).
  • I would 100% watch a sequel where Diana and Etta got super into the suffragette movement but also just hung out a lot and had fun times.
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5 Responses to “Wonder Woman Film Review: A Movie Worthy of its Heroine”

  1. Havilland Parker (@HavParker) Says:

    I’m a fan of the daughter of Zeus origin, so, I was cool with that.

    This movie’s budget was on the modest side for a superhero film and they did great work, but I do see the limits in some of the CGI. It doesn’t ruin the movie. I found it pretty easy to dismiss.

    But I loved the movie!

    Super disappointed all the gods are dead, but there’s always the potential for them to be reborn. Hopefully, they will be. 😉

  2. Darci Says:

    The only reason I can see why they chose to move her origin to World War I was so they could tie it into the women’s suffrage movement. Perhaps you’ll get your wish for Etta and Diana to visit that in a sequel, Tim,
    Thanks!

  3. L Says:

    I think the “new” origin was taken from the Bombshells comics, down to leaving in a boat and Diana taking the lasso and armour. It’s nice that she mashed up different takes of her in the movie. Hope we get to see Donna and/or Cassie in the sequel.

  4. Heather Stewart Says:

    A Diana and Etta suffrage movie would be so much fun. I would watch it so many times!

  5. Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine by Tim Hanley – Feminism in Cold Storage Says:

    […] up there too. For a preview of his writing, he has been posting about the new Catwoman book, but here‘s a link to the movie […]

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