Monday, June 5, 2017

Wonder Woman

Finally! If I could write a one word review, I think that would be it. Not only has DC been waiting to have a major release get near universal praise as well as box office success, but the character of Wonder Woman has been around for over 75 years without any theatrical adaptation whatsoever. During that time, we've gotten six major Superman films and eight major Batman films, not including the infamous team-up we got last year (that just so happens to debut the title character from this film). A lot was riding on Wonder Woman, and Warner Bros was in the midst of a PR nightmare after their first two releases failed to win over the majority of fans or critics. As a result, the future of their cinematic universe rested on the very capable shoulders of this Amazonian demigod, and I am thrilled to report that she did not disappoint!
Diana is raised on the island of Themyscira, home of the Amazons. Her mother is queen Hippolyta, and is actively preventing her daughter from receiving any combat training from her warrior aunt, Antiope. We soon realize that she fears that the Greek god Ares would return to destroy Diana if he were to become aware of her existence. However, behind Hippolyta's back, Antiope meets with Diana and gives her as much training as possible. Only after discovering these secret meetings does Hippolyta finally consent for Diana to be trained, on the condition that Antiope trains her harder than any Amazon before her. This training is put to the test after the arrival of a mysterious soldier in a crashed airplane, followed by an army of German soldiers.

That's as much of the plot as I'll go into right now. I've heard some people complain about the protracted nature of this setup, but I for one appreciated getting as much detail as possible about Diana's backstory, as this is the first opportunity most audiences have had to hear it. The design of the island is incredible, and it's legitimized by tremendous performances from Connie Nielsen (Hippolyta) and especially Robin Wright, whose ferocity and passion brings gravitas to this character and this world in general. It's kind of a shame that we don't spend more time here, but at least it's comforting to know that the best parts of the film are yet to come.

Who I was most impressed by was Chris Pine and Gal Gadot. Not only do they have wonderful chemistry together, but they also provide two tricky sides of female-led superhero films that desperately need to work - the male sidekick and the female protagonist. In so many films highlighting a strong woman, they feel the need to undermine the male characters at every turn. Thankfully they've embodied a female character so strong and powerful that they don't need to weaken the men around her. She stands out plenty as it is. Gadot is perfect for this role, portraying Diana's courage and compassion in equal measure. Not only is she by far the greatest female superhero we've ever had, but she's probably one of the best superheroes ever put on screen period.

As a huge fan of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I was relieved that they didn't try to shy away from the connect between that film and this one. There are direct references to the snippets of backstory provided in that film about Diana Prince, and the Hans Zimmer-composed theme from that film is repeated here at all the right moments. Though there aren't a ton of tie-ins to the rest of the DCEU (which is probably a good thing), I still left this theater dying to see more of Wonder Woman in the upcoming Justice League film. Seriously, November cannot come quickly enough.

Overall, I don't really have any complaints about this movie. Sure, the third act gets a little CGI-heavy, but I would actually argue that it's far less so than most of the superhero films of the last couple of years. There were so many moments in this film that gave me chills that I have to recommend seeing this movie in theaters to everyone who reads this. I was so excited for all of the women in our theater (especially my wife, who has been looking forward to this movie forever), and seeing the reaction from women on social media has only heightened the experience. 

It's about time we got a female-led superhero film, and thankfully it stands out as a great superhero film regardless of gender. I am so glad they are bringing Patty Jenkins back to direct the sequel. She was able to create a well-rounded character in Diana that was powerful, but also distinctly feminine. Too often those are seen as a contradiction, and I love that this movie portrays a far more truthful take. I give Wonder Woman four stars, and I can't wait to see it again!

WONDER WOMAN is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content