Introducing women to men since 1918
It is about time that DC beat Marvel to the gate. With this release we have the first female led superhero movie since 2005’s Electra ( if you want to give it the credit of calling it an actual movie and not a waste of time) and boy has DC done something interesting with this one. Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster 2003) stars Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Robin Write, Connie Nielson and Elena Anaya. Gal Gadot stars as the titular Wonder Woman who is forced to confront the horrors of war after Chris Pine as Steve Trevor crash lands in the waters of her homeland Themyscira.
Quite early on in this film you get the sense that the DCCU (DC Cinematic Universe) has really taken heed of the criticisms of their last two outings. Not only is there a dramatic tonal shift in this movie, the lush colors of Themyscira are a welcome rush of luminosity in what has been largely a dull and dark start to the DCCU. We see a young Wonder Woman impetuous with youth idolizing war looking to learn the skills of a warrior. Thankfully we are treated to the only montage, a short one, of Wonder woman learning the skills whilst her mother and another Amazons speak cryptically of her true purpose. All seems well on the peaceful island until a training session becomes too heated and we glimpse the true power teeming underneath her slender frame.
The movie quickens its pace pushing forward the strait forward plot once Steve Trevor crash lands on the island followed shortly by an attacking German force. The Amazonians learn of a war fought by the entire world that seems to be endless. The news of war sparks the ire of Wonder Woman who seeks to fulfill the Amazonian duty to kill Ares the God of war. Chris Pine shines as the foil to Gal Gadot’s single minded heroine and thankfully we are left with very few scenes in this movie where he isn’t on screen. Wonder Woman firm in her belief that this great war has been spawned by the God of war leaves with Steve Trevor to confront him. Gal Gadot’s naiveté to this new more modernized world is what more than anything endears us to her character. We see through her purview the absurdity of the early 1900’s social structure with scenes of her trying on current women’s fashion to her inability to understand revolving doors. The scenes are a sweet and innocent introduction to a new culture that will soon break her heart when she sees what the world of man has to offer.
The pair are recruited on a secret mission to stop General Erich Ludendorff, played by the always cunning Danny Huston, and his Chemist aptly nicknamed Doctor Poison, played by Elena Anaya. The two form up a team of largely cursory characters that serve very little purpose, Sameer, Charlie, and Chief. With our group formed the team soon find themselves on the front lines of the war on the ready to sneak into enemy territory until Wonder Woman finds herself unable to idly sit by and watch as more and more people die. Cue the obligatory action sequence, and what an action sequence it is. Not only has the DCCU listened to the criticisms concerning plot, they have really stepped up their game when it comes to action. This is some of the best action we have ever seen in a live action DC movie to date. It is tense and thrilling, leaving you on the edge of your seat trying your darnedest to not cheer out in triumph as Wonder Woman rushes forward in all her glory deflecting bullets and redirecting mortar shells. Wonder Woman in this film is truly the Wonder Woman we have come to cherish over the years. She is strong, powerful and full of agency. What refreshing imagery we have here as she moves confidently taking out entire platoons of soldiers with ease ending in a spectacular frame of her standing atop a newly crumbled church steeple having freed a city of their captors.
Things slow down a bit here and this is great. Patty Jenkins expertly allows these quiet moments in the film allowing our characters as well as the audience to stop for a moment and just breathe. It’s in these quiet moments that we attach ourselves to these characters much more deeply than would be a non-stop action movie. We get motivations and fears. We get depth. Of course this wouldn’t be a modern movie without a ham-fisted love story thrown in for good measure. You cannot have Chris Pine thrown in here as just a buddy. We need to have these characters fall in love. This largely feels like one of the two parts of the movie that are disappointments. It’s 2017 and we don’t need every movie to feature a love story.
Don’t worry though, things soon pick up pace again as our characters edge ever closer to confronting their main target speeding towards the final act.. A party scene here, a despondent heroine there. These scenes largely feel less important to the plot as much as they are to throw us a red herring. You see, though we are led to believe that General Erich Ludendorff is the God of war it’s really Sir Patrick Morgan, played by David Thewlis. David Thewlis is largely fantastic in the movie delivering every line with the prowess only an actor of his caliber can deliver. Unfortunately, he’s just not in it enough to establish the shock and awe that they were hoping with this movie. I’ll leave a few surprises here at the end that deserve not to be spoiled just because largely I am amazed DC was brave enough to take the risks but I will say the final fight between our heroine and the God of war is largely ineffective as a movie going experience.
DC’s Wonder woman is a great step in the right direction. The action sequences are quite fantastic and the gamble on a director with so few directorial credits under her belt was a bold move that definitely paid off in the end. Gal Gadot reminds us why she was the best part of Batman V Superman giving us even more tangible enthusiasm for the role. Chris Pine is the stand out performance here. Every scene he is in he absolutely steals with that same lovable charm we got from him in the Star Trek reboot. David Thewlis and Danny Huston both do a great job in their respective roles. I would have just made for a better overall experience if they had allowed us to spend more time with the antagonists of this film. Both DC and Marvel have had a terrible go at creating memorable villains and this film is no exception. The CGI isn’t the greatest we’ve seen lately but is largely passable with a few scenes that are a bit too noticeable. The music in this film is amazing. I am not too familiar with Rupert Gregson-Williams’ other work but without a doubt he give this soundtrack his all. It’s almost distracting in some scenes how good the music is. I found myself during multiple scenes focusing on the music more so than what was happening on screen. What an absolute relief it is to see DC putting out good movies again. Hopefully in their next outing with Justice League coming out in November Zack Snyder can continue this upward turn in quality Wonder Woman was able to give us.
Rating: 7.9 out of 10