Updated: Feb 4, 2020
I am not the target audience for a Wonder Woman movie. I haven’t read comic books since I was a kid (and even then it was Batman or Superman; I don’t recall ever reading Wonder Woman). More important than that, I grew tired of Superhero movies a decade ago and have skipped the majority of the Marvel Universe films and both DC Universe films that preceded Wonder Woman. Many of the films had a sameness to them, which made watching them a very boring experience for me. It had been awhile and, though Wonder Woman interested me on a cultural level, nothing I had heard about the films I skipped made me eager to see another superhero film. Thus, it was with great apprehension that I approached Wonder Woman.
The first twenty minutes or so, wherein we meet Diana (Gal Gadot) and her fellow Amazons and are introduced to their mythology, did not alleviate my concerns. There was a lot of expository dialogue and the characters seemed one-dimensional. However, once Diana leaves her home with stranded soldier Steve Trevor (Chris Pine from Star Trek) and they journey to London, the film picks up in a big way.
The majority of Wonder Woman (130 minutes without the end credits (which do not, much to the chagrin of some of my fellow theater-goers, feature a bonus scene)) takes place during World War I and follows Diana as she travels with Steve in the hopes of finding and killing war God Ares who she believes is responsible for all the death and destruction in the world. The plot is thin and the villains (Danny Huston’s Ludendorff and Elena Anaya’s psychotic scientist Dr. Maru) are not very interesting. Thankfully, the film is mainly focused on Diana’s journey to becoming a hero. Watching her learn about the world outside of her island and choose her own destiny is surprisingly entertaining.
As usual in these kind of films, the action scenes are just an exercise in CGI (with the exception of Diana’s introduction to a WWI battlefield, which is an excellent scene of character development). Because the villains are not compelling, it never feels as though the hero is in any real danger. Despite this, the film is enjoyable thanks to the likable performance by Gadot in the lead role and her chemistry with Pine’s Steve Trevor. Romance is kept on the back-burner for the most part; he mainly serves as a tour guide of sorts as Diana learns about humanity. Yet watching the two characters learn about each other and themselves makes for a pretty good time at the movies.
Most of the talk surrounding this film has been about the very fact of its existence. The Wonder Woman comic book has been around for seventy-six years and she is the most famous heroine of all time, but this is her very first lead role in a film. Not only is there a lot of pressure on this film to succeed, there is also a lot of pressure on star Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins (making her first theatrical film in fourteen years) to bring Diana to the screen as a strong female role model. I believe they have succeeded.
Their Diana is smart, brave and resourceful. Due to her upbringing, she does not rely on men to take care of things. There is some social commentary when she arrives in London and is completely ignorant of how women were expected to behave in the 1910s. Of course, she quickly proves that she is far more capable than any man. Most importantly, the message that women are equal to men is not forced; it is an organic part of the story. Though, of course, no one in the film is Diana’s equal.
Despite my initial reservations, Wonder Woman turned out to be a fun entry in the superhero genre and a solid start to what DC hopes will be a long-running, and profitable, franchise. I can only imagine that fans of the character, and these kinds of film in general, would probably like this film even more than I did.
3½ out of 5
Cast: Gal Gadot as Diana Chris Pine as Steve Trevor Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta Robin Wright as Antiope Danny Huston as Ludendorff David Thewlis as Sir Patrick Said Taghmaoui as Sameer Ewen Bremner as Charlie Eugene Brave Rock as Chief Elena Anaya as Dr. Maru
Directed by Patty Jenkins Screenplay by Allan Heinberg