Wonder Woman Plot Summary:
At the time of World War I, Captain Steve Trevor’s (Chris Pine) plane goes down, and enters Themyscira, an island created by the gods, and home to the fierce Amazon warriors. Special among them is Diana (Gal Gadot), the fiercest of them all. With a desire to help mankind, she accompanies Steve Trevor to stop a chemical weapons attack, as the origin of the great Wonder Woman is revealed.
In many ways, Wonder Woman is a paint by numbers superhero origin story. We’ve seen a lot of those. Unlike Superman, Batman or Spider-Man though, Wonder Woman’s origin is a bit murky, and some might even say a little whacky. The way its revealed to our avatar in the film, Steve Trevor, is so succinctly put, it made me want to raise my fist in elation at the level of care and writing that went into this film. That’s just one of the many brilliant moments from Wonder Woman, a film that is absolutely impossible to dislike.
Let’s get the hyperboles out of the way now. No, Wonder Woman is not the greatest superhero movie ever made. It may not even crack my top ten. It’s not even the best superhero movie of this year (Logan). That doesn’t matter. What matters is this is a damn good movie, and one that DCEU haters have been waiting a long time for. As someone who’s defended the DCEU (except Suicide Squad), I loved this movie for different reasons than I loved Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. That’s okay. We make so much out of what the tone should be, light or dark, blah, blah, blah. The tone should fit the story. Wonder Woman excels at this. It’s serious when it should be. The humor is natural. But most important of all, it’s extremely character driven. And speaking of the characters, this movie has one HELL of a cast.
When Gal Gadot was first announced as Wonder Woman, I didn’t really have a strong reaction. She had some roles here and there, but for all intents and purposes, she was an unknown. I didn’t have much to go on. In her brief role in BvS, she crushed it when she was in costume. That glib smile when fighting Doomsday is probably everybody’s favorite moment from that film. As Diana Prince though, we didn’t get much. She was fine. So, how was her performance as Wonder Woman? Much like her bracelets, Gadot’s performance erupted all over the damn screen.
It goes without saying that in all the action sequences, Gadot is an absolute freight train of intensity. Holy, Zeus. She’s like a symphony of destruction. Her first real sequence as Wonder Woman was pure pleasure to watch. What impressed me more though were the subtleties. This is where you really endear yourself to the audience when playing a superhero. Christian Bale did it. Hugh Jackman did it. And now Gadot does it. There’s a moment on Themyscira where soldiers attack, and as Gadot watches that bullet fly through the air, she exemplifies fascination, curiosity, fear and excitement all at the same time. It’s a beautifully directed scene by Patty Jenkins.
Aside from the acting, it’s what they do with the character that raises this as an above average superhero movie. You certainly get the nice fish out of water moments, but the real power of this film is how Diana looks at the world with such simplicity. It turns out to be her greatest strength, and weakness. There’s a brilliant moment late in the film where she realizes for the first time that man isn’t so simple. By killing one entity, that doesn’t solve all the world’s problems. It’s such a poignant moment that spirals into a gut-wrenching exchange between her and Steve Trevor.
Speaking of Steve Trevor, Chris Pine is awesome. I’ve been saying it since the beginning. Not that this guy has had a bad career, but he should be right up there with Ryan Gosling. Chris Pine’s comedic timing is like watching Tom Brady complete a pass to Julian Edelman – perfection. He has one line in this movie that may go down as one of the best lines of 2017, and most of it is because of Pine’s pristine delivery. This isn’t like Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man. It’s more downplayed. Perfect.
His chemistry with Gal Gadot is also perfect. It’s a better version of Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter, which was solid, but this perfects it. They also get to have their dance. The most well written scene in the whole movie is when they’re alone on a boat, and so naturally, some very adult conversations pop up. Not only is this a funny and clever scene, but it’s a real conversation these two characters would have. It’s not forced. It’s natural humor, whereas in a Marvel movie, the humor is all set ups, like Doctor Strange calling someone Beyonce, or some random extra playing Galaga on his computer. Hahaha. Hysterical.
The scenes on Themyscira are a little cliché, but the actresses do a fantastic job of elevating the material. Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta, Diana’s mother, definitely serves her purpose well, but the real stand out was Robin Wright as General Antiope. Wright was AWESOME. Fierce as hell. I wish we could have seen more scenes between her and Diana One of my biggest complaints is with the Amazons, in that we really only get to know Diana, Hippolyta and Antiope. That’s it. They could have built up some kind of rivalry or bond between Diana and another Amazonian.
The villains were hit or miss. Danny Huston as General Ludendorff was too whatever, although the film makes up for it with a curve ball at the end. Without spoiling too much, the big villain reveal was okay. It looked goofy at times, but he was passable. The better villain was head and shoulders Elena Anaya as Dr. Maru, AKA Doctor Poison. The mask looked unsettling, and Anaya played it just right. The way she observed her weapons in action was compelling.
Rounding out the rest of the cast, the trio of Sameer (Said Taghmaoui), Charlie (Ewen Bremner) and The Chief (Eugene Brave Rock), who joined Trevor and Diana’s army crew, were all solid and entertaining. Steve Trevor’s secretary, Etta, played by Lucy Davis, is fine, but this is where the movie got too Marvel. It’s in the trailers, but when she tries to dress Diana up in different outfits is where the humor felt too set up and not organic. Thankfully, she’s not over used. I’d be remised if I didn’t mention Lilly Aspell, who plays young Diana. Her first scene where she runs in smiling will make everyone melt into a big puddle of cute.
What stops this film from breaking into the elite superhero category is that the origin of it all does hamper it. There’s a lot of “Been there, done that” moments. The way Themyscira was explained though included some cool animation, and was certainly a lot more interesting than Green Lantern, where a giant fish talked at you while awful green CGI farted onto the screen.
The visuals in general were fine. Themyscira looked gorgeous, but there were some questionable effect shots. The score was solid, but felt generic at times, especially whenever the villains popped up. You might as well call this part of the score “The Mustache Twirl.”
Aside from the origin fatigue, all these criticisms are minor. Patty Jenkins delivered one hell of a picture that is the definition of a crowd pleaser. There’s a lot to love about this movie, but it all goes back to Wonder Woman herself. She delivers a powerful final monologue that is the exclamation point to this film.
Let’s all say it together now – DC delivered a film we all love. Leave the divisive shoulder shrugging at the door.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10 (Really Great)