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« Noomi Rapace x7 | Main | Interview: Nicholas Galitzine in "Handsome Devil" »
Sunday
Jun042017

Review: "Wonder Woman"

by Chris Feil

The absurdly long wait for Wonder Woman to arrive on the big screen is officially over with the arrival of Patty Jenkins’s stellar adaptation. Gal Gadot may have been the all-too-brief bright spot of last year’s Batman v Superman, but in her own story she emerges as a hero for the ages.

While this is yet another superhero origin story, Wonder Woman’s conviction keeps its more common beats alive. Gadot’s Diana is raised to be a warrior among the Amazons, with a strong sense of true justice, under the watchful eye of her mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and trainer Antiope (Robin Wright). On the otherwordly arrival of earthly spy pilot Steve Trainor (Chris Pine), Diana sets out for a righteous battle with destiny on the World War I front.

Gal Gadot is a captivating screen star, easily embodying both the chill nobility of the Amazons and the bleeding heart of her morality. Her Diana has a subtle longing, and she gives her piousness a complexity that keeps her proclamations from becoming flatly virtuous. And she seriously kicks ass - but with more purpose and humor than her DC bro coworkers.

Wonder Woman has finally been brought to the screen with compassion for the character herself and the audience as well. As superhero films have become more homogenized at best and fascistic at worst, Patty Jenkins has made one where both character and context allow the audience to connect to more than just an entertaining diversion. The film doesn’t forget its braun to favor its brain, but there is certainly something emotionally gained by how it calls up inequality and oppression that makes Diana’s righteousness resonate on a deeper level.

This Wonder Woman stands for love, a moral code that Jenkins ensures is more than basic heroic platitude. Her worldview and acts of courage are equally as heroic under Jenkins’s vision, a hero that actually mends something broken as she takes down evil forces. This depth of feeling, of stakes, makes Wonder Woman a fully formed character that we can believe in - it was the first time a superhero film made me feel like a wide-eyed kid again in many years.

Its contemporaries should take note of how Wonder Woman’s character focus heightens the stakes of the action. Even some early clunky moments of CGI on Themyscira are easily forgiven for how they strangely reflect the sequence’s sunny optimism. While some of its set pieces have the same scattershot, clanging composition (a scene where Diana decimates a room full of Germans looks lifted straight from the climax of Batman v Superman), the action is all the more thrilling because of our sense of Diana’s motivation and consequence. This is never more true than in the soon-to-be much discussed No Man’s Land sequence, one truly rousing moment of thoughtful cinematic heroism.

Like many origin stories, the film doesn’t fully engage with its villain - though luckily with the World War I setting, it’s as if the larger, more general force that Diana is fighting is the real villain here. Danny Huston snarls once again as the evil Ludendorff without much surprise. Elena Anaya’s creepily masked (why do even great directors hide her face all the time?) Doctor Poison has some bitter humanity but not much characterization.

While the ensemble delights in their small bits, especially Wright and Saïd Taghamaoui's charming Sameer, the only one who steals any of Gadot’s spotlight is Chris Pine. As charming as ever, Pine plays love interest Steve Trevor with ease and great humor at the film’s subtextual winks. While it’s clear the actor knows it’s Gadot’s show, he and Jenkins still capture him Steve as emotionally arrested and realized as Diana. Can we start taking him more seriously as a charming screen talent, please?

It’s not just the DC Cinematic Universe that has been revitalized here, but the film should serve as reminder to the genre in general. What makes superhero films register beyond our pre-invested fandom is where Jenkins’s film is strongest: a distinct and complete character combatting global concerns. This isn’t just a blockbuster made within a set (increasingly more lifeless) formula. Wonder Woman is built to inspire awe - and it resoundingly does.

Grade: B+

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Reader Comments (26)

Yes to all of this. It had some of the typical flaws of most superhero movies - clunky dialogue, thinly sketched villains (although the big bad was a surprise, to me at least), and an overly long and generic climactic battle sequence - but these were easily outweighed by everything that was awesome about it. It really did a great job building Diana/WW's character and motivations, and balancing the serious & sincere message with plenty of humor. In many ways it felt like it was borrowing the best parts of other superhero and action/adventure movies (Thor, Captain America, even a dash of Indiana Jones) while still carving out its own unique identity.

And Gal Gadot really was perfect casting. Insanely charismatic and, of course, insanely gorgeous.

Chris Pine was utterly charming, and it was so refreshing to see him play the supporting/love interest role so comfortably. The character's well calibrated to be compelling in his own right without taking the focus off Diana. He's heroic on a human scale, while WW's on another level entirely - and he's totally fine with that, no tiresome masculine insecurity to drag things down. (It helps, of course, that WW is *literally* a goddess, or at least a demigod.)

Also agree that Sameer was the standout of the ragtag supporting band.

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

Yes to all of this.

I also want to add that after this movie, Chris Pine might just be my favorite of the superhero Chrises.

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

Pine was always the best of the superhero Chrissy's.

So exactly how big is Gadot going to be after this? Clearly she's gonna get a ton of opportunities? Does she have the chops to take advantage and be on the A-list when she's no longer Wonder Woman? I haven't seen it yet so curious.

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Also how is Connie Nielsen in this?


Super talented/underused but haven't seen any reviews mention her really.

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Connie Nielsen is great in a role that Nicole Kidman dropped out of. Agree with everything in this review except Robin Wright plays Diana's aunt, not just her "trainer." Movie is very well made and entertaining from beginning to end.

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJono

Correction: Nicole was up for the Robin Wright role but had scheduling issues. Too bad for Nicole, it would have been nice for her to be in a popular film for a change.

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJono

I really liked most of it, but hated the last 20 minutes, so overall, it was above average for a superhero film, but not fantastic.
Also, when she said "I am Diana and I believe in love," my mind immediately went to the awful closing song of Mirror Mirror.

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterchasm301

I just got back from the theaters and wow.... fucking enjoyed the hell out of it. Gal Gadot just became a megastar in this film and delivered in every way.

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

Thanks, Chris. And thanks for highlighting Pine's work. He is hardly mentioned in some reviews, as if recognizing his part of the film's success would diminish this feminist feat. That's just silly. And the fact that the "damsel in distress" is allowed to be a three dimensional character is one of the most interesting aspects of this film.
But above all, that's no way to treat an actor whom we should definitely take more seriously as a charming screen talent:)

(Is it 'whom'?)

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGena

Really enjoyed it, but yeah the final 15-20 minutes were so by the number superhero action stuff that I rolled my eyes , still it didn't ruin all that came before it which was excellent.

Pine and Gadot delivered star turns. I can see Pine getting more respect given his work in this, Into The Woods and Hell Or High Water, he's had a pretty decent run recently.

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRami

Sorry to tell you, thevoid99, but one can't become a megastar just by one picture !

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAAA

Not to jump the gun, but can Gal G a dot get an Oscar Nomination?

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

I just wanted to say: STELLAR review. Concise, cohesive, insightful and, most importantly, focused on the FILM, not the reviewer. Great great great job, Chris!

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

AAA. Pretty Woman made Julia Roberts into a megastar. Speed did it for Sandra Bullock. It does happen ;)

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRami

Tell that to Jennifer Lawrence.

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Flawed movie for sure, but I loved watching it. Amazons + No Man's land sequences= swoon!

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercatbaskets

I thought the slow-motion was overused but still a satisfying movie. I did like the the film villians, especially Dr. Poison played by Elena Anaya. Maybe it's just because she is just very talented but I think she fleshed out the character. I was fascinated by a person getting such pervese pleasure of the the havok her creations unleash. It is similar to David in the Alien sequel/prequels.

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom

Gadot is great in this, and it does feel like more of a star vehicle than some other Marvel and DC movies. But think of all the current superhero leads who can't get audiences to turn out for their non-super movies. These movies bank on logos and costumes more than they create stars. It would be a happy surprise if Gadot manages to break out where others have struggled - but considering the genre and Hollywood's gender problem, I think it's too soon to tell. I hope I'm wrong!

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDave S.

I thought it was wonderful. It wasn't perfect, but I was VERY pleased. Gal Gadot makes a fantastic Wonder Woman, and she and Chris Pine had terrific chemistry. I loved how much heart this movie had, and it was such a pleasure to watch a superhero movie where the superhero is so ... well, heroic. I found myself really caring about and rooting for her. She had so much compassion, guts, and charm. It's totally more in line with Christopher Reeve as Superman than any of this recent stuff. I'd deduct a few points for the video-game style action in the last stretch--can't they just stop with that tired style of fight sequences?-- but it all worked for me anyway. And I actually felt moved at several points. This totally deserves to be a blockbuster. The showing I saw had a trailer for the 80th Thor movie--Wonder Woman is so much more fresh than this endless string of superhero films we've been getting.

Also, I believe Nicole Kidman was in talks for the Connie Nielsen role--which, in my opinion, was not much of a role. Not the Robin Wright role. Robin was great. Nicole would have been totally wrong for that role. I love Nicole, but "athletic" and "warrior" are not words that spring to mind when I think of her.

June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

I'm a huge fan of the character, and the TV show was a childhood favorite (even though looking back through adult eyes, I see that it quickly devolved into 70s TV formula). So I was anxious about this movie, worried it would be terrible.

Loved it. I got chills during the No Man's Land sequence. It wouldn't have worked if Jenkins hadn't already shown us the horrors of war so well-- and Diana's reaction to the wounded and suffering. This is a hero who is fighting for something bigger than herself, to save the dispossessed.

A lot of the credit also goes to Gadot's performance. She clearly understands who Wonder Woman is and what motivates her. I loved how delighted Diana was by humanity, despite its tragic flaws. Wonder Woman is both human and goddess at the same time, That's what makes her heroic.

Can't wait to see it again. Looking forward to the sequel. I hope Jenkins has already signed on.

June 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBiggs

I watched it over the weekend...it made me root for her from start to end, especially like many have said, during the No Man's Land sequence. Chris Pine is so good as well. I have to admit I cried a little too.

June 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJans

Yep, really, really enjoyed it. Gadot, Pine and Jenkins should all be proud. I was worried that once they left the vibrant, bright world of the island and into the comparatively gray/brown world of the war it would become visually monotone and dreary, but luckily it was better than that.

And can we also talk about the scene no one seems to be talking about? How, even with everything else they did so well, they even included a pretty long scene of Pine naked? And it was funny and cute and even organic to the story and still managed to (wholesomely) objectify him in the literal sense? Brava, ladies (and gentleman, as the screenwriter is a man).

June 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

In comics and TV, Steve Trevor was always kind of dull, never seemed worthy of Diana's devotion. Pine made him admirable, likable, and human -- crucial in Diana's embrace of her own humanity.

And, yeah, he looks good naked.

June 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBiggs

Wait how naked is he?

Just checking for a friend.

June 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

ok, I've been totally Superheroed out for the past few years but this review made me feel compelled to check this one out. I've already made peace w/ the inevitable, overlong & boring battle scene at the end, which is obligatory to every superhero movie, even the good ones. Thanks.

June 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRob

@Anonny - totally naked. Mostly shot from the waist up but then there's a wide shot of him walking out of the baths covering himself with one hand.

June 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

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