Wonder Woman (2017) Review

It’s okay, DC movie universe, Wonder Woman is coming to save you.

I didn’t spend much time or effort following along with the minutiae of details going into Wonder Woman’s release. Part of this is me being jaded in general against the bevy of unfiltered, knee-jerk opinions of internet wanderers, and also me being less than impressed by DC’s film offerings after Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. I had some fun with Suicide Squad and appreciated that it mostly knew what it was and didn’t take itself seriously (the opposite of the morose Man of Steel and Batman Vs. Superman offerings), but at the end of the day it was still a sloppy film that I haven’t felt a need to revisit.

I’m not going into get far into nitpicks like what state the Amazons’ armpits should be in, or the size of Gal Gadot’s breasts (seriously, how did that become a thing), or worrying about whether a handful of men were butthurt about the female only screenings of this film (short answer: they need to get over it). Yes, this movie makes a statement. It’s ignorant for me to overlook the magnitude of what this movie means to women, as being equal to men, to being just as a valid as a hero, and that women can also direct excellent, high-quality, mainstream action/adventure films. Yes, this is entertainment, this is comic-book fantasy brought to the big screen, but ultimately, like a novel, a more “artistic” movie, a video game, etc., this is a story, and stories serve multiple purposes. They are an escape from an often cruel reality. They help us see things from new perspectives, to understand other people and their ways of thinking. They sometimes ask tough questions about who we are and why we think the way we do. Some stories are able to make us feel better about life, when they capture an idealism and spirit that is genuinely inspiring.

I came away from Wonder Woman most definitely feeling the latter. There’s an optimism and a vitality to this film and its heroine that is infectious and stuck with me long after the credits rolled. The movie has more heart, humor and humanity than any other DC film I’ve watched. I can certainly credit this to solid writing and directing, a moving score, but most especially I have to give props to Gal Gadot. I can’t fathom why anyone thought she could not play Wonder Woman. Gadot is among the most watchable, joyful actresses I’ve ever seen on the screen. To say she is beautiful is a bit of a “duh” statement, but more than obvious first impressions, what most impresses me about her is her charm, charisma, and a smile that melted my gorram heart. Every. Time. Gadot also portrays a certain purity that is fascinating to watch. This starts out as a sort of naivete, a simple view of the world and a belief that solving its problems is a matter of A to B to C and we’re done. She is so pure and just that the corruption among those who are supposed to be her allies is appalling, to the point where she finally cuts through the BS and takes matters into her own hands.

And oh my, does she ever.

I’m going to talk about “the” scene. The trailers spoiled it a little bit, but when you see the “No Man’s Land” scene in full context, I defy you to not be affected by it somehow. Some on the web have already declared it the “best scene in superhero history.” I don’t know if I could go that far, but I will say that it deserves to be mentioned in the same conversations as the “Avengers Assemble” 360 shot, Christopher Reeves revealing himself as Superman for the first time, and every other scene in The Dark Knight. The “No Man’s Land” scene is why I go to movies. Wonder Woman, by this point, has had enough sneaking around, enough of being told to stay quiet, enough of having to watch all the suffering around her and  doing nothing. The analogy of No Man’s Land is not lost on me, so yes, I’m going to be political for a moment, when I say that not only did I feel like cheering the heroine on in her defiant march across the trenches, I also felt like cheering for every woman who has ever decided to stop taking shit for simply being female, who has ever stood up for what is right or done a job that had be done even when they were told they shouldn’t or couldn’t because of their gender.

Wonder Woman has been criticized in some circles for not giving a realistic depiction of World War I (at least in the trench warfare regions), to which I say several things. First of all, this is a comic book movie, with a protagonist who is the daughter of Zeus, so absolute authenticity is not necessarily needed nor should it be expected (because this is a mythological what-if take on history). Also, if one cares to pay attention, this story does take place during the final days of the war, so it does make some sense for the trenches to not be undergoing constant artillery bombardment, for the fighting to not have been as pervasive as it was throughout much of the conflict.

There are a few things I will concede could and should have been handled better in Wonder Woman. The movie could have done with few scenes chopped out. The antagonists aren’t very fleshed out or deep, so their scenes without Wonder Woman involved could have been cut out altogether and I don’t think it would have mattered. The final battle has one poignant, touching moment, but it does go on overly long and did feel conveniently resolved. There were also some times in the film where I felt as though it wanted to be too much like Captain America: The First Avenger, and it came across as disingenuous.

All of the above being said, my opinion is that minor quips aside, Wonder Woman is easily the best film in DC’s current cinematic universe, and it has the heart and charisma to stand up alongside the better of Marvel’s movies. Gal Gadot is radiant, charming, and also a total badass when she needs to be. Chris Pine turned in one of the best performances I’ve seen from him, his character giving our heroine a great insight into the world of humanity and acting as part of the catalyst that allows her to learn and grow. The music was great, the direction was excellent, the set pieces were distinctive, engaging, and by the end of the film I was filled with a hope and enthusiasm that I rarely get from modern movies. I appreciated the statement this made for female heroes, and I also appreciated the way the movie adeptly displayed, without needing to be preachy, how dirty, awful, stupid and futile war and mankind’s trifles are.

Scores are arbitrary. Opinions are subjective. You don’t have to like this movie, but if in general you enjoy comic book and action/adventure films, I do believe you’re doing yourself a disservice by not giving Wonder Woman a chance.

FIN

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