June 4, 2017

A Movie Worthy of a Woman of Wonder

A Movie Worthy of a Woman of Wonder

The pressure to make Wonder Woman a successful superhero movie must have been intense. In fact, it isn’t just a great “superhero” movie—it’s a great movie. I carefully avoided all spoilers before I saw it, and I’d like to share some thoughts here and I’ll give all of you the same courtesy. I won’t tell you anything about the plot you didn’t already know from the trailers.

Wonder Woman is one of the very highest scoring critical hits among superhero films (currently 93% Rotten Tomatoes) for good reason. The movie is an origin story like so many other superhero movies, but manages to feel fresh. Wonder Woman is a war movie—World War I to be exact—and while the core of the story is getting to know Princess Diana and her mythological origins and world, the horrors of war and what it does to the people involved, both soldiers and civilians, is front and center.

And Princess Diana, our Woman of Wonder, is a complex character. Wonder Woman isn’t Tony Stark: she’s not a charming rogue who’s gruff exterior gives way to a heart of gold. Her heart of gold is on display from the first minute. She’s smart but naive, trained but inexperienced, beautiful but mighty, loving but fierce, superhuman and yet completely human. That’s not an easy task for any actress, but Gal Gadot has the physicality, the looks, and the emotional depth to pull it off.

The credit for this success needs to go to everyone involved. The story and screenplay were solid; it captured enough of the fish-out-of-water aspect of Diana’s journey to make it clear to us, but not so much that it got old or corny. Patty Jenkins does a great job directing the film, giving the story room to breathe while still making the action scenes pop. The production values were incredibly high. Chris Pine as Steve Trevor was also perfect—he has an “everyman” quality in this movie reminiscent of Harrison Ford, the perfect worldly foil for the wide-eyed Princess Diana. But everyone, Lucy Davis as Etta Candy, Robin Wright as Antiope, Connie Neilsen as Hippoltya, Danny Houston as  General Ludendorff, Elena Anaya, David Thewlis, et al, all pulled it off.

All the nits I can pick are small. Occasionally the CGI was a bit obvious. Sometimes the themes and moral values the movie championed were heaped on pretty thick. And like so many movies these days that want to “worship” their action stars, there are moments of ”ultra-slow mo action cam” that isn’t my preference; I like action scenes kinetic throughout. Thankfully, Jenkins doesn’t rely on that nearly as much as other directors (Zack Snyder…ahem…). And then there’s just fanboy comicky things that I liked this and that from the graphic novels that would have been fun to see, but those aren’t worth mentioning here (I think I’ll save that for a podcast).

I’ll admit that I wanted to see a Wonder Woman movie for decades, so this film meant a lot to me. My expectations were high, and this movie met them. I also have read a few sexist reviews, and I know that Jenkins was under a microscope to see how this movie would do financially. Well, she has officially become the first woman to direct a movie that made more than $100 million opening weekend. This is a big deal for studios opening their pursestrings to other female directors, and female-led tentpole action films. For that reason, in addition to how good the movie is, I highly recommend that if you’re interested, you see this in the theater rather than just wait until it’s on video. Show the film industry that women-lead movies can be just as successful as movies helmed by men. Ultimately, we’ll all get better movies that way.

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