WONDER WOMAN Directed by Patty Jenkins; Written by Allan Heinberg; Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya, Lucy Davis, Ewen Bremner, Danny Huston, Eugene Brave Rock, Saïd Taghmaoui; Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content; Running time 141 minutes; In wide release June 2, 2017.
The newest installment in the DC Universe brings us the origin story of Diana, Princess of Themyscira, otherwise known as Wonder Woman. Set against the backdrop of the waning months of World War I, we are introduced to a young, brash Amazon princess who ventures into the world of man to protect her home island from the war that threatens to engulf them all.
And because no single one of us can possibly take this on alone, we’ve assembled another Mighty Marvel Team-Up (ok, wrong comic universe) to discuss it.
Andy: Well now. This is what a DC comics movie should be. It feels like they finally understand their characters and what makes them so iconic and were able to translate that to the screen. This is not a perfect film, but it’s the new gold standard for what DC should be aiming for in its cinematic universe.
Bryan: This was a pretty good movie. I wouldn’t call it the gold standard, it had a lot of flaws and DC should work to minimize those, but as far as the DC cinematic universe so far? This was a comparative masterpiece. This is more like a bronze standard. They still haven’t hit that gold standard.
Andy: Be that as it may, I feel like for the first time they were able to match the tone of the film to the characters, and what makes them iconic and beloved. They gave us just enough of the Amazons and their backstory without dwelling too long and giving the first act originitis. The characters’ motivations were clear, and the plot and conflict grew out of that, rather than just being a pretense to set up yet another stylized action sequence. It also managed to be funny, at least in some places, and even romantic in others.
Bryan: I was very impressed that they managed to have a humorous exchange about masturbation in a positive way. This film really won me over at that point.
Andy: I agree! It also helps cement Steve Trevor as kind of a fuddy-duddy, which is an interesting choice for a heroic male lead. But all of this is not to say this is a perfect film. Director Patty Jenkins unfortunately mimics too much of producer Zack Snyder’s trademark fast - slow - fast editing. And Diana unfortunately embodies a lot of the essence of the trope of a “born sexy yesterday” female lead. This feels like it borrows a lot from another born sexy yesterday character, Leeloo from The Fifth Element. Likely it's the other way around, as most heroic female leads in sci-fi, fantasy, etc owe a giant debt to Wonder Woman. But that doesn't prevent it from feeling a little trope-y, and I didn't like how they reduced this goddess of a character to a sometimes naive little girl trying on dresses and not understanding this strange, modern world.
Bryan: Yeah, there’s still too much Zack Snyder for my taste. And the last act of the film gets, frankly, a little boring because it’s the standard DC action movie punch out, but everything else that worked worked well. In fact, if I had to think of two movies it blends together, it would be the earnest hope of Superman: The Movie and Captain America: The First Avenger. There’s an honesty in those films that Gal Gadot brings to life here in a charming way that simply hasn’t happened in a DC film yet.
Andy: Spot on-- and what this also brought from those two was that sense of hope and heroism. As much as Snyder's fingerprints are on this universe, the inspirations from Donner and Joe Johnston. But what I liked most about the film was it made me think-- a great feat considering so many braindead elements from previous DCU movies that think they're smart. [Minor spoilers ahead-- skip to end of paragraph if you don't want to know anything] While Diana seeks out Ares, the God of War, blaming him for the Great War mankind has gotten into, we the audience see over and over that it is us, not the gods, who have caused this savagery. Is it in our nature to war with one another, building worse and worse and worse weapons? Diana’s great hope that if she can only kill Ares, more suffering will be prevented. We, knowing history, see exactly how impossible that task is, as only a generation later we would be thrown into an even more terrible conflict, then generations of Cold War (and hot), and wars on “terror.” A poignant moment with a Native American character who says he fights in the war because Steve Trevor’s people took everything his people had in the last war. The character Sameer admits he is not a fighter, but he always wanted to be an actor-- but circumstances (and his skin color) bound him to this fate. And we see the effects of prolonged exposure to warfare-- what they referred to in WWI as shell-shock but we recognize as PTSD. The film smartly borrows inspiration from other great Great War epics like All Quiet on the Western Front and A Farewell to Arms. And it is in those smart, pensive moments that the film really got me. I'm glad one of the DCU movies finally figured out it had something to say.
Bryan: At the end of the day, I almost don’t care what I think about this movie. I got to sit next to my wife watch it. She spent the film with teary eyes finally getting to see one of her favorite superheroes, and a woman no less, come to life on screen. It was magical for her and, in turn, made it magical for me. If that’s what this film set out to do, then it did its job well.
Andy: Exactly. I think this movie will mean as much to that target audience of generations of fans of of Wonder Woman for whom seeing her on screen will mean more to them than we can possibly imagine. When Diana steps out into no man's land to take on the German army all on her own, it is as meaningful and iconic moment as when the lightsaber flies to Rey's hand in The Force Awakens. But all in all, while this may not rise to the level of some of the best of the superhero genre, it hits all the right notes and sets us up for future greatness. This, as you said, Bryan, is a lot like Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger. So now we just need DC to make their The Avengers, or Winter Soldier. Bring on Justice League and Wonder Woman 2. 8.5 out of 10.
Bryan: I think an 8.5 is too generous, unless you’re grading on a curve with the other DC films. Granted, this is, hands down, the best DCU film that’s been made, it’s not a great film. It’s a pretty good film. But what it lacks in sense it makes up for in freshness. We need more films with women kicking ass and taking names and that made this important, too. I’d give it, just barely, a 7 out of 10.