Film Review: Wonder Woman
After a number of tries, I think the DC Universe films have finally managed to release a film firing on all cylinders. I think Man of Steel had a lot of good points but I think it was a missed opportunity, not showing just how good Superman is. Batman v. Superman was in my mind an improvement but I think it would have benefited from some tightening - the distrust of Superman seemed forced, the incident that caused the Congressional Inquiry was a bit confusing, and it really packed an awful lot into it. On the plus side, Ben Afleck made for a fantastic aged Batman and Gal Gadot's debut as Wonder Woman was a highlight. Suicide Squad seemed primarily to suffer from not knowing what kind of movie it wanted to be, though my younger daughter Jasmine loved it - Harley Quinn is her favorite comic book character. Jasmine and I saw Wonder Woman today and while Harley remains her favorite character, she definitely liked Wonder Woman better than Suicide Squad or any of the DC movies (she's a DC girl).
I'm far from an expert on the Wonder Woman comics - when I was in high school I was more on the Marvel side of the fence and as I got into DC I tended more towards Superman, Batman, and Green Lantern. I'm going to have to check out the George Perez Wonder Woman of the 1980s along with the more recent Greg Rucka stories - I've recently read his Batwoman Detective Comics run and thought it was superb.
So with the disclaimer as to my not being an expert on the Wonder Woman "canon" out of the way, I'll say that I had a smile on my face for much of the movie. It shows us Diana (she's never referred to as "Wonder Woman" in the film) leaving her home to accompany Steve Trevor back to the world of men, convinced that Ares is behind the Great War that is currently raging. The film moves Wonder Woman's origin back from its original World War 2 era to the closing days of World War 1.
The film captured both a bit of innocence and wonder as Diana learned of the world - for example, she is amazed at discovering ice cream. She is also just so good in a way that Man of Steel missed in my opinion. When she sees innocents suffering she cannot do nothing, she cannot pursue a greater good. She must act. Perhaps my favorite scene is when she, alone, emerges from the trenches at the Western Front, to cross no-man's land and rescue a town from the German forces.
However, the world is not all sunshine. Some of her battles are heartbreakingly in vain. She is rarely in much physical danger, with only one foe who is truly a match for her. But that is not to the detriment of the film in the slightest. Diana is forced to consider the possibility that perhaps humans don't need the intervention of gods to kill each other.
It was also refreshing to see a nice amount of humor without it being reduced to slapstick. There was the occasional laugh but never at the expense of the characters' integrity. But even with its setting in the Great War, it did not descend to the darkness that all too often is a part of the DC Universe films. Diana is a hero.
Beyond Gal Gadot's masterful performance as Diana, Chris Pine was a great Steve Trevor. As the sidekick/guide to the world he could have been either lost in the background or usurped her role. He did neither. He quickly realized just how talented she was and always treated her with respect. Despite his awareness of just how "super" she is, he is never threatened by her.
The film also showed Diana functioning in a world dominated by men. Her way of dealing with it was to... well, to take no shit from anyone. She would always do what was right and would defy anyone to do so, whether that person be her mother or the leaders of the British government. I'm a man and probably can't appreciate just what an inspiration she is, to finally see a female superhero - and one done so exceptionally well. I know my daughter walked out of it inspired and I keep thinking of this photo I've seen make its rounds around the internet - I think it sums up what Diana means perfectly...