The biggest compliment for Wonder Woman is that it feels like a Marvel movie. And a pretty awesome Marvel one at that.
That’s not entirely by accident. Warner Bros. Pictures/DC had taken the road less traveled approach with their DC Cinematic Universe. While not chasing after the latest trend in an attempt to create your own is admirable, it wasn’t what moviegoers wanted to see with the DC characters. Especially Superman.
In fairness, I appreciated what WB did in making a more contemporary Superman in Man of Steel and its follow-up Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But this is everything fans could ask for in a Wonder Woman movie right down to a badass Amazon battle and a twirl in homage of the TV show.
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But Wonder Woman ditches the grim and gritty phase of DC movies. It’s a far more pleasant and enjoyable experience as a result. Most importantly, it’s the first of this new era DC films that lets its hair down, ditches the ultra-seriousness and embraces having a little fun. If the upcoming Justice League is anything like Wonder Woman, the DC Cinematic Universe is set up for a significant resurgence in 2017.
Gal Gadot (Fast and Furious 6) was one of the highlights of Dawn of Justice even in a limited cameo. With the full spotlight, Gadot gives a performance that easily catapults her right in the conversation for best comic book character portrayal. I’d put her right alongside Christopher Reeve’s Superman and Ben Affleck’s Batman.
I had doubts Gadot could fully pull off the role, but now it’s hard to see anyone else possibly doing a better job. Gadot has a disarming, yet striking presence. She stands out in a crowd while trying to be inconspicuous. And when it’s time to kick tail, Gadot looks like an Amazonian come to life. Equally important, she’s able to capture Wonder Woman’s greatest dichotomy of a warrior fighting for peace.
There’s an innocence Gadot brings as well where Diana warmly smiles and shakes hands of people she rescued. Gadot also channels a childlike joy when Diana sees snow and has her first ice cream cone. Gadot’s magical performance fully establishing Wonder Woman as the guiding light of the DC Cinematic Universe.
Origin films can be tricky, but Director Patty Jenkins covers all the important elements of the character without prolonging the wait for some action. The film gets off to a charming start with the young Princess Diana (Lilly Aspell) eagerly wanting to join the ranks of the proud Amazons on Themyscira. Her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Britton) is against it so naturally Diana sneaks off and trains with her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright).
Eventually, Antiope’s instincts prove correct when Steve Trevor (Chris Pine, Star Trek Into Darkness) crashes his plane in Themyscira’s previously undiscovered shores. Convinced the Great War is the work of Ares, the Amazons’ lone threat to everlasing peace, Diana travels with Steve to London in hopes of ending the conflict once and for all.
Screenwriter Allan Heinberg (The Catch, Party of Five) — and story assists from Zack Snyder and Jason Fuchs — injects the script with a heavy dose of the ‘Marvel treatment,’ good-naturedly having fun with some of the established mythos of the character. If nothing else, Wonder Woman serves as a reminder for DC that it’s OK for the audience to laugh.
The Captain America: First Avenger comparisons are hard to avoid due to the nature of the story even with the World War I setting. Like First Avenger, Diana and Steve are accompanied by a motley crew (Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock and Said Taghmaoui) to take out Germans. David Thewlis (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) plays Sir Patrick, Steve’s chief contact in London. But some of the best gags come from Lucy Davis as Steve’s secretary Etta Candy.
The villain front is just as formidable. Danny Huston (30 Days of Night) plays the Red Skull stand-in Gen. Erich Lundendorff. Elena Anaya plays his right hand woman Dr. Poison, who sports a creepy, shattered porcelain doll mask. Lundendorff and Poison are classic old school villains who delightfully get in some quality cackling after killing off some enemies.
But the heart of Wonder Woman is its two stars. Gadot and Pine have tremendous chemistry. Diana and Steve’s relationship feels earned, not simply inevitable like most comic book movie romances. There’s a nice progression of the relationship and Jenkins doesn’t rush it. It’s too bad then that Pine is in the WWI era as he would have made a great supporting character for Wonder Woman sequels. Unless he’s going to become The Summer Soldier…
Jenkins definitely gives the action scenes a comic book feel. It’s amazing watching Wonder Woman fully unleashed in battle. There’s somewhat of a video game vibe to the flow of the action. Diana channels Devil May Cry’s Dante in how she seamlessly transitions from her sword, shield and golden lasso.
The costume work by Lindy Hemming is terrific all around, but the muted wartime clothing really makes Diana’s outfit stand out. Ditto for the set design, which makes Themyscira truly look like a paradise and the war torn battlefields look bleak and hopeless.
At two hours and 20 minutes, the film could be trimmed down just a bit. The climactic action sequence gets a bit tedious until the final sequence. WB seemed to miss a golden opportunity here by not having a post-credit scene to directly lead in to Justice League. There hasn’t been a better lead in for a DC film than Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman is easily one of DC’s best movies, but it also belongs in the mix of best comic book origin movies period. Whether by car, rail or invisible jet, make sure you catch this major course correct for DC’s film franchise.
Rating: 9.7 out of 10
Photo Credit: Alex Bailey and Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Pictures