Feel the Wonder: the Wonder Woman Review

As the superhero movie genre has gotten bigger, the absence of Wonder Woman has only gotten harder and harder to bear. I mean, the dearth of any real female leads pisses me off, but Wonder Woman especially sticks in my craw. Not just the most famous superheroine, but one of the most famous characters in the genre, period. And yet she remained absent while much smaller, less famous characters got their time in the limelight. You wanna tell me how Ghost Rider got 2 movies or Daredevil got a movie and 2 seasons of a TV show, while Wonder Woman is still waiting in the wings?

Which makes her film adaptation finally arriving in theaters a goddamn miracle all on its own. Unfortunately, its attached to the increasingly terrible DCEU, Warner Bros' attempt at creating a cinematic universe that has, thus far, only succeeded in creating some of the worst the genre has to offer. And while Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman was easily the best part of Batman v. Superman, overcoming being attached to such a toxic franchise is a lot for one hero to overcome. Even a hero like Wonder Woman.

Our plot is devoted to the titular character, Diana of Themyscria (Gal Gadot), an Amazon living on an island of only women, who grows up being trained in being a warrior by her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright), despite the objections of her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). She grows up to be a strong and powerful warrior, who everyone seems to know a mysterious secret about. Oh and they also talk about how humanity was created by Zeus to be good but Ares corrupted them and he's disappeared, and it's the Amazons' duty to track him down one day.

But her idyllic life is interrupted when Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands near the island, pursued by German soldiers. Turns out World War 1 is on outside the island and Steve stole the notes for a super weapon planned by German scientist Islabel Maru (Elena Anaya) and General Ludendorff (Danny Houston). So Diana has to leave the island and team up with Trevor and a small team of misfits to find the super weapon, although Diana is much more interested in finding Ares, who she believes is responsible for turning humanity against itself.

In case you were one of the 20 people who haven't heard yet, Wonder Woman is really, really good. It's not perfect, but frankly, it doesn't need to be. It's far and away the best thing DC has put out in years, and probably the best superhero movie of 2017 after Logan. It's the first real step in the right direction for DC and it gives me hope that the 2017 blockbuster season will be one to write home about.

"Alright, I'm gonna go over there and f**k everyone up."
The big central element, the one that anchors the whole movie is Gal Gadot. She was already really solid in Batman v. Superman, an incredible physical presence that effortlessly turned the garbage she was given to deliver into gold. Here she manages to do the same work with a much better script. Walking a line between Diana's warrior persona and her naivete, which gives her not just a great screen persona, but also an arc to go through. Gal Gadot is incredibly engaging as both though, and she never ceases to be a joy to watch on screen.

The rest of the cast isn't quite up to her level, but they all put in good work. Chris Pine hasn't been this engaging and likable...well ever, and while their band of misfits (Said Taghmoui, Ewen Bremner and Eugene Brave Rock) don't get a lot of screentime, they all do good work with the time they get. Even the villains, as cliche and silly as they are, are a lot of fun, hamming it up or just generally giving off intense vibes.

Of course the plot isn't the most unique (it's basically a cross between Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, with the plot shunted back from WW2 to WW1) but that's not so much of an issue. I wish I could say that it's kind of subversive to have the most important superheroine have some cliches in her movie, now that it has finally arrived to show these young whippersnappers who's boss, but that doesn't feel like the intent. Instead, the intent feels like it was to simply go with a proven, rock solid foundation, and build the movie on top of it, focusing on a good script, engaging characters and solid action setpieces.

"Can I please participate in the action scenes? Please?"
"No. Now sit down."
That script is another one of the film's minor miracles, subtly acknowledging the madness and cruelty on all sides of the war it takes place during, while also never losing track of Diana's character arc. It also manages to slot in those solid action setpieces naturally, and they're all pretty excellent too. The standout is Diana's crossing of no man's land, but all the beats are well realized and they actually manage to advance the plot and tell us more about the characters, which is getting kind of unusual in superhero films (which are trending towards having action scenes for their own sake).

That's not to say the movie is without its flaws. Its opening act is a little on the long side, and I think it could have been cut down a little. It also can't resist turning into a CGI heavy, action showcase in the third act, which isn't a dealbreaker, but does feel a little disappointing, given that they kind of lose track of their human drama at the core of their story. Neither of these really hurt the film, but they do keep the movie from being perfect.

I'd complain they're still over-designing everything, but at least it's not like Superman's outfit with all the lines pointing at his crotch.
But not every movie needs to be perfect, and I'm just happy that a movie that could have been so very very bad turned out to be so very very good. The DCEU has been in a tailspin more or less from the moment it started, but now it finally has something good to lead the way forward. And more than that, it's fantastic to finally see Wonder Woman hit the big screen.

Do not miss Wonder Woman.

Elessar is a 27 year old Alaskan-born, Connecticut-based, cinephile with an obsession with The Room and a god complex.