“Wonder Woman” Movie Review


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     Apparently, DC Comics didn’t run out of ammunition after all.  After one film that didn’t live up to the standards of its predecessor, 2013’s “Man of Steel”, and two utter and complete misfires, 2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad”, Warner Bros. and DC finally have something which can be put side by side against anything Marvel has to offer and wouldn’t you know, it also has become the most successful female superhero film of all time.  Director Patty Jenkins, whose previous feature film credit goes all the way back to 2003 when she guided Charlize Theron to her first Best Actress Oscar in “Monster”, does a masterful job in bringing the princess of the Amazons to vivid and colorful life in “Wonder Woman”.  Jenkins has not only created a top rate origin story, but also a film that captures the magic of the character.  As portrayed by Gal Gadot, who debuted as Wonder Woman in the aforementioned “Dawn of Justice”, the hero practically explodes on screen, dazzling with her beauty, athleticism, and the courage necessary to take on the litany of evil that awaits her.

     I have spoken a lot in the past about the advantages Marvel has had with their core characters having the benefit of never being portrayed in a movie prior to their respective debuts in what we now know as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  And this has turned out to be a massive issue, considering the recent outings for Superman and Batman simply haven't measured up to the Christopher Reeve “Superman” films or to either of the “Batman” films done by Tim Burton or Christopher Nolan.  2008’s “Iron Man” had the benefit of exactly what I’m talking about, as did 2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “Thor”, being characters who outside of the comic book realm were relatively obscure to mainstream audiences and thus there was little preconceived expectation as to what we would see on screen.  “Wonder Woman” benefits from the exact same concept, in that aside from the television show which starred Lynda Carter and ran from 1975-1979,  “Wonder Woman” enters filmdom with what is essentially a clean slate, leaving endless creative possibilities that ultimately will never receive the same scrutiny as the more popular DC characters.

     All that being said, Jenkins creates moments in the film that give you goosebumps in a way I haven't seen since “Superman 2”.  Moments created by a slow build up in which the lead character is carefully developed and not fully unleashed until the situation is right for both the audience and the character.  “Wonder Woman” has two of these moments, and both are executed brilliantly by Jenkins, who was clearly given the authority to move away from the dark tones of Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of Justice” and instead feature the color and glamour of the world’s most famous female superhero, a move that only seems fitting.  Jenkins’ vision is supported by a solid script from television vet Allan Heinberg, who breaks the action down into three distinct acts, each of which highlight important aspects of Diana’s journey in realizing her potential, as well as her destiny.

     The opening sequence features a young Diana, as we see her observe and long to become a skilled Amazon warrior on a hidden island called Themyscira, populated by an all female race led by her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielson).  Not long after these initial scenes which set the stage, Diana grows from a young girl into an adult, and begins to learn and ultimately master the various fighting skills of her people, taught to her primarily by her aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright).  Themyscira itself is hidden in the sea by a cloaking force field of sorts, which doesn't prevent people on the outside from entering the waters that surround it, but does keep those who approach the area from being able to see it.  This becomes apparent when a World War 1 era plane penetrates the field and crashes in the sea just beyond the shores of the island.  When Diana witnesses this and saves the surviving pilot, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), the pursuing German army penetrates the field as well, leaving the Amazon’s to defend themselves.

     The primary force within the story originates within a short prologue that explains the mythical God Ares is responsible for the many wars and atrocities that threaten the world.  When Trevor arrives and tells the Queen there is a massive war going on outside of their paradise, she and her people believe Ares is the cause, and Diana believes it is her destiny to stop him once and for all.  And within the context of World War 1 in which the Allied forces were fighting Germany primarily, the story focuses on a nefarious German General named Ludendorff (Danny Huston), who plans on increasing the body count and giving Germany the ultimate advantage by employing a mysterious chemist named Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya) who is working on the latest advances in chemical weapons and delivery.  Trevor reluctantly agrees to assist Diana in getting to the front lines, where she intends on finding and defeating Ares with the hope of ending the war. A supporting cast of characters including David Thewlis’ Sir Patrick, Said Taghmaoui’s Sameer, Ewen Bremner’s Charlie, and Eugene Brave Rock’s The Chief inject plenty of life into the proceedings and provide plenty of comic relief as the story delves into its more dramatic areas. Rupert Greyson-Williams' score drives the action and ensures strong punctuation to key scenes.

     While Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck, through no fault of their own, do not seem to have mastered the look and feel of their respective characters, this certainly cannot be said about Gadot, who has charisma to spare and comes across with just the right amount of toughness and believability without even the slightest thought of being cheesy going through your mind.  Like Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, and Chris Evans, Gail Godot is now the standard of which every Diana Prince/ Wonder Woman will forever be judged and her performance, as unfortunate as it is to say this in 2017, is a watershed moment for superhero films. Gadot joins the ranks of the very best female action heroes including Sigourney Weaver’s “Ripley”, Uma Thurman’s "Beatrix Kiddo", and Charlize Theron’s "Imperator Furiosa”, easily matching the screen presence and ferocity each of those actresses brings to the table. And though the past has been male dominated, “Wonder Woman” is such a powerful entry, that it could very well be the catalyst which puts DC and Marvel on even ground, given the fact this film will certainly cause mass appeal for the upcoming “Justice League” film later this year, as well as the stand alone sequels both Jenkins and Gadot are already signed on for.  And think of this, for all the credit we give the decision makers and film makers over at Marvel for their ability to churn out quality product, is it me or has DC just one upped the entire MCU? GRADE: A