Everyone knows who you are…
The rivers have run red with blood. Cats and dogs fall from the sky like tears in rain. Pigs have achieved Mach I flight speed. And somehow, beyond all possible doubt, despite deriving from one of the worst cinematic franchises in history, DC Films have made a good movie…I’ll give you a moment to recuperate the fragments of brain currently strewn around your vicinity after I just blew your mind. Now is it a perfect film? No, as a matter of fact, it’s missteps truly hold it back from greatness; but as a whole, the film works fine as on its own. Let’s dive in…
Wonder Woman is Princess Diana (Gal Godot) of the Amazons, a race of warrior women created by the Greek Gods to protect humanity, especially from the machinations of Ares, the God of War. The Amazons consider it their sacred duty to defend the world from Ares, even as they remain hidden from humanity on the paradise of Themyscira. However, their isolation ends when Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands on their beach, and reveals to Diana the chaos from the “War to End All Wars.” Thinking this is clearly the work of Ares, Diana embarks on a quest with Steve to head to the front lines of World War I and hunt down Ares to rid the world from his influence and bring peace to the world…by killing this one Greek god.
From the description, and what you may have heard about World War I, this is a bit of stretch for a character to go on. However, this movie’s strength is making you believe it all, particularly what was done with the character of Wonder Woman. The filmmakers opted for a fish-out-of-water kind of story where our protagonist enters the industrialized world for the first time after spending years being raised by a civilization that never advanced beyond Greek culture. And while she inevitably fumbles about in this society, they never make her look like an idiot. She, quite reasonably, asks why things are done in a specific way in a way that’s both believable and still fun to watch. Further, Diana’s a quick learner, so she’s able to catch on and navigate this new world with ease so you never get frustrated with her, and you want to see where she goes next. And while you may think that the setting of the film in Europe during the beginning of the 20th century will lead to a lot of “women can do anything as great as men can,” the film surprisingly doesn’t focus on this angle too much.
Rather, it focuses on Diana’s horror and disgust of World War I, one of the darkest times in humanity’s history. Millions of people, soldier and civilian alike, died needless deaths for absolutely petty reasons, and the film doesn’t shy away from showing you these facts (even for a PG-13 setting). After seeing the destruction all around her for herself, Diana reveals herself in her full Wonder Woman outfit and she goes to work doing the one thing I have not seen in a DC Movie: she actually saved people because she fucking wanted to do it. There was none of this, “I need to hide my power because I’m a freak” nonsense from Man of Steel, or the painfully trite discussion of god versus man in Batman v. Superman, and definitely no amoral criminals deciding to save the world because they’re bored like in Suicide Squad. Wonder Woman saved people because it was the right damn thing to do, and she’s going to make it look freaking awesome.
And my God, what a difference a competent director can make for action. Patty Jenkins delivers all the goods on showing you Wonder Woman and the other Amazons in combat as they take out 20th Century German soldiers with swords, spears, arrows, and lassos. While the film does utilize quick edits and slow-mo from time to time, it’s not overused too much for my tastes…except for the end which I’ll get to later. But honestly, I think I was enjoying the action so much, because, as I’ve stated countless times before: I actually give a shit about the characters and want to see them survive.
A lot of credit for making me give a shit goes to Gal Godot honestly. While she got her start in Hollywood thanks to the Fast & Furious series, she never had much of a significant role for me to really judge her as an actress. Here, she’s got to deliver a range of emotion in addition to doing all of the kick-ass stuff. To her credit, she rises to the occasion pretty decently. I mean she didn’t make me tear up, but she made me believe she was Diana of the Amazons both in her mission to stop Ares and in her relationships to various characters like her mother and aunt (played by Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright respectively) and her love interest in Chris Pine.
Speaking of which, Pine has been on a role in the past year. Between Hell or High Water, Star Trek Beyond, and now this film, he’s been on a winning streak. While he primarily serves as Diana’s guide to the world of men, he also pulls multiple duties as comic relief, action side kick, and the aforementioned love angle. Once again, kudos goes to the director for helping craft a relationship between Diana and Steve that is charming and believable at the same time without ever getting obnoxious. Keep in mind, these characters butt heads with each other, but unlike several romantic comedies, the reasons for their fights are completely understandable because they’re completely tied with Diana’s mission to bring peace to the world and her having to deal with the reality that she really can’t save for everyone.
Which leads to my biggest compliment for the film, it’s major theme. The film constantly reinforces the idea that Diana is naive to believe that killing one person would instantly solve the world’s problems, despite her insistence to the contrary. While people like her mother and Steve people men are complicated creatures that honestly don’t deserve much saving, Diana still sees the good in people and wants to do the right thing come what may. See that there? That’s a fucking hero. A complex moral obligation to do the right thing that’s tied wonderfully to Diana’s mission to kill Ares as the very personification of war itself.
It’s just a shame that when Ares is revealed…the film loses its mind. For a brief few moments anyways. I genuinely felt that Zack Snyder’s slimey dark tendrils latched itself on to the film to give a superhero fight as bombastic and as confusing to watch as the finale to Batman v. Superman, and I don’t say that lightly. Mercifully, Patty Jenkins managed to stick the landing for the film by ending it on a high note and doing her best to reign in the worst instincts of what must have been a studio mandate from a maligned director. Further Ares’ reveal was kind of weak sauce, considering we were being hyped up for it through two characters, Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya) a disfigured mad-scientist bent on performing chemical warfare and Lundendorff (Danny Huston) who’s based on a real-life guy that has nothing to do with what he actually did in World War I. To call the pair over-the-top, would be an insult to Vin Diesel’s actions in XXX: The Return of Xander Cage. It’s like these two are in a completely different movie from what we are experiencing with Diana and her journey.
These critiques, however fair, still did not take away from my overall enjoyment of the film. I’m genuinely surprised by how much I dug this film and I believe it all came down to one idea: sincerity. The film believed in its message and main character confidently enough, so no matter what the film threw at you or Diana, you were in it with her to the end. I can’t imagine how girls and women world over must feel about finally getting a super heroine they can enjoy for their own, and they not only deserve it, but this film is just a great experience that left me in a damn good mood. That clunky ending was close to knocking this down to a MATINEE…but I couldn’t do that to this movie. Not when it made me feel so inspired and so good. This is a lower, but still recommendable…
PS. Because Wonder Woman is as damn good at is, it has also left me with a bit of self-reflection. Namely, that I need to re-evaluate my opinions of Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad. Look for them on the site…you may notice something new.