Wonder Woman review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
In the current state of the DCEU’s messy grab at a fast comic book franchise, Wonder Woman stands out as the shining beacon of this cinematic universe. It’s not some grand film to revitalize the comic book universe’s chances of being as fantastic as Marvel, but it at least proves that a decent movie can be mustered out of this material without going overly dark or allegorical. After all, you can’t take a film too seriously when your villains are Ares, the god of war, and his henchwoman Doctor Poison developing a gas for gods.
Gal Gadot plays Diana as the chipper fish out of the water, living on an island of goddesses, but hoping there’s more beyond her seas. Her mother wishes her to stay a princess and not face the tides of war, but you can’t fight the wave. Especially when German soldiers penetrate through the invisible shield that keeps the Amazon island of Themyscira concealed. It turns out that the outside world is currently in the middle of World War 1. War, you say? It must be the work of that dastardly god, Ares. That’s what Diana believes, and it turns out she’s right. Sort of. Tricky business, these gods.
Escorting the weapon-bound Diana into the world mortals is English spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), ideally suited for a spy the way he can hide that English accent so well. Their banter starts off pretty typical with Diana observing Trevor as a representative of his species. There’s the expected talk of physical characteristics and how relationships between men and women exist on the mortal ground. Thankfully, these scenes are gotten out of the way early, and Diana finds more fun in London and on the battlefront. She questions everything about society, from inept military strategists to ill-fitting female garb not fit for combat. Steve also has his moments of trying to integrate Diana, making sure she doesn’t go strolling through London streets carrying a giant sword. Swords don't precisely fit through doorways.
Diana will eventually get involved with the war and become the Wonder Woman we received a glimpse of in Batman v. Superman. She notices a village under siege, not a part of her mission, and takes it upon herself to defeat the gun-toting German line with her shield, sword, and camaraderie of her fellow commandos venturing into enemy territory. She dashes through the field with fantastic speed, blocks gunfire with shield and armbands, leaps across rooftops and sends enemy soldiers flying through walls. Let it be known that this is the first DCEU movie where a superhero demolishes a building where the citizens and soldiers cheer her on.
It’s mostly because Wonder Woman has such an inviting and heroic personality, rarely coming off as the snooty protagonists that ask her minor allies to stand aside. I liked how the English forces she worked with felt more like team players than dumbstruck men put in their place. The scene where Wonder Woman saves a sieged village also features Trevor and his commandos helping her out, providing support fire as Diana blocks the machine guns. It also helps that Diana has to learn a grander lesson about changing hearts as opposed to some improvement in her character. She’s not an egotistical or blinded hero, but one that just needs to understand the world better and realize the world’s problems are not so easily solved.
Wonder Woman feels like a back to basics film for the DCEU, returning to what makes a single superhero film more adventurous and fun than thematic and cool. The fight scenes are exciting and well-shot, despite the apparent computer graphic models in trying to make us believe Gal Gadot could bound over buildings. The ending, despite containing a more significant message than most superhero pictures, comes off rather silly and not as impressive for being another battle with a CGI baddie. It doesn’t all work, but the chemistry of the characters and action of the World War era make the film sufficient enough for a popcorn picture. The picture stands so well on its own it makes me wonder if the refusal to include any Justice League easter eggs had something to do with it. Forget Batman v Superman; THIS is the dawn of justice that superhero movies so desperately need before they get too wrapped up in their capes and cowls of brooding.