FILM REVIEW | Wonder Woman (2017)

FILM REVIEW | Wonder Woman (2017)
Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, and Robin Wright
Written by Allan Heinberg and Directed by Patty Jenkins
Review by Mark David Major

(Film blurb begins) Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained warrior. When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, she leaves home to fight a war, discovering her full powers and true destiny. (Film blurb ends)

We need to consider both the recent and long-term history of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) to put Wonder Woman (2017) into its proper context. The recent half-decade run of mediocre DCEU films – shepherded in one fashion or another by Zach Snyder such as Man of Steel (2013) and Suicide Squad (2016) – established a very low standard for audiences. We are only too eager to embrace the first, halfway decent DCEU film to come our way. Is Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman a great film? No, but it is a pretty good one, which easily surpasses this recent run of mediocrity. In doing so, we can only hope it cements Snyder departure from DC and strengthens Jenkins’ role in future films. Surprisingly, the long-term history of the DCEU actually constitutes 16 films over the last 40 years. It is true all but two of these films feature Batman and Superman with the former proving far more successful than the latter, especially the first two films by Christopher Nolan and Tim Burton, respectively. Over this 40-year history, Jenkins’ Wonder Woman comfortably sits atop the middle tier of films such as The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and Batman Forever (1995). It does not have the greatness of Nolan’s The Dark Knight, Burton’s Batman, or even Richard Donner’s Superman but it is close in quality to the last one.

DC Extended Universe Best-to-Worst
1. The Dark Knight (2008)
2. Batman Begins (2005)
3. Batman (1989)
4, Batman Returns (1992)
5. Superman II (1980)
6. Superman (1978)
7. Wonder Woman (2017)
8. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
9. Batman Forever (1995)
10. Superman Returns (2006)
11. Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
12. Suicide Squad (2016)
13. Man of Steel (2013)
14. Batman and Robin (1997) Hard to believe Batman and Robin is not the worst film based on a DC Comics character…
15. Superman III (1983)
16. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

However, there is a promise of greatness to come in Wonder Woman, especially in Gal Gadot’s wonderfully rich portrayal of the title character, Diana Prince. Wonder Woman confirms Gadot is a star for those who might have been unaware of her supporting role in the Fast and Furious franchise. Chris Pine as the male lead (Steve Trevor) provides a sturdy, supportive presence for Gadot’s ‘fish-out-of-water’ to play off in the film. It is unfortunate the other supporting characters were not as richly drawn as Diana or Steve (for example, by comparison to Captain America’s crew in The First Avenger). I still do not know the names of Wonder Woman’s crew. Yes, the marketing of Wonder Woman suffers the same problem as other DCEU films with all of the best parts and lines already used in the trailers. Fortunately, there is a firmer foundation (namely, the script and a sense of humor) for Wonder Woman than those other films. Still, it would have been nicer for audiences if something was left for surprise. Yes, the closing CGI action scene of Wonder Woman goes on for far too long just like other DCEU films. Wonder Woman could be edited down by 15 minutes and it probably would be a better film. Oddly, the musical score does not build anything out of the catchy Wonder Woman theme song introduced in Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (BvS:DoJ). Yes, the bastardization of Greek mythology for the origin story is irritating for those in the know. For some reason, the Amazons have a odd accent. It seems for no other reason than Gadot – who is Israeli – has an unusual accent, which is the sort of thinking that gave us the ’emotional climax’ of BvS:DoJ (i.e. both of their moms were named Martha). However, if you are going to set a Wonder Woman film during World War I, then there has to be a scene of her crossing No Man’s Land. The film delivers in this regard. In fact, it is the biggest highlight. Wonder Woman is not a perfect film. It is a pretty good film in which the casting of Gadot was perfect. For DCEU, that is good enough for now because it represents a HUGE improvement over their recent stillborn films. Mark’s Grade: B


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