Wonder Woman

Let’s get it out of the way in the opening sentence: Wonder Woman is the best DC movie since The Dark Knight.

Wonder Woman and the quality that this film brings to DC fans has been long overdue (to put all of my cards on the table, I’m speaking as a fan of Man of Steel ). I loved pretty much every aspect of this movie and anything I didn’t like is more or less a nitpick (you gotta suspend your disbelief a few times to “go” with movie logic).

The origin story of Princess Diana, Amazonian from Themyscira, daughter of Queen Hippolyta. With the blood of the god Zeus in her veins, young Diana is trained to fight in preparation for the eventual return of Ares, the God of War. She witnesses a pilot crash just of the shores of her home and saves his life. This man, Steve Trevor, is the first to step foot on Themyscira. He tells the Amazonians of the war that’s raging beyond their protected home. Years of fighting and millions dead with no end in sight. Diana recognizes this as her destiny. Ares is back and she must leave with Steve to stop the God of War’s plans.

First, as everyone already knows from her brief screen time in Batman v Superman, Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman. She embodies the comic book hero in every way. She’s perfectly cast, as is Chris Pine for Steve Trevor. This movie is two fish out of water stories, first with Steve on Themyscira and then Diana in Europe. They have an onscreen chemistry that moves with every beat of the story. They’re really funny together and they have a bond that grows through every scene. Their tale is a powerful one.

Wonder Woman feels like something we all need right now. She’s a hero for everyone and stands tall for justice in a world that often feels cynical and dark. She stands by her rock solid morals and speaks up every time she needs to. She questions the status quo and objects to others who make dodgy choices. She’s an instrument for positive change. Not only that, but Steve Trevor is too. In the beginning, there’s what at first seems like a throwaway joke. Diana asks Steve if he’s an average representation of man. He replies with “I’m…above average.” It comes back as an example of humanity.

A gorgeous movie directed by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman spans a lot of locals during the first World War. It’s a believable period piece with a man character that has super powers. Themyscira is gorgeous, London dirty and the battlefield grotesque. It’s shot really well with nice wide shots and careful movement that looks exciting but doesn’t get you lost.

Wonder Woman has some of the best action scenes around, which I am eternally grateful for. You don’t have to wait long for a huge battle at the start, and action is sprinkled throughout the second act that culminates in the clash of the titans at the end (I have no problem with how wild it gets at the end. I want my comic book movies to show their roots). There is some excellent fight choreography and each set piece brings something new. Wild defensive moves, crazy feats of strength and some brilliant stuff with the lasso that I don’t think has been done before. Diana is a monster on the battlefield. The woman has a goal when she drops into a room of bad guys: time to knock some sense into these fools. She’s an unrelenting force with a cutting sense of efficiency and grace.

With a runtime of over 2 hours, I was concerned that it would be too long, but there wasn’t a moment when I was bored. I think it’s really well paced with each scene being meaningful and well thought out. Nothing ever drags on. I liked all the guys that Steve brings on board for their quest, it gave the on-the-ground wartime section a Band of Brothers feel. While the two central villains are rather trite (can’t do much new with a German general and Dr. Death gets little screen time), I’m all about Ares. While he hangs back in the shadows for some time, once he’s out, he makes a hell of a presence. His armor is cool, he looks menacing and he’s crazy powerful.

Ares is a terrific foil for Wonder Woman and an effective way to bring about the message of the movie. Diana leaves home with a very nieve idea: all she has to do is kill Ares and his influence over mankind will be gone. It will end the war and man will simply be good again.  It’s a childish view that would be great if it were true but man and all of our faults are much more complicated than that. I really liked Ares dialog with Diana in trying to turn her and that was all underscored by the stages of their fight. The “above average” line I mentioned earlier from Steve comes back here as well. He stops her from doing something in a “greater good” moment that winds up getting many people killed. Diana is furious with Steve and blames him for not caring about others for a rational that doesn’t make sense to her. This action puts her faith in mankind into question. Later, Steve goes to great lengths to protect others. It’s through Steve following his words to action that she sees that Ares is wrong; mankind is good and is worth helping.

I’m stoked that Wonder Woman delivered. I love the ending and I hope the ideas and energy of this story roll into Justice League. The stage is set for even more fun and excitement.

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