When Batman and Superman clash, Justice League’s third member emerges as the brighter star. When on her own, she conjures a supernova of blockbuster goodness that has been sorely missed.
For Princess Diana of Themyscira (first played by Lilly Aspell, then Emily Carey and finally Gal Gadot in her breakout performance), the royal-table life she was born, or sculpted, into is frivolous. Honing punches, mastering archery and perfecting swordplay in the name of all that is good like an Amazonian warrior – now that is living. Much like the placement of this information, it takes just a few scenes after a revamped DC logo to see that Wonder Woman isn’t “another superhero adventure,” a starting reason being Diana’s need to save mankind stems not from the death of a beloved. Yes, she’s just innately altruistic.
And that is just one of many genre-bucking notions in front of the camera. Behind it are some that are more refreshing, an example being director Patty Jenkins is now the first helmer of a super-heroine film. Chief among these? Wonder Woman is just positive – in every sense of the word.
Not all winds of change in Themyscira are pleasant, however, such as the day when Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine, in another charming turn not so different from his other captain persona) crash-lands onto the Amazons’ paradise, which has concealed itself from man’s World War I using magic. After a cross-dimensional skirmish where victory is earned through massive casualties, Diana elects to go beyond her shores to help Trevor end the war “to end all wars,” one that she believes her culture’s ultimate adversary, the god of war Ares, is responsible. The decision pains her mom, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen, genuinely stately), greatly, but it is what her mentor, General Antiope (Robin Wright, ferocious throughout), considers necessary.
By the time our leads arrive in a muted-colored London, there is the realization that not just Wonder Woman is the wonder woman in Wonder Woman (say that three times fast). While Jenkins’ steady filming of Damon Caro-choreographed action enchants, it’s the focus on hearty matters – romance, friendship, and those that influence the thumps – where Wonder Woman’s brethren do their swiftest to check off is the source of awe. In the occasional lean toward alternate-history Casablanca (in which Wonder Woman was inspired by), the film grows outside of its tentpole film/comic-book adaptation binds, an exciting note amplified through Gadot’s convincing chemistry with Pine, natural display of naiveté toward our world’s offerings both sweet (a toddler and ice cream) and grim, and Jenkins’ affinity of succinctness that – in another first for the DCEU – prevents different tones from taking control. Also working with Jenkins are two men whose works honor the latter; none of writer Allan Heinberg’s action/drama/humor beats miss their timing or meaning, and composer Rupert Gregson-Williams’s rousing strings are reactive to Diana.
But just as Diana tends to be disappointed at the times mankind betray her beliefs, the film does stray from wonderment when its villains are on. Both General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston, blandly imposing) and Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya, an expressive set of eyes add to her wheezing lines) are built to be big threat until a late-game and noticeably more-CGI-intensive twist deprives them of the title. With Ludendorff having a real-life counterpart, Doctor Poison sporting an unnerving-yet-cool quarter-mask and both teaming up to create weapons deadlier than any gun, they could have bloomed (and were well on their way to bloom) into evildoers of substance. Corrupters in films need to be made with love, too, agreed?
This little stain can go unnoticed, though, since Wonder Woman devotes much of its runtime and footage to bring home three positive messages: hope is a lasting thing, DCEU’s winning streak may begin here, and still out there are filmmakers who can make spectacle with a brain, a heart plus much reason to wonder at the close.
8.5 out of 10.
Warner Brothers invited to Screening so I could review Wonder Woman. All Photos are Copyright by Warner Brothers.