When Wonder Woman first appeared in the Doomsday battle in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, my theater applauded at her entrance, complete with her now signature theme "Is She With You?" playing alongside it. She then proceeded to be awesome for the climactic "Trinity" battle sequence against Lex Luthor's genetically manipulated clone and so many of us were left wanting nothing less than a full movie of awesomeness with Diana, Princess of Themiscyra at the forefront.
Almost fourteen and a half months later, we were finally treated to Diana's solo origin movie, the first the character has ever had in her 75 year history. To say that it delivered fully on its awesomeness would be a grave understatement.
Wonder Woman is an EPIC adventure film in every sense of the phrase. When people talk about how it harkens back to classic action adventure movies, they are not kidding and you really do get that energy and vibe from it even now in the year 2017. It would be almost insulting to call it a throwback because this movie is not a tribute to classic action adventure movies. It literally IS a classic action adventure movie for the whole two hours and twenty-one minutes of its runtime.
The movie tells the origin story of Diana Prince, who was "molded" as Diana of Themiscyra, daughter of Hippolyta, the queen of the Amazons. It chronicles her growth as an Amazonian warrior under the guise of her mother and mostly her aunt Antiope, general of the Amazonian forces. Her life and her duty to defend the world changes when American military pilot Steve Trevor crash lands on the island by accident and Diana decides to accompany him to Man's World to help him fight World War I, known in history as "The War to End All Wars."
This movie does so many things well as a comic book origin story that it should be considered a masterclass in how to tell the origin of a character, which was already a daunting task for any director to tackle considering the history and tradition surrounding Wonder Woman's character over seven and a half decades. There was clearly nothing to fear though, as Patty Jenkins fiercely and definitively proved that she was more than capable of delivering a fantastic film and she would likely tell you that one of the biggest reasons is the lead actress herself: Gal Gadot. It is without question her greatest work as an actress in this somewhat short time that her career has blossomed and more than anything, it displays the emotional range and full capability that she possesses to not only carry a movie as the lead role, but also to be its emotional core for the audience itself. The emotions that Diana feels and portrays in this movie almost perfectly emulate that of the audience as the story plays out and Gadot does an impeccable job of making Wonder Woman one of the most relatable heroes we could ever possibly see on screen.
The thing that adds to Gadot's spectacular performance is her absolutely dynamite chemistry with Chris Pine, who plays Captain Steve Trevor. From the moment these two are on screen, it really is lightning in a bottle and the connection between the two is unmistakable and downright believable. They had a short period of time within the length of the movie to make the connection that was necessary between the characters and Gadot and Pine hit it dead on without missing a single beat. It's just one of the numerous things that Wonder Woman excels at in spades.
Credit also has to be given to the rest of the cast including Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta, Robin Wright as Antiope, Lucy Davis as Etta Candy, Trevor's assistant, and our resident villains Danny Huston as General Ludendorff and Elena Anaya as Doctor Maru AKA Doctor Poison. The supporting cast for this movie was impressive from the moment it was announced and it did not disappoint one bit on screen. The unsung heroes of the cast though would have to be Trevor's friends, Sameer played by Said Taghmaoui, Charlie played by Ewen Bremner and The Chief played by Eugene Brave Rock. When you meet these guys in the movie, they represent the deeper heart and soul of what Diana and Steve have already built together and as a group its just a great dynamic that works really well.
It's tough to analyze how great this movie was without giving away spoilers because the trailers, the TV spots and even the released clips online did a great job of not giving away some major plot details, including a HUGE one that many fans are already aware of but the general audience likely will never see coming. What I can say about this film without spoilers is that it most certainly accomplishes what has been described as one of the goals of the DC Extended Universe, which is "director-driven filmmaking." Patty Jenkins is now the third director with a movie released in the DCEU and to her credit, it is clear that she made HER movie, even within the framework of connecting it to the rest of the franchise, which by the way she absolutely accomplishes as well. It's important to note though that Wonder Woman does not look, feel or sound exactly like either of Zack Snyder's DCEU films or David Ayer's Suicide Squad and that is a GREAT thing to see. Wonder Woman stands on its own as a singular origin story with a different heart, soul and structure than anything we have seen in the DCEU, while still maintaining the continuity and present day connection to what is happening in the franchise storyline. For Jenkins and her crew to be given the freedom to make their own movie and for them to pull it off while still making sure that it extends the DCEU brand is a remarkable feat in itself.
To be clear here, Wonder Woman is NOT a reboot or a course correction for the DCEU, no matter what anyone tells you. DCEU fans can rejoice in the fact that despite the critical acclaim and the cries of "DC is back on track" and "best DC film since The Dark Knight," Wonder Woman still retains the now pretty essential tenets of a DCEU film. There is a world of subtext regarding real world parallels in the plot and intentions, we see the world through the lens of other human characters and collateral damage instead of focusing solely on the hero's journey for the whole movie, and even though it is a period piece as well as a brand new origin story, it is not saddled with exposition at every turn to explain what is happening. In fact, any and all exposition in this movie is tightly written, well integrated into the flow of the movie and doesn't lose your interest. Oh, and it also has easter eggs for the fans in what is now becoming a great trend for DCEU movies. Cheers to you if you find them all, indeed.
Another thing that is becoming a DCEU trend is not having a mid or end credit scene, and just like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, Wonder Woman is without one as well, proving that The Trinity just doesn't believe in that sort of thing. As I said before though, the movie most certainly does integrate itself into the DCEU timeline solidly and organically and that appears to be the way that DC is going to handle the connective tissue between their movies. I know that Ayer did have a mid credits scene in Suicide Squad, but that's the only one. I suppose we will have to wait until Justice League in November to see if the franchise really is going to stay away from those scenes, but one could argue that since the DCEU is clearly director driven that it depends on the director themselves as opposed to being an edict one way or another from Geoff Johns or Jon Berg, the heads of DC Films.
When you go see Wonder Woman, know that a lot of emotions may come into play for you. There are some powerful moments in the movie that touch the entire emotional spectrum including humor, which might be at its absolute peak for the DCEU in this movie, but manages to not take away from the plot or intentions at all and remain completely organic as well. In any case, be prepared for some major emotional shifts as this movie certainly has the ability to make you laugh, cry and cheer at any moment it wants.
The bottom line is that in my opinion, Wonder Woman continues the sparkling start for the DCEU now four films in, this time without major polarization among critics, bloggers and fans that leads to divisive conversation. This is the first critically acclaimed movie in the DCEU's very short history, and in retrospect perhaps it was appropriate that it comes from the most storied female superhero of all-time, who waited decades to finally get her shot at the big screen. For what it is worth, the movie deserves every accolade and form of praise that it is getting right now and Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot and the rest of the cast and crew should be commended on making Wonder Woman's big screen debut a wonderfully smashing success.
Now comes the difficult part: Waiting another six months to see Diana kick ass again in Justice League. Looks like I'll just have to see Wonder Woman a few more times.
WONDER WOMAN - 5 out of 5 - In theaters starting June 2, 2017