Review by Siobhán Rich for Mr. Will Wong
Over the last 75 years there have been countless movies about superheroes yet only three of them have featured female protagonists in the lead role: Supergirl, Catwoman and Electra. Despite headlining her own massively popular TV show in the 1970s, Wonder Woman, the mother of all superheroines, has never been granted the same cinematic privileges as her male counterparts. Until now.
When Steve Trevor crash lands on the island of Themyscira during the waning months of the World War I, he is confused by what he finds: an island populated only by women warriors with nary a man in sight to defend them. Armed with seemingly primitive weapons, the Amazons defeat an invasion of German soliders but not without tragic losses. Against her mother’s wishes, Diana sets out with the American soldier to kill Ares, the god of war, whom she believes is responsible for the atrocities Trevor has described.
Once in Man’s World, Diana’s goal is to reach the Front where General Erich Ludendorff and Dr. Maru (Danny Huston and a rather bland Elena Anaya) are plotting chemical warfare. Helping her along the way are the delightful Etta Candy (Lucy Davis), the pacifist politician Sir Patrick (David Thewlis), and Steve Trevor’s motley band of brothers; Charlie, Chief and Sameer. As Diana is introduced to the horrors of modern war in 1917, her innocence is slowly stripped away leaving a hardened warrior whose believes that only Ares’ death will bring peace to the world.
When Gal Gadot first stepped into Wonder Woman’s iconic costume last year some doubted she had the ability to do the demigoddess justice. The former Miss Israel has proven the doubters wrong in spectacular fashion. Her naïve Diana is a great counter point to her tough Wonder Woman who looks down the barrel of guns and runs into the line fire just to prove that No Man’s Land had clearly never heard of this Amazonian princess. As a former soldier in the Israeli army it is easy to believe Gadot did many of her own stunts and the specular fight scenes are a testament to her willingness to take on this character with dauntless confidence.
While many pages can be written about Gadot’s standout performance, it is important to note that her supporting cast is nothing short of wonderful. As Queen Hippolyta, Connie Nielsen’s careful balance of worrying mother and experienced warrior sets the tone for all Diana’s Amazon sisters including Robin Wright’s physically grueling performance as General Antiope. Perhaps the most impressive standout is Chris Pine. With the weight of this Movie lying far from his shoulders, Pine brings a delightful levity to comic book history’s most famous mansel in distress.
Allan Heinberg’s script pays incredible homage to creator William Moulton Marston’s vision of the Amazonian princess. Wonder Woman’s greatest strength has always been her compassion and Director Patty Jenkins interestingly has her learn this virtue on the battlefield. By having Diana abandon her single-minded quest in favour of fighting for the right reasons, the audience can fully appreciate the combination of innocence and warrior that have long made up the true mantle of this character.
As with a previous superhero movie set during a World War, the visual tone war torn Europe is drab and almost sepia. Production Designer Aline Bonetto created Themyscira, with its cerulean blue waters and beautiful architecture, as a delineation between reality and the mythical world of the Amazons.
It has been difficult to write this review as an impartial critic as I am a well-documented Wonder Woman fan whose home, wardrobe, and even phone are a testament to my love of the Themyscirian princess. As a fan, I want to wax poetic about the glory of seeing this feminist icon on the big screen and sing to the skies about how this Movie did not let me down. As a critic, however, I am forced to (reluctantly) point out the two-dimensional villains, weak third act, and the excess of exposition. These quibbles do not diminish my admiration of the movie but no review would be honest or complete with their inclusion.
Curiously, no one in this Movie ever refers to the titular character as Wonder Woman and she feels no compulsion to go around justifying her actions by reminding people, “Because I’m Wonder Woman.” She simply is. It may have taken 75 years for her to headline her own blockbuster but Wonder Woman unbiasedly the best movie the DCEU has released in years.
Warner Bros. Pictures Canada opens WONDER WOMAN Friday, June 2, 2017.
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