Welcome to the most wonderful, and most recent, entry into the DCEU. Wonder Woman is not a perfect movie but it is pretty darn close to it. After waiting 75 years to see her big screen debut, it is extremely satisfying to see how well done the final product is.
Wonder Woman is helmed by Patty Jenkins (Monster) who is a huge fan of this character and it totally shows here. The screenplay and story was done by Allen Heinberg, Zack Snyder and Jason Fuchs. They deliver a fairly straightforward origin story with enough skill that I did not guess the ending twenty minutes into the film. Hard to do.
The film opens within a modern day setting. We see Diana (Gal Gadot) working at the Louvre and receiving a package from a Bruce Wayne. You might have heard of him. This places the opening sometime after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and the upcoming Justice League film due out in November. The rest of the film is essentially an extended flashback as the package that Diana receives jogs her memory of the events we then see onscreen.
The rest of the main cast are as follows: Chris Pine – Steve Trevor, Connie Nielsen – Hippolyta, Robin Wright – Antiope, Danny Huston – Ludendorff, David Thewlis – Sir Patrick, Saïd Taghmaoui – Sameer, Ewen Bremner – Charlie, Eugene Brave Rock – The Chief, Lucy Davis – Etta, Elena Anaya – Dr. Maru, Lilly Aspell – Young Diana (8).
The flashbacks start at Themyscira, the secret home of the Amazons and the birthplace of Diana. We first see her as a highly spirited 8 year old that only wants to learn to be a warrior like all the amazing women around her. Naturally her mother, Queen Hippolyta, has other ideas. Eventually Diana wears her down, as you can easily guess.
There is a flat out secret about Diana that her mother is unwilling to tell her. About her power and who she really is and, by the end of the film, we are treated to her revelation. In the meantime, Diana trains hard under the tutelage of Antiope, who is the general of the Amazons and her aunt as well.
Once the seclusion of this island paradise is breached by a downed fighter pilot, Steve Trevor, the reality of the world outside their tiny hideaway is clear. Man’s World will need to be dealt with somehow. The solution is, clearly, Diana. She is tasked with returning the pilot back to his proper place and dispatching the God of War himself, Ares.
What follows is very much in line with what you would expect. The fish out of water element that Trevor is forced to contend with on Themyscira is then flipped onto Diana as she navigates the “modern” world of London circa WW1. Crazy dresses. Her first sight of a baby. Covert eyewear?
Their romance is inevitable but still handled rather brilliantly by the filmmakers. Very reminiscent of Superman (1978). The mortal falls for a god-like being. The goddess falls for the mortal, not in spite of the mortals’ flaws but in part due to the admiration the goddess has for the mortals’ determination to not let those flaws be dominant.
However, this is a superhero movie. Let’s move on to the action. It is bad ass.
The Amazon battle scene was like 300 (2006) and Circue Soliel intertwined with Saving Private Ryan (1998). Mighty cool. Later we see Diana mount the ladder out of the trenches and into a kill zone called, appropriately enough, No Man’s Land. This is where she becomes a hero. She has no idea what she is about to face. No idea if she can really survive it. Then she goes where all others fear to tread anyway because there are innocent lives at stake. She will not be denied.
Before we find our way to the third act, Diana is inundated with the horrors of war. The horror of Man’s World. She sees the refugees, the carnage, the decimated soldiers and destruction on all sides. The bright burning optimism that we recall from the earlier scene of her as an 8 year old gazing at a sword with wonder and determination becomes a bit dimmer. Will it flame out? Come on, you know the answer.
Once the third act arrives with a CGI spectacle, the only really major downside to the film in my view, you know who wins because you are a fan. But how she wins is very telling. She wins through perseverance. Not aggression. The victory, which comes at great personal cost, only arrives via acceptance of pain and imperfection. It arrives only through compassion, will, and love. This is where Diana becomes a superhero.
Holding true to those core elements of Diana’s character, from 75 plus years of stories about her, exemplifies what makes this film so very good. Not perfect. But wonderful nonetheless.