Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, DCEU

Movie Review: Wonder Woman (2017) *DC Makes Something Absolutely….Wonderful*

Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot

Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman.  Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman.  Patty Jenkins’ 2017 Wonder Woman.  DC’s trinity of chief superheroes all now finally have a film that will define them forever.  That’s not overstatement or hyperbole.  I’ve been skeptical about the DC Extended Universe of films, though hopeful at recent developments.  I honestly didn’t know what to expect from Wonder Woman going into the theater.  I’ve read a lot of comics, and there’s the Lynda Carter TV show, but if you asked me yesterday I couldn’t have picked out a defining Wonder Woman story and said THIS is the character.  I can now.  Wonder Woman is one of the best (if not THE best) films of 2017, one of the best comic book movies ever made, and the best ANYTHING Wonder Woman ever written or filmed.  It’s.  That.  Good.

Wonder Woman, Gal GadotWonder Woman has always been a difficult character to get a handle on; to find an angle with her that makes her not seem silly or isolates her from the rest of the DC Universe by wholesale immersing her in her Greek mythology roots.  Then there’s the problem of the origin itself.  Everyone knows Superman’s origin, Batman’s, Spider-Man’s, etc.  Wonder Woman’s origin has changed multiple times (three I think in the last 15 years).  She doesn’t have a defining run in the comics.  I would go so far to say that she’s probably the most difficult character to write in the DC pantheon, and that’s why it has taken 75 years for her to get a definitive movie.  There’s also the gender wall.  Can a female superhero carry a film that’s a hit?  For all its successes, Marvel has failed to grant a solo female film to any woman and doesn’t have one scheduled until 2019 for Captain Marvel (when a Black Widow solo film could have been a hit years ago).  Not only is Wonder Woman‘s success important for the DCEU, it opens the door for a host of other characters to finally get their due.

Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is the first film in the DCEU since Geoff Johns was put in charge of the shared universe. They were on the right track long before then, but there’s a definite Johnsian touch to the film.  Geoff Johns is a good comic book writer because he, without pretense, sincerely presents each character he writes as unique an amazing.  “Sincerity” is why this movie works.  That sounds tremendously unexciting, doesn’t it?  I suppose it is, but it’s the key to cracking the Wonder Woman riddle.  She’s presented completely earnestly.  No dark or gritty angle, no modern spin, no tongue-in-cheek, absolutely no cynicism.  They use the current origin, which has nods to the past, that Diana is the daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, an all-female warrior tribe who live on an enchanted and protected island, isolated from man’s world.  That isolation is broken in the late stages of World War I (as had been hinted at in Batman vs. Superman) when American pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes a plane into the waters off of the island and Diana rescues him.  From him, she learns of World War I and is convinced the god of War, Ares, is behind the conflict and returns with Trevor to England, and by doing so, banished forever from her home isle.

Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman

The DCEU has gotten way too grim and gritty.  Diana is not a gritty character.  She’s an immortal Amazon princess who fights with a sword, shield, magic bracelets, and a lasso that compels the truth.  Ares may be the film’s villain but the menace, the evil, and the heartbreak in the film come from that woman being dropped into one of the most pointless and bloody wars in the history of humanity.  While World War II can most certainly be looked at as a fight to save humanity, World War I was a senseless, ethnic land grab.  It was ugly, dirty, bloody, and the use of chemical warfare so horrified humanity in retrospect that nearly every country on Earth banned it (the horror of chemical warfare is a large part of the film’s third act).

Chris Pine, Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot

The war is never portrayed as anything other than awful, but it’s balanced by Diana’s acclimation to “man’s world”, the humor of her perspective on things, the resulting absurdity, and the great chemistry Gal Gadot and Chris Pine have.  I had seen Gadot in the Fast & Furious films she’d been in and in Batman vs. Superman, but I had no idea from that if she could carry a movie like this on her shoulders.  She’s absolutely wonderful.  She manages to be innocent and wise, funny and fierce, and carry this ethereal sense of gravitas that the character needs to have to overcome all the things in her origin and arsenal that could easily come off as hokey or just plain stupid.  As her powers grow, she becomes a formidable warrior with strength on par with Superman’s and fighting skills rivaling Batman’s.  There are some truly amazing action set pieces in this film (my favorite is the lasso fight and the final battle with Ares).  Gal Gadot puts her stamp on this character in the same way that Christopher Reeve will always be Superman.  It’s a completely iconic performance.

Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is 145 minutes long and I could have watched it again as soon as it was over.  There’s not an off note in the picture.  Patty Jenkins directed a beautiful film, Gadot and Pine head a great cast that completely buys into the tone of the film, it all feels like the best DC comics I’ve read.  That they don’t need to modernize or revolutionize everything about their product.  People have loved these characters and their world for almost a century because the comics are earnest and believe their world is real yet fantastic.  The Flash, Arrow, and The CW shows captured a lot of that tone, and it’s no small part why they’ve been so successful.  Wonder Woman is the first DCEU film that ventured outside of Gotham or Metropolis and into that wider DCU.  Not only did it succeed in bringing home one of the best comic book films of all-time, it showcased the real heart of its shared universe successfully for the first time.  Hopefully, this rolls over into Justice League and future films on the schedule.  I can’t emphasize how pleased I am by what they managed to achieve with this film, and I honestly can’t think of a single thing I’d change.  It’s as magical a film as the character it features.
10/10

Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot

7 thoughts on “Movie Review: Wonder Woman (2017) *DC Makes Something Absolutely….Wonderful*”

  1. OK, now I’m excited.

    Forgive me for the length of what is about to come.

    Here’s the thing: I’ve been watching Twin Peaks: The Return. It’s a show that I’m enjoying the hell out of, and also a show that has made me stop recommending that people watch Twin Peaks. It’s so wonderfully unpredictable, and large portions of it seem to tap into the subconscious so thoroughly, that I find myself looking forward to it in a way I had almost forgotten, at least when it came to episodic television. It’s so much fun to try to figure out what the hell is going on. And yet, I am a little torn.

    My favorite tv character of all time is Special Agent Dale Cooper. In the original series he was a detective who relied on his intuition, and trusted his subconscious, to successfully solve a murder, and because of this I felt like he was almost my patron saint, as I have always had a sneaking suspicion that my left brain was not the part of my brain that I led with. Cooper was so optimistic, had such a great attitude, and was so refreshingly decent in the annals of television detectives, that I latched onto the him, as did many viewers of Twin Peaks. He was flawed, and things got darker in season 2, and then at the end (SPOILER) he tried to save the woman he loved from an evil dimension called The Black Lodge, and became trapped inside. A lot of people always had different interpretations of this final episode, but I have always felt that his love for this woman clouded his judgement, and at a key moment he stopped using the intuition he always trusted, and took a ham-fisted literal approach to something, and that was his downfall. An evil spirit emerged into the world with Cooper’s face, and that was the end of the show, until 2 weeks ago, when it came back. And now Cooper has finally escaped the Black Lodge.

    Problem is, he isn’t himself. For some reason that has not precisely been explained, his time in the Lodge, or his rebirth into our world, has left him in a weird amnesiac state, and he is wandering around like he has been lobotomized. Yes, his goodness is kind of there. He has, in a way, been stripped down to his core decency. But while I knew I was dealing with David Lynch (a man who enjoys playing games with people’s heads), and I was prepared for Cooper to die in the first episode of this revival, or to behave in a way that betrayed and compromised his character, I was not prepared for this lobotomized Cooper. It’s degrading for my hero to be reduced to this, and if he does not regain his self before this show is over, I think I am through with David Lynch, even though the show has many pleasures, and is kind of brilliant, if you can get with the surreal.

    See, David Lynch comes across as a lovable guy, and they say he’s one of the nicest people in Hollywood. He almost wept when the first two episodes of his new show got a standing ovation at Cannes the other week. He describes his weirdest, most incomprehensible ideas like they are the most normal things in the world. I really like the guy personally, and the way his films tap into the subconscious, like I said above… I can’t look away from his work.

    And yet his films are full of ugliness that REALLY sticks in your head, and he has always filmed scenes of violence against women that literally make me sick. And his entire aesthetic revolves around throwing you off balance. His public persona, and his dealings with the press, all seem to be designed to disorient as well. But through it all, he has always seemed to be a moralist. I am not alone in thinking this. He filmed violent things, he dwelled on them, he even laughed at them, but he did not think they were correct.

    Cooper always counterbalanced the extreme darkness in Twin Peaks. But now I have started to wonder about Lynch. I am beginning to think I might have been seduced by a talented and charismatic dark-sider. Maybe Cooper in Twin Peaks was not evidence of a fundamental morality underpinning the show. Maybe he was just a gateway drug, so that I would watch and accept the nightmarish material in Twin Peaks, and Lynch’s other work.

    I won’t know until the show is over. I’m just recording my thoughts at this point in time. But I have realized something: putting our civilization’s heroes up on screen, and squandering them, subverting them, reducing them to a mere excersise in irony, is so, so wrong, and it’s emblematic of everything wrong in our culture right now. We would be better off with no heroes than degraded heroes. Trying to make a statement by turning a hero into some kind of ironic satire is to disorient for the sake of disorienting. Or maybe it’s a way of disorienting us to prepare us for something else. It reminds me of the evil cult in that book you love, That Hideous Strength, which if I remember correctly tried to condition people by throwing them off, confusing them.

    So I can’t wait for Wonder Woman.

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  2. WOW! Was that so hard, Warner Bros? PLEASE take away the right lessons from this, because WW is not just the first awesome DCEU film, it is superior to any of the MCU films thus far. The cinematography and action scenes are much, much better, and it has the gravitas that is missing from the MCU, without being dour or self-serious. In short, Patty Jenkins struck a perfect balance, and you MUST turn her loose on the other characters. Do NOT place in a segregated area, where she is only allowed to touch the female superheroes. Let her shine, because she is a revelation.

    Gal Gadot, too. Seeing how she made no impression whatsoever in BvS, I am stunned by her charisma, talent, and grace. There is something uncomfortable about Superman in the DCEU. I think it’s WW who’s going to turn out to be the conscience. She’s a lot more like Christopher Reeve than Henry Cavill is. I’ll always be frustrated that the DCEU got off to a horrible start, and I’m not sure things will entirely set themselves straight until after after JL and possibly The Batman, but now I have hope that was not there a few days ago.

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    1. Jenkins wants to do a small film with Chris Pine next and then a modern day WW2. They have directors lined up for the next six or seven, but she absolutely needs to stay with WW. I thought it was the equal of the best MCU films, but they’re one long epic and this could stand alone so in that respect it may be the best origin super hero movie….ever? The tone is the thing I took away because it’s the tone I love from reading the best DC Comics. It’s earnest, sincere, and so believes its own world that you do too. That’s, what I’m hoping, is the effect of Geoff Johns assuming the Kevin Feige role and manning the DCEU going forward. I really like Henry Cavill in Man of Steel, but he’s a very different, reluctant Superman than Reeve or Routh. WW is absolutely the conscience. Gadot was a freaking revelation. Robin Wright had a nice weekend too between this and season 5 of House of Cards coming out. I love when Chris Pine is given something good and no spoilers but his character arc was so powerful. I have no nitpics. I kind of need to see this tone carry over into JL too before I’m sold on corner turning, but what a surprise and delight! Not all films have to have this tone. It won’t work with Batman on his own, but it will in a team setting. It’s about having this as the overall tone then matching the characters with the tone that’s right for them. This sort of tone would work with The Flash, Nightwing, Green Lantern……I’m not sure where James Wan is taking Aquaman, but given that he’s the thing I loved the most in every second of footage I’ve seen of him in the DCEU so far, that’s something I’m looking forward to. Man, if they get this down and we have ANOTHER set of annual blasts to count on, we are never going to leave the theaters. Let’s see if Universal Dark can surprise us with The Mummy next week, but WW is only behind Get Out for the year for me…and it may pass it with more distance. They’re the only 10’s I’ve given in 2017.

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      1. JL is Zack Snyder’s vision, as far as I can tell, and that means any corner-turning will be minimal. It will be an improvement to be sure, but it will be a step back from WW. Also some of the characters will have to be introduced from scratch in the midst of a million other things going on, while the characters who have already been introduced have given us no reason to care about them. At this point only WW has endeared herself.

        But it will not be bad, and it might actually be fun. Because JL will be about the dynamic between a bunch of cool superheroes, instead of two inscrutable superheroes locked in a fight to the death. And Batman is, well, Batman, unless Joel Schumacher is involved. So neither project kills the DCEU, and after they are over, there will be a shot at consistent greatness.

        The showrunners need to keep things serious, but not self-serious. That is the secret, I think. It’s great that the DCEU has their own version of Kevin Feige now. It’s good that Snyder is being phased out. I feel horrible for him because of his daughter, and you must understand that what I am saying is in NO WAY connected to that, but I had gathered he was being phased out by WB long before he left JL, and I think that’s for the best. He’s obviously a genuine nerd, and a rare blockbuster-auteur, but he’s a really off-putting one. His films are not friendly and appealing. No one should have been surprised that his version of Superman had issues.

        I loved every minute of WW. It really did capture that unique comic book feel. I think it’s going to appeal to people who don’t usually go to superhero movies. Women, but also some men. It’s going to evoke memories in older people, of the comic books they used to read when they were kids. It has that kind of out-of-time feel. Unlike Twin Peaks, THIS I recommend to everyone. I might just drag a few people to the theater myself.

        Diana, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

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    1. Well, in Wonder Woman, honestly I don’t think the average person is going to walk away from the film and think the Ottoman Empire was involved much at all since they only appear in the Steve Trevor escape sequence where the chemical weapons are being made. The Germans are the primary antagonist, and sadly most people are so weak in history that I doubt most people even remember what the Ottoman Empire was. World War I was really a complicated mess where the last gasps of imperialism and colonialism hit a powder keg of increasingly militant ethnic independence movements. I don’t think there’s a lot of movies where the OE are depicted as the bad guys, unless you mean Muslims in general, which is an entirely different thing (and I don’t think has anything to do with Wonder Woman). Can you think of a number of other films where the Ottomans are the villains?

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