John Allegretti ’18/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Wonder Woman is an absolute delight. It’s a film so assured in its execution you wonder why there haven’t been hundreds of cinematic adaptations of the legendary DC character already. The movie is helmed by director Patty Jenkins, whose last film was the Academy Award winning 2003 film Monster. Jenkins has directed plenty of television since then and Wonder Woman marks her triumphant return to cinema.
The film follows Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), an Amazon warrior princess who lives on an island hidden to all of mankind. But when the destruction of World War I reaches the Amazons, Diana is forced to journey from her home to the strange and unfamiliar world of 20th century Europe. Wonder Woman works because what the filmmakers have done is taken the first Thor movie, then perfected it. The film is a fish-out-of-water story at heart, dropping the main character into the European front of the war. Diana’s inexperience is used to drive the narrative forward, with her goal being to kill a German general she believes is Ares–the God of war. Where this quest leads her and what she learns from is the beating heart of the movie. Gal Gadot is pitch-perfect as Wonder Woman, and turns in a performance that far surpasses her debut as the character in Batman v. Superman. The supporting cast is also solid and well-cast. Chris Pine plays Steve Trevor, a United States spy trying to stop the Germans from developing deadly strains of gas. Danny Huston plays the villainous General Erich Ludendorff and Elena Anaya the charismatic (if underused) Doctor Poison. David Thewlis also appears as Sir Patrick Morgan in a small, but important role.
Wonder Woman is also able to perfectly execute the dark tone that the new DCU has been trying to nail for four years. In a cinematic universe full of mass genocide and 9/11 allegories, Wonder Woman is the first entry to make the audience feel the weight of its violence. Setting the film during a war helps, but the filmmakers never use death in an irresponsible way. Whenever people die other characters have emotional and empathetic reactions, an element sorely lacking in Man of Steel or Batman v. Superman. There are also plenty of great jokes that never throw off the dark tone of the film because they are firmly based in character, and Diana’s naive worldview.
From a technical standpoint Wonder Woman mostly excels. The cinematography by Chronicle and Fantastic 4 (?!) DP Matthew Jensen is beautiful, evoking Saving Private Ryan and turn of the century paintings. The score by Rupert Gregson-Williams (a veteran composer of Adam Sandler movies, surprisingly) complements the drama and sends chills down the back of your neck when it switches to the legendary theme by Junkie XL. There is an unnecessary sequence that bookends the story, and some of the action scenes become cartoonish or incoherent. But even when the film decides to break the laws of physics it still works because behind all of the flashy effects is character motivation the audience can understand and emphasize with.
With DC’s history of rampant sexism in their films it’s a miracle Wonder Woman is respectful towards its main character. In a universe where Superman and Batman are murderers, it’s a relief to have a character stay true to the morals they stood for more than 70 years ago. The character of Wonder Woman is naive, but not without agency. Powerful, but not inhumane. What DC has done is given one of its most popular characters to a great director and chosen not to meddle in how she tells Wonder Woman’s story.
Overall Grade: B-
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