'Wonder Woman' Review: A Heroic Ray Of Light We Desperately Need
Controversies about either a lack of or an appropriate amount of marketing and belated women's-only screenings aside, #WonderWoman flies into theaters this week. With her comes a well-timed boost that Warner Bros. desperately needs with its DC slate of films. Really, though, it's one we all need.
For the first time, I walked out of a DCEU movie feeling—dare I say it?—inspired. Uplifted, even. We saw flashes of Diana's heroism in #BatmanVSuperman and it was enough to tease what might be, a tantalizing glimpse of our Amazon in action. With Wonder Woman, she is fully unleashed as the warrior princess we had hoped she'd be.
And what a warrior she is. #GalGadot is a revelation; she fully owns the role as much as Robert Downey, Jr. owns Iron Man or Chris Evans owns Captain America. She is Wonder Woman, and it's impressive to watch her walk the fine line between naiveté without stupidity, sexually aware without being sexualized, a warrior bred for battle who still retains a compassionate heart. Those worried that Gadot wouldn't be convincing in the role for various shallow reasons—her lack of experience, her accent, her physique—can rest assured that those worries were unfounded. She's remarkable, managing to bring a genuine warmth and joy to the role that's been notably absent from the #DCEU to this point. Unlike the other two of the Holy Trinity who wear their capes like a curse, Diana truly enjoys being a hero; she was born to it. It's a theme that resonates in every scene; her nobility of spirit is as much a part of her as her blood or her black hair.
The first act of the movie takes place on Themyscira, the island hidden away by Zeus and populated with Amazonian women bred for the sole purpose of protecting mankind if and when Ares, the God of War, rises again. The shots here are utterly breathtaking, exquisite cinematography and a color palette that makes the eyes pop, like drinking in a rainbow after a day of rain.
Director #PattyJenkins makes good use of her time on the island, unfolding Diana's complicated origin story as concisely as possible. It's fantastic to see women exactly as they are—stocky, strong, aged, young, wiry, broad—all convincing as formidable warriors, and the battle sequences are truly inventive. Still, it's hard to zip through the mythology and Diana's upbringing with any sort of speed, and, for as beautiful as Paradise Island is, by the time #ChrisPine's Steve Trevor shows up with dire tidings of a great war, I found myself itching to get past the exposition so Diana could get off the island and allow the story to truly begin
Once she gets to our world, well, you know the drill: There is a World War; there is a villain trying to get their hands on a terrible thing; there is a small, ragtag team that undertakes a dangerous mission to stop said villain. It's not an overly complicated story. Indeed, many fans might come away from it feeling they've seen this before with heavy comparisons to Captain America: The First Avenger, and they'd not be wrong. The plot isn't all that complex, and by the time we get to the villain behind the villain in Ares, it's something of a letdown. I'll not spoil anything for you, but while the actor who plays Ares is a venerated one, he feels like a complete miscast in the second half of his role.
But really, we're not here for the villain, or the story, or the CGI—which is truly rough at times—we're here for the characters, specifically Diana and Steve Trevor. For that, Gadot and Pine are more than up to the task. They have solid chemistry with each other, and you genuinely believe they could fall in love for reasons true and real, and not just because he's the first man she's ever seen in her life. Pine plays Trevor with the easy, roguish charm that he employs so well, and he does a fine job of being his own man without trying to upstage Gadot.
And Gadot? As I said above, she's phenomenal. For an origin story, you get attached to these characters fast. Surprisingly emotional, multiple moments will elicit laughter and tears in equal measures, and most of them can be traced to Gadot. There is a sincerity and earnestness to her performance that never crosses the line into trite, and Gadot and Jenkins should both be commended for finding and pulling out all the myriad and contradictory facets of Diana's personality without them jarring.
As the next step into the DCEU, Wonder Woman is a solid one. Warner Bros. is absolutely on the right track. But as the first step forward for women-led superhero films from the Big 2, it's an enormous one and it's arrived just in time. Wonder Woman is inspiring, not just to women and girls, but to everyone. With the #JusticeLeague barreling our way this year, Diana makes a case to be the most noble and heroic of them all. Having seen Gadot swing her sword for mankind, I, for one, am perfectly okay with that.