(NOTE: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS)
Wonder Woman succeeds in achieving a number of things that DC's recent films have not: Crafting a character that is easy to care about, telling an origin story that establishes believable and relatable motivations, and putting that character through situations that make us genuinely sympathise with her, in addition to being completely in awe of her at her most powerful.
This is because Wonder Woman is a film that takes its time with its story. The first third is spent with the titular character as she grows up on the island of Themyscira, amongst a civilization of Amazons. As a child, she's forbidden from taking part in the combative traditions of the warrior tribe, though her unbridled enthusiasm eventually leads her down that path regardless, and she grows into a skilled fighter as an adult. British spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) eventually crashes near the island and informs the Amazons of a raging conflict, World War I, and Diana's (Gal Gadot) unsuppressed, idealistic drive to save innocents and put an end to the whole concept of war, results in the two of them leaving together.
This time on Themyscira is well spent. The mythological origins of the Amazons and the events that lead to her departure from the island are explained succinctly, and precedence is instead given to the personal interactions between Diana and the important people in her life. Director Patty Jenkins isn't afraid to slow down and let us see Diana gradually come into her own, discover new things, and use her knowledge to reinforce her own determination and personal values, however naive they may seem.
Diana's naivety, born from her sheltered upbringing, is regularly played for laughs during interactions with Chris Pine's character, and especially later on when the events of the film move to Europe. Gags about sex and seeing a penis for the first time start the trend on a borderline cringe-worthy note, but the awkwardness of Pine's charmingly goofy character, and the unperturbed confidence of Gadot, quickly make these scenes more charming. These recurring moments also gradually pave the way for the film, and Diana, to escalate the scale of her curiosity, allowing her to interject and protest about what she sees as black and white injustices, as opposed to what the world sees as societal norms. Antiquated gender roles, racial discrimination, and the morality of modern military warfare are just some of the touchstones. And although they may portray obvious sentiments to most, the way Jenkins allows the audience to accompany Diana through these revelations makes her story of a superhuman coming of age something relatable on a very human level. You see what kind of values fuel her motivations, and in turn, you become intrigued by how these values are tested, and how they affect her eventual transformation.
But as much as Wonder Woman enjoys spending time watching Diana evolve as a person and exhibit believable emotional vulnerabilities, it also revels in the pure joy of watching Diana unrelentingly destroy dozens of bad dudes. The film's numerous action sequences are sharp and punchy, and of a satisfying length, often leaving you wanting more. Slow motion tracking shots are used to great effect here, allowing you to really appreciate the acrobatic fighting style of Diana and the Amazons. The camera doesn't shy away from close-up impacts, which feel hefty and powerful, and earn the wincing of on-screen characters. Horseback combat and archery add to these memorable moments, as do World War I militaria like bolt-action rifles, machine guns, and tanks.
But like the scenes themselves, these flashy combat tools appear sparingly, used as exclamations, and never outstay their welcome. The same can be said of the appearance of Diana's weapons and powers. We get glimpses of her abilities in the first act--heightened agility, healing, and strength--but it's not until Diana gets to the real world where we see her become truly threatening. Each discrete encounter is fast-moving but aggressive, making Diana's power moments both uniquely impactful on screen, as well as helping to exemplify her efficient skill in melee combat. Because these fights are not belaboured, moments where Gadot deftly tangles a group of soldiers in the gleaming Lasso of Truth, or pummels someone through a brick wall with her shield using incredible force, become striking payoffs that leave you in awe, trembling with excitement long after.
The only exception here is the final climactic encounter, where the film loosens its restraints to allow for some Zack Snyder-style superhuman bombast. Other minor irks involve a romantic subplot, which felt like it needed a little more time to feel plausible, and the fact that despite Wonder Woman being a film where people of a variety of colors speak a variety of foreign languages (with English subtitles), all characters of German descent simply speak English. The ridiculousness of this decision is heightened when Pine's character goes undercover as a German officer and gets by security just fine with German-accented English.
Ultimately, Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins have together shaped the story of a hero who is at the same time relatable and formidable. Diana's journey of self-discovery is one that is plausible, and the film's focus on exploring who she is as a person, as well as what she can do as a superhuman gives the character, and overall film, a gratifying roundedness that makes you eager for more.
|The Good||The Bad|
|Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman is both relatable and awe-inspiring||Romantic subplot needs a little more development|
|Sharp, powerful, and memorable action scenes||German characters puzzlingly speak English|
|Steady, enjoyable narrative pacing|
|A believable, fleshed-out origin story|