There was a bit of a struggle in writing this Wonder Woman film review, thus the long-ass time it took for me to post this. Not only was it because I wanted to do a review video as well, but also because I had to dig deep inside of me to write this without offending sensibilities. It was so tempting to make allusions to “premature ejaculation” in describing my viewing experience. It was not I who blew my load early, but the film itself. I sincerely apologize for being crass there.
Wonder Woman is indeed the best Warner Bros. has done to the DC Extended Universe, and that’s not saying much. Sure, this movie is pretty good and Wonder Woman is definitely the best superhero among the trinity now because of it. However, when put alongside Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it’s not exactly good company.
How much better Wonder Woman is compared to them is like how much better chocolate chips are compared to raisins in cookies. It’s pretty much worlds apart, and that’s with this Wonder Woman movie having a fair share of weaknesses.
NOTE: As this is intended as a full review of this title, there may be some spoilers. You’ve been warned.
It’s pretty much the modern Wonder Woman origin story, but set in the early 20th century. To have the war be the Great War itself is fairly astute as more people are now more aware of the nature of World War I, especially the core geek demographic this movie hits dead center. Understanding historical makes for better viewing, which is a good bonus.
There are three types of superheroes in terms of their origin stories—ordinary people who somehow gains powers through accident or circumstance; ordinary people who give themselves abilities through ingenuity, sheer will, or training; or beings from extraordinary origins who have powers to begin with. The first two usually start with having a reason to fight
Wonder Woman is certainly that of the third kind, and her story takes her from strength to strength; from being a headstrong but naive warrior from Themyscira to a more socially-conscious individual who happens to have great abilities. Meanwhile, Logan (let’s forget for a moment that it’s not an origin story) is more of a story of going from strength to weakness. Both these movies came out this year, which makes for an apt comparison.
The script was written for what ended up being two and a half hours, but the film felt like it was over at the 90-minute mark, and we’re then reminded that there’s still a war going on and Diana’s quest isn’t finished yet. What also made me scratch my head was at the end of the movie with the realization of Ares being gone and hate no longer lingering in the hearts of men. That meant World War II never happened in this universe, as it was alluded by Patrick Morgan/Ares when he mentioned brokering an armistice that can never be kept. He most likely meant the inevitability of the Second World War as his influence would allow for the rise of Adolf Hitler.
It’s a comic book story at heart, after all. You can spruce it up with as much Hollywood-style realism all you want, but it’s meant to be somewhat ridiculous to begin with. Besides, this film was meant for power fantasy anyway. After the No Man’s Land and Warehouse fight scenes, it has been established that she has no peer, but there was still a good bit of movie left. Therefore, they then had to establish something that even the daughter of gods would find challenging. So they pulled out the “can’t save them all” card, with her being only one woman against insurmountable odds, despite being so powerful—Superman’s true Kryptonite and the reason for the Justice League.
Gal Gadot was a casting for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but she really did well as the lead in this movie. She had an innocence to her in quiet moments, as well as a gleeful expression when she fights. While her voice isn’t exactly the roar of a lioness that I’ve come to expect from the animated version of Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg), her accent does fit her version of Diana Prince.
Chris Pine as Steve Trevor is interesting. Having seen him in those three Star Trek films, I knew he can handle putting a twist to his own portrayals. The Steve Trevor in the 2009 animated Wonder Woman film is grizzled, while this Steve Trevor is more of a young buck; less of a lech and a bit more awkward. Despite that, he has the character’s get-up-and-go attitude, always willing to get the job done. His dynamic with Diana is two-way, with him monitoring her behavior in “Man’s World” while she would save him from danger, which is pretty much like how William Moulton Marston intended.
David Thewlis does well as Sir Patrick Morgan, being the stereotypical British officer with an air about him who tells young whippersnappers to settle down. However, he certainly raises eyebrows as Ares. With that mustache, it’s Professor Remus Lupin posing as the almighty god of war. I’m not sure Moony being Ares would’ve been my first choice, but Thewlis is a fine actor and did a pretty good job in the role. However, I do know a few people who couldn’t take him seriously as a villain.
I do have a bone to pick with Ludendorff, played by Danny Huston. This is certainly not the Erich Ludendorff from history—a real person who actually existed. He worked with his superior officer Paul von Hindenburg, who took credit for a lot of Ludendorff’s ideas during World War I. That Ludendorff wasn’t a generic creepy villain who only had one tone, which was “Muwahahahaha.” It was a fairly good job making this Ludendorff a red herring, but it did irk me as a history buff.
Another bad thing was that I felt Doctor Poison, played by Elena Anaya, wasn’t given enough screen time. I like how they depicted her as depraved and mentally damaged, making her like a female Igor with a penchant for chemical warfare. She can have her own short film and I’d watch it, but she understandably didn’t get more focus. I still found her interesting, and her interaction with Steve Trevor posing as a German officer was also quite amusing (especially with Chris Pine’s hammy faux German accent).
Robin Wright as General Antiope and Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta were also pretty good. The way they depicted Themyscira is commendable, with a diverse roster of Amazons and the overall atmosphere of a land that time forgot where demigods roamed. There was the risk of it going too far into being a generic magic land—and it does if you overthink about how it’s untouched for millenia—but it does fulfill its purpose. However, I do have to say this Queen Hippolyta is more critical and melodramatic, even if she did allow Diana to venture to Man’s World anyway.
The best scene of the film was also its main weakness—the No Man’s Land scene. It was such a great payoff that concluded the first and second acts of the film that everything else that followed couldn’t compare. Even with how they tried to top it with Wonder Woman’s final confrontation against Ares, audiences already know she was going to prevail and it all seemed like a formality. But the No Man’s Land scene took viewers who’ve never seen the trailers by surprise, with Diana shedding off her coat and climbing the ladder to fight the Germans on the other side out of impulse.
What made that sequence work was how it was treated. It was slow motion, with Diana right in the center of the screen as she climbed up the ladder and bullets started going her way. Every deflect defied all other characters’ expectations and made an immediate impact in a war that was seen as a stalemate with no end in sight. What made it work is how a seemingly foolish thing to do—crossing no man’s land alone—didn’t end with a woman being torn to shreds by machinegun fire. The purveyor of that sudden change being a woman warrior is not merely the icing on the cake, but the main point of the whole film.
Yup, this was certainly directed by a woman, and that was perhaps why it’s the best DCEU movie so far. But then again, perhaps Patty Jenkins is just a better storyteller than Zack Snyder (condolences to him and his family, as of this writing). It’s like she did get the memo that comic books are not exactly ready-made storyboards, but a lot of the imagery on this film did take a lot from those frames. From the use of colors to how Wonder Woman is made to look a lot like the goddess she was meant to be, right in the middle of the screen with flames going off around her.
However, it was indeed too long for what it was supposed to do, but I only felt like leaving the theater because the aircon in the damn place was spine-tingling cold. I was just laughing through the third act, like my brain was really looking for ways to amuse itself. It’s not that the third act was bad, but it did start to reach once it was apparent that Diana was going to vanquish Ares with the power of love. Her bracers would then get charged with Ares’ lightning (isn’t that more of Zeus’ schtick?), thus revealing her Mishima heritage, then proceeded to Super Electric Wind God Fist him to Hades. Suffice to say, I was quite amused.
- Best DCEU film by far
- Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman is well-done
- Chris Pine's Steve Trevor is likable
- Robin Wright is great as General Antiope
- Rag-tag supporting characters
- Perfect Etta Candy by Lucy Davis
- Second act ends in perfect payoff
- Well-executed red herring
- Better color grading than other DCEU films
- Best DCEU film by far, which says something
- Third act is fairly weak
- Runs longer than necessary
- Moony as the main villain
- This Ludendorff may trigger history nerds
- Not enough Doctor Poison
Among all the recent movies that feature female empowerment, this is now the spearhead. I found the new Ghostbusters rather head-scratching, while I found this movie to be both entertaining and satisfying. It stayed mostly faithful to Wonder Woman's main origin story, but I found the changes made for this film to be well-calculated.
If you're looking for a Wonder Woman film that is more robust in narrative, then you may want to watch the 2009 animated Wonder Woman movie. The plot is mostly the same, but the setting, characterizations, and many other things are different. Also, I found the dynamic between Diana and Steve here to have more impact as the latter often confronts the former’s academic feminism.