Title: Wonder Woman
Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:
Mr. Burns: Sorry I lied to you, Waylon. I wanted to spare you the details of your father's gruesome death.
Mr. Smithers: Well, I'm glad to know he died a hero. Instead of that...other way.
Mr. Burns: I told him his father was killed in the Amazon by a tribe of savage women.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Amazonian princess smashes buildings, patriarchy.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: Three-and-a-half bottles of spicy mustard out of five.
Tagline: "Power. Grace. Wisdom. Wonder."
Better Tagline: "Nobody ever actually calls her 'Wonder Woman.'"
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: The Amazons live on the secret island of Themyscira, where Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and her sister General Antiope (Robin Wright) train them for eventual war against Ares, the God of War. One exception is Hippolyta's daughter, Diana (Gal Gadot), who the queen understandably wants to keep out of harm's way. Hippolyta's hand is forced, however, by the unexpected arrival of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American spy carrying information about a rogue German general (Danny Huston) with a sinister plan to sabotage the pending World War I armistice. Diana, sensing the hand of Ares at work, swipes the "God Killer" — a sword fashioned by Zeus — and leaves for London with Trevor, determined to put an end to the War to End All Wars, and war itself.
"Critical" Analysis: It's been an uphill climb for a certain Amazonian princess. Warner Bros. released seven Batman and three Superman (and one Batman/Superman) movies alone since their last attempt at a female superhero (1984’s Supergirl). And that’s not even taking into account the dismal state of DC’s Extended Universe, which only recently began playing a desperate game of catch-up to Marvel, who are already well into “Phase Three” of their own cinematic suzerainty.
So even in terms of simple movie economics, the pressure was on. But other, more abstract factors were at play. Never mind that her brief appearance in Batman v Superman: Joostice for the Pipples was far and away the highlight of that particular movie, Wonder Woman couldn't just be mediocre and make its money back; it needed to be better than what's come previously out of the DCEU. And if you don't understand why that's the case, well, bless your heart.
The good news is: Wonder Woman is very good indeed. It’s easily the best of the new DC movies (faint praise, that), but also holds its own alongside Nolan’s Dark Knight series and the upper ranks of the MCU as well.
Director Patty Jenkins, helming her first feature film since 2003’s Academy Award-winning Monster (you read that right), doesn't just avoid the bleakness of Zack Snyder’s previous efforts, she also exchanges that nihilism for hope. No small feat when your action is set during the Great War. In fact, the decision to move Diana's first interactions with mortal men from the Second to First World War makes sense, as Diana’s awakening to her responsibilities nicely complements humanity’s own coming to grips with mechanized combat and chemical weapons. Her decisions by movie’s end are predictable, but she arrives at them with less torment than her partners in the Snyderverse.
Credit must also be given to Gadot and her fellow Amazons for being kickass in their own right. We see Themyscira in all its militaristic splendor, but while the Amazons are warriors, Hippolyta wants to shelter Diana and spare her the dangers of the outside world. This parental strategy works out as well as it usually does, and the first act ends in a pitched battle between the Amazons and a platoon of German troops on their shores (kudos to the Krauts for recovering their wits so quickly after stumbling upon an island paradise somewhere off the coast of Europe*).
The combat scenes in general are excellent, if a little heavy on Snyder-esque fast-slooooooow-fast choreography, and grow in scope and violence the more Diana begins to fully realize the extent of her powers (TANK THROW). And Jenkins doesn't hold back on the ugliness of war, insofar as a PG-13 rating allows. Gadot can at times overemphasize the character's callowness, but her indignation when confronted by the inaction of others is palpable. Jenkins and company understand superheroes should have a purpose other than brooding.
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And while we could have done with less of the Big Bad going on (and on) about the usual immortal vexations (the inherent unworthiness of mankind, the burdens of godhood, how all the best TV shows end after just a few seasons), Wonder Woman is enjoyable as hell. Not only is it a straight-up quality superhero movie, but it's a belated bracelet-clad middle finger to every dude bleating from his keyboard about how (take your pick) Jenkins is "unproven" (see also Colin Treverrow, Gareth Edwards, Jon Watts, etc); women don't buy tickets to comic-book movies; or that IDF vet/two-time mother Gadot isn't "tough" enough to play Wondy.
"Be careful in the world of men, Diana. They do not deserve you" are the words Queen Hippolyta speaks to her daughter as she's departing Themyscira, and ones which could've been said yesterday instead of 1918. True, Steve Trevor is almost anachonistically empathetic (Pine balances incredulity and infatuation well), but he still has A Mission, and Diana spends almost as much time arguing with the men she's supposedly allied with as she does killing Germans. This isn't an accident.
There's no reason — no good one, anyway — we've had to wait so long for a standalone movie featuring one of DC's most recognizable characters, and it's an unfortunate but possibly serendipitous coincidence we're finally getting one at this particular time. There's not much out there these days to inspire women, much less female children. And those who would roll back what meager advances have been made have been dishearteningly emboldened. Thank Hera for Patty Jenkins and Wonder Woman.
*Trevor crashes there after fleeing General Ludendorff’s gas factory in…Belgium? That would put Themyscira in the English Channel or the North Sea, which makes sense because Diana falls asleep in the boat shortly after leaving the island and wakes up on the Thames. Except they show an armadillo, which are native to the Western Hemisphere. [shrug emoji]