It’s easy to understand why in our most recent podcast (which you can listen to here) we at Pop Culture Cosmos labeled DC Comics latest entry into the superhero movie realm, Wonder Woman (Warner Bros., Rated PG-13, Running time: 2 hours 13 minutes, directed by Pattie Jenkins) as the most important film of 2017. With the recent critical failures of movies such as Man of Steel, Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice there is plenty at stake for both Warner Bros. and DC Comics when it comes to the release of this film. Another sub-standard performance would send public word of mouth of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) at an all-time low (which includes the decade of debacles of the Superman iterations of the 1980’s). This would almost certainly spell doom for not only the upcoming Justice League (due out in November) but also the future planning of the timeline being put most likely on an indefinite hold. While these films have done “OK” at best when it comes to box office returns (garnering over 2 billion dollars combined for the last three films in the series) the public perceptions of how the DC movie universe has progressed as compared to its Marvel rival is almost a “night and day” point of view. Does this tale of the Amazon Warrior prove to have enough “fight” to bring the DCEU back into the forefront of superhero stardom?
As an origin tale outlining the rise and the motivations of Diana Prince (played by Gal Gadot), Wonder Woman boldly sets out to not only prove it can set things straight in the DCEU and also send a message while doing so. As princess of the island of Themyscira, her drive even as a young girl to become a great warrior and defend those who cannot defend themselves leads her straight into the middle of the battlefront of World War I as she discovers that there are evil forces within the German army, led by General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and Doctor Maru (Elena Anaya), searching for ways to keep the conflict alive even as an armistice for peace is clearly within reach. Led on this adventure by American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) her naivety to the new world she has been thrust into has her not only questioning herself but the people she swore to defend and liberate. Her beliefs and training bestowed upon her by her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) leads her to believe strongly that the motivations of battle are being influenced by the God of War Ares and that only his defeat at the hands of Diana will stop the bloodshed and violence that had been covering the world like a plague for so many years.
Of the items that stick out the most is that Gadot appears to have that “it” factor as her screen presence is clearly felt throughout the film and the experience itself is quite the better for it. Her fighting scenes are presented with crisp, concise execution that bedazzles the audience without wearing out their welcome such as the previous DC films. Her only weaknesses come in exposition when tasked with with extended dialogue are few and far between and Jenkins ensures smooth transitions by providing her with veteran actors and actresses who only provide quality assistance in elevating her performance and the narrative as a whole. Most noteworthy of the performances being those of Nielsen and Wright who provide in more ways than one the solid foundation for what’s to come in the story and Pine whose Trevor character is his best work in a movie outside of a Star Trek uniform.
Gadot’s rendition of the Wonder Woman character herself reminds audiences of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme in the earlier stages of their career that even with a noted accent, the charisma oozes out of the screen from that of a true movie star that has officially arrived. The daft direction by Jenkins in both both battle and non battle scenes alike prove to be the big winner for movie fans overall as the film’s few flaws (An assembled multi-national crew and London scenes that stick out as “filler” stand out the most) don’t get in the way of a movie that continually goes out of its way to surprise and enlighten us at every opportunity. The messages of overcoming chauvinism and oppression with strong female characters is fully on display and as a father of two daughters it is truly welcomed. True, the film often resembles and parallels Marvel’s Captain America: First Avenger but seeing how that movie universe has gone so far modeling Wonder Woman in a similar mold is definitely not a bad thing to emulate.
For all the right reasons Wonder Woman has placed itself definitively as the best DC movie since The Dark Knight which is something not only admirable for everyone involved with the film but for the future of the comic book movie series itself. The film places the DC Extended Universe on a fan-supported path that now pushes Marvel, Disney, Sony and 20th Century Fox into coming up with their own answers for their own female superhero led films (Captain Marvel is on the way from Disney but wouldn’t a Black Widow stand-alone film be even better?) that can only enhance those superhero realms even more. As we left the theater after the movie ended (spoiler: no after credit scenes abound folks) one of my daughters looked at this reviewer and asked, “Are they making a Wonder Woman 2?” and without hesitation uttered the reply “After watching (Wonder Woman) today, there’s no doubt it’s on its way.”