** (see below notation)
|Plot SummaryBefore she was Wonder Woman she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained warrior. When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, she leaves home to fight a war to end all wars, discovering her full powers and true destiny. (from IMDB.com)
|Film Review Ever since the fantastic Christopher Nolan-directed Batman trilogy, DC Comics seems to be struggling to get a quality representation of their characters on the big screen. While I enjoyed 2013’s Man Of Steel, even the biggest defenders of the film would admit it had its flaws. And with the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the following Suicide Squad, DC and Warner Bros. have done anything but win over the faith (and trust) of their fans with increasingly more disappointing films. Still, despite many missteps along the way, there have been glimmers of hope. And the surprise casting of Israeli born actress Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was proved to indeed be a wise choice when she stole the scenes she appeared in in Batman v Superman. With the announcement that Monster director Patty Jenkins would helm a standalone Wonder Woman film, fan interest was piqued.
It seems like the perfect social climate today to see the release of a Wonder Woman film. In a time where people are calling for strong female role models, and women are leading marches in the name of womens’ rights, Wonder Woman seems like the right superhero for the job. But, like with many extraordinary supheroes, she’s a tough character to ground in a real world setting. The Marvel franchise has done a pretty good job of accomplishing this, while the DC films haven’t really up until this point. It doesn’t help Wonder Woman right out the gate either when it decidedly takes us back to Diana’s origin on a paradise island hid from the rest of mankind by Greek god Zeus. But after a lengthy intro that soon shows the outside world infiltrating their secluded culture, Diana is whisked away to war-torn England to join the fight against the Germans in WWI. But serving as her anchor to the story is Chris Pine’s excellent performance as a spy named Steve Trevor. Not only does he provide some extra charm and comic relief, but he helps usher Wonder Woman into our world. And while the finale is a bit gutsy in how Wonder Woman’s involvement in the Great War is portrayed, she proves to be an admirable hero that you can easily fall in love with and want to have fighting by your side.
Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger quickly won me over as a fan of the character (and even actor Chris Evans). I loved Steve Rogers’ ideals and his dedication to justice and fighting against the bullies of the world. He also had a naivety and sense of innocence that was especially endearing. Wonder Woman is easily DC’s Captain America. Not only is she a pure-of-heart hero thrust into the thick of battle, but here we have Wonder Woman fighting in World War I, while Cap fought in World War II. And while Cap had Peggy–also a soldier–Diana has Steve, and both serve as a romantic drive and inspiration for their ideals and pursuit of justice. Finally, while Cap had a ragtag team of soldiers fighting by his side–dubbed the Howling Commandos–Diana also has a similar team of misfit soldiers. The similarities do kind of end there (well, except for maybe a spoiler, which I won’t touch on), but it is rather uncanny how similar the two stories are.
As good as Wonder Woman is as a superhero film, it’s not entirely without some problems. At almost 2 and a half hours in length, it does feel a little long at times. The beginning especially feels slow-going, but once Steve enters her life, the story starts to pick up speed. I love a good, well-paced origin story, so Jenkins serves the story and the character well by taking her time telling it, but some may start to feel the running time before the film’s end. I do have to give props to Jenkins for not dumbing down the male characters in the film in an effort to make Diana all that more powerful of a woman. She proves to be just as powerful of a force with strong male characters around her (Even Peggy in Captain America was a strong female character). However, the story has her coming into the male-dominated society and rightfully questioning how some things are done, but then she ends up being the quick-and-easy solution to some of these problems (thanks to her bravery and superpowers). It’s a little awkward when we’re dealing with real-life scenarios where real men fought for our country at great cost, and then a superhero comes in and somewhat undermines the situation and sacrifice by fixing the problem almost effortlessly. I honestly don’t believe Jenkins or any of the filmmakers were trying to be disrespectful of the soldiers in WWI, but there’s something about how it all plays out that makes me feel a little uneasy. I’m curious how repeat viewings might change my feeling on it, though.
The content for the film is surprisingly rough at times. Where no superhero movie these days is all that much for the faint of heart (or a young audience), there are some surprisingly intense moments in Wonder Woman. There isn’t much by way of language – 3 uses of “hell” and 2 of “my G-d” – but the WWI violence can be a bit intense. One scene even shows a solder screaming with part of his leg shown missing (we see the bloody stump). We see other wounded soldiers, as well as lots of battle action on the frontlines. It’s all in order to show the atrocities of war through Diana’s eyes, but it’s pretty weighty. Jenkins lets the emotion of these moments linger, too. There’s also some sensuality brought about from the interactions between Diana and Steve. A lot of it is them stumbling over themselves conversationally, but one scene shows Steve getting out of a bath naked and the camera even pans back so we see him fully nude except for his hands cupping his crotch. There’s also a scene where he goes to her room at night (and closes her door behind him) and they kiss passionately before the scene ends, leaving it up to the imagination if they went any further than that (but it’s kind of implied that they did). In addition to those moments, there’s an awkward conversation about sleeping together (to which Steve does say it’s improper outside of marriage), and some other flirting between the two.
With Jenkins’ feature-length take on Wonder Woman, we almost have a great revitalization of one of the most iconic superheroes of our time. As a role model for young women, it’s almost there, but considering that the story has Diana falling in love with literally the first man she’s ever seen and implies that they sleep together soon after meeting, Wonder Woman still falls short. As a superhero movie, it’s otherwise a solid film and hopefully a sign that the tides are turning for DC’s cinematic universe.
– John DiBiase (reviewed: 6/3/17)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content Sex/Nudity: We see Steve sitting in a natural spring type bath. When he stands up to get out, Diana walks in and it’s obvious he’s naked from us seeing both of their reactions. He acts a bit embarrassed and she asks if he’s an average example of a man and he says he’s above average. She then asks him, “What is that?!” to which he looks down at his privates (off screen) before he looks over and realizes she means a watch he has laying off to the side. The camera then pans back as he steps out of the pool and we see him completely naked except for his hands covering his privates. He then dresses in front of her; Once they set sail for civilization on a boat, Diana questions why Steve is making a place for her to sleep by herself. Steve then stumbles over his words as he tries to explain he doesn’t want to sleep with her (and then stammers about sleeping with women in a sexual manner), and he eventually joins her to just innocently lie next to her. They then talk about her studies of pleasure and she mentions that in her studies, it was decided that men aren’t needed for it; Steve walks Diana to her room and he looks romantically at her. He motions to leave but then closes the door behind him and kisses her. The scene ends there, so it’s not clear if they slept together or not (but it’s kind of implied that they do); After seeing Diana fight in a bar, a man says he’s “really frightened but also kind of aroused.”