Movie Review: Wonder Woman
By Steven Slater
June 7, 2017
Gal Gadot also must be given credit for her innocence. There is a fine line between being innocent and naive, the latter making you feel the person is just ignorant, while the former carries a weight, like a person sustained their optimism in the face of hardship. Gal Gadot ably lands on the side of innocence, like other great action stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dwayne Johnson. Her face may be a bit of a blank canvas, but her sheer charisma keeps you hooked. It’s as if when you watch these actors in their better films, you always have a little smirk on your face, like they are winking at you and everyone is in on the fun. This is also carried well in the film itself, when it pauses for humorous interludes playing on the fish-out-of-water trope as Wonder Woman enters early 20th Century London or the front lines manned by grim men. I could easily see her running in full regalia through No Man’s Land being farce, but instead you must hand it to this film for deftly transitioning from light-heartedness to deeper felt emotions on cue. That scene, Diana’s first major involvement in modern war, forms a lump in your throat.
Chris Pine also gives what I consider his best performance, as an earnest spy wrestling with his ideals. They go back and forth with nice exchanges about how war and good and evil are not about two people fighting for victory, but a struggle within all humans and how they live. It gets a bit muddied, of course, when Wonder Woman has to finally fight Ares, and Chris Pine saves the day, because in superhero films it is all about individuals fighting for absolute good and evil. But at least the film tries to present the more complicated nature of that fight.
In fact, the evil side of the equation could be seen as the weakest part of the film. The Germans are the enemy, but they are a bit too evil. This may fit the over-the-top nature of comic book films, but I would not be surprised if many viewers thought they were watching Nazis, and not World War 1 German fighters. I think it would have been better if the bad Germans were simply humans being human, rather than trying to sell the notion that Ares has practically “infected” them with evil. However, when Ares is finally revealed and Diana confronts him, I think it is at least a satisfying end to the conflict. Now I am sure there will be a sequel where she fights the real Nazis, and then they can pulp it up as much as they want.
Overall I found this a much more satisfying film than most recent comic book adaptations, or blockbusters for that matter. It hits the right notes, the performances are all excellent, and the film never veers into too much chaos or frenzy. It is not as deep and epic as Nolan’s Batman films, but I think Wonder Woman definitely stands high on the ever-expanding list of comic book adaptations. It is exactly what you want from a summer blockbuster. Your move, Spider-Man.
An interesting aside: Logan, Wonder Woman and the new Transformers movie all have feisty young girls, with two having Latino heritage and another Scotch-Irish. I think this is a very cool development in terms of putting a type of character in big budget blockbusters you don’t find often, and it is curious all of these films have this trait within a span of six months. Given Gal Gadot also headlines Wonder Woman with an Israeli accent (probably supposed to be Greek in the context of the film), there seems to be a definite push for diversity in film that is finally bearing fruit. Here is to more diversity in film simply becoming normal, and not having to be noted each and every time, such as Patty Jenkins’ helming of a great tentpole film.
Slater Grade: A