Movie Review: Wonder Woman
By Matthew Huntley
June 13, 2017
Wonder Woman is not a unique superhero movie just because its protagonist is female, although this aspect alone is worth celebrating. It also separates itself from the pack by telling a thoughtful origin story alongside another, self-contained narrative that's just as engaging, allowing the movie as a whole to not get bogged down by obligatory hero introductions, characters arcs, etc. These are present, yes, but they have a rhythm and strike a balance with the movie's other working parts so that everything feels unified and fluid. Plus, as outrageous and fantastical as the material is, we take it seriously because the filmmakers keep it grounded and unearth real emotion from the story and characters. At a time when a new superhero movie practically comes out once a week, Wonder Woman stands out as something special.
All this comes as a real surprise given Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) was first introduced in the bloated, loud and much-maligned Batman v Superman (2016), which made it reasonable to expect Wonder Woman would be just as overwrought and messy. But if Wonder Woman's own film does anything, it underlines just how under-utilized she was in Batman v Superman, which relegated her to silent reaction shots and a few fight scenes at the end. As far as any substance or dialogue were concerned, it was severely lacking.
The reason for this may be due to the fact Batman v Superman was directed by a man, Zack Snyder, whereas Wonder Woman was directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins. It seems only natural that a female director would be more in touch with and better appreciate the value of a female hero, and Jenkins, working from a screenplay by Allan Heinberg, shows great affection and respect for her main character, although not necessarily because the main character is a woman. This isn't a “I am woman, hear me roar” project, but rather a “I am a virtuous, compassionate person (who happens to be a woman)” one and it thoroughly wins us over. That it doesn't take cheap and easy opportunities to stress that Wonder Woman is, indeed, female speaks to its confidence.
What's also remarkable about Wonder Woman is the way it's able to engross us despite being told as one long flashback, and therefore we know how things will turn out (for the most part). Each aspect of it is given weight and attention, including things as superficial and seemingly assembly-line as the fight scenes and special effects. Such elements can still feel distinct and thrill us when they work with the story instead of being made to overshadow it.
We first meet Wonder Woman disguised (black-rimmed glasses and all) as Diana Prince, working as a curator in the Louvre in Paris. Following the events of Batman v Superman, she receives a package from Bruce Wayne that contains a picture of her and a band of other soldiers, along with a message asking if one day she'll tell Bruce her story in person.