PG-13. It's the most non-committal rating for a movie that it could get. I was going to make a gender stereotype joke to compare PG-13 to stuff that men and women do, but I feel like Wonder Woman isn't the place to do that.
DIRECTOR: Patty Jenkins
This movie be turning some heads. Like, everyone is talking about this movie. Everyone. It's changing lives and it was barely advertised not that long ago. I don't think that I've seen a film studio breathe a collective sigh of relief harder than the reviews were not only good, but they were overwhelmingly positive. That's so cool. I mean, I liked the movie, so when the world says that this movie is good, it should be a validation to my good taste (I'm very self-involved). But why do I feel like something is a little off?
Again, I can't stress enough that this movie is good. I feel like I'm going to get attacked for mentioning anything rough about America's favorite movie right now, so anything I say, please take it under the umbrella that I really dug this movie. But is it as good as everyone is saying? A lot of the problem is that this movie is good, but it wasn't that good. Honestly, considering that I've written a lot of superhero movie reviews on this site, this one actually felt pretty tame. This is a superhero origin story. The best thing I can say for the movie is that it really nailed the superhero origin story. But it also has the same problems that many of the superhero origin stories have: it gave its best villain to the first movie. Wonder Woman is more of an icon than she is a fully fleshed out story. Again, I'm inviting challenge, I suppose. But I always look to the villains to really determine the amount of depth that the superhero can provide. Wonder Woman is super cool in concept. It's always been a crime that many writers can't really pad out her story with equally iconic storylines. There are exceptions to the rule. I think Greg Rucka nailed the New 52 reboot, which is the only time I'll combine the words "nailed the New 52 reboot". There are two villains in Wonder Woman's canon that could be worthy of storylines: Cheetah and Ares. Cheetah is never all that scary as much as she is recognizable...kind of. Ares isn't necessarily a foil for Diana in the books as much as he is a tank, like Doomsday and Superman. Jenkins and screenwriters were smart to steal the formula from other origin story movies and made Ares a stronger parallel to the protagonist, similar to Sam Raimi's original Spider-Man. But the problem that lies within is the same problem that happened with Spider-Man. The first movie burned off the best villain. Norman Osborn was gone at the end of part 1 and Ares barely has any screentime in Wonder Woman. So as cool as it was seeing Diana done right, I now can't really expect a great Ares movie. Or it could go the way of Thor and make Ares the equivalent of Loki, but I don't see that happening.
World War I is cool. I love that they chose the hipster of the two World Wars. It is something that viewers only need to be somewhat familiar with, but they still get the basic premise. Jenkins really gets a much better playground establishing Diana in a war-torn, international setting. Metropolis and Gotham have already been beaten to death and lacked anything that made them stand out from other cities. Besides, it isn't like Wonder Woman has one of these iconic locations outside of Themyscira, on which Jenkins delivered in spades. Again, Wonder Woman might have been a harder sell than I might have given credit for because there's nothing I've been itching to see in a Wonder Woman movie outside of seeing Wonder Woman be cool with her weapons and her awesome punching. But World War I hasn't exactly been overdone and this movie really had enough parallels with Captain America: The First Avenger than it really needed. (Honestly, down to the costume and the "aw shucks"-iness of it all...there's a case to be made.) That said, there is a problem with the setting that kills the pacing of the movie. LIGHT SPOILERS: Themyscira is ACT I of the movie. ACT II of the movie is London. ACT III of the movie is the front. Act I: Awesome. Act III: Really awesome. Act II? Almost completely unnecessary. I get Jenkins's choice behind World War I London. It is something that the DCEU hasn't really even gotten close to and it also allows Diana to see the World of Man as it really exists, with its nobility and foibles. The theme of the film deals with "Is humanity worth saving?" So the whole London stuff is necessary, but golly, it is dull. Dawn from The Office is the stand in for the guy from Fantastic Beasts. It's weird how I praised the exact same character in the other film, but now find the exact same character tiresome. Maybe because this is becoming a caricature. But the momentum is lost all through the London sequence until No Man's Land, which is safely the coolest part of the movie.
But this is where the movie shines. Gal Godot dominates these action sequences. Wonder Woman ripping guys apart without resorting to using sexuality to kill folks? Yup. Awesome. (Compare Godot's fighting style to Black Widow or Xenia Onatopp and you'll see what I'm talking about.). The fight sequences can get a bit silly, but who cares? It was fun. I'm going to caveat this whole section: violence cool; Godot perfect. There are so many small choices that she makes that sell the character that I could watch her performance on a loop. I love this casting so much. She is Themysciran. (I know she's Israeli, leave me alone.). But she is a native of her mythical island sooner than she is an Amazon or a superhero and I applaud this so hard. Diana, like Superman, is the story of the immigrant. But instead of the desperate immigrant, Wonder Woman chooses the outside world and doesn't need it. She sees the world as something that could be benefit from her presence. She actually goes against what her culture tells her and embraces change. Superman repays his debt to America for taking him in during his most vulnerable moments. Instead, Diana loves her homeland and sees people in pain. She embraces that change and that is her as a foreigner, not as a warrior. Her warrior heritage would tell her to stay home and defend those around her. Her humanity is what drives her to explore the world. What I'm saying is that I want Gal Godot for president. Also, I feel like Gal Godot is a nom de plume acting as a one for one for "Wonder Woman".
I applaud that that they nailed some of the nerdier elements of the character. Steve Trevor has the right attitude. He borders on mansplainer without becoming overt or condescending. He has the right amount of skepticism and he is a solid companion. I saw a bit too much of his Kirk in the portrayal, especially when he got a Scotty to play across from (now you CAN'T unsee it!). The team seemed a bit Howling Commandos for me, but they were fun. I wonder if they were the characters I know from"New Frontier", but I couldn't stop seeing the Howling Commandos comparison. They are just the perfect reminders for Diana and they really work for the story, but the beats felt a bit too similar. Perhaps the combination of folks in the team are a bit too perfect for showing the true nature of ourselves. They are almost too perfect ambassadors because their weaker moments are not presented in the context of malice or ill will, but rather just human weakness. They are funny and charming and I'm not sure that is an accurate portrayal of what makes humanity. But maybe that makes me a cynic. Who knows?
This is short, but can I give a round of applause for the return of the iconic score? I know that we first heard it in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but that theme is so cool. What exactly is happening there to get that sound? Regardless, the theme has been stuck in my head all week. Every other theme song I have a small insight into because my Pandora station plays it on a loop while I'm grading papers. (Reminder, I am cool.) But the first time I heard that Wonder Woman theme, I was in love. It's very boss without trying too hard. I really hope it sticks around into the future films because it is John Williams level iconic.
So the movie's greatest strength is that it feels like a movie. That's the phrase that kept running through my head as I watched it. "This actually feels like a movie!" Maybe we're grading on a curve and I have too many sad theories about that. . 1) It's the first good DCEU movie. I can live with that. It acknowledges that the franchise is getting better and we're willing to forgive small mistakes. I'm sure that if I watched the first Iron Man again, it would seem mighty simplistic. I think a major franchise needs to have a solid foundation and it is weird that we are considering the fourth movie in the DCEU to act as the foundation. 2) Wonder Woman is a hard property to tackle, so any success should be seen as a major triumph. I mentioned this earlier. There aren't a ton of storylines that really resonate through the ages. People love the animated movie and I don't think that it holds a candle to this one, despite the fact that many of the same plot lines were used. So I can see people forgiving mistakes because of this. I don't think this is the reason we are embracing this movie. I think that requires an inside knowledge into a franchise that many people don't have. I do think it's number 3. 3) Female superheroes are criminally misrepresented, so they need support. I wrote about this with the Ghostbusters reboot, now officially titled Ghostbusters: Answer the Call. Ghostbusters wasn't very good, but it needed to be. Wonder Woman is a good movie, so I think there might be a collective understanding that we can forgive weaker moments to make sure that this keeps happening. Wonder Woman represents so much more than simply a superhero movie. She is strength for women everywhere and it's just the worst that people keep getting the character wrong. So if we all play dumb to the weaknesses this movie presents, who knows? Maybe we'll genuinely get an amazing Captain Marvel movie? Maybe Black Widow will finally crush in her own amazing spy film? Golly, I'd love to even see Ms. Marvel get a shot. But I have to call it what it is: Wonder Woman is a good movie that we're all going to pretend was great because we needed it to be great. And I'm weirdly okay with that.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.