Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is one of the DC’s three biggest heroes.  The other two have had numerous TV shows and movies made about them and while Princess Diana had a show in the 70’s there has been no major movie until now.  We don’t have to think too hard to figure out the reason for that.  Comics, and movies for that matter, were dominated by men both on the creative side and the consumer side for decades.  Wonder Woman was created in the 40’s by William Moulton Marston in part to provide a role model for young girls.  I’m not sure if that contributed anything to her popularity or not.  But I do believe that Wonder Woman has always been ahead of her time in messages of female empowerment.

And now she is not only being called upon to save the world but also to save the reputations of DC and Warner Brothers.  It’s a tall order because her brethren Batman and Superman have been on a losing streak lately, their movies getting panned for being too dark and grim.  They’re making money, I’m sure.  But nothing like the mint that Marvel is running.  I imagine that this doesn’t go down well in the halls of the DC offices.  Not to mention Warner Brothers.

So they start Diana’s story with her origin, which is basically the same as in the comic books except they shifted the time period to World War I instead of World War II.  Diana, played by Gal Godot, is an Amazon on the island of Themyscira.  She was molded out of clay by her mother and then Zeus breathed life into her.  He did this to protect mankind from Ares, the God of War and therefore she has much more power and ability than your average Amazon warrior, which is saying something.  Themyscira has been hidden from the outside world since ancient times and only women live there.  Diana’s mother Hippolyta, played by Connie Nielsen wishes to hide Diana’s abilities from her.  But of course in time Diana realizes she is different.

An American spy working for the British named Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine, penetrates the dome of fog and bad weather that hides the island.  He’s flying a stolen German plane and crashes it in the crystal blue waters off the island.  Diana saves him and becomes alarmed when he tells her about the war raging in the outside world and that Themyscira may not be safe.  The Amazons are skilled warriors but they know nothing of guns, bombs or gas, or anything about modern mechanized warfare.  Once the island is successfully defended from the Germans who were pursuing Trevor, Diana decides she must venture into the outside world to clean up the mess that we dopey men have made of it.

But Diana has grown up in a nurturing utopia where everyone is fulfilled and happy.  She is shocked when she catches Trevor in a lie.  It never occurred to her that someone might not tell the truth.  In short she has no conception of the darker side of human nature.  This leads to several miscalculations on her part.  I won’t spoil the plot by going into them.

I like Diana’s arc as a character.  She goes from powerful but naïve to disillusioned and finally to determined.  Godot handles this well.  You believe she is a person who can understand any language but is completely ignorant of human motivations.  You can also credit Allan Heinberg’s screenplay and Patty Jenkins direction for that.

Chris Pine basically plays Steve Trevor as a slight variation on his Captain Kirk but that’s really all that the part calls for.  Besides his chemistry with Godot is spectacular.  Their interaction provides the best bits of humor and romance.

The supporting cast is good especially Trevor’s “crew” of reprobates that help him and Diana get deep into German territory.  Said Tahgmaoui plays Sameer, a cynical con man with a heart of gold.  Ewen Bremmer plays Charlie a shell-shocked Scottish sniper.  And Eugene Brave Rock plays Chief an American Indian smuggler.  These guys play well off each other and you can believe they’ve been a team for a long time.

For the most part it’s a pretty film.  On Themyscira the weather is always fine with bright sunlight bathing the spectacular coastline.  But in the outside world it is always dark and overcast with muted colors and a lot of close-ups.  The effects are pretty good for the most part although there were a few that looked fake.  Costumes and sets were all really good.

There isn’t much that’s original in the plot.  I suspect that they moved the time period to World War I to distract from the fact that they were stealing so much from Captain America: The First Avenger.  But the film is so well paced and the characters are so compelling that I didn’t mind it being derivative.

So did Wonder Woman save the day and rehabilitate DC’s cinematic reputation?  I would say it’s a good start.  It certainly points to the lighter, more comic book like tone that many in the fan boy press have been calling for.  Hopefully future projects will follow suit.

In any case Wonder Woman is a must see summer movie.

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