Wonder Woman Review: It’s Fantastic and It’s About Damn Time!
(SPOILER-FREE) I am relieved and absolutely thrilled to say that I loved Wonder Woman. I was worried, because a beloved property like Wonder Woman, which has been around since 1941, could so easily have been messed up. I think everyone was worried that we were finally getting our Themysciran Princess up on the big screen for the first time in a live-action solo film, and that it would be another in the line of films that would continue the “women can’t carry a superhero film” argument. I am here to tell you that this film is the very opposite of that. So much so that I was moved to tears. I wasn’t the only one.
Gal Gadot is perfect for the role of Diana of Themyscira. She has the perfect mix of strength, battle power and kindness that Wonder Woman embodies in the comics. Wonder Woman is a different kind of superhero. She isn’t just about angry looks and growling one-liners. Her message is love. She fights because others can’t fight for themselves (as she says in the film), not because she’s broken or damaged. When she leaves Themyscira for the world of men, she asks, “Who will I be if I stay?,” knowing what the world of men is dealing with. That is Wonder Woman in a nutshell. The other thing Gadot has going for her is beautiful comic timing. I won’t give anything away, but her early interactions with Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) are absolutely hysterical. In fact, their chemistry is pretty much perfection. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Pine when he was first cast. I mean, I think he’s a fantastic actor, but I wasn’t sure about him for this role. He nails it with a perfect blend of humor and heroism, and their interactions are lovely to watch.
The action is absolutely kick ass. Gadot nails all the fighting scenes, as well as Diana’s bewilderment at why she can’t help everyone in a war. “Acceptable damage” in wartime isn’t something she can understand at first. In a way, it’s child-like in its honesty, and completely appropriate. Diana is the only Amazon on Themyscira that hasn’t seen war. She’s grown up hearing stories of battle, but she was the only child on the island, and the only one who has lived her entire life in peace. It’s one of the most honest reactions to actual war (and the brutal WWI setting showcases is beautifully) that I’ve ever seen in a superhero film.
Speaking of action, let me say something about the scenes on Themyscira. There is a part of me that didn’t want to leave the beaches of that island. Seeing the Amazons training with beautiful ferocity, seeing women so powerful and skilled and watching Antiope (Robin Wright) train a young Diana was a revelation. Seeing Diana and the Amazons fighting like warrior goddesses on the beach made me, and the rest of the audience cheer at the top of our lungs. Having seen this for a second time, there are all sorts of subtle moments between the Amazons that I think make the film worth a second viewing.
I have to address the love story, without giving spoilers. Trevor was always a love interest for Diana, though depending on the decade the comics were written in, he’s either less important or more important. Before WWII ended, Diana’s fight was more important than getting hitched. After WWII, she mooned over him as women were expected to do, now that the men were back from battle. I wasn’t sure I’d be okay with it, but I think the way it’s handled is balanced well. I was also impressed with the way Diana is shot. We had the prerequisite shots of her costume reveal, like the one in the trailer when you see her boots, and then the bottom of the costume as she ascends the ladder into battle. The thing is, it’s shot to make her look strong, not to sexualize her. It’s perfectly done.
There are some issues in the third act, maybe a speech that goes on too long, but this doesn’t take away from the absolute joy of watching Wonder Woman. Director Patty Jenkins put in so many subtle touches that mean, again, audiences will benefit from more than one viewing. I will discuss this in much more detail on the Legion of Leia podcast after the film comes out and we’ve all seen it.
Okay, now the emotional part; I’ve been trying to hold it together, writing a review of a film I’ve wanted to see since I was 5, but that is nothing compared to watching the film, which I have now done twice. Let me explain. When this review comes out, it will be my birthday on the East coast. As a little girl, I had exactly two heroes; Princess Leia and Wonder Woman. I had the Underoos and a Wonder Woman birthday party. I had scotch tape around my wrists colored in with magic markers to look like Wonder Woman. I had some rope from our garage for the Lasso and a pot lid for a shield. I put a plastic birthday crown on my head and spun around like Lynda Carter in the Wonder Woman TV series, (a quarter turn counter clockwise, then clockwise until I was dizzy) to transform into my hero. The first time Diana fights in the film, I burst into tears. When she drops her cape and runs into battle — my hero, fighting on the big screen — I lost it again. After both screenings, I saw everyone else wiping away evidence of their feelings. All the women I spoke to after the screenings said they cried tears of joy, finally seeing Wonder Woman up there, in a movie that does her justice. As a guy, you may not be able to imagine how truly moving this is for us. I don’t think anyone at top of the studios knows exactly how much this means to women around the world. I am at a loss for words to explain how affecting and inspiring it is to see Wonder Woman shown in this way.
It’s time and far past time for more female-led superhero films, and for more directed by women. Look, it’s not that a man can’t direct a female-led film. Of course they can, and of course women can direct a male-led film. To say otherwise is ridiculous. However, the subtleties of the way Diana experiences the world, the reactions men have to her power and her reactions to that, the disbelief of gender disparity she discovers, so much of that was clearly from the mind of someone who has experienced it. Jenkins nailed all of it.
We have been waiting far, far too long for this. You think the early reactions are a surprise, studios? They’re not. We’ve all been telling you how much we’ve wanted this for years. Well, now we’re going to show you how much we want this with our dollars. Are you listening, Hollywood? ARE YOU LISTENING?
Wonder Woman opens in theaters on June 2.