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Review: Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman
06.02.2017
10 10

Read JimmyO's take HERE!

I went into WONDER WOMAN with some trepidation. My excitement for the film has been high, especially after getting a look at a few of the scenes earlier in the year. It showed promise, but I wasn't overwhelmed that it would be able to pull it off completely. After all, the last two DCEU films took a hell of a beating by critics and fans alike (although I've been a big fan of them all, including BVS), which made me wonder if the powers that be would meddle the film into something without an identity and replace it with a by-the-numbers crowd pleaser. Then came those early reviews that showered the film with praise and my fears of overhype kicked in. So, imagine my sigh of relief when the credits started to roll on WONDER WOMAN and I felt nothing but pure amazement for it.

WONDER WOMAN, as it turns out, is a monumental achievement not only for the DCEU, but for the genre as a whole. Where fatigue had begun to set in with even some of Marvel's critic-proof machines, WONDER WOMAN reopens the doors of the origin story and provides a tale that's at once familiar and new at the same time. Seeing the world of Diana in Themyscira early on, her character is crafted with care from the start; the tenacity, rebellious nature, determination, strength, spirit and passion are seen in her eyes as a little girl all the way up to the time she is a young woman. The torch of Diana/Wonder Woman is lit and carried with ease by Gal Gadot, who embodies the character entirely; she IS WONDER WOMAN in every way that Christopher Reeve was Superman (who has since passed that torch to Henry Cavill). For someone that was met with a rash of animosity when she was hired for the role (akin to other stars-turned-superheroes Michael Keaton, Heath Ledger, Ben Affleck, etc.), Gadot has embraced not only the role, but the responsibility that comes with it. Bringing WONDER WOMAN to the big-screen in her first solo film was no guaranteed slam dunk and Gadot bears the weight of that on her shoulders with ease.

And if Gadot bore the weight, it's director Patty Jenkins that pulled it, bringing this half-century old character to life with vibrancy, style, charisma, depth, emotion, iconography and, above all else, heart. Jenkins was absolutely a gamble for a superhero film, but not because she's female, but because like many filmmakers making the jump to big-budget enterprises like this, she was untested. But, man, does she pass the test with flying colors here (and it doesn't always work out that way, as we all well know). One of my concerns was how Jenkins would handle the action in WONDER WOMAN as I knew that we certainly needed to care about Diana, but we also want to be entertained by seeing her in full-glory action. Jenkins uses a mixture of Zack Snyder's speed ramp, slow-motion style mixed with powerful, colorful and iconic shots that help put the "super" in the "hero" with tremendous effect. Visceral, powerful and rousing come to mind every time Diana charges into battle here. But, don't let that fool you into thinking that it's the only trick up her sleeve; Jenkins balances WONDER WOMAN with plenty of pauses, allowing us to get to know not only our key players, but the supporting cast as well. Jenkins spends ample time familiarizing us with the people that inhabit Diana's new (and old) world, allowing her to grow and change with their influence, rather than simply react with pithy quips and subject them to cannon fodder status.

Perhaps the most affecting aspect of the film is the relationship between Steve Trevor (as played by Chris Pine) and Diana, which ultimately forms the basis for Diana's journey. After crash landing on Themyscira and later escaping with Diana to find and destroy Ares, The God of War, their relationship becomes a symbiotic one, in which Steve feeds off her energy and tenacity, while she feeds off his humanity and will. And the chemistry is there, through and through. Pine does some of his best work in years and adds both charm, wit and grounded-ness to the role that easily could've been a rip-off of any adventure/soldier type that's graced the screen before. Both Pine and Gadot make for a dynamic pair and their interactions are ripe with both humorous banter and genuine passion. Had that relationship not worked onscreen, WONDER WOMAN would not be half the film it is. We HAVE to care for these two or it simply doesn't work and thankfully it absolutely does.

If you're looking for flaws you can certainly find them, as you can in just about any film, but WONDER WOMAN is a film that easily outmatches those flaws with its strengths. Some scenes go on a bit too long, some of the CGI (although minimal) is a bit off, the villain aspect isn't as powerful as it could've been and perhaps we could lose 5 - 10 minutes and never feel it, but the film redeems every one of those flaws with breathtaking moments of action and emotion that simply isn't always the case with superhero films, even if they're all aiming for the same goal (which is usually to bring more emotional stakes to balance out the boom). WONDER WOMAN excels at tapping that emotional core, from small, tender moments to big, iconic ones; it's relentless in the pursuit of showing genuine heart, accomplishing that mission with grace, style and excitement. Beyond that, the film stays more true to the comics lore than one might think, with Diana using her compassion and heart as a guiding principle for her motives and ultimate power, which was the basis for her initial inception. It's a testament to all involved that this was captured onscreen.

Gadot, for her part, has established a foothold on the character of WONDER WOMAN, taking the torch from Lynda Carter, who has long stood as the most recognizeable face of the character outside the comic page, and does so honorably and with a twinkle in her eye that almost makes you think she actually believes she's the real WONDER WOMAN. I guess that's the point of any actor playing a superhero, but as one of the most famous of all time, the task was mountainous and Gadot has made it to the peak. For Jenkins, who batted away every attempt to have someone make this film about gender politics, she proves that she is every bit a WONDER WOMAN as Gadot, staying true to her vision, passion and commitment in making a film for everyone, regardless of gender, never sacrificing what the character means to the world. In doing so, she has done exactly what Richard Donner did in 1978; she created a new cinematic icon.

I didn't expect to love WONDER WOMAN as much as I did. At the minimum, I thought it would be a fun romp and, at best, a solid debut that at least establishes Diana amongst the broader DCEU. But, it's a much stronger effort than that and, although not without its flaws, a film made of genuine heart and soul with imagery that remains burned in my brain, begging to be seen again, and performances that delight, challenge and inspire (as well as a rousing and pounding score from Rupert Gregson-Williams). As a lifetime comic fan, movie fanatic and a purveyor of geekdom in general, I feel this is a standard-setting film and one that I hope is emulated when shaping up the next chapter in the ever-expanding comic book genre, regardless of studio or property. WONDER WOMAN is the new standard bearer.

Source: JoBlo.com

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