I’ve been obsessing over it. I’ve been anticipating it. I’ve found any possible excuse to talk about it on this blog, including those involving hidden BDSM undertones. If you still weren’t convinced of how excited I was about the “Wonder Woman” movie, then I can’t help you and neither can Superman. Well, after years of waiting and agonizing over the failures of lesser female heroes, it happened. The “Wonder Woman” movie has arrived.
I’ve been following this movie since the release of its first trailer, making it clear along the way that this is one of the most important movies of the past decade. It’s not just an important step towards making us forget about “Catwoman.” It’s an overdue, understated milestone in the growth of female superheroes and female characters in general.
Wonder Woman is, by most measures, the most iconic female character of the past century. She is the standard by which all female heroes, and many female characters in general, are measured. She embodies the ideals of womanhood, generating hope for some and conflict for others. For her to have waited this long to get a movie while Ant Man of all characters got one is a travesty.
However long it took and whatever controversy emerged along the way, including those involving armpits, doesn’t matter anymore. The movie has arrived and I made it a point to see it, despite the crowds and overpriced candy. That leaves just one pressing question that doesn’t need the lasso of truth for an answer.
Is the “Wonder Woman” movie actually good?
Well, I’m here to say as part of my official review that yes. It is good. It’s every bit as good as its Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic score would indicate. This is not a “Dawn of Justice” type scenario where critics and fans don’t see eye-to-eye. The consensus is clear. “Wonder Woman” is a damn good movie.
What makes it good, though? Well, that’s where it helps to understand the challenge this movie faced, as well as the scope of the story it told. Unlike Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman’s origins aren’t as universally known and again, I’m not just referring to the BDSM elements.
Most people know she’s an iconic female superhero. Most know she’s a warrior princess from an island populated solely by women. Few people actually know the details of that story or the emotional undertones behind it. Even fans of the old Lynda Carter TV series only ever got part of the story.
This movie doesn’t assume that the audience knows the core of Wonder Woman history or what makes her who she is. Patty Jenkins, the director tasked with deciding which assumptions to make, made a concerted effort to explore both who Diana is and where she came from.
The parts about her being a warrior on an island of female warriors is still there. What makes it resonate is how the movie adds emotional elements to the story. There’s an undeniable innocence at first, seeing Diana as a child, running around her paradise island of Themyscira, eager to see more than others allow her to see.
This establishes and important tone for the story and for Wonder Woman’s character, as a whole. Even on an island paradise run by women, Wonder Woman dares to break with tradition and do more than what others would dare. She’s willing to test the rules of the Amazons and the rules of men alike. She is, at her core, a free spirit who seeks out wrongs to right and will step up when others won’t.
This makes her emergence as a warrior all the more meaningful because it gives her the strength and means break with tradition and fight the battles that no one dares. She doesn’t just become strong for the sake of being strong. Her training, her desire, and her capacity to kick ass has purpose. She makes the audience want her to succeed.
That kind of emotional resonance never wanes as the larger conflicts unfold. This is where Wonder Woman’s supporting cast really shines, especially in Chris Pine’s portrayal of Steve Trevor.
It might have been the trickiest part of the movie, handling how Wonder Woman’s long-time companion and frequent love interest, Steve Trevor, was handled. There have been instances in the comics and cartoons where Steve Trevor has been a beta male. There have also been times where he’s just been an glorified nanny to Wonder Woman, trying to keep her on a leash and not in a kinky sort of way.
That doesn’t happen in this movie. Chris Pine’s take on Steve Trevor is one that men and women alike can appreciate. He’s very much his own character who earns the respect of both Wonder Woman and everyone he works with. He doesn’t just show that he’s worthy of Wonder Woman’s affection. He earns it.
It’s probably the greatest accomplishment of the movie. Wonder Woman’s partnership with Steve Trevor and his allies is all about complementing one another, not hindering one another. Trevor isn’t just some man trying to put Wonder Woman in her place. He and his friends try to guide her through the conflict, doing their part whenever they can and letting Wonder Woman do hers.
Those looking for a movie that shows Wonder Woman attacking male oppression and exposing men for the pig-headed brutes they are will be disappointed. There are heroic men and villainous women in this movie. There’s no gender agenda at work here. There are times when gender dynamics are explored, but it’s never done with the impression that one is worse than the other.
The movie gets the message and the dynamics right. It gets the characters and their personalities right. Needless to say, Gal Gadot gets Wonder Woman right and looks absolutely stunning in that outfit in every single frame. On top of that, the various fight scenes and acrobatics that go with any hardened Amazonian warrior are a spectacle to behold.
It checks so many boxes. It has so many satisfying moments from beginning to end. There are moments of humor, including those of the crude, sexual kind. Chris Pine even gets naked at one point. Granted, he’s no Hugh Jackman, but I think most heterosexual women and gay men will be happy with what they see.
So are there any issues with this movie? Is “Wonder Woman” the most flawless work of cinema since “Godfather II?” Well, this is the part where I have to be somewhat petty because this movie isn’t perfect. It does have some flaws, but none of them are overly egregious.
If there are any shortcomings, it’s in the limited time it spends exploring Themyscira and its culture. There is some time spent on the mother/daughter dynamics between Wonder Woman and her mother, but it feels somewhat minimized, as do the rest of the Amazons. Many do get to shine in a few fight scenes, but none get a chance to be all that memorable.
There’s also the matter of the mythology behind the main conflict. Wonder Woman has always drawn heavily from Greco-Roman Mythology, so much so that it fuels a great deal of Wonder Woman’s iconic stories. However, the mythology in this movie is fairly flat and streamlined. It presents a very simple, bland view of the gods that are so integral to the Amazons. It feels like an oversight, but one that doesn’t derail the story.
Overall, I would not proclaim “Wonder Woman” to be the greatest superhero movie of all time. I would still put movies like “Deadpool” and “The Avengers” above it, but not by much. It is still very much in the top echelon of superhero movies. It is also groundbreaking in that it is the first female solo movie that succeeded where too many others have failed.
It’s impossible to overstate how critical this movie was for DC Comics, Warner Brothers, and superhero movies in general. “Wonder Woman” had so much riding on it from the get go, but it succeeded. It rose to the challenge. Much like Wonder Woman herself, this movie dared to defy convention and do something special.
If I had to score this movie, I would give it a solid 4.5 out of 5. It has all the right elements. It’s concise, compelling, and satisfying. It is a wonder unto itself. It was a long time coming, but like so many things, it was worth the wait.