At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Wonder Woman “2017”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Action/ Stars: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya, Lucy Davis, Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner/ Runtime: 141 minutes

I just gotta say isn’t it sad how, despite her status as a central member of the DC Trinity, we as audiences are only now after over 75 years getting to truly see Diana Prince show signs of her real cinematic potential on the silver screen? I say this because while Gal Gadot easily stole all of her scenes in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice it is Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman that represents the character’s first opportunity to take center stage in a live action Hollywood movie for the very first time. Well having seen the finished product I am proud to say that Wonder Woman manages to buck the odds that were against it due to the DCEU’s recent critical misfires, as well as the inherent risk of making a Wonder Woman standalone movie, and manages to not only easily stand out as the best DC film since The Dark Knight Trilogy, but also show to us just what exactly it takes for great things to come to the DC Extended Universe.

The plot is as follows: A young and wide-eyed girl named Diana lives in seclusion with her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), her aunt General Antiope (Robin Wright) and the rest of a race of warrior women known as the Amazons on an island known as Themyscira, having been placed there by Zeus long ago in order to hide them away from the vengeful eye of his brother Ares — the God of War (before Kratos killed him, but that’s another story..). Trouble soon comes to Paradise however when one day an American spy named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands in the waters off the shore of the island and, upon being saved from his plane by Diana, informs the Amazons of the horrors of The Great War, and the very distinct possibility that those horrors may one day reach Themyscira itself. Being brought up on the belief that Ares would one day trigger such a war and that the only way to stop said war is by defeating Ares, Diana decides to join Steve on a journey to the Front and in the process finds herself facing off against the maniacal General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and the brilliant yet sadistic Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya) in a race against time before they can unleash a new chemical weapon that will embroil the entire planet in endless war not to mention cause the death of millions….

Now due to being a period piece set long before the arrival of Superman on Earth in Man of Steel, this film really doesn’t have to concern itself with any kind of continuity. Thus this film actually manages to find itself in the glorious position of being able to be free to stand on its own merit, and only really concern itself with telling its own story. Indeed it is this distinct lack of baggage that really helps the director assemble an absolutely compelling and truly well-constructed three-act origin story for Diana. Indeed there might be a little bit of disconnect which ultimately creates a few continuity issues that don’t necessarily jive with certain revelations that we have seen from other DCEU films, but when viewed on its own, Wonder Woman still manages to tell a tight, neatly assembled narrative that feels more like a truly fantastic standalone adventure rather than a sloppily-assembled bridge to some greater story.

Now while the iconography of the character does carry this movie a long way the movie is also ultimately bolstered by what can easily be said are some of the greatest performances that we have seen from any DCEU film to date. This of course starts with Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright managing to deliver some truly fantastic not to mention engaging turns as the ideologically opposed Hippolyta and Antiope, and Danny Huston doing some of his best Danny Huston as crazed General Ludendorff. Yet of all the people in the background, it’s Chris Pine who arguably deserves the most credit among the supporting cast. I say this because his portrayal of Steve Trevor is one of the most morally complex and yet downright likable heroes to ever come out of a DC movie. Indeed, his dynamic in the film with the world around him (especially Lucy Davis’ Etta Candy) is so phenomenal that I think I can honestly say that Pine in this movie delivers a performance, aside from his brilliant take on Captain Kirk from Star Trek that will go down as one of the best action roles of his career.

All of this however leads us to the real star of the show that is Miss Gal Gadot. This is because although as I said before the Israeli actress had already proven herself to be quite the scene-stealer in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman allows her to truly take off the training wheels and in the process deliver a far more complex and nuanced performance. Plus Miss Gadot also manages to showcase a surprising level of deftness with the film’s comedic moments (which were mostly absent from her turn in Batman V Superman) and the battle scenes also just throw out further proof that she is one of the most capable female action stars working today. I mean she just literally throws herself into the fight scenes with the glee of a kid in a candy store, and the sheer amount of physicality on display in this film is far more than anyone could ever imagine from a live-action Diana Prince. Thus when you add it all up I feel that I can safely say that for this generation Gal Gadot truly IS Wonder Woman, and the promise of her sticking around in this universe for many years to come truly is for this reviewer of the most encouraging elements of the entire DCEU.

Of course, while a good story and some stellar characters can and often do drive a story forward, we also cannot forget what many fans go to these movies to see: absolutely amazing and jaw-dropping action. Luckily on that front I can say with joy that Wonder Woman is easily the most consistently entertaining DCEU action movie to date. Indeed every single fight in this film is well-choreographed, stylish, and intense, but at the same time not brutal in the way that we would expect from say a Batman battle. This is because, unlike her cowl-wearing compatriot Diana may be an incredibly technical and acrobatic fighter, but the violence that she dishes out serves to highlight the sense of compassion and mercy that is the core of her character. Indeed while Gal Gadot is an absolute runaway train in these action sequences the film, true to what I just said, makes it clear that her goal isn’t just to give these people a good ol’ fashioned beat down, but rather to efficiently end a fight as quickly as possible, and it is that emphasis on providing a meaning to the violence that gives this film a weight that is seldom seen in most other comic book films.

Now in the creation of the film’s story, director Patty Jenkins wisely draws from traditional adventure films of the 1980s like the Indiana Jones films and even Romancing the Stone to create the overall tone and style of the movie, and I feel that it is a fresh and creative idea that really helps Wonder Woman feel more similar to classic Zemeckis or Spielberg than a contemporary comic book film. Thus as a result, the movie feels oddly timeless, yet familiar and comfortable while also serving as a complete game-changer for big screen superheroes. This is because while quite a fuss has been made about the importance of Wonder Woman, I think that the importance of this film can’t be stated enough since with this release I think it is now possible for other female-fronted superhero movies to become more and more common within the next few years.

Yet at the end of the day what is ultimately so great about this film is that while it’s a far more fun and enjoyable film than any other DCEU movie to date it never sacrifices the tone of the universe. I say that because while the DCEU is a landscape that is characterized by an undercurrent of darkness and tragic heroism what this film does brilliantly is equip humor to be used strategically as a means of catharsis when the weight of the story starts to rear its head. So whereas Batman V Superman was arguably too grim, and Suicide Squad was played too much like an MTV music video on every hallucinogen imaginable with a cameo appearance from Jared Leto doing his best 90’s Jim Carrey, Wonder Woman manages to find the sweet spot between light humor as well as the darkness that captures the DC tone and style beautifully.

That being said however for everything Wonder Woman does right, the film still has a few flaws (tragic I know, but hey rarely is a movie ever perfect). For starters, whereas the film’s first two act are absolutely airtight I hate to say it but Act 3 kinda meanders a little bit as it sets the stage for the final showdown, and upon arrival at Final Throwdown Junction the film’s climax is yet another bloated CGI spectacle that looks like it came out of a final boss fight for a PS2 game back in 2005. Plus this film’s central antagonist is, unfortunately, almost entirely forgettable when you compare….them…to the charm and emotional depth of the heroes. Now in all fairness to the story, the film does draw its villain from a relatively two-dimensional corner of Wonder Woman’s mythos, but that still doesn’t change the fact that more could’ve and should’ve been done with this film’s bad guy. Ultimately however these are truly minor quibbles when faced with everything that the cast and crew have managed to accomplish here, but at the same time it would be a disservice to the movie, and to you the reader, not to point out where it falters so that way maybe they can fix these things up in time for a sequel (or 3…as is the norm).

All in all though even if you’re the kind of audience member who doesn’t usually typically gravitate towards the superhero genre, you need to see Wonder Woman. I mean this is not only one of the best DC movies in recent memory, but it’s also a full-bodied adventure film that hits every conceivable emotional beat imaginable. Indeed director Patty Jenkins with this film has offered up a textbook example of how to tell a near perfect Wonder Woman story on the silver screen, and in doing so has officially joined the ranks of Richard Donner for Superman and Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight Trilogy as one of DC’s best comic to celluloid auteurs. Indeed if you’re a DC, or just an overall comic book fan in general this is a comic book character who you have waited years to see get her own movie, and trust me when I say that you will not be disappointed. On a scale of 1-5 I give Wonder Woman a 4 out of 5.