Smarty Movie Review: Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman—it’s about time but it was worth the wait!
I grew up watching Wonder Woman. Whether it was the Super Friends cartoon on Saturday morning (where she had that fantastic invisible jet) or the live action Lynda Carter version on TV, I was completely hooked. I even had my very own Wonder Woman bathing suit (though it never occurred to me at the time that I couldn’t fill out the suit quite like Lynda could!) So I was thrilled to hear that Hollywood was finally making a movie about my favorite childhood superhero. We first met Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman in the film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice where she had a relatively small role. This time around, we get her full origin story and it’s quite a tale.
The movie begins in present day Paris, where Diana Prince receives a package from Bruce Wayne. Inside, she finds an old photo of herself dressed as Wonder Woman posing with four men during World War I. Bruce wants to learn the story of the photo, which makes Diana reminisce about her past. We then go back in time and see a young Diana living happily on the beautiful island of Themyscira, home to the famous Amazons. While Diana wishes to learn to fight like her Aunt Hippolyta (Robin Wright), she is instead kept from training by her protective mother, Queen Antiope (Connie Nielsen). Diana learns from her Aunt that the god Zeus created the Amazons to protect mankind from Ares, the god of war. Zeus hid the Amazons on their pristine island and gave them a sword created to be a god killer. That way, if the defeated Ares rose up again, he could be destroyed. Diana grows up and trains with Hippolyta, becoming a gifted fighter.
All is well on the island of warrior women until the day an airplane crashes through the island’s protective barrier. Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) has stolen important information from the Germans in a daring spy operation and is trying to return to London to reveal their dastardly plans. Diana saves Steve from the downed plane, and is amazed to finally meet a human man. When Steve shares horrific details of the war, Diana is convinced that Ares must be responsible and that she must destroy him to stop the war and save mankind. She decides to leave her island, and sets off with Steve to London with the god-killer sword.
Once in London, the story becomes a first-rate fish out of water tale as Diana struggles to understand everything about life in the “real” world. From fashion to the treatment of women, everything comes as a surprise to her. There are several fantastic and funny scenes between Diana and Steve as they navigate both their relationship and the social mores of early 1900’s London. Steve’s secretary Etta (Lucy Davis) is especially great at bringing some lightness to the story.
Once Steve brings the stolen notebook to his superiors, it is revealed that the Germans have created a new deadly gas that will kill thousands of soldiers on the front lines. The officers refuse to attack the factory where the gas is produced as they are working on negotiating a peace treaty with Germany. Diana is infuriated that the officers are putting lives at risk until Steve assures her that he will take her to the front himself to destroy the factory. He then assembles a ragtag team to help in the mission including a spy, a sharpshooter and a smuggler. The action builds as the team gets closer to the front lines, and concludes with the inevitable long, drawn out CGI spectacle that ends all big budget superhero films these days. To me, the best action sequences are the smaller, more realistic ones that occur earlier in the film.
I can’t imagine a better choice to play the iconic part of Wonder Woman than Gal Gadot. She completely embodies the other-worldly spirit of Diana, a regal princess and a deadly warrior. Her Diana is brilliant and capable but also naive to the wickedness of mankind. Her pure heart struggles to comprehend the harsh realities of war and Gadot is just perfect in the role. She is insanely beautiful, but she is much more natural looking and less of a Barbie doll than previous versions of the character. Chris Pine perfectly captures cocky Steve Trevor as a man who is unaccustomed to deferring to a woman no matter how capable she may be.
I’m just so happy to see a film directed by a woman about a strong female character who is brilliant, strong, kind, brave and good becoming a summer blockbuster. It’s about time we had a female hero to look up to and it was indeed worth the wait. Here’s hoping that Hollywood takes note of this success and starts making some changes in the future!