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Wonder Woman (2017)

Rating: ***1/2 out of 4

“I used to want to save the world, this beautiful place. But the closer you get, the more you see the great darkness within. I learnt this the hard way, a long, long time ago.” - Diana Prince

"I will fight, for those who cannot fight for themselves.” - Diana Prince

"Be careful in the world of men, Diana, they do not deserve you.” – Queen Hippolyta

Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, and Danny Huston.

Writers: Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder and Jason Fuchs

Director: Patty Jenkins

After spending half the movie being told ‘no’, she turns to Steve Trevor with pure conviction and says; “You’re right…but it is what I am going to do.” With that simple line, she turns from Steve and rises to a battlefield of gunfire, rage and aggression. She brushes away the bullets that are hurtling towards her with divine purpose. She stands tall on the battlefield. Her stride as firm as her conviction. The scene is imbued with visual allegory to the struggles a woman must face; struggles centuries old. What the viewer is left with is a true wonder to behold. This is the moment that defines the character and cements the film as one of the greats of its genre.

After spending decades in Development Hell, Wonder Woman hit screens with profound success. While there are several reasons that play to the film’s success, from the strong decisions in casting to the powerful nod to the movement of the suffragettes or the script placing heavy allegory to the feminist movement over time; it is Patty Jenkin’s careful handling of the character and general focus of the film that are certainly key among them. The previous films in the DCEU have all lacked the focus in story in favor of developing the universe wherein they can launch further properties. This was one of the primary downfalls of Batman v Superman – Dawn of Justice. This film acts as a standalone film that tells of the beautiful, inspiring and patently tragic origin of the Amazonian Princess.

The film centers on Diana Prince reminiscing on her past introduction into the world of man. How she was a woman filled with a naiveté that the world was magically without flaw unless the Gods deemed it otherwise. She reflects on the Great War that taught her differently, her meeting with the person that would ultimately change her outlook and her call to action that would lead her on her heroic journey.

Oddly, one of the film’s few flaws centers on its plot in that it is a relatively basic origin story following the Richard Donner Superman formula and blending it with the contemporary tone and execution of Joe Johnston’s Captain America – The First Avenger. The complaint is somewhat moot because her origin has never really graced the screen, so it is not as noticeable but it is there nonetheless

The film’s plot may not be overly complex, but there is a heavy layer of moral complexity. The film is one long morality play and we journey with Diana all the way as she learns the complex nature of humanity. Framing the film entirely within her eyes was an extraordinary way for the audience to relate to this being who is completely out of our scope of relation. She is every bit as alien to us as Superman, yet she is so captivatingly real and believable that she envelopes the audience into learning as she learns, feeling what she feels and ultimately has us cheering her on in a way that is rarely captured on film.

Christopher Reeve taught us that a man could fly, and Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man, but not since these two icons has anyone come close to the ownership of a role that Gal Gadot commands with her take on Wonder Woman. She is the primary reason the film soars. Her strength is never in question, and her naiveté is not played for laughs but rather a genuine stance of learning what it is to be human, and her beauty is unparalleled. Chris Pine excellently compliments Gal Gadot’s performance and the two entwine a splendid sense of chemistry. In fact, the performances across the board are grand, but this is Gadot’s show. She simply is Wonder Woman.

The film only really suffers from the mildly clichéd nature of the origin story, and the derivative feel of the film (which mostly can be attested to an oversaturated market). While all the stuff on Themyscira is exceptional, once the film transitions to London it gets a tad sluggish. But, once Diana hits the front lines, the film takes off and becomes a grand spectacle of layered action and storytelling. It is the filmic exemplification of modern mythology as any good comic book should be. And, while there are few surprises, the film’s conclusion is so utterly satisfying you don’t even mind.

The great take away of the film is its sense of optimism. It is an optimistic film, examining the human condition with hope that has been almost entirely absent from the DC films since the 70’s. But it is an updated sense of optimism. One that acknowledges war, the savagery of man and what we do with our world yet finds a way to play to the power of the human spirit in a way that does not feel maudlin or unattainable. It places within the viewer the same sense of optimism that if we don’t accept all the voices of descent and make a stand that we truly believe in, we can someday make a better place. It is a sentiment of beauty not often found in our modern world and all it took was a wondrous woman to show us the way.

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