Warning! This review contains spoilers!
I have been waiting my entire life for this movie. Wonder Woman was my first significant role model (besides my mother, of course, who is MY Wonder Woman and always will be). She’s strong and smart, but also compassionate. And in a medium filled with superpowered men, she held her own by simply being true to herself.
But I went into this movie with low expectations. First, because the previous movies in the current DC franchise have been so disappointing. Second, because Hollywood has done a piss-poor job of depicting female superheroes as central figures. And when Gal Gadot was casts as Diana, I admit that I rolled my eyes and feared that my Amazon warrior was going to get tricked out as an oversexualized tramp to appease the male gaze.
This version of Wonder Woman lines up the most closely with the Golden Age era. As this is an origin story, she develops her powers over time in the somewhat cliché “power jumps at convenient times” method. Yes, it is a tired trope, but it gets the job done. By the end of the movie, we have our fully-powered Amazonian princess, complete with flight and strength capable of rivaling Superman.
Setting her origin story in World War I was a good choice despite the comparisons to Captain America. The time period provides an incredible contrast between the bright utopia of Themyscira and the horrors of war that consumed Europe during the time period. It also allows for some amazing cinematography: the entire battle scene across “No Man’s Land” left me in tears as one of the most elegantly shot action sequences in comic book movies.
Second Spoiler Warning…seriously, don’t blame me if you continue reading and the movie is “ruined” for you.
There were a few points that simply made no sense and felt horribly contrived. Hippolyta insisting that Diana could never know the truth about her origins was just silly. In all seriousness, half the problems in the movie could have been prevented if Hippolyta had properly explained things to Diana instead of playing the overprotective mommie. Letting her know “Hey, you are actually a demigod and Ares is your half-brother” might have helped her make a few smarter decisions. The lies were unnecessary and create needless complications later.
And then there is this, shall we say, Highlander costume moment.
Seriously, HOW IS SHE WALKING with the sword like that? Is the back of that dress an interdimensional space for the rest of the sword (and her shield.) This is one of those scenes where Lynda Carter spinning around to change her wardrobe actually made more sense.
And super-contrived super soldier serum knockoff notwithstanding, there is no reason Ludendorff should have been a match for Diana. NONE. The chemical he doses with before the fight merely provides a cheap plot device for a dubious red herring. Ludendorff is obviously not Ares. He wouldn’t have needed to dope up at all if he was. Diana beats him, but the fight should have been over before it even began.
And then there is Steve Trevor’s “sacrifice” at the end. Now I understand why Steve needed to die in this movie. Nobody wanted to deal with Diana pining (um, pun not intended) for a grandpa Steve in the modern era or all of the story baggage of him remaining alive over the decades. But if ever there was an unnecessary sacrifice, Trevor’s death at the end was it.
So the German plane is loaded up with the deadly gas and preparing to head to London to wipe out the population of the entire city. The bomb is on a timer, apparently, so the only recourse is for Steve to fly the plane as high up into the sky as possible and blow it up, allowing the gas to dissipate harmlessly away for populations.
But, there is a huge plot hole here called…time.
Even today, a flight from Germany to London takes over an hour. What would a flight from Germany to London have taken in 1918? Six hours? Eight hours? Twelve hours? You mean to tell me that you couldn’t have figured out in SIX HOURS how to deactivate the timer…or just, I don’t know, unload the plane!
The scenario is even more ludicrous because we know Diana is actually immune to the toxin (we see her earlier in the film walk through a destroyed village as the gas is still in the air.) She tells Steve that she can do it and he insists on doing it anyway. But there was no reason because Diana could have actually survived the explosion. The sacrifice was pointless and felt more like male hubris than an act of selflessness.
This entire scenario going on in the background was actually a distraction from the epic boss fight going on between Diana and Ares. It was another contrived scene designed specifically to give Diana a reason to, for lack of a better phrase, channel the Dark Side of the Force by using her pain and rage at his death to power up and defeat Ares.
But wardrobe nuisances and plot holes aside, there is a lot to like in this film. Gadot makes an excellent Wonder Woman. I won’t go so far as to say she “owns” the role in the same way Robert Downey Jr owns Iron Man, but she portrayed the transformation from naïve heroine to hardened superhero well. The movie touches on the misogyny of the era without waving a bright neon sign and overplaying it (which was one of my few complaints about the first couple of episodes of Agent Carter when it was on the air). The action scenes are well done, though at times rely too much on CGI.
I left the theater in tears, not because it was a masterpiece of a movie, but because they didn’t screw it up. I think, unfortunately, that sense of relief is something only female comic fans can totally understand. Wonder Woman does exactly what it needed to do to restore faith in the current franchise. It is a solid comic book film to introduce the origins of one of DC’s most iconic heroes.