movie review: Wonder Woman stops a war with love

Okay, let's get this out of the way: I don't care if Wonder Woman, the character, is a feminist icon. Nor do I care if Wonder Woman, the movie, is flying an invisible plane through the glass ceiling, or breaking any ground whatsoever. I just want to watch a good movie.

 

(Although she is, and it does. And I did.)

 

Honestly I'm starting to wonder--you might brace yourself for this--if the day will come when the physically strong, kick-ass woman character will become a tired, cliched trope that makes people yawn. Hasn't happened to me yet. But my daughter watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the generation before me had Emma Peel, and I watched, well, Wonder Woman, who hit TV in her own series when I was thirteen. You bet I watched that show. I mean, as a comic book fan.

 

(Now that I think about it, my first literary hero was Dorothy Gale, Princess of Oz, who could be something of an action hero herself.)

 

Still, to paraphrase Buffy creator Joss Whedon, I suppose the reason we keep getting awesome female heroes is because people are still asking why we don't have them. And that ties right in with why I go to the movies, because Wonder Woman, while not the overwhelmingly perfect superhero movie some claim, is indeed awesome--largely because of one particular Gal.

 

The various incarnation of Princess Diana.

Gal Gardot is Diana, Princess of--you know, come to think of it, she's never called Wonder Woman at any point in the movie. The flick starts with Diana in modern times, receiving (by courier from Wayne Enterprises) a photo that sends her mind back to her childhood among the Amazons, on an island with no men. Sure, when you're a kid having no one of the opposite sex around is a paradise ...

 

Diana's mother, Queen Hippolyta, doesn't want her to train to be a warrior, as every other woman there does. She thinks something very bad will happen if the island's only child develops her ability. Sure enough, just when the grown up Diana has reached the peak of her training, an airplane falls out of the sky and delivers *gasp* a man to the island.

 

Luckily Diana somehow knows what a man is--that saved some awkward exposition.

 

The pilot is America spy Steve Trevor, (Chris Pine), who's being pursued by German soldiers. Turns out the rest of the world is mired in World War I, and Steve holds intel on a new German weapon that might cost tens of thousands more lives. Diana is convinced the war is the work of Ares, the god of war, who the Amazons have been training all along to someday face. Clearly, all the world is waiting for her.

 

Wonder Woman originated during World War II, and setting the movie further back in time was the first smart idea of the filmmakers. Let's see: A red, white, and blue costumed hero, rather naive but eager and determined, gathering a band of misfit commandos to take on a German army with secret weapons during the second World War? Surely no one would draw any comparisons to Captain America.

 

Their next bright idea was the cast.

 

What a Gal!

 

With Batman vs. Superman, the naysayers were already out, complaining Gal Gadot was too scrawny to be a proper Wonder Woman. Did they learn nothing from the anti-Michael Keaton outcry with Batman? No? Oh. Well, just as Christopher Reeve owned Superman, Gal Gadot has now taken over from Lynda Carter as the perfect Wonder Woman. Sorry, it's true, and I love Lynda Carter.

 

Chris Pine is his usual charming action hero self, often reduced to stupified stammering by this innocent warrior who doesn't seem to understand the whole traditional woman thing. The rest of the cast is first rate, especially Connie Nielsen as the Amazon Queen who just doesn't want to give her daughter over to the world. I especially liked the band of misfits Steve assembled for their behind the lines mission. Also of note is David Thewlis (currently menacing everyone on Fargo) as a British military leader trying to broker a peace treaty between the warring nations.

 

 While this doesn't rank as my favorite superhero movie (although it's well into my top ten), Wonder Woman is a great movie period--of any genre, or at least of any kind of action flick. The stakes are high, the emotions are great, the effects first rate. Really the only complaint I have is that if the next Wonder Woman movie is set in the present, we won't be able to see any of the sparkling supporting cast (who would be well into their second century by now). Maybe we should have them all frozen at the North Pole for several decades? That's never been done.

 

My score:

 

Entertainment Value: 4 M&M's, the good brown ones. I'm getting a little worried about this series of first rate movies I've been seeing the past couple of years. Granted that Wonder Woman is even more first rate than many of the others, but sooner or later I'll get hit with a disappointment.

 

Oscar Potential: 3 M&M's. It's worthy of a best picture nomination but, being based on a comic book, it'll be a supporting characters cold day in the North Pole before it gets one.

Comments

Stone-Eater Friedli Added Jun 14, 2017 - 8:24am
Pfff... kiddie stuff, unreal and stupid LOOL ;-)
Utpal Patel Added Jun 14, 2017 - 9:15am
In what respect is Wonder Woman a feminist (emphasis on feminist) icon?
 
For the record, in the movie she doesn’t fly around in an invisible plane or stop war with love. 
John Minehan Added Jun 14, 2017 - 4:34pm
I wonder what Bob Kanigher or Julie Schwartz, both of whom were Old time All American/DC Comics editors who didn't like the character but edited the book (Kanigher for around 20 years!). 
Mark Hunter Added Jun 14, 2017 - 5:02pm
Depends on who you ask, Patel. (And Stone-Eater too, come to think of it!) As I said, I don't care to argue about it; to some people a feminist icon need to throw a tank, and to others they just need to be able to live life on their own terms and their own choices.
 
My comments about the plane and stopping war with love were just fun shout-outs to Wonder Woman's earlier history.
Mark Hunter Added Jun 14, 2017 - 5:05pm
John, I just can't imagine editing a character I hate for two decades! If I took a dislike to one of my characters, I'd be writing the funeral scene pretty quickly--which of course wasn't a choice for them.
John Minehan Added Jun 14, 2017 - 6:10pm
Bob Kanigher, if the stories are true, was both an enormous talent and an insufferable ego. 
Patrick Writes Added Jun 14, 2017 - 8:14pm
Does this have an unnecessary sex scene of Wonder Woman with Chris Pine? Makes me wonder who the movie is for. 
Jenifer Frost Added Jun 14, 2017 - 9:24pm
Loved the movie, saw it twice it was so good. I grew up watching Buffy and have always enjoyed strong women leading characters. This is an excellent superhero movie and a great world war one movie as well. Good review also.
 
Can't be dead serious all the time, if you don't have a little story telling and escapism you'll go insane. 
Leroy Added Jun 14, 2017 - 10:38pm
Thanks for the review, Mark.  I'll have to check it out. 
 
Maybe Priestess will be the next strong action figure and can show us some martial arts.
Jenifer Frost Added Jun 14, 2017 - 10:43pm
;-) 
wsucram15 Added Jun 15, 2017 - 5:50pm
I loved Buffy.
But there are sooooo many strong female characters that are heroines.  Alice, leloo, Laura Croft, The Bride, Sara Conner, Ripley, Jean Grey, Cat woman, Mystique, one of my personal favs Elektra (did not translate well to screen), Harley Quinn (did translate well), Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, etc..
 
 
Mark Hunter Added Jun 15, 2017 - 7:47pm
Many enormous talents have insufferable egos ... that's why I'm so glad to have only a moderate talent.
 
No unnecessary sex scenes, Patrick, although Chris Pine does get (almost) completely naked at one point ... take what you will of that.
Mark Hunter Added Jun 15, 2017 - 7:54pm
I'm glad my kids grew up watching Buffy, Jenifer! Wsucram's right, of course -- there are lots of strong female characters. As I hinted at, that goes all the way back to the Oz books of the 1900s, which actually had more strong female characters than they did male ... the male characters from Baum's books always seemed to have major flaws, of one sort or another. The females kicked ass, and were in charge. But it seems like strong female leads don't get a lot of attention at the movies, yet.
 
On a related note, Leroy, if I took up martial arts I can only imagine how quickly I'd end up in a wheelchair. I have a history.
Leroy Added Jun 15, 2017 - 10:05pm
Tell us about it.
Michael B. Added Jun 16, 2017 - 11:16am
All I know is that Lynda Carter, from the time I was 10-11 years old to the present day, would be an instant substitute for Viagra if I ever got to that point. Nobody could replace her, lol.
Mark Hunter Added Jun 16, 2017 - 11:54am
Chances are good I will tell you all about it, as time goes by -- my mishaps are a good source of humor columns.
Mark Hunter Added Jun 16, 2017 - 11:56am
I don't think anyone who watched the TV show will argue that, Michael! Although the new WW will do it for the next generation.
Michael B. Added Jun 16, 2017 - 12:19pm
A couple of weeks ago I was watching the pilot from the original Battlestar Galactica, and I was refreshed on my other childhood brunette crush, Maren Jensen. Anne Lockhart wasn't too far behind her, lol.
Leroy Added Jun 16, 2017 - 1:01pm
Erin Gray always did it for me.
Michael B. Added Jun 16, 2017 - 1:19pm
Yeah, I remember Erin Gray, but she looked too much like one of my evil sisters for me to like her, lol. Outside of Buck Rodgers, I remember her playing in a TV movie called Evening in Byzantium with Glenn Ford, about a bunch of terrorists who take over the Cannes film festival, and in kind of a foreshadowing of 9/11, use hijacked airliners to drop nuclear bombs on various cities, or something like that.
wsucram15 Added Jun 16, 2017 - 2:17pm
Mark..I forgot to mention..good article.  It is weird that female characters who are really strong in comics never translate well.  The ones that do are always secondary parts.  Interesting.  Except the Bride, Alice and Laura Croft.  One was made up and the others were video games..not sure they count.
Wonder woman is a different type of character though.  She is DC comics and a founding member of the Justice League.  Possibly the most famous heroine of all time, so she deserves her own movie. Maybe they were just waiting for the right screenplay...lol.
Dino Manalis Added Jun 16, 2017 - 2:44pm
She's a wonder!
Mark Hunter Added Jun 17, 2017 - 2:42am
Sounds like we all have about the same childhood crushes from the same sources!
 
Thanks, wsucram, and it does seem true that comic book females seem to have trouble transitioning to the big screen. Wonder Woman is far from the first try--she just seems to be the first really successful try. We have had some great female superheroes on team movies, though.
wsucram15 Added Jun 17, 2017 - 2:02pm
ehhh...not sure if those other movies were really an effort like in 2011, or 1974 or cartoons.  In others, she was just part of a cast. 
I will go see this one on your recommendation which I rarely do, on super hero type movies.( my fav is Amazing Spiderman- but I collect that series)
Wonder Woman its not a sequel and your saying its very good..so I will check it out.
Mark Hunter Added Jun 17, 2017 - 9:23pm
I haven't heard anyone so far who didn't like Wonder Woman ... so far. When I mentioned team movies I wasn't speaking of WW specifically, but rather female heroes in general; but I"m a fan of teams, not to mention I'm easily entertained.