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Boy, did DC ever need this.
I mean seriously, holy cow, they needed this so badly.
That’s giving away the finish before the discussion, but it’s true. Anyone paying attention to the superhero film universe realized long ago just how important Wonder Woman would be for DC Comics. The company hadn’t put forth a strong effort – excluding one LEGO film – in years. Whether it was Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice or Suicide Squad or even Man of Steel, the results ranged from mixed to bad.
The movies succeeded in making money, but they failed to make any impact. While Marvel wowed audiences with the likes of Deadpool and even the more obscure Guardians of the Galaxy and its worthy sequel, DC sputtered and often ran out of gas attempting to keep up.
With Justice League set for November, DC needed its Iron Man. They needed a tentpole to stake a flag and begin a rebirth. Luckily, with Wonder Woman, they’ve found it, and in the process, have released by far their best film since Christopher Nolan took his final bow with The Dark Knight Rises.
Wonder Woman is fun, well-paced, and brings DC its first megastar in Gal Gadot, who stepped out of the Fast and Furious franchise and into a character never before seen in a major motion picture. Margot Robbie has that potential as well, provided the Harley Quinn spinoff can supplant the dreadful Suicide Squad mess of last summer, but Gadot begins her superhero career in the right place at the right time.
Gal left one lucrative series, but joined another. Wonder Woman won’t be the last Diana Prince film, nor will it be the next to last. This is a lasting property with serious legs, and it takes very little time for Patty Jenkins to prove she was more than ready for her first true moment in the mainstream directing spotlight. It also reignites the fire for DC’s entire cast of characters, and gives hope to the most frustrated of fans.
This movie brings with it the sense of heroism sorely absent from most films in the genre, especially the more recent entries. For the first time since the Christopher Reeve Superman series, DC has decided to allow its lead to exist without any shade of grey, much less a black hat. Diana Prince’s only mistakes are in her unflinching protective nature. She is simply a good, virtuous, purposed individual, entirely bereft of corruption or moral complication.
There are no battles with other heroes, no foul language, no inner torment, no brooding. No mountain can’t be scaled, no evildoer thwarted, and every person can be saved. Her only disappointments arise when others aren’t as ready as she is to enter an impossible situation. She’s a terrific role model for children, and the movie is a breath of the freshest oxygen, because despite dark situations and the direst of circumstances, Wonder Woman is relentlessly positive. This is a franchise player, and sets a new bar for what the post-Nolan DC universe should strive to be.
Justice League, which was in danger of entering a stacked winter movie season with very little momentum, now has a spark. This time, it will be Gal Gadot, who is luminescent as Diana Prince, that may well be the star. She is DC’s Robert Downey Jr., but without the snark or the bad attitude. Wonder Woman is a throwback to a time where it was okay to portray good and evil as such, without caveat.
Enhancing the story is the chemistry between Gadot and Chris Pine, who plays Steve Trevor, the first man Diana Prince ever lays her eyes upon. Pine knows how to play the leading man in a big budget fantasy blockbuster, and here he’s the perfect teammate and semi-love interest for Wonder Woman. As she searches for the god she must defeat to end the great war, he guides her through actual society. It provides good humor and even better heart, and the two seem made to play this pair of roles alongside one another.
Gadot is superb, but Chris Pine is indispensable to humanize her and help her navigate a world in which she’s entirely unfamiliar. As the two work together to lead a team of brave men, the on-screen results reflect an impenetrable unit, even when there are tactical or speed-based disagreements. Any argument Diana gets into involves her wanting to run into the teeth of the enemy with no regard for safety, because she knows she’s untouchable.
Wonder Woman’s 141 minute run-time might elicit an eye roll, but fear not, it doesn’t feel anywhere near that long, and in fact, when the credits roll (with no post-credits scenes), the time spent feels almost exactly right. Unlike Man of Steel, where the final scenes felt pointlessly lengthy, nothing here is overdone.
One other cast member to mention is David Thewlis, who is having quite a 2017. In addition to Wonder Woman, he’s the villain in the third season of FX’s critically acclaimed Fargo, and in both performances, he’s exquisite. He plays a pivotal role in this story; one that grows in its importance as the movie progresses. Gadot, Pine, and Thewlis are the heart and soul of Wonder Woman, and each is more than up to the task placed in front of them.
The movie is told through Diana’s point of view, but is presented as a story she bookends with voice-over narration. She takes the audience through her childhood and the development of her free spirit. We meet her powerful mother and equally imposing combat and defense trainer, played by Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright, respectively. The time we spend in her homeland isn’t wasted, and it informs upon the strong-willed woman she is.
This is the best kind of origin story, both plausible in its universe, and paced with few lulls in the action. There’s a reason to maintain eye contact with the screen. There’s a reason to pay attention to every scene. There’s a reason to applaud at the end, if you’re one of those people. I’m not, and even as someone that has never cared or known much about the Wonder Woman character, I left the theater exceedingly interested in catching up on some of the stories I’d missed.
Whereas Suicide Squad was an enormous disappointment outside of Margot Robbie, Wonder Woman is an immense success buttressed by Gal Gadot. Both women are stars, but this is the vehicle that brought DC out of the swamp and into a high rise. All of a sudden, these movies matter again.
While it’s not The Dark Knight, it’s the closest we’ve seen since Christopher Nolan left the comic book genre and moved to other projects. That film had everything, and though Wonder Woman is by no means flawless, it’s optimism and story of triumph is one that shouldn’t be missed. Gal Gadot is DC’s new superstar, and Patty Jenkins might be the next great blockbuster director. Known most for 2o03’s Monster, she just hit the big time.
This isn’t a good movie for women. It’s not a good movie for men. It’s just a good movie, period, and the fact it depicts a strong female is merely a bonus. Wonder Woman isn’t out to make too many political statements, although the first third of the movie might make some think it’s anti-male. It’s not. It’s pro-human. It’s pro-love. The message is needed, the hero is needed, and the feeling you’ll have as you drive home after the movie is needed.
So much negativity and ill will pervades society today. Wonder Woman is an escape, but one that arrives with a simple, effective, lasting lesson. In the end, good will always triumph over evil.
Wonder Woman is a delight, a triumph, and DC can exhale, at least for now. It’s comparable with the upper echelon of Marvel movies, and is undeniably one of this year’s finest big budget efforts.
It’s a hit, folks. The gamble paid off. The movie is filled with beautiful imagery, and Gal Gadot is stunning. Wonder Woman’s story is equally gorgeous, and infinitely uplifting. It’s indubitably worth seeing, and it’s worth taking your family to see. There are some fairly violent, loud scenes and some sensitive content, but I guarantee your kids have seen worse. Feel confident you’re spending your time and money wisely, and get out to the theater this weekend and enjoy it.
Because you will enjoy it.
I’m @JMartOutkick. I’m above average.