The DC “Expanded Universe” movies have not been doing overly well on a lot of fronts. Man of Steel had people either loving or hating it, but both sides seem to agree that it’s the most divisive comic book movie ever made. Batman Vs Superman didn’t make the box office DC hoped for, and had a lot of bad reviews from critics and fans both (I was one of them). Next up was Suicide Squad, which I liked but could see problems in, and also did disappointingly with critics and fans both. So, I was a bit worried about going to see Wonder Woman.
Turns out, I really didn’t need to be. Wonder Woman is an amazing movie. It’s the best DC has done since maybe the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie, and easily good enough to be a Marvel movie. Those are both high praise in my book. I loved almost everything about it, and my complaints are minimal. They knocked it out of the park on every level. I will do my best to avoid spoilers throughout the review.
Wonder Woman is bookended by scenes of Diana in the modern day. She gets a present from Bruce Wayne that triggers some old memories, and tells us the story. They played with her origin a bit, and some of the theology of the DC Universe, but it works well. Like the Marvel movies, the changes they made worked, and worked well.
We see the story of Diana, growing up as the sole child on Themyscira, an island of Amazons. We hear the history of the island, the Amazons, Diana, and a war of the gods that thankfully was much better than the horrid comic book event of the same name. Diana grows up, dealing with an overprotective mother, Queen Hippolyta, and training in secret with her warrior aunt, General Antiope. The Amazons are in a state of stasis, with nothing really changing, until…
As per the classic origin, Steve Trevor, heroic pilot, crashes on the island while on an urgent mission. In this reshuffling of the story, he’s fleeing the German Army during World War I. The story works in this setting, and, as a friend of mine observed, “Captain America pretty much owns World War II at this point.” There will be another Cap reference later. Steve’s arrival shakes things up, especially when he’s pursued by the Germans. After a nasty fight on the beach with some tragic losses, Diana learns about the outside world and the war that rages. It fits in with a prophecy among the Amazons, and Diana makes the fateful decision to go back with him.
After some hilarious exchanges on the boat that takes them back to London (still not sure how a tiny sailboat gets from somewhere near Greece to London in an amazingly short period of time), Diana gets introduced to modern fashion, complicated politics, and Steve’s secretary Etta Candy, who is brilliant in every scene she’s in. This apparently is in the closing days of the Great War, as the Armistice is being negotiated, and Diana’s mission can’t get any official support that might interrupt the negotiations.
Naturally, this means there’s a secret mission with a ragtag band of misfits along to help out. We get an Arabic conman, a Scots sniper with serious PTSD, and an enigmatic Indian who might just be a lot more than he seems. The group moves across war torn Europe, and sees the horrors of modern war. Diana, still more idealistic than anyone else, makes an amazing charge across No Man’s Land that is brilliantly done.
The bad guys, aside from the German war machine in general, are General Ludendorff and Dr. Maru, a version of a classic Wonder Woman foe, Dr. Poison. They really are out and out villains who revel in destruction and kill those around them who displease them. That must be an HR nightmare. The mission doesn’t quite go as expected, and Diana sees things aren’t always as simple as they’d like them to be.
The final fight involves some great special effects and a sad but necessary sacrifice that looked like it was lifted out of a classic Captain America story (told you Cap would be back). It was heartbreaking but it worked really well, and explained why Diana has been so low profile for the last century or so.
What I liked: Damn near everything. Gal Godot and Chris Pine did amazing jobs as Diana and Steve. The writing, directing, acting, and special effects were fantastic. There was an actual story to go with the action. I’m really hoping we see more of Chief down the road. Etta was great for the few scenes she was in. I saw what they were doing with the big bad guy misdirect early, but it was well done anyway. They balanced Diana’s growing power with Steve being a mortal very well. Steve’s first exposure to the Lasso of Truth was great.
What I didn’t: It’s a short list. I’m not sure how the trip to London went so fast. If Steve and the Germans got through so easily, I don’t see how Themyscira stayed isolated so long. I don’t quite get how an armadillo was on a Greek area island. And really, no end credit scene? Audiences love that, and they did it for Suicide Squad.
This was a fantastic movie. I strongly recommend it. I’m giving this my rare 5 out of 5. Based on the strength of Wonder Woman as a whole, I’m reconsidering my decision to not see Justice League in the theater.