Review: Patty Jenkins' 'Wonder Woman' Embodies Power and Grace

June 1, 2017

Wonder Woman Review

Created by William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter, Wonder Woman first appeared in 1941's All Star Comics #8 published by DC. Marston, a Tufts University psychology professor, drew inspiration for the superhero demigoddess from early feminists like Ethel Byrne and Margaret Sanger, who founded the American Birth Control League, which later became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The physical appearance of the character was influenced by Byrne's daughter, Olive, who was Marston's research assistant before becoming romantically involved with the polyamorous professor and his wife.* For more than 75 years since her introduction, Wonder Woman has been an enduring symbol of strength and equality.

A press release issued by Marston in 1942 states, "Wonder Woman was conceived by Dr. Marston to set up a standard among children and young people of strong, free, courageous womanhood; and to combat the idea that women are inferior to men, and to inspire girls to self-confidence and achievement in athletics, occupations and professions monopolized by men" because "the only hope for civilization is the greater freedom, development and equality of women in all fields of human activity." He goes on to say that Wonder Woman is "psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world."

From the pages of Justice League of America to Hanna-Barbera's Super Friends to The New Adventures of Wonder Woman starring Lynda Carter, Princess Diana of Themyscira has become a pop culture mainstay despite never appearing on the big screen. Since 1978, Warner Bros has made seven Superman films and eight Batman films, but there has never been a major motion picture dedicated to Wonder Woman. Until now, that is. After making her debut in Zack Snyder's superhero epic Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice last year, Wonder Woman, played by Israeli actress Gal Gadot, is finally getting her own standalone movie.

Directed by filmmaker Patty Jenkins (Monster), Wonder Woman tells the long-awaited origin story of Princess Diana of Themyscira. Daughter to Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), Diana is a member of the Amazons, a race of immortal warrior women sworn to protect the world from Ares, the Greek god of war. With the help of her aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright), Diana has prepared for the day when Ares would return from exile to destroy the Amazons and their hidden island paradise. As Diana discovers her true potential as a warrior, the invisible dome surrounding the island is breached. Unbeknownst to the Amazons, World War I has engulfed the world of men, and American super-spy Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) has crashed into the waters of Themyscira, with a platoon of German soldiers hot on his tail.

Wonder Woman Review

Diana dives into the water to rescue Steve, the first man she has ever seen, and, in turn, he opens her eyes to the world beyond her sheltered eden—one plagued by the horrors of war. In the first of many memorable action sequences, the Amazons protect their home from the invading Germans in spectacular fashion, with dazzling fight choreography that captures the power and grace of these highly skilled warrior women. Diana can no longer stay within the bubble of Themyscira knowing that Ares has corrupted the world of men with an unending war that has already claimed millions of lives. Armed with her shield, the Lasso of Hestia or, as it’s more commonly known, the Lasso of Truth, and The Godkiller, a sacred sword capable of killing Ares, Diana leaves with Steve, who promises to take her to the front lines where she might meet Ares face-to-face.

Fun, thrilling, and inspiring, Wonder Woman is the best movie to come out of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). It's everything that Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad failed to be – an uplifting movie filled with heart and humor, with endearing characters and beautifully realized action set pieces. A sequence where Diana strides into no man's land in the middle of a trench battle, deflecting bullets with her bracelets and clearing a path for the Allied Powers, is without question one of the greatest moments in superhero movie history. Jenkins and director of photography Matthew Jensen (HBO's Game of Thrones) stage these epic battles in an intelligible, immersive way—a wonderful change of pace from the disorienting, shaky-cam sensory overload we've endured in the DCEU's previous entries.

Screenwriter Allan Heinberg, who wrote a five-issue Wonder Woman series for DC in 2006, understands all of these characters better than most, giving Diana dimension beyond the idea of the Strong Female Lead™. Diana isn't just a fierce warrior, she's allowed to be vulnerable, sensitive, confident, funny, romantic—everything, all at once. She doesn't hide her intelligence or her emotions, but carries the courage of her convictions everywhere she goes. She is fucking heroic, with an earnest desire to do right by others. That's a rare thing these days, in movies or otherwise.

Wonder Woman Review

Gadot embodies the iconic demigoddess with an equally iconic performance. As Chris Evans is Steve Rogers and Christopher Reeve will always be Superman, Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman. She's simply fantastic here, bringing physicality and emotional depth in equal measure. She also has legit chemistry with Pine, who delivers a great turn as well. There's a real spark between Diana and Steve, and it's their connection that keeps us invested in the story, even when the film treads into well-worn territory in its third act.

The climax, a CGI-heavy battle between Wonder Woman and Ares, is somewhat underwhelming. Ares, one of the movie's three villains, is the most uninteresting of the trio, and while his motivations are clear, there just isn't anything interesting about him. It doesn't help that this scene, which takes place at night on a military base, is marred by the same drearily drab, computer-generated fakery that pops up in the third act of every DCEU film. Whether it's the World Engine sequence in Man of Steel, the Doomsday fight in BVS, or that horrendous final battle in Suicide Squad, these films fixate on cramming as much pixelated devastation as possible into their finales. Jenkins' film isn't nearly as bad in this regard, but it's disappointing to see such a charming and vibrant movie succumb to DC's signature brand of muted doom-and-gloom.

Despite a messy third act that stumbles slightly, Wonder Woman is a stirring, hope-filled superhero origin story with great performances within that, hopefully, course-corrects the DCEU and paves the way for more female-directed, female-led tentpoles across the industry. I can only imagine how empowering and cathartic it must be for female fans to see a great movie like this, where strong, self-reliant women tell other strong, self-reliant women things like, "You're more powerful than you know." Those moments resonate, and the feelings they illicit will stay with us longer than any spectacle CGI can summon forth.

*For more info on the unconventional lives of William Moulton Marston, his wife Elizabeth Holloway, and their live-in lover Olive Byrne, check out Jill Lepore's 2014 book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman.

Adam's Rating: 4 out of 5
Follow Adam on Twitter - @AdamFrazier

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Great review Adam.

tarek on Jun 1, 2017


Ah man! I am hyped! I just wish theater going was cheaper here in Japan...

DAVIDPD on Jun 1, 2017


It's pretty expensive here in the states too....probably not Japan expensive though. I'm lucky to have a local theater that does "cheap movie night" every Tuesday....maybe you can find something like that over there?

TheOct8pus on Jun 2, 2017


Marcus Theatres have $5 Tuesdays, although I am unaware if it's international.

Brandon Cole on Jun 2, 2017


That's cool. I live in a smaller city in a remote yeah...

DAVIDPD on Jun 2, 2017


I liked the villain Ares. The actual battle was meh tho.

Big R on Jun 1, 2017


What a novel concept to have a comic book writer take a stab at the screenplay... And I'm definitely going to look into that book. Thanks for the heads up. Honestly though...I'm VERY hesitant about seeing this....all this positive buzz could lead up to being disappointed.

THE_RAW_ on Jun 1, 2017


What a novel concept to have a comic book writer take a stab at the screenplay... And I'm definitely going to look into that book. Thanks for the heads up. Honestly though...I'm VERY hesitant about seeing this....all this positive buzz could lead up to being disappointed.

THE_RAW_ on Jun 1, 2017


It's the second positive review i did read on the net. Still hesitant to go see it...

ari smulders on Jun 2, 2017


I was hesitant at first too but it's really good. I'll compare to Iron Man 1 where you want it to be good x it is!

Brandon Cole on Jun 2, 2017


Ari, go and see it, it's a very good piece of cinema.

shiboleth on Jun 3, 2017


don't sleep's awesome.

Jeff Prioleau on Jun 5, 2017


3rd review I've seen for WW, 3rd good review.

TheOct8pus on Jun 2, 2017


Seen it last night! I gave up on DCEU especially after Suicide Squad but this movie right here is by far their best adaptation! Word of mouth played a lot into me going to see this. It hits everything it aimed for x then some.

Brandon Cole on Jun 2, 2017


A lot of people say they are "hesitant" to see this. Are we not all film lovers here? Do we not need to see films before handing in our verdict? We all know movies are best when seen in theatres, but in the netflix/leaked version world we live in everyone knows you're going to watch it sooner rather than later.

Jon Odishaw on Jun 2, 2017


Exactly! And this is a damn fine movie! Worth seeing in theaters.

Alex Billington on Jun 2, 2017


On the train now from seeing this thing. Loved it. Lynda Carter is my woman... but Patty J absolutely got great performances from Gal and definitley Pine who has officially usurped Lyle Waggoner as my new Steve Trevor. Great step in the right direction for the DC cinematic franchise.

Duane on Jun 2, 2017


What a surprise. Just got back from the theater. Myself, my brother, his Lynda Carter adoring wife, and my nieces all loved it. (My little nephew was proud to say that he HATED it, because, little brothers). I was one of the many who thought Gal Gadot was the worst choice imaginable for her role, and my heavens I am so happy to be proven wrong. She was such a breath of fresh air for the entire comic movie genre, and it seemed effortless. She was Diana, she was Wonder Woman, and this movie was done right. I'm so happy for the success of everyone involved, and for once, I cannot wait for a sequel. Patty Jenkins, my most sincere thanks for making this great.

Mark on Jun 2, 2017


I've got a lot of time for your opinion Adam, especially after your excellent dismantling of the woeful Alien covenant. I'll probably go and see this but whilst watching can you feel the 'agenda' breathing over your shoulder?

Payne by name on Jun 3, 2017


While I appreciate the compliment on my Alien review, I'm not sure what you mean by your 'agenda' comment. Are you suggesting I have an agenda, or that the movie has an agenda that is obvious to the viewer? In either case, I think the only agenda behind Wonder Woman was to make a good DC comics movie. It's very much in the spirit of Richard Donner's Superman, with dashes of Captain America and Thor in equal measure.

Adam Frazier on Jun 3, 2017


I mean the feminist agenda. Wonder Woman is getting impressive reviews but I wonder if this is because people really want it to succeed because of it's message rather than the quality of the film. Like how 12 years a slave is a poor film but it was given a free pass because of the subject matter.

Payne by name on Jun 3, 2017


12 Years A Slave a poor film!? The film that won a Academy Award for Best Picture rightfully a poor film!?

Brandon Cole on Jun 4, 2017


Lol what in the hell?

Charles Oosterhouse on Jun 6, 2017


it's quite watchable film and really different from BvS, for example. However,I don't understand what was really wrong with BvS ? Yeah, it was dark, so what, it was also good. Comparison between those two does not really work if you were looking for fun in them. But ok, this is about Wonder Woman. It does give some hint what human destruction is and after so many male ideas of human affairs, it's refreshing to witness a female one. But one that appeals to all of us. And Wonder Woman does. Quite powerful acting by Gal Gadot and some very good directing ...

shiboleth on Jun 3, 2017


I had a great time & reckon every young girl and boy should see it. In the back of my mind as I watched I thought of how young girls would love this movie. Wonder Woman is strong but empathetic and outraged and It's the outrage that drives her to discover her true strength within. She uses it to recover from despair. I'm so glad a good Wonder Woman movie has finally been made. I had some issues with it but that was more technical stuff like exposition - show, not tell. I'd love to see a directors cut. I'll never watch the Theatrical version of Bats V Supes again though. (just to weigh in on the topic) The extended version to my mind was sensational compared to the aborted mess of the theatrical version.

Ross Carroll on Jun 4, 2017


Even though the climax was the usual boss fight, it was still tense and interesting. The villain had some valid arguments about humans. Wonder Woman got to show off her powers. That's how every comic book movie has to end. Maybe we'll see some more interesting ideas in the Green Lantern, Aquaman or Flash movies, but I think we all know exactly what will happen in the 3rd act of Justice League.

bumboclot on Jun 4, 2017


loved it.

Jeff Prioleau on Jun 5, 2017


Yep, I have to confess that it was a very enjoyable film. She was her own woman and a heroic film that handled being a hero without having to compromise her femininity. What I mean is she wasn't trying to be a tough but with boobs. The creators took the time to flesh her out as a female character rather than a cut out kick ass woman, if that makes sense. She was engaging and likeable with a calm nobility and reserve that reminded me of Cap. I also liked Pine's character and thought his character fun with a touch of arrogance that again didn't try to paint him as a 'compromised' male. She was everything Harlequin from Suicide Squad wasn't and all the better for it. It did suffer from the DC flaw that afflicted MoS and BvS in that at the end there really was just too much destruction, lightning and super exploding/expanding energy clouds that for all their expenditure and noise made the scenes quite tedious. To the point that I nodded off! It's like the first two thirds were directed by one person who did a fine job and then they gave the final third to someone else. And they really need to do something about the Wonder Woman theme. The actual soundtrack complimented the film well but every time they dropped the WW theme it was way too jarring and intrusive. Gal Gadot is a staggeringly pretty woman and her smile really is a sight to behold. Her characters inclusion in Justice League certainly gives that film a further reason to check it out. It wasn't a great film but vy

Payne by name on Jun 7, 2017


I guess I'm the only one who did not like Gadot as wonder woman. She can't act for shit and Chris Pine had to carry her on every dramatic scene. Kinda funny how her Amazonian sisters didn't have a thick accent. She could of at least tried to mask it, since she is supposed to be so fluent in multiple languages. As far as looks go I think she was awesome aside from myself wanting wonder woman to have blue eyes. I loved the amazonians as well. I wished there was more fight scenes in the movie, but overall I enjoyed wonder woman. I think I liked MOS better. I gave it 3 out of 5

timnimbus on Jun 19, 2017

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