I've been a fan of Wonder Woman since I was 11 years old and Lynda Carter appeared on my television wearing those satin tights. By the time her final season aired, my 13-year old self was head over heels in love. Lynda Carter was Wonder Woman. At least she was the closest thing to Wonder Woman mere mortals could get.
After the cancelation of The New Adventures of Wonder Woman, my interest in the Amazonian princess waned. I was a huge DC Comics nerd, but never bought many Wonder Woman comics unless a guest star I liked was showing up. Most of my exposure to her came from her appearances in Justice League of America, where she was almost always overshadowed.
And then... genius artist and storyteller George Pérez rebooted Wonder Woman in 1987...
The series is a master-work, delving deep into the Greek mythology of the character. No longer a "female Superman," Diana had a clear purpose and direction that distinguished her from other super-heroes in the DC stable. Having married my love of Greek mythology with my love of comic books, I became a massive Wonder Woman fan.
Fast-forward to today, and we have a new iteration of Wonder Woman to capture our imaginations. This time, finally... at long last, on the silver screen...
I'm going to put my spoiler-laden review in an extended entry, because the last thing I want to do is ruin such an amazing film for those who haven't seen it. Suffice to say that it is one of the best DC Comics adaptation we've yet seen. Only The Dark Knight can touch it. And nobody could be more thrilled than I am to say that. After the horrendously shitty string of DC movies we've endured... Man of Steel, Suicide Squad, and (Lord help us) the pile of shit known as Batman vs. Superman... I was beginning to lose hope.
But Wonder Woman changes everything. Faithful to the source material. Beautifully designed with mind-blowing special effects. Flawlessly cast. Terrific story. Awesome directing. Great music. It's the total package, and everything you want in a super-hero film. It's so good that you'd almost think it was a Marvel movie!
So... definitely go see it before reading any further...
Alrighty then... let's break this down, shall we?
Wonder Woman has had wildly inconsistent modifications to her origin over the years. My favorite, as already stated, was when George Pérez made her a true product of Greek mythology. And I mean that literally. Like all Amazons, her soul was captured by the Earth Goddess, Gaia, from women throughout time who had their lives cut short by violence. The difference being that Diana was an unborn soul... reserved by the gods for something special. And when it was time for her to be born of clay, they imbued her with aspects of their own powers to be more than any Amazon had been before...
This was all completely ignored in the movie. Instead of having the gods be an integral part of Wonder Woman's origin, the gods are killed off by the god of war, Ares. Ultimately it's revealed that the reason Diana is special and has powers above the Amazons is that she's the daughter of Zeus. This is not unprecedented in the comics, but it is a bit disappointing. Mostly because it makes no sense. If Zeus was killed by Ares before Diana was even born, how in the hell did he father her? How does that coincide with her being sculpted from clay by Hippolyta? Who knows? This feels very "Zack Snyder" to me... tossing out logic and history for no good reason to put your mark on the character.
Anyway, after a modern-day flash-forward, the movie begins with a young Diana growing up on the "paradise island" of Themiscyra (a stunning example of beauty in production design). Disobeying her mother and queen she secretly trains to fight with the general of the Amazonian army, Antiope (brilliantly played by Robin Wright). Antiope is willing to disobey the queen because she feels the threat of Ares could return at any time and Diana, being a goddess born of Zeus, may be their only hope. So when World War I American spy Steve Trevor crashes on the island, Diana decides to fulfill her destiny by taking him back to "Man's World" so she can confront Ares, whom she believes is the reason World War I is being fought in the first place.
This is the part of the movie I have the most problem with, as it discards one of the more compelling parts of her origin. In the comic book, there is a contest to decide who will return Steve Trevor. Diana is forbidden by her mother from competing, but does so anyway. She then proceeds to win... much to the shock of everybody...
Discarding this part of the story is puzzling to me. It's far more invested in defining Wonder Woman's powers and relationship to the Amazons than the random practice-fight scenes in the film. For this reason, it's the thing I most wish could be changed. But, alas...
Once the movie leaves Themiscyra, it is pretty much perfect. The scenes of Diana's wonder in exploring industrial London are priceless, and I'm grateful beyond words that director Patty Jenkins took the time to explore that. That they were made humorous without lapsing into buffoonery is just icing on the cake.
It's at this point I have to gush over the casting of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. She is perfect in every way. I think a lot of actors could do the physical part of the role... it's the mentality... what's going on in her head... where Gadot shines. And don't discount Chris Pine as Steve Trevor! In many ways, his is the most challenging role in the film. He has to serve as sidekick, teacher, comic relief, fighter, lover... the list goes on and on. And the more the movie went on, the more I came to appreciate how few actors could have pulled it off as cohesively as Pine did.
After the stopover in London, the film goes to where the action is... "The Front" of World War I. It's here that the most pivotal scene in the story comes to pass: Princess Diana becomes Wonder Woman. Horrified by the carnage she is witnessing, Diana stops to comfort a woman and her child whom have escaped the death and destruction of the nearby town of Veld, Belgium. After learning that the people there are suffering, starving, and dying, Diana decides she's had enough and climbs out of the trenches to cross "no-man's land" and lead the charge to liberate the city. It's a heart stopping moment, and will go down in super-hero cinematic history as one of the best scenes ever filmed. It's at this point that the movie sells her compassion and her power... the two things that define Wonder Woman. Totally worth the price of admission alone.
From here the movie kind of flounders around while Diana, Steve, and company try to track down chemical weapons being developed by evil German General Erich Ludendorff and his weapon engineer, Dr. Poison... but it never flounders to the point of idiocy or boredom, which is why the movie is so good.
After finding out that Ludendorff is not secretly Ares as she expected, Wonder Woman discovers that the truth is far more surprising. An epic battle ensues. Steve Trevor dies saving the day. We flash-forward to the present again. Roll credits.
And now for the pros and cons...
Today's miraculous special effects in film mean that comic book movies can accurately recreate the larger-than-life things that make the actual comic books so great. Wonder Woman is a prime example of it being done right. Something that's eluded DC Comics as of late. Hopefully future movies will take note and move the bar much higher, because it saddens me deeply that Wonder Woman could be as good as it gets.
Time to update my "Y2K Super-Hero Comic Book Renaissance" scorecard...
The Avengers... A+
Avengers: Age of Ultron... A
Batman Begins... A
Batman Dark Knight... A+
Batman Dark Knight Rises... A
Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice... D
Big Hero Six... A+
Blade 2... B
Blade Trinity... B-
Captain America... A+
Captain America: The Winter Soldier... A+
Captain America: Civil War... A++
Daredevil (Director's Cut)... B+
Doctor Strange... A
Electra Woman and Dyna Girl... B-
Fantastic Four... C
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer... D
Guardians of the Galaxy... A+
Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2... A
Ghost Rider... C
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance... D
Green Hornet... D
Green Lantern... C+
Hellboy 2: Golden Army... A
Incredible Hulk... B
The Incredibles... A+
Iron Man... A+
Iron Man 2... A-
Iron Man 3... A+
Jonah Hex... F
Kick-Ass 2... B-
Man of Steel... F-
Punisher War Zone... C
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World... C
Spider-Man 2... A
Spider-Man 3... D-
Amazing Spider-Man... D
Amazing Spider-Man 2... D-
Suicide Squad... D
Superman Returns... C+
Thor: The Dark World... B
The Wolverine... B
Wonder Woman... A
X-Men 2: United... D
X-Men 3: Last Stand... F-
X-Men Origins: Wolverine... D
X-Men: First Class... B
X-Men: Days of Future Past... B-
X-Men: Apocalypse... D+