After months and months of waiting, I finally had a chance to see 2017’s most anticipated superhero movie. “Wonder Woman”, directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot, made headlines months ago for being ambitious, exciting and even controversial. Now, a week after its premiere, the headlines have hardly changed. After breaking the $100 million mark in its first weekend, “Wonder Woman” was hailed as a victory for not only Jenkins and Gadot, but for women and girls everywhere.
While a female superhero starring in her own movie may be revolutionary, the plot is a familiar one: our hero, born to defeat a mysterious villain, must persevere through trials and tribulations to defeat her nemesis, all while leaving her family and finding friendship and love along the way. Set in World War I, “Wonder Woman” is a period drama and superhero blockbuster rolled into a film which handles the challenges of both deftly. While DC’s dark and gloomy color palette usually dims the brightness of their heroes, the grays, browns and greens of WWI battlegrounds only make Gadot and her costars shine brighter, from our first look at the brighter palette at the Amazonian island Themyscira to the film’s conclusion on a cloudy day in Paris.
While “Wonder Woman” shares the same dark color palette as DC’s other films, Gadot’s Diana Prince is by no means an antihero like Ben Affleck’s Batman or Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. Her naivete and passion for uncompromised justice make her story enjoyable and encouraging, if not bordering on corny at times. The plot is admittedly predictable for a standard superhero origin story and the dialogue squeaks awkwardly before picking up steam in some places, and yet Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman” differentiates itself from movies of its kind in part with Gadot’s mixture of vulnerability and fearlessness. Time after time she ignores the warnings of men around her to run into the face of death in the name of justice.
Along with Gadot’s portrayal of the titular character, Jenkins’ retelling of the “Wonder Woman” story is set apart from its superhero film contemporaries also in that its message of social justice is more than just a way to wrap up the film’s loose ends. Throughout the film, Diana Prince and her companion, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), argue about whether or not evil can be defeated or if it is a part of the human condition. Every piece of dialogue, every fight scene, and every bit of the film’s magnificent score seem to move the film closer to the crux of this: what is evil? It is this question, perhaps more than anything else, that makes this film better than its predecessors. It doesn’t rely on the dark drama of angsty billionaires or the sad irony of a sex-crazed psychotic psychiatrist– this is a film that questions what it means to be human.
While the depth of the film is thrillingly fresh, Gadot’s Wonder Woman does have a few things to answer for in my books. First off, where on Earth did she get time to shave her legs, curl her lashes, and apply a perfect streak of eyeliner every time a battle arose? And how does she have that little visible muscle definition in her arms and legs after kicking that much ass? Sure, every body is different but you’d think after training for her whole life she’d look less like a Victoria’s Secret model and more like a boxing champion. While “Wonder Woman” is certainly a feminist success in many ways, make no mistake, not even the princess of Themyscira is exempt from Hollywood’s beauty standards.
Beyond my mild frustration with how polished Gadot’s Diana is, there are a few elements that certainly weaken the film. The use of slow motion in fight scenes was breathtaking at first, but the technique was overused and by the second half of the film I could tell you exactly when we would be seeing Gadot slow down (usually just in time to jump-kick a German soldier into the next world war). Also weakening the film is the backstory of the villainous god of war, which seemed hastily put together and the plot twist that accompanied it wasn’t nearly as satisfyingly shocking as it should have been.
All in all, I would recommend “Wonder Woman” to anyone who enjoys a good-quality blockbuster with a breath of fresh, feminist air. I am still waiting for my muscular, hairy-legged, mascara-less superhero to kick ass on the silver screen, but it seems her arrival may take longer than anticipated. But I think Gadot’s Diana Prince will do just fine for now.