Dog’s Movie House: “Wonder Woman” Truly Wondrous!
Howdy Folks! It’s The Kendog!
To say the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) has gotten off to a somewhat rocky start is something of an understatement. While “Man Of Steel,” “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and “Suicide Squad” made oodles of cash but were very divisive in terms of quality and fan satisfaction. I found that I liked the three films without loving them: each had some very good qualities but also had some very real problems, most of them revolving around the studio’s insistence on stuffing every film full of references to a larger cinematic universe rather than concentrating on telling a compelling story for each individual film. Thankfully that inconsistency is at an end with the release of “Wonder Woman,” which serves as a wonderfully exciting origin story and a cinematic coming out for one of the most iconic superheroes of all time.
“Wonder Woman” starts with Princess Diana of Themyscira (Gal Gadot) training on her home island of the Amazons. Her mother is Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons (Connie Nielson) who, after initially forbidding her daughter to train, decides to entrust Diana’s combat instruction to her sister Antiope (a shredded, scarred, and fierce Robin Wright). That instruction comes in handy when a lone plane penetrates the magical camouflage of the island and crash lands in the water. The pilot is none other than Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) an American working as a spy for the British against the Germans during World War I. After repelling an attack by the pursuing Germans and nursing Steve back to health, Diana decides to leave with Steve, heading back to England to confront what she considers to be the true cause of the brutality: The God Of War Ares.
That’s the basic setup. The rest involves the Germans, lead by Danny Huston’s General Ludendorff and his chief chemist Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya). The two are using their resources to create a new form of mustard gas that will give the Germans the advantage and win them the war. Trevor, with Diana in tow, is sent by Sir Patrick (David Thewlis) to stop and destroy the production of the gas, a mission which involves them trying to sneak behind enemy lines.
Director Patty Jenkins (“Monster”) and screenwriter Allan Heinberg do the one thing that the other DC movies have failed to do on a consistent basis: develop characters you care about. Gadot’s Diana is a breath of fresh air in the mostly dour DC universe: a superhero who has nary a doubt about her purpose. She’s not conflicted in the slightest about her duty or her powers. Where she becomes flummoxed is in the disposition of the world she is supposed to protect as well as the place of regular women during this particular time in society. Diana sees herself as an equal to the men she is with at the very least and refuses to let societal conventions determine her actions. If this sounds like some sort of women’s rights treatise, don’t worry: every statement is made in service to the narrative and never feels forced or preachy. It also helps that she has powers that rival that of Superman, enabling her to kick the crap out of any human male who tries to put her in a proverbial box. Gadot delivers a standout performance here, becoming the perfect incarnation of Wonder Woman with equal parts fire and curiosity at the new world in which she finds herself.
Gadot gets sterling support from Pine as Steve Trevor, who plays the American spy not as a goofy, smitten sidekick but as a major asset to Diana’s mission who has as much to teach Diana as she has to teach him. Pine and Gadot have terrific chemistry and their scenes together are among the best in the film. Trevor is technically playing second fiddle to Wonder Woman, but you wouldn’t know it by the way the script handles his character arc.
Every character gets a chance to shine as Nielson, Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremmer, and Eugene Brave Rock all do outstanding work even in small rolls. Special attention must be paid to Lucy Davis as Etta Candy, Trevor’s secretary in London. She gets the films funniest lines and she is able to convey the admiration she has for the brash, forward and powerful Diana.
The action scenes are superb and feel earned because of the care given to the story and characters. You actually feel like cheering when Diana starts walking across No Man’s Land to face the Germans by herself, shield bracelets at the ready.
The last third of the film devolves a bit into the CGI mayhem that permeated “Man Of Steel” and “Batman vs Superman” but that’s a minor nitpick as the special effects are necessary to show Wonder Woman at her full strength. It’s just a little jarring considering the somewhat ground nature of the first two thirds of the movie. Still, the action is impressively mounted and Gadot is more than convincing as the goddess walking among men.
Overall, “Wonder Woman” is a fantastic superhero origin story and a wonderful film period. Great performance, terrific story, electrifying special effects and action. It’s all you could want in a summer movie and more. See it on the biggest screen you can. 4 1/2 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!