Wonder Woman review

An excellent return to form for the DC cinematic universe.

So I’m at the cinema with my posse of gay boys, watching Wonder Woman. There’s a moment in the film where Gal Gadot’s titular character remarks to awkward intelligence agent Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), that among her people, men are considered “unnecessary” for sexual pleasure. Naturally, we whoop with delight. “I love that the film is just lesbian separatist propaganda,” my friend cackles.

Cheeky hyperbole aside, it struck me that Wonder Woman might be the first major bisexual superhero. Sadly, the film never confirms this, never strays past the safe boundary of this subtle comment. In fact, the film refreshes jaded movie-goers with its de-emphasis of Diana of Themyscira’s sexuality (much like last year’s Rogue One). Yes, there are elements of romance involved, but they are tasteful, understated, at times heartwarming, and thankfully, steer away from the “Born Sexy Yesterday” trope of naïve, nubile women being “taught” about sexuality by their male companions. Diana is more concerned with saving the world and completing her mission than bedroom high jinks. In fact, she shows surprise that a naked Trevor allows “such a tiny thing” to tell him what to do.

What I’m trying to get at is that Diana seems to see herself as a hero and savior first, and as a woman second. This might sound odd, given all the press about the movie: the women-only screenings, the fact that the movie garnered “the biggest opening weekend for a female director in cinema history,” and the speculation about how Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins can “save” female-centered action and superhero movies. But there’s a difference between Wonder Woman the character’s disregard for gender, and Wonder Woman the movie’s celebration of the feminine. Exegetically, we love how the film positions Diana as a strong female lead, and how oft-leading-man Chris Pine refuses to dominate the action. But we also fist-bump at Diana’s devil-may-care attitude, her confusion towards the misogyny of the British military leadership, and how being a woman doesn’t really factor into her idea of what a hero looks like.

And boy oh boy is Diana a hero. Gone are the moral greys and self-doubt of the most recent crop of DC Comics movies. Wonder Woman is motivated purely by honor, compassion and a selfless sense of duty. She wants to right wrongs and protect innocents, and is almost childlike in her desire for justice. Within the grim trenches of WW1 Belgium, one can easily see Gal Gadot as the savior the world needs. She slips easily between Diana’s duality of bad-ass-fighter and wide-eyed newcomer, and also manages to look fantastic in whatever she’s given, be it leather armor, evening gowns or business suits.

While there’s undeniable chemistry between Gadot and her co-stars, the movie is weakened by the vagueness of its antagonists. It starts off all cool and mysterious: Diana hunts Aries, god of war, about whom we know neither whereabouts nor alias. He seems to have incited the war from somewhere behind German lines, and that’s all Diana has to go off of. Unfortunately, when we do meet the real villains, we’re left a touch disappointed. We’re introduced to Elena Anaya’s Dr. “Poison” Maru, cold-blooded German chemist and poisoner, who’s creepy as hell, but whose lack of screen-time keeps her from becoming a truly memorable villain. Danny Huston’s unhinged General Ludendorff comes off as somewhat cartoonish, and err….snorts strength potions? The film tries to make a point about the darkness inherent in man’s heart (co-existing with love, which can defeat it, or something like that), but “Metaphysical Original Sin” makes for a poor epic villain. And while most of the film has either eye-candy, humor or heart, parts of the climax felt a little silly, both visually and narratively.

Honestly though, those elements feel minor in the context of the larger movie. While it takes itself a little more seriously than other recent superhero successes such as Guardians of the Galaxy, Wonder Woman is an excellent movie with a cast of characters you care about, visuals and action sequences you can drool over, and a story that draws you in. Wonder Woman proves that DC, despite their string of failures, can still produce quality entertainment.

Verdict: Yes