Basically: This is the Wonder Woman we’ve been waiting for—we want more and we want more! (with a few caveats)
Wonder Woman begins with a classic set-up. Young Diana is raised to be an Amazon warrior. At first her mother is trepidatious—for good reasons the movie will later reveal—but Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) realizes Diana won’t be denied. The princess is trained harder than all the Amazons who came before her. In the eyes of her people, Diana must be the best.
This turns out to be foreshadowing because Wonder Woman is the best of the DCEU films. There’s no debate. No posturing to be done. It simply is. This movie understands its hero.
When Diana becomes powerful enough to send her mentor, General Antiope (Robin Wright), flying through the air—leaving the other Amazons stunned in her wake—it’s clear she’s battle ready. Cue the entry of the outside world via super spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). The enmity of World War I literally breaks the bubble of the feminist haven that is Themyscira, isle of the Amazons. Of course things go to shit. What do we do when things go sideways? We blame the gods; in this case Ares. Thus, Diana goes to war in order to stop War.
Full confession: I watched Wonder Woman as two different people.
The first-me is the comic book lover, the girl who created an invisible jet out of white sheets and chairs, the woman who preps for meetings by striking a Diana Prince power pose. You know the one, hands on hips, daring the world to try you.
The second-me is a person of color, the girl who treasured every image of empowered black and brown women, someone who is acutely aware my story is often frozen for the sake of paler heroes.
The first-me adored many things about the movie. Gal Gadot’s early stage Diana has a sense of wonder for everything she learns about the world outside of Themyscira. She’s amazed by the horridly dirty yet fascinating London, the scruff of Steve Trevor’s beard, the confining ridiculousness of women’s fashion in the mid 1910s. I have to say Gal Gadot is far better than I’d previously given her credit for. She embodies Wonder Woman. I believed her as the unsure Diana facing off against her mother, and I believed her as the woman in the midst of discovering her own power.
The fight scenes, y’all. They’re gorgeously choreographed. Each fight sequence utilizes slow and accelerated motion to do maximum damage to both Diana’s foes and our senses. The Amazons are magnificently lethal. The skill, the grace. You will reach for a remote you don’t have, in a frantic effort to rewind as Gadot flies through the air, using her shield as a battering ram. Someone behind you will whisper, “That was badass,” and you will nod in agreement while waiting for Diana to kick more ass in even more inventive ways. This, my friends, is a proper DC superhero.
Chris Pine is as good as Gadot. He’s charming and heroic—made more heroic because he goes beyond accepting Diana’s abilities, he celebrates them. We also get to see him stripped all the way down past his skivvies. Isn’t that a nice role reversal?
Together the pair has chemistry. The thrills, laughs, and drama are mixed nicely into the storyline. Great cast, great costuming and production design. That’s why the first-me gives the movie a solid superhero 8.
However, the second-me cannot be denied. I fumed at the silencing of Diana’s true mentor Phillipus (Ann Ogbomo), a character who went unnamed and was literally mostly silent. It is Phillipus and not Antiope who is the general of the Amazon warriors. It is Phillipus who taught Diana to fight. Ann Ogbomo seems formidable. Hopefully she’ll be allowed out of the deep freeze in the sequels.
Beyond the near erasure of Phillipus, Steve Trevor’s ragtag group of friends are equally bothersome stereotypes. There’s the Arab smooth talker, the Irish drunkard, and the stoic yet mystical Indigenous man. Why? Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, and Eugene Brave Rock did good work here but, dammit, they weren’t given much to do beyond caricatures. Eugene Brave Rock’s character is called Chief. Perhaps meant to be an update on Apache Chief. Seriously, that’s not an update.
Along with the those problematic turns, the plot twists lack oomph. By the time the big reveals happen…we already know what and who is driving the conflict. Which is why the second-me gives the movie a 6.
Geek Girl Rioter, Day Al-Mohamed also made a great point: This is a movie comprised of major set pieces more than a fully engaging story. It works, to be sure, but we might’ve been more connected if we’d been emotionally hooked by something beyond our intrinsic love of the Wonder Woman character.
In the end: Hell yeah, we finally got a Wonder Woman movie that is as badass as the character has always been (but maybe next time silence the stereotypes and not the people of color).