Wonder Woman (2017)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 6/7/17
Director: Patty Jenkins
Music: Rupert Gregson-Williams
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis

"I am frightened and at the same time aroused."

All I can say is that it's about time this movie got made. Diana (Gal Gadot) is the nigh-invincible daughter of Zeus and princess of the Amazons. She lives a peaceful and enlightened life on the beautiful and mystical island of Themyscira, where she learns about science, philosophy, culture, and the art of combat. Unfortunately, her idyllic world is shattered when a World War I plane crashes off the coast, followed by a German pursuit force. American pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) is pulled out of the water and the Amazons are violently forced into reckoning with the outside world. Diana takes a keen interest in Trevor, and her strong, but naïve sense of justice compels her to leave her people in an attempt to stop the war. It's a coming of age tale that teaches her about the wickedness and corruption of men, as well as their capacity for compassion and sacrifice.

It's an extremely well crafted film and the impossibly radiant Gal Gadot shines throughout. She's exceedingly smart, beautiful, and effortlessly charming, and brings light and life to everything around her. She sells her action scenes well with an engaging combination of emotional intensity, focused rage, and a strong sense of duty and purpose. While she fights for justice, Diana also relishes the thrill of combat, and Gadot does an excellent job of letting a slight hint of that slip through her fierce warrior persona. She's undeniably awesome and that comes through in every scene. Going into the film, I was really nervous about Chris Pine's character, as the trailers made him out to be a brash, cocky, and annoying alpha male competing for the spotlight. His character and performance could have single-handedly destroyed the film (much like Jesse Eisenberg's insufferable role in "Batman V Superman"(2016) ), but he pulls off the role admirably. Even though Pine asserts his masculinity, challenges Diana, and constantly expresses his frustration with her, he never disrespects her and he doesn't feel the need to compete with her. The romantic chemistry between him and Gadot falls flat, but I thought it was handled in a tasteful and appropriately ambiguous way. I was relieved and pleasantly surprised by his thoughtful performance, but his cringe-worthy German accent is regrettable. Robin Wright gives a superb performance as Antiope, who ruthlessly trains Diana in the ways of battle, and Danny Huston adds yet another comic book villain to his resume.

The film looks fantastic and is complemented by a strong and emotionally moving musical score. The action scenes are exciting, but the overuse of bullet time diminishes the impact and disrupts the flow. As a demi-goddess with super-human abilities, the heavy use of CGI eventually breaks down the suspension of disbelief during the increasingly outrageous climax. It's a slow starter and overly talky, and the pacing can be uncomfortably sluggish at times. The story stumbles occasionally, and Diana's stubbornness and naïveté feel forced and overdone at times, but the cast and characters are so endearing that it's easy to overlook the film's minor warts. The film also bears an uncanny resemblance to Joe Johnston's "Captain America" (2011) in tone, structure, characterization, setting, theme, and execution, which was a constant distraction for me. With Diana's critically and commercially successful origin story out of the way, we can hopefully look forward to more Wonder Woman adventures in the future. And perhaps Marvel will respond by getting off their butts and finally making a Black Widow film.