Grade: B+/A-
Entire family: No
2017, 141 min., Color
Action-Adventure Fantasy
Warner Bros.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action and some suggestive content
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Featured audio: Dolby Atmos TrueHD
Bonus features: B+
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD
Trailer
Amazon link

In a way, Wonder Woman is DC’s version of Marvel’s Thor. Both are ancient gods with one foot in the mythological sphere and one foot in the saving-the-planet contemporary world. Thor has his hammer, but Wonder Woman tops that with her indestructible bracelets and Lasso of Hestia (and Truth, and Butt-Kicking). Like Captain America, this Amazonian goddess has to train to learn how to fight, and one super-accessory that she shares in common with Steve Rogers is a powerful shield. She also carries a special sword, making her one formidable superhero.

The brainchild of psychologist-writer William Mouton Marston and artist Harry G. Peter, Princess Diana of Themyscira, Daughter of Hippolyta made her appearance in DC’s All Star Comics #8 (October 1941) and was enough of a feminist icon that she made the cover of Ms. magazine 30 years later and in 2016 was named “U.N. Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls” by the United Nations. Marston explained that he wanted “to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman,” and that character has resonated with people. In this 2017 film, she can leap high as tall buildings, she can deflect speeding bullets, and she can cause a devastating shock wave both on-screen and off. Wonder Woman earned more than $819 million at the box office, making it the highest grossing film directed by a woman (Patty Jenkins, Monster).

The biggest change the film makes from the comics and 1970s TV series starring Lynda Carter is that Wonder Woman enters the world of humans during WWI rather than WWII. It’s the Kaiser, not Hitler, that leads the enemy, and the plot revolves around mustard gas, trench warfare, and biplanes. There’s no shortage of villains, but the standouts are David Thewlis as Ares, Diana’s distant half-brother and son of Zeus, and Elena Anaya as the demented Dr. Maru, a.k.a. “Dr. Poison.”

Exotic and distinctly un-American, Israeli actress Gal Gadot is well cast as Diana, and while it’s always tough to see the old red and blue leotard costume put on the shelf, given the Themyscira sequences it makes more sense, costume-wise, for Diana to look as if she’s wearing a version of warrior’s armor.

The film begins with those flashbacks of Diana’s past on the all-women isolated island, with a flashback within a flashback detailing a mythological background story of rogue god Ares (the god of war) and his murdering of other main gods but Zeus, who gave the Amazons a weapon to defend themselves if Ares returned. Though Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) is protective of her daughter, Diana still trains under the supervision of Antiope (Robin Wright) and has a mind of her own. She’s also the chosen one (big surprise).

Convinced that Ares is responsible for the Great War that she learns about when American pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash-lands a stolen German plane off the coast of the Amazons’ island, Diana is determined to accompany him to London to seek out Ares in order to stop the war and end Ares’ menace once and for all. Trevor had stolen a cryptic formula notebook from Dr. Maru, and as her alter ego, Diana Prince, she is able to translate those writings. The rest of the film follows their attempts to thwart Dr. Maru and her superior from creating and deploying a mustard gas so potent that nothing could defend against it, and to seek out Ares in order to stop all war and destruction.

So how good is it? Put it this way: there’s a reason that Wonder Woman has gotten great “buzz.” It’s a strong entry in the comic-book superhero action film genre, with a plot that’s compelling without being confusing, great special effects, strong villains, some inspirational “girl power” scenes, crisp pacing, and a production design that effortlessly shifts gears to reflect the film’s different locations and moods.

But Wonder Woman is every bit a PG-13 film, mostly because of violence that seems more realistic rather than fantastic because it’s a wartime film and the tone is mostly serious with only occasional humor. In addition, there are some deaths that deeply affect the main character . . . and therefore, viewers.

Language: Nothing, really
Sex: Mostly innuendo and a probable coupling, with no graphic nudity shown
Violence: People are killed graphically but relatively bloodlessly, and that includes close-range shooting and people who are gassed to death
Adult situations: A man kills himself with a cyanide pill, another inhales a gas to pump himself up, and there’s alcohol use and smoking
Takeaway: TV’s Wonder Woman was campy, but her film incarnation is all business and elevates the female superhero in the process

Advertisements