I’m a few weekends behind, but I finally watched “Wonder Woman”. I’m not particularly a Marvel or DC fanboy – I like either, depending on the comic and/or character being discussed. I also don’t understand a lot of the hate for DC’s films so far. Yes, they’re dark and gritty and not perfect, but I enjoyed “Man of Steel”, “Batman vs. Superman”, and even “Suicide Squad”. Now, that all said, “Wonder Woman” raises the bar for DC… by a pretty significant margin. As usual, this review will contain spoilers, so keep that in mind before reading…
The movie picks up after the events of “Batman vs. Superman”. Diana Prince is operating out of Paris, and works at The Louvre in a beautiful office that’s wall-to-wall with artifacts & historical items. She receives a courier from Bruce Wayne, and the opens the case to find the original photo from WWI (the one that Luthor had a scan of). As she smiles at the photo, the film flashes back to her youth on Themyscira and our story begins.
Little Diana wants to be a warrior like the other Amazons, but her mother Queen Hippolyta refuses to let her train, insisting that there is no need. The queen’s sister, Antioppe, disagrees and begins training Diana in secret. Trying to convince Diana that the way of the warrior is fruitless, Hippolyta tells her the history of the Amazons. Millenia ago, when the world was young,
between the time the oceans drank Atlantis and the rise of the sons of (sorry, wrong franchise) the God of War – Ares – became jealous of Mankind and corrupted them with warfare. When the other gods attempted to intervene – creating the Amazons to defend mankind from Ares – the God of War killed them all. Zeus was able to cast out Ares and used the last of his power to create Themyscira, an island paradise where the Amazons could protect the Godkiller, a weapon that could kill Ares if he returned.
Hippolyta eventually gives in and allows Diana to train with the other Amazons. Diana finds that she is strong and fast, even by Amazon standards, as well as having power she doesn’t understand. While sparring with Antioppe, she accidentally uses that power, washing the entire area in a fiery blast. Running away from the incident, she arrives at the beach just in time to watch American spy Steve Trevor crash in a German prop-plane. He is followed by a several German boats, and the invading Germans are quickly defeated by the Amazons. Diana gets her first taste of war, however, and is crushed by the death of friends and Antioppe. Wrapped in the lasso of truth, Steve reveals that he was undercover with the Germans and stole the notebook of Doctor Poison – a Spanish chemist who is helping the Germans develop chemical weapons worse than mustard gas. Nevertheless, Hippolyta refuses to leave the island or help him get back to Paris. A rebellious Diana, insisting that such acts could only be caused by the corruption of Ares, sneaks Steve off the island after she takes some armor and the Godkiller sword.
Needless to say, her Amazon upbringing clashes with the culture of 1917 Europe. She attempts to help Steve find more proof of Germany’s chemical weapons, but along the way defiantly leads a charge to save a village that the Allied soldiers believe is lost. Afterwards, her and Steve enjoy a night together while the village celebrates. Convinced that the German general – Ludendorff – is actually Ares in disguise, she insists on pursuing him to his airbase after he bombs the village with deadly gas. Her worldview is turned upside-down when the death of Ludendorff doesn’t stop the fighting, and she slowly comes to realize that Steve was right – mankind itself is capable of horrors. She is so terrified by this prospect that she refuses to help Steve & his team take out a bomber loading up with the deadly gas cannisters.
As she contemplates returning to Themyscira and leaving mankind to its fate, the real Ares shows up (I won’t say who) and taunts Diana with the fact that all he ever did was whisper inspiration to mankind – that he is really the God of Truth and that warfare is an invention of man. A furious Diana engages him only to find out that her sword has no effect. Ares then drops the big bomb of truth on her – that she was NOT shaped by clay and brought to life by love as her mom always told her – that she is instead the daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta. In effect, SHE is the Godkiller, as only a god can kill another god. Shocked by the revelation, Diana desperately attempts to hurt Ares but is unable to. Even the lasso does not change what he is saying. He then offers to combine powers with her and recreate Earth as a paradise like Themyscira – one without mankind.
Although temporarily tempted by the beautiful paradise Ares shows her, Diana denies that she could ever be part of such a plan, and her and Ares begin to fight – completely destroying the airbase as they do. Diana begins to unleash her true power, and the two fly through the air combating each other in a manner somewhat similar to Superman vs. Zod in MoS. Ares uses the nearby debris to recreate his armor seen in the history lesson at the beginning, and begins to gain the upper hand. Meanwhile, Steve deduces that the only way to stop the bomber (without gassing everyone for miles, that is) is to fly it up as high as possible and then blow it up. He does so after telling Diana he loves her, and Diana becomes so enraged upon his death that she nearly murders Doctor Poison in cold blood at the urging of Ares. Coming to her senses, she shows the chemist mercy (… I wouldn’t) and tells Ares that mankind is capable of both good AND bad. She then obliterates him using his own lightning bolts. Back in Paris, Diana walks among the people celebrating the end of the war, then lovingly smiles at a picture of Steve. Returning to the present, Diana hears an explosion in the distance and appears on the roof of The Louvre dressed in her Wonder Woman outfit. She then launches herself into the sky. This, presumably, leads to the events of Justice League.
What Did I Think of the Movie?
It was great! It was like watching the DC version of “Captain America: The First Avenger”, which is generally considered to be one of Marvel’s better films. There were a lot of similarities plot-wise, which is probably why they decided to make it happen during WWI instead of WWII, and the overall tone of the film was about the same. There was a lot more humor to be found in this over MoS or BvS, with numerous jokes – funny ones – surrounding Diana’s misconceptions about the world and how things work. Steve Trevor’s secretary Etta is plucky & funny without being annoying, and – despite my initial misgivings (I was in the “she’s too skinny” crowd) – Gal Gadot knocks it out of the park as Diana.
I was wondering which of Diana’s two origins they would go with (made from clay or daughter of Zeus), and they cleverly found a way to use both. There were a few historical inaccuracies, but nothing that can’t be ignored. The action was pretty intense when called for, and spread throughout the film evenly enough to prevent boredom. The acting was all pretty good, especially Gadot and Pine’s. In fact, find that my nitpicks – and I always have some – are all pretty minor.
For example, when the Germans invade Themyscira’s beach and the Amazons attack, we see fairly normal combat. I mean, sure – the Amazons are jumping and leaping around like fleas, but even a weak Amazon with the flu should be able to throw a human like he’s nothing. We don’t see any of that here – the Amazons in general are extremely powered down, with only Diana exhibiting any kind of super abilities compared to a human. The other women are just well-trained is all.
Another nitpick would be that the secondary villains – Ludendorff and Doctor Poison – could have used a more satisfying story. Ludendorff was shown to be cruel and calculating, but his speech at the gala seemed to indicate no particular loyalty to the German cause. In fact, he sounded more like he was working for Ares, although that apparently wasn’t the case. So what was his motivation? Personal ambition? Lust for power? They never really made that clear. Same goes for Doctor Poison. How did her face get ruined? Why was she helping Ludendorff? And why didn’t either of them make further plans for a gas that enhances strength to near-Wonder Woman levels? Why not a squad of guys loaded up on that stuff?
To sum it all up, I think Wonder Woman is more-or-less exactly what I wanted from a Wonder Woman movie. I’ll definitely be adding it to my library when it comes out on disc, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you should make a point of going. If the Justice League film is this good, I’ll be amazed and very, very pleased.