Blu-ray Review: ‘Wonder Woman’

It’s often debated whether or not superhero films are a detriment to film and our culture. Many culture and film commentators have spent an uncountable amount of articles breaking down the pros and cons of this dominant genre. Yet, the most important and universal truth is that people around the world flock to these films by the millions. They help shape our culture in ways that we seldom even understand. They influence generations of human beings to strive towards something greater than themselves or contemplate the nature of evil. And when they are at their best they can actually influence humanity in a positive and sometimes beautiful way.

‘Wonder Woman’ is a movie that accomplishes that influence and so damn much more that it’s hard to quantify its success. There is so much riding on this movie for so many people that you would think it was political and moral imperative that this movie work. Warner Bros. and DC need this to be a hit so badly that their financial future and the future of the DC extended universe that millions have waited their lives for truly hung in the balance. The United Nations needs this movie to perfectly convey all the reasons that they chose Wonder Woman to be this years ambassador for peace (a move that was seen quite cynically by many). Not to mention the fact that the film industry is hoping this movie can jolt a dismal summer box office back to life.

Those things are certainly important, but it is most important for the millions of women and young girls who have wished for a female hero to stand for them on the big screen forever. The girls who have watched boys get their badass heroes for generations while they skimmed through comic books and made their own costumes out of paper or plastic (because it was too hard to find a female heroes costume). These girls, and the ones who have grown into women, have been marginalized for far too long. They were treated like second class citizens and thrown the bone of a romantic comedy to counter the weeks major blockbuster that Hollywood spent millions on for the boys. Not anymore.

Now, these overly patient women (and delighted young girls) have their very first big budget female superhero and she is in one of the best superhero films ever made. This film is truly on the level Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy and Richard Donner’s unforgettable Superman. As a matter of fact, this irresistible film mixes a bit of the sensibilities that made both of those films so perfect. And it does so while simultaneous delivering the feminine point of view this genre has long needed. A big part of this comes from the outstanding source material, but it cannot be understated how important the contributions of director Patty Jenkins are here.

How cool is it that the first big budget female superhero picture is directed by a woman? Pretty damn cool if you ask me! But it’s even cooler that the director is a filmmaker of this caliber and Jenkins brings her “A” game this time around. Which is to say that everything about this movie delivers what it’s suppose to. The narrative moves at the right pace. The right characters are properly fleshed out. Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) and Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) are brilliantly cast. Which means the chemistry is just perfect. The action sequences kick ass! The dialogue is properly used to convey the building of Diana’s character, while simultaneously moving the plot along and subtly making a social commentary on the world. Bottom line: everything works exactly as it should.

Everything starts with the material, and the story here is a classic! A secluded island of Amazonian women have their very existence and anonymity threatened when an American spy named Steve Trevor accidentally stumbles upon their world. Steve is saved from the ocean by a goddess named Diana (soon to be our Wonder Woman) and this cross cultural connection leads to an adventure neither of them could have expected. You see, Diana has grown up secluded from the real world and has only read about the world of man. So, when she arrives in London she is very much a fish out of water. Which is played for some wonderful laughs, but also for some armor piercing analogies on the placement of women in the world.

The coolest thing about this is the way that the social commentary on this worlds treatment of women during the early 20th century is not only vital to today’s world, but is also completely necessary to the building of Diana’s character. She’s not just thrown into the situations for the purpose of political jabs at the anti-feminist factions of our political spectrum. These situations define who she is from a narrative stand point and this makes the entire endeavor feel organic. Which can also be said of the action sequences. No action sequence in this film is less than spectacular and none of them are without purpose.

I may love watching the last hour of ‘Batman V Superman’ (don’t care at all what anyone else thinks), but the bloated action sequence that caps the film is largely devoid of purpose outside the fact that it just looks bad ass. This is a problem with many of today’s films. The action sequences tend to stop the plot instead of adding to it. This can be an exhilarating distraction, or a brilliant exercise in the balletic style and choreography of great filmmaking, but it’s still without real narrative purpose. Not in ‘Wonder Woman’. Every sequence has a purpose and the sequences always define Diana’s growth as a character in some way. This is brilliant filmmaking from a director that’s at the top of her game.

It also can’t be understated how technically proficient this movie is. The cinematography and choreography is absolutely beautiful at times. The special effects are mostly spot on. And Rupert Gregson-Williams score is fantastic! It helps that he was handed a theme from Hans Zimmer that might be the coolest hero theme every to grace the silver screen, but what he does with it is truly something special. When those strings kick in on Diana’s run through the battlefield of “No Man’s Land” you will feel the excitement and empathy. And when that theme builds up to a German soldier getting smashed through a window, you will be having to force yourself to hold back the cheers. It really is the best theme score I’ve heard in quite sometime.

Another best thing I’ve seen in quite some time would be the brilliant casting of Gal Gadot to fill this role. What a super star she is. She is obviously beautiful, but that’s totally the least of what she brings to the table here. She exudes a confidence that is infectious. She delivers comedic one liners like a pro. She gets across the confusion and anger towards female subjugation with a staggeringly emotional delivery of her dialogue. She has unforgettable chemistry with an equally brilliant Chris Pine (he is so damn good here he could have carried a different film himself). And she does some of the most hair raising action work I’ve ever seen any actor pull off, regardless of gender. Truth be told, Gadot is a revelation! She’s quite possibly the best bit of hero casting in recent memory and the perfect role model for young girls around the world!

I could go on and on about the brilliance of individual sequences, action scenes, and the clever dialogue, but I’d be wasting your time. Just go out and see the movie as quickly as you can! I don’t care if you are a man or woman, see it! I don’t care if you are black or white, go see it! I don’t care if you are one those cynical men who don’t think women can lead an action movie. Go see this damn movie! It is without a doubt the most entertaining experience I’ve had this year and one that I won’t soon forget!

Nathan Ligon

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