Review: Wonder Woman gives DC a bright and optimistic future

To celebrate the VOD release of Wonder Woman here is my original review of the film:

 

The time of funny, heart-warming, optimistic and empowering superhero films is back in this origin story out of Paradise Island.

In a time where Christopher Nolan’s dark and realistic The Dark Knight became the standard for modern superhero films, it takes Patty Jenkins to remind us why we love superheroes in the first place. It is Richard Donner’s Superman from 1979 – the golden standard for what a superhero film can be – that inspired Jenkins the most when she made Wonder Woman.

Just like the classic Christopher Reeve film, Wonder Woman is a coming-of-age story about a young woman leaving home for a strange land. Gal Gadot plays Diana Prince, whom we met in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice as she confronted not only Batman, but also Doomsday.

Gadot manages to portray a young Amazon warrior with unapologetic optimism and great moral values. She is a woman who wants nothing more than to help heal the world.

Diana’s world changes when she meets Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Since we didn’t see Trevor in BvS, Pine had to prove he was more than just a pretty face, and he did that and more. Steve Trevor is a man who has seen too much pain and suffering, a man who has lost his faith in humanity. On the other hand, Diana grew up believing mankind was created by Zeus to be perfect, and she blames everything wrong with people on external influences.

Chris Pine plays a wisecracking British officer who is much more than Diana’s boyfriend in Wonder Woman.

The relationship between Prince and Trevor comes off as so honest and believable that this critic could easily watch a trilogy or a TV show about the couple’s adventures. It is fun to watch Diana’s face light up in joy over the most mundane things, which are new for her – like seeing a baby for the first time, or declaring ice cream the best thing in the world.

It is precisely in these scenes where Wonder Woman shines and distances itself from other superhero films. Yes, there are plenty of thrilling and visually stunning action scenes. It is the quiet, intimate scenes that work best, however; because they develop Diana’s character. Patty Jenkins shows to have a detective’s eye for changing from serious to fun scenes. I laughed as Diana asks Steve if he is an average human specimen when she first sees him naked, but I cried when I the film showed me the effects of PTSD in one of the main characters.

Wonder Woman is a film that defies expectations, both in real life and inside the story of the film. In our world, the film had to prove that a female director could make as good a superhero film as a man. In Diana’s world, she must defy orders every ten minutes. First it’s her mother preventing her from being a warrior, then Steve saying she can’t do certain things because she is a woman.

It truly is empowering to see a film where a woman does everything she isn’t supposed to do. A certain scene where she goes into No Man’s Land by herself is an instant classic that will be remembered for years.

However, there are no perfect films and Wonder Woman isn’t the exception. Even if it works in context, the film has the typical big fight at the end of the third act that feels unnecessary and distracting. There’s also a great amount of slow motion sequences that may be distracting for some members of the audience, even if they feel like a refreshing female version of 300.

Gal Gadot plays Diana as if she was born for the role. She is Wonder Woman.

It feels good to see a superhero film that doesn’t feel the need to be 100% smiles and laughs, or 100% rain and frowning. Wonder Woman uses WWI as a contrast to humor, love and optimism. The same happens with the film’s cinematography. Right in the middle of a grey and violent fight stands the colourful Diana, her lasso and costume irradiating color, just as she irradiates hope. And for fans of the Wonder Woman track from the BvS soundtrack, rejoice. The new soundtrack by Rupert Gregson-Williams is as hopeful as it is epic.

Wonder Woman doesn’t ask for forgiveness because it is optimistic and full of hope. What separates this film from the rest of the DCEU films is that Wonder Woman has no weaknesses. She is always Wonder Woman. She doesn’t resemble us because she is better than us.

Both the film and the character are here to light up the way to a better future, where both girls and boys grow up having Wonder Woman as their favorite superhero film.

Grade: Opening Night

How I grade films

 

This review was originally published in Norwegian at KINOMAGASINET.no

 

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