Wonder Woman was the Summer’s big surprise, for more reasons than one. It made a ton of money, broke records, and made a name for Patty Jenkins. And it was the first universally embraced entry in DC’s shared continuity.
By now, you know the story. Diana (Gal Gadot), sheltered since childhood by the Amazons, meets Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). He stumbles upon the insular Themyscira and Diana accompanies Steve to Europe, convinced God of War Ares (David Thewlis) is behind the Great War.
Doing Ares’s bidding are German General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and twisted scientist Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya). There is also this mystery of a fabled God Killer, which is a weapon and possibly something more (saying anything else would reveal too much).
The character of Wonder Man dates back to the 1940’s. William Moulton Marston created her, a contribution to comics only beginning to get recognized. Aside from Linda Carter’s successful 70’s TV show, the franchise endured a few failed pilots and a major motion picture in development purgatory until now.
Timing was on the film’s side, between Marvel securely pitching its tent in Hollywood and DC’s dive into the deep end with Man of Steel (2013). Jenkins had inspiration to draw from and a foundation to build on.
Why the picture works so well is it blends elements from Marvel Studios’ best efforts. A period war movie (like First Avenger) combines with a fantasy adventure (like Thor) told in flashback (similar to Iron Man 3) to solve the mystery of the black-and-white photo from BvS.
The results sound like they strike familiar notes but is neither derivative nor contrived. Wonder Woman moves on point from mythical Greek paradise to fog-of-war 1910’s Europe.
Patty Jenkins also manages to keep the story together with the stacked threat of three villains – Ares, Ludendorff, and Dr. Poison. That’s a feat very few filmmakers that take on comic adaptations achieve (on a first try no less).
Gadot continues to embody Wonder Woman in the vein of Christopher Reeve’s Superman and Christian Bale’s Batman. Her star is rising and could outgrow the role one day. But she still can immerse herself as Diana without fail (her modeling background and real-life military training possibly help).
Chris Pine is very good and likable as Steve Trevor even though he can’t completely shed Captain Kirk. His turn is not as big a surprise as Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord but it’s up there. Worked right, he can be a major figure in the DC movies.
Wonder Woman is easily the best film so far in Warner’s current DC slate. Furthermore, it’s the best solo debut on the big screen for a superhero since Iron Man or Ant–Man. Whether or not Justice League comes together, this one will go down as a remarkable longshot that blew away expectations and silenced doubters.
Wonder Woman is out on DVD/Blu-ray September 19th and ought to be considered a definitive buy.