Spotlight Columns

Buttered and Salty: ‘Wonder Woman’

By From page B2 | September 27, 2017

Wonder Woman
* * * 1/2
PG-13, 2 hours, 21 minutes
Action, Adventure, Fantasy
New home video release — Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming

Not since Christopher Reeve donned the bright red boots of the Man of Steel in “Superman: The Movie” (1978) has an actor been born to play a role like Gal Gadot has in this year’s mega-hit “Wonder Woman.”

Righting the DC Comics-on-film ship after the critical drubbing of the infamous “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and the forgettable, “Suicide Squad,” director Patty Jenkins infuses an earnest tone into what has so far been a dreary Warner Brothers-led comic book universe.

Not anymore. As Roger Ebert would say, “This is more like it!”

For far too long, comic book films have been a boys-only club. Almost all of the heroes and a vast majority of the villains have been male. It astonishes me that 76 years had to pass before one of the most popular superheroes of all time got her own big screen adaptation. The wait was worth it.

The film opens with a well-paced origin story of Diana on her home island of Themyscira. The color palette of these sequences is rich, with lush cinematography by Matthew Jensen (“Game of Thrones”) enhanced by the high definition Blu-ray disc I was watching it on. The style here is a fine contrast to the drab look of early 1900s London and the war-torn backgrounds of World War I.

Once our hero arrives in London, Patty Jenkins pulls inspiration from Richard Donner’s “Superman” film and why not? The fish-out-of-water sequences as well as the attempted alleyway mugging almost mirror the 1978 film shot-for-shot. It’s a great influence and Jenkins honors that film lovingly in these moments.

The casting of this movie is spot on. From the young version of Diana, to Chris Pine as soldier/love interest Steve Trevor, to the band of rebels Wonder Woman takes up arms with, there is fine chemistry and camaraderie in this ensemble. Like most good movies, it’s in the casting that the film finds its heart.

Which brings us back to Gadot, whose presence in this film cannot be overstated. From kicking German soldiers in the chest, to smiling at a new friend/ally, to consoling war refugees, the strength of a movie like this rests squarely on the shoulders of the lead. She puts to rest any questions about her casting within seconds.

There is a scene after one of the most memorable battles in the film where the two main characters share a dance. This is a wonderful moment where I completely forgot I was watching a big summer comic book movie and was transported into the horrors of war, where finding just a sliver of heaven is cherished before the next moments of hell take hold.

“Is this what people do when there are no wars to fight?” Diana asks. Pure bliss!

The film is not without its faults. The reveal of the big baddie was a mix of forced video game-style action and missed opportunity. I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises, but there was so much they could have done with this villain if they introduced him sooner. The third act doesn’t hold up to the first two but still manages to please.

As I watched this picture I thought about what women have to deal with on a daily basis that most men don’t; they need to be compassionate yet strong, beautiful but “not too sexy,” intelligent though unassuming. These contradictions would be unfair for any man to accomplish, yet millions of women have to deal with society’s “rulebook” on a daily basis.

It may be just a movie character but Wonder Woman herself is an allegory for what women in the world have to deal with. Gadot somehow nails all of these beats that a male superhero character hasn’t had to hit. It’s entertainment but if you dig a little deeper, what this film accomplished both in front of and behind the camera is quite extraordinary.

“Wonder Woman” begins with Diana Prince narrating about “A world of magic and wonder.” She must have been talking about the film itself.

Extras: There are some nice extras on the Blu-ray disc, including a detailed journey into what it took to bring this pop-culture icon to the big screen, extended scenes, etc. Director Jenkins does speak at length on this content but what is missing is a director’s commentary. Jenkins shattered the glass ceiling of female directors helming Hollywood tentpole films, so it would be appropriate to hear about her experience for the two plus hours of the film’s runtime. Sadly that is missing but what is here should hold over fans of the movie.

Joshua B. Porter is a writer/director/producer. The most recent film he produced “August Falls” is currently available on Amazon Prime as well as other streaming services. He can be reached at @joshuabporter or [email protected]

Joshua Porter

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