Even though the movie was released almost a month ago, I still couldn’t resist the opportunity to write a review on “Wonder Woman,” which my wife and I saw on Father’s Day this year! The film has made a ton of money since opening and, perhaps more importantly, has been getting rave reviews from critics and fans, something notably absent from a DC movie for a long time.
As I’m often fond of saying though, when it comes to comic book movies, the only critic whose review I trust is my own. 🙂
So what did this priest-geek-blogger think of the movie…?
For years now, I’ve been saying that Warner Bros. should take a page out of Marvel Studios’ book and start making movies with both Hollywood and comic book people. The results of this formula show in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which, as of last year, is now the highest grossing movie franchise of all time.
After the unrealized potential of Batman vs Superman, Warner Bros. decided to restructure their studio and hire Geoff Johns, one of the greatest DC Comics writers of all time, to be executive producer and consultant to every DC movie onward. Upon being hired, Johns was asked what he feels distinguishes DC Comics’ characters from other franchises, and his answer was “heart and legacy.” Both themes are featured heavily in Wonder Woman.
This film is positive, uplifting, and inspiring. Wonder Woman absolutely shines every time she’s on the screen, and although I was a bit confused at the choice of putting her origin story in World War I, the bleakness of the setting makes for a perfect place for her character to stand out. Everywhere Wonder Woman goes in the film, she brings joy and hope to those around her, almost to the point of seeming like a Disney princess in the middle of a war movie. Nowhere in Man of Steel, Batman vs Superman, Green Lantern, or any of the Dark Knight movies did we see anything close to a superhero inspiring those around them. I have to admit, it was refreshing to see.
(Now if only they can repeat the formula for the next Superman movie… ;))
Gal Gadot is wonderful as the title character in her own movie, as she was in BvS. She quietly radiates strength and seldom raises her voice in the movie, striking a perfect balance between power and dignity, a must for Wonder Woman. It is very easy as an audience to believe that Gadot is Wonder Woman, as opposed to a more well-known actress for whom we’d have to suspend disbelief.
Other plusses include her costume, which in this movie is similar to her last but this time features its traditional colors of gold, red, and blue, which strikingly stand out in the gray of the trenches of WWI without looking ridiculous. And, although a minor detail, Gal Gadot’s Israeli accent is perfect for the character as well, given that her first language is supposed to be ancient Greek.
Truly, by far the strongest part of Wonder Woman is Wonder Woman herself, and we are the better for it.
I’m thrilled that we have finally gotten a movie about a DC superhero that is uplifting and positive, however I’m sorry to say that just because a film is positive doesn’t make it good.
Much of Wonder Woman feels choppy and disjointed, understandably so given that Patty Jenkins is the THIRD director to work on the film since production started. Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and his plane fall out of the sky literally out of the blue, are chased by Germans who, upon learning of the Themyscira’s location fight the Amazons on the beach and then… never return? Diana, merely hearing about the war, then guesses that it must be because of Ares based solely on Steve’s vague story. She and Steve then somehow row to London, because Wonder Woman’s people apparently live near the coast of England. Things move on from there the same way. Too often the motivations are stretched, and the corny dialogue and cheesy fight scenes do not help.
Several plot devices remain unexplained, as well. Where do Diana’s bracelets come from? The lasso of truth, her sword and shield are all explained, but when we meet Wonder Woman as an adult, she is already deflecting attacks by striking her metal bracelets together and generating force fields, and we are never told why or how. How can Steve Trevor keep disobeying orders and still be in the army? And call me old fashioned, but don’t the Amazons believe in chastity, especially after Diana vaguely explained something along those lines to Trevor while sailing to London? The story, script and editing, at least for me, could have used a lot of polishing.
In the midst of the final, climactic battle, the Greek god of war Ares pulls Wonder Woman aside and attempts to seduce her into abandoning her cause of peace and righteousness. He shows her a beautiful garden and says “look at all we could have together.” Like Christ being tempted in the wilderness but ultimately resisting the devil’s false promises, Diana resists his temptations and declines.
How she declines, however, is even more telling than the answer itself. After seeing humanity’s shortcomings firsthand in the horrors of warfare, Wonder Woman affirms that, although flawed, humans are ultimately good. They require patience and an example to teach them, and in time can reach a greater potential. Even in the middle of carnage and destruction, she chooses to believe in the intrinsic goodness of human beings and does not give up on this hope.
In a very real way, the belief that human beings are created good, not evil, is very Orthodox. The Fathers of the Church have always affirmed that, if we are indeed created in the image and likeness of God, then we are ultimately meant for good, and are good. We may be broken, weak, easily tempted, or all of the above, to be sure, but this is because of the fallen state which Jesus came to restore, and not because we have been created evil. No matter what we may do as a people or as individuals, we are not created for evil.
Modern psychology tells us that for every one negative comment we receive, we need four positive comments to counteract its effects! Logically, one would think that one negative is balanced out by one positive. Why isn’t this the case? Why do people in negative or even abusive environments begin exhibiting bodily ailments as well? Because the human soul is created for good. Only by turning to Christ can we possibly hope to reconcile our brokenness and mend our hearts, to live out the potential for good to which we have been called.
It is this hope that the Lord Himself had and has always had since even before the Incarnation: the potential of human beings to be healed and enter into that relationship of pure goodness with the Lord. It’s a very special message, one that the world could use more of today, and one that, articulated in the context of humanity’s very essence, I would put forth as something uniquely Orthodox.
More films would do well to include it, at least for me.
I could be totally off base, but I’m going to go on a limb and say that I think as an audience, we all want a good Wonder Woman movie so badly that we’re willing to forgive a lot. Much like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which started seeing more mixed reviews a year after its release in theaters, I think people wanted a good Star Wars movie post-George Lucas and overlooked the shortcomings the first time around. I’m curious to see what people will think of this movie a year from now or even after Blu-Ray release.
All in all, a positive step in the right direction, but still not quite there yet for me.