Image © Warner Bros.
I’m going to begin this with general comments. Later, after a spoiler warning, I’ll address some specific points that I think won’t give anything important away, but if you want to avoid all mention of plot elements, you might want to come back after you’ve seen the film.
I enjoyed the film, I think in large part because of the performance and persona of Gal Gadot, who is an example of perfect casting, born for the part. Sure, others could play the King of Siam, but Yul Brynner was perfect for it, it’s that kind of thing. Her every move, expression, word, gesture and emotion seemed true and right for Wonder Woman. Even her slight Israeli accent works well here. Gal’s skills in the action scenes as well in the character ones hit the mark every time. Chris Pine was fine as Steve Trevor, the rest of the cast, who are largely supporting players, were good too, but Gal made it work for me.
There were no boring parts, always a good sign, though lately I’m more impressed with a film, script and actors who can carry quiet moments equally well, and this film does that. There aren’t many of them, but they work. The effects and action sequences were fine, if a little too frequent in the second half for me. Mixing in moments of super-slow-motion has become a familiar thing in action films, but I kind of like it as it gives my old eyes a chance to see what’s going on better. I saw it in 3D, but did not notice any particularly great uses of it, and often saw none for long periods, so I expect the 2D version would have been fine.
Okay, on to more specific plot and script comments, in case you want to stop here. More below.
The top screenwriting credit goes to Zack Snyder, and this film is crafted to fit in with the other DC character films he’s directed, so it’s framed in a brief modern-day sequence, but we don’t learn a great deal from that except that Diana is unchanged, has an impressive base of operations, and is still being heroic. Most of the film is a flashback to her origin, beginning on Themyscira. That sequence is handled quite well, I thought. Young Diana wants to train for battle, her mother wants to protect her. Other Themyscirans help Diana learn what she needs to know. In one early moment, Diana’s mother tells her a bedtime story about her origin that seems too simplistic, but later we learn part of it is not true, so that leaves the rest as just a bedtime story and not necessarily so. A nice, subtle idea.
When American Steve Trevor arrives in his crashing plane, I got the first jolt of unexpected plot: it’s a World War One German plane. In the comics, of course, Wonder Woman was created in the early years of World War Two. When Steve succeeds in convincing Diana to join him in fighting the Germans, it’s all World War One, “The Great War,” with Steve working as a spy for the British. In retrospect, I can see why this was done. It avoids the film becoming “Wonder Woman vs. Hitler.” It also means that, for Diana in the present, this entire story happened over a hundred years ago, freeing later stories from being tied to this continuity and these supporting characters. That could be a good thing or a bad one, depending on how she’s handled in later films.
Once Diana and Steve meet, the language question is always a problem, but here they at once speak to and understand each other perfectly. This seemed odd and wrong at first, but it is explained later, and by inference, subtly lets us know that Themyscira is not ignorant of the world at large, another nice touch.
There are several villains in the story, some obvious ones who are not particularly interesting or well-rounded, and an implied hidden one who is revealed late in the film. He’s the only one who really worked for me.
The usual clash of cultures when Diana enters man’s world takes place in London in this film, and I thought was well handled and entertaining.
The third act of the film takes Diana, Steve, and a band of comic misfits to the front lines where various plans and plots are to take place. Here Diana asserts herself and becomes the true hero we all want to see. I liked that, but the war scenes do go on for a long time. Some of the plot gets too convoluted and tricksy for me, too. Finally, Diana’s growing powers seem to go even beyond anything in the comics, but there is an explanation of that in the film that works when you think about it.
In all, I enjoyed the two hours I spent watching “Wonder Woman,” and recommend it, particularly to witness Gal Gadot’s wonderful performance. Perhaps a second film might be even better, we’ll see.