Warning: Spoilers from Wonder Woman within this review.
There are superhero movies about superheroes. Then there are superhero movies that are so much more.
Wonder Woman was the first film in the DC Extended Universe that was able to encapsulate the latter. Sure, the Woman Woman name drew me in. But it was the impactful messages of hope conquering fear and love trumping hate that carried throughout that made this so much more than a cinematic experience.
This was the first film in the DCEU that was able to so perfectly balance the darkness and seriousness of the plot with humor that grounded it. It’s where films like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice failed. It wasn’t because of the darkness. It was because it was overpowering and just too much.
We live in a brutal world where every day feels like a new battle, a new war. When you are approaching that kind of subject matter, you don’t want it to overtake the audience. There are organic moments where you can blend in some natural humor and moments of brevity that allow the audience to breathe. We can handle darkness, but we don’t want it to overpower us. Let these characters be themselves in the moment.
Wonder Woman wasn’t a comedy. Not in the slightest. But it was able to accomplish that perfect blend of darkness and light by allowing its characters to breathe life into this cruel world to the point where they were real, believable characters. The humor never felt forced. It always felt like it was capturing these real reactions from these characters in the moment as they strive to also not let the darkness of their own world overtake them.
Wonder Woman was the movie that we needed in our world at this exact moment. As we fight a daily battle wrought with hatred and oppression, this film stressed the importance of fighting hate with love rather hate. But it also taught us it’s just as dangerous to sit back and do nothing rather than stand up and fight for what you believe in.
Not to mention Wonder Woman’s setting during World War I perfectly set the tone and eerily paralleled our current circumstances we face in our world today. Sure, the weapons of mass destruction have changed a bit. Sure, technology has grown into a weapon itself. But at the core of WWI and the circumstances we face today is that overpowering element of darkness.
Which is what makes Wonder Woman so inspiring. She’s the face of hope in the darkness. She wants to believe the very best in mankind even as she watches them kill each other. She wants to believe that there’s good within. Even when it’s out of her control. Even when she loses the man she loves, she finds the inspiration to keep fighting for mankind. It’s not just her sacred duty anymore. It’s her fondest desire.
When you forget that a superhero movie is about a superhero and see the message it’s conveying and the world it’s portraying, it’s something both touching and terrifying. As I watched I was reminded of the cruel world we live in today. How people choose to do such awful things. We might not be on the front lines fighting in a war, but make no mistake we fight a war every day.
I’m not going to lie. Wonder Woman made me weep. Before, during, and after for five minutes straight. This wasn’t just another superhero movie poised to make millions of dollars. This movie was about inspiring young girls that they can achieve whatever they set their minds to. This movie was about teaching the difficult lesson of sacrifice. This movie was about fighting for what you believe in. This movie was about inspiring the people in this world to rise up and fight back – with hope and love.
In case you had any doubts at all, Gal Gadot IS Wonder Woman. From the moment Diana Prince appeared on screen, there was no question – this was Wonder Woman. She carried herself with confidence and determination, with curiosity and fire, and with the desire to save people with the compassion in her heart. It was that attitude that made those moments that Diana watched mankind killing each other, watching women and children sick and starving and dying, and watching all of the pain – so incredibly painful to watch.
When she wept and felt herself overcome with despair at the sick, the hungry, and the dying – at this cruel, hateful world – I felt that. My heart broke for her. This world truly doesn’t deserve her. But it’s not about what you deserve. It’s about what you believe in.
Good lord, Chris Pine is a true revelation in this film. While I expected Gadot to truly shine as she did, I wasn’t prepared for Pine’s take on Steve Trevor, which was as humorous as it was serious and as inspiring as it was heartbreaking. The moments of humor, he nailed them. The moments of vulnerability, he crushed them. The moments of heartbreak and empowerment, he killed them. Pine was a breath of fresh air that served as the perfect partner for the Amazonian Princess.
Steve represented the kind of flawed person that we all know ourselves to be. While we haven’t done what he’s done, that’s representative of the things we’ve done that we regret. It’s representative of our desire to rise and redeem ourselves. It’s representative of our desire to live. And while Steve’s life was cut remarkably too short – in a scene where I sobbed – make no mistake, Steve Trevor lived. It’s not about how much time you have on this Earth so much as it’s about how you choose to spend that time.
Gadot and Pine’s chemistry was off the charts. They had such a beautiful dynamic that was effortless and comfortable. The romance was organic and poignant and a reminder that good things don’t last forever. It was a reminder to live and love in the moment.
Romance is a word that is often frowned upon in our media culture. For whatever reason I still don’t understand, but it is. But the beautiful thing about Diana and Steve’s love story was that it was organic and believable in its brevity. It didn’t overtake the story. In fact, it added to it. It was so beautifully told and just as tragically ended in a reminder that sacrifice isn’t easy but it is necessary for the greater good.
But Steve’s importance far transcended being Diana’s true love. He was the man that inspired her during their time together and long after. He taught her to love and to find a purpose for fighting. Because when it comes down to it, it’s not about who’s necessarily stronger. It’s about knowing what you’re fighting for. And once Diana learned that, she was unstoppable.
There was a moment where Diana is tempted to give into the darkness. She’s lost so much that when she loses Steve the pain is overwhelming. But as she’s about to give in, she clings to the light by summoning thoughts on Steve – the happy moments. It’s a reminder that you have to fight darkness with light and cling to the light even when your world is falling apart.
Steve’s death is a reminder that live isn’t short. Love doesn’t last forever. But it’s what you do with your life that matters. It’s who you love, regardless of time, that matters.
The portrayal of women in this film was top notch, as you’d expect. It took on patriarchal norms in such a poignant way. Setting this on London during World War I was perfect because you saw the stark contrast between how the women in Themiscyra were treated as opposed to modern world. So when Diana arrives to London, it shakes everything up. It shows just how ridiculous it was that women were looked down upon back then. How they could ever be looked down upon.
This was a movie about the empowerment of women during a time when they really weren’t allowed to be empowered. We heard the sexist remarks, felt the misogyny, and saw it in action. But we also saw how Wonder Woman took that head-on. We had Diana leading a group of men into battle; we had Diana fighting on the frontlines; we had Diana proving that gender doesn’t define the fire within you. It was inspiring as hell.
Wonder Woman was a film that was empowering and inspiring but equally as entertaining and emotional. It was a reminder that perhaps there is some good left in this world. All you have to do is learn what you’re fighting for and what you believe in.
Wonder Woman is in theaters now.
MOVIE GRADE: A