For our Wonder Woman review we sent Belle and Pete, our resident Wonder Woman reviewer and biggest Wonder Woman fanboy on staff, respectively, out to see the film and give us their thoughts.
Pete: So, Wonder Woman was pretty amazing, yeah? One of the things we said when we walked out of the theater was “They out Thor-ed Thor and out Captain America-ed Captain America.”
Belle: Yes, there will be comparisons to Thor and First Avenger but Diana isn’t an asshole like Thor, she wasn’t banished. She made a choice to leave to protect people who needed protecting; and more importantly she learns from her mistakes. We get to actually see the process as opposed to Thor, Avengers Assemble and Thor: TDW wherein we’re told Thor is a better person but we’ve seen no actual evidence to support that in his actions onscreen. As for the First Avenger comparison, it’s definitely there but, in all honesty, it’s a lot more frank about race, sexism and PTSD than First Avenger ever was.
Seriously though, coming out of that movie, there were actually tears of joy, dude. This should’ve been the movie the DCEU started with. It took women behind the camera and in front of it to finally, finally, get a DC character completely right.
Pete: And not just any character, either. I think for me, what went right with this movie, were all the aspects of Diana that you can’t shortcut. Fight scenes, villains, costumes … even bad movies can get those right. But the elements of her story that are more nuanced, subtle – that’s harder to do. There’s a lot of important areas where they could have missed the mark; little things they could have gotten wrong. But they didn’t. Diana’s goodness is pure but flawed. I think many creators would be afraid of allowing moments of despair and even uncertainty that Patty Jenkins allows and Gal Gadot performs perfectly. The way Diana has a great wisdom about her, but also a naivete. She has strong spirit and will, but also rashness. She’s the most real of any of the big DC characters.
Belle: Yes, and this movie nails that. They got her heart and essence on point. Her innocence and wonder. She’s saying “I want to go to the fighting,” and Steve tries to tell her repeatedly that that’s not how it works, and she just doesn’t get it because of course that’s how it works. People couldn’t possibly be just killing each other for no damn reason. That kind of evil is not possible.
It’s genuinely heartbreaking when she realizes it is.
Pete: Gal Gadot sells that emotional growth perfectly.
Belle: Gal Gadot is Diana full stop, however we have to talk about the rest of the cast: Chris Pine is charming and sad as Steve Trevor, he’s just seen so much at this point and every time he thinks humanity can’t get worse they prove him wrong. It’s a tricky thing to get right with him but Pine pulls it off beautifully. Connie Nielsen is every inch the Queen that Hippolyta should be but it’s Robin Wright who steals the show. She is a revelation as Antiope. Listen, I’ve been a fan of hers for years but I didn’t think she had this in her: the raw physicality she masters to be believable as Antiope, the greatest warrior of the Amazons, is breathtaking. I didn’t even realize it was her that’s how much she submerged into that character.
Pete: She truly is perfect. Her scenes have so much weight, both her emotional ones and the action. She is a bruiser. A tank. She’s that character you unlock in an RPG and add to your party permanently. That was another something that they got right that I had been hoping for: capturing Themyscira and the Amazons in a serious meaningful way. I thought the imagery, and the mythos were true to the comics and to the mythology they were derived from. And something I realized later was that there were Amazons who stood out so well as characters that even with, like 30 seconds of screen time, they were memorable and identifiable. If I saw an action figure of them, I would know who they were immediately. And the early Themyscira scenes reminded me of Renae De Liz’s The Legend of Wonder Woman, which I loved. I could have stayed another half hour on that island. That’s all I really wanted from the movie. More time.
Belle: Speaking of comics, the movie ties into Greg Rucka’s Rebirth run on Wonder Woman so well, specifically Wonder Woman #12 and Wonder Woman #14. There’s are several scenes in the movie that look and sound like they were directly lifted from the events in these books and since they came out while it was filming it shows Jenkins has an understanding of Diana on a fundamental level. The script was already written for the most part. That she and Greg Rucka, whose run on WW has been phenomenal, would be so in sync re: who Diana is, shows a comprehension of the character that BvS just didn’t get.
Plus the movie is so beautiful and smartly filmed, the switch from Themyscira to London is so jarring and smart. It shows how brutal the War to End All Wars was with one simple boat ride.
Pete: All of those scenes as they grow closer and closer to “the front,” as great as they were, just made me want more. Those middle scenes are where Pine shines as Steve Trevor. His portrayal goes a long way to break with the sometimes tradition of a buffoonish, antiquated chauvinist that always made it hard for me to understand Diana’s attraction to him. This Steve is a product of his time, sure, but he’s got depth. He’s broken, but inspired by Diana and given a chance to be his own kind of hero, without derailing or getting in the way of Diana’s narrative. That is a hell of a thing to balance, and the team make it seem effortless. I did feel Diana needed a little more of a dose of seeing war up close – and the chance to kick a few more asses. I wanted fight scenes that I hadn’t already seen in the trailer. I really just remember thinking to myself, ‘I could be here another hour and still not be bored.’
Belle: The film isn’t perfect but it’s far closer than it has any right to be. My two biggest issues are both things I feel go into what you were saying: we needed more time.
The villains are not as developed as they could be with two of them being clear sequel bait. One, I honestly didn’t expect to see so early in the mythology and the other was far more interesting yet we didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with them.
The other thing, and this is a WW mythos thing that was jarring because I’m so familiar with it, is there’s a huge lie on Hippolyta’s part that happens early on. It is not the thing people unfamiliar with the WW story will think it is but it is something that I personally think needs to be dealt with in Aquaman because it will directly affect Diana and Arthur’s relationship in the films. I really need to know if Lyta was lied to and is only going off of what she knows or if it was deliberate. I also wish that we’d gotten Phillipus in the movie since the Hippolyta/Phillipus relationship is one of my favorites from canon as they are so clearly Diana’s doting parents and it would’ve been nice if the subtext was just text (plus another POC would’ve had a speaking part) but I get why Antiope was the focus.
Belle and Pete: Overall this movie exceeded our expectations. It’s a story of growing up and knowing when to let your child be who they are. Of not losing hope in the face of despair and just left us with a feeling of joy that has been absent from the DCEU from jump to be honest.
Five out of Five Shields.