Growing up, I was all about the DC comics. The Marvel stuff rarely floated my boat (as has proven the case with most of its recent films) but DC almost always managed to satisfy, as did the early motion pictures - I wouldn't hesitate at all to shower the first two Superman films and first two Batman flicks in Oscar nominations (I think we can all agree Michelle Pfeiffer deserved to win a trophy for Batman Returns). There's genuine movie magic to be found in those pictures.
So, given my adoration for all things DC, it's been more than a little exasperating watching more misses than hits come out of the franchise on the silver screen in recent years. Sure, Zach Snyder, with his bombastic vision for DC on film, deserves much of the blame, but even prior to Snyder's involvement, we were treated to the comparably insufferable likes of Catwoman and Green Lantern.
From the project's announcement, I admittedly figured, despite having a fine filmmaker attached, Wonder Woman would be destined to disappoint.
Thankfully, Wonder Woman does not mark yet another cinematic catastrophe of the DC universe. While it doesn't quite operate on the sky-high level of the best DC pictures either, it is a fun romp that is destined to instill hope in the hearts of those DC devotees who haven't been so keen on the comics' recent offerings on the big screen.
The picture opens on the island of Themyscira where Diana (Gal Gadot), princess of the Amazons, has trained to be an unstoppable warrior. Her blissful existence, surrounded exclusively by fellow female warriors, is interrupted by the entrance of pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), a World War I-era Allied spy whose plane crashes off the coast. After rescuing him and learning of the war that is ravaging the planet, Diana is determined to use her powers to restore world peace. She decides she will leave home for the very first time and join in Steve's efforts.
Wonder Woman sports a number of exceptional set pieces, perhaps the most riveting being Diana's valiant push across enemy trenches upon arrival at the Western Front in Belgium. There are fabulous comic bits too, fueled by the enchanting pairing of Gadot and Pine, neither of who are spectacularly talented actors but still pitch-perfect in their respective roles. Pine in particular has a matinee idol charisma that is apt for this sort of old-school comic book adaptation.
The supporting players are memorable too - Robin Wright is unconditionally badass as Diana's aunt and trainer and Danny Huston and Elena Anaya make for amusing villains, even if the characters don't feel fully fleshed out. Also, the film looks fantastic, with a handsome production design by Aline Bonetto (of Amelie and A Very Long Engagement).
Of course, I'd be remiss to not mention the film's director, the marvelous Patty Jenkins, who did an exceptional job directing Charlize Theron to an Oscar with 2003's Monster and then somehow, inexplicably could not land another feature film gig until now. There is no shortage of skill on display here - Jenkins is a star behind the camera and I'm delighted she'll be back for the sequel.
All of that said - the proceedings are smooth sailing for the first two hours, that is until a haphazardly staged final act that recalls all of the missteps of the recent DC pictures. All of the excitement, romance and laughter that enamored us is suddenly, tragically thrown out the window for 20+ minutes of uninspired, CGI-stuffed dueling that feels like the grand finale of another, supremely inferior film.
Still, its lame conclusion aside, Wonder Woman is for sure one of the better recent comic book film adaptations, a lively and lighthearted ride that, unlike all too many pictures in the genre, doesn't take itself so damn seriously.