Wonder Woman has proven to be the DCEU’s first run away hit.
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The story is told as a long flashback. Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) is sent a briefcase by Bruce Wayne. The case contains the picture of Diana and her friends from World War I and a note from Bruce saying that he’d love to hear the story behind it. This gesture causes Diana to reflect on the events surrounding the photograph.
Diana was raised on the island of Themyscira, home of the Amazons. The Amazons are tasked with being on guard against the threat of Ares, the God of War. They are in possession of a weapon bestowed upon them by Zeus that is designed to kill Ares. They have also been hidden from the rest of the world by Zeus’ power. Diana’s mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), forbids her from training like the rest of her warrior tribe. That order is constantly ignored by Diana’s aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright). Eventually, Hippolyta relents and lets Diana train, but Diana is unaware of her own powers.
One day, while being pushed in training, she slams her arms together and creates the shockwave that has become one of the trademarks of the character in the DCEU. While she goes off to sulk about hurting Antiope, she sees a plan crash into the water off the coast of the island. Diana dives into the wreckage of the plan and finds Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) trapped and drowning. As she drags him back to the shore, a fleet of German ships follow Steve’s plane to the island. The amazons arrive in time to see this and a battle quickly ensues. The Amazons (with some help from Steve) are able to kill all of the German soldiers. However, several of the Amazons, including Antiope, are killed.
Wanting to understand what’s happened, the Amazons use the Lasso of Truth to interrogate Steve. He tells them about the war and that he’s a spy for the Allied Forces. He’s learned of a plan to unleash a devastating biological weapon on the world. The weapon has been developed by General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and Dr. Isabel Maru, AKA Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya). After hearing about the story of the weapon and the War, Diana becomes convinced that this is Ares’ doing. Diana sneaks into the Amazonian weapon vault and steals the sword known as the “God Killer”. She also takes the lasso of truth, shield, and her battle suit. Just as Diana and Steve are about to sneak away in a boat, Hippolyta catches them. She lets Diana go, but tells Diana that she can never return if she does this.
Diana and Steve return to London so Steve can deliver information about the weapon to his superiors. After getting Diana some clothes that allow her to fit in to the “world of man”, they are ambushed by some spies. Diana is able to defend Steve from most of them, with Steve taking out the last one. They eventually get to the heads of the Allied Forces, but they tell Steve not to puruse this lead. Diana has no patience for their bureaucracy and becomes outraged, but Steve promises to take her to the front no matter what. Steve assembles a small team of trusted allies to do so. The team consists of the spy Sameer (Said Taghmaoui), the marksman Charlie (Ewen Bremner), and a smuggler who goes by “The Chief” (Eugene Brave Rock). Their mission is also covertly funded by Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis), one of the men who had actually agreed that Steve shouldn’t go after Ludendorff.
The team quickly makes it to the front. While they’re walking through the trenches, Diana is moved by the plea of a local woman who’s home was taken over by the Germans. Diana wants to help, but Steve warns her that the only way to do so is to go through “No Man’s Land” which is too dangerous for any of them to do. Not wanting to wait anymore, Diana dons her tiara and strips down to her armor before rushing out into No Man’s Land. Diana absorbs and deflects gunfire from the German sodliers. When Steve and the other soldiers see what’s happening, they rush in behind Diana, using her as a shield to gain the upper hand. Diana continues to beat down the German soldiers and ends up at the overtaken town. She proceeds to smash their bodies and weapons, culminating with her launching herself into a sniper tower to demolish it.
After the battle is won the townspeople celebrate Diana and the fateful picture is taken. That night Diana and Steve hook up. The next day, they head to a Gala where Ludendorff is supposed to be. Steve infiltrates the party but is surprised when Diana sneaks in on her own and attempts to kill Ludendorff, whom she believes to be Ares in disguise. Steve stops Diana, which allows him to unleash the gas on the town that they had just saved the day before. Diana returns to the town and is heartbroken to see the bodies littering the streets and blames Steve for not letting her prevent this.
It’s learned that Ludendorff plans to drop these gas bombs on London from a plane. Leaving Steve and crew in her dust, Diana heads to the airbase. Diana finds Ludendorff and runs him through with the God Killer but she’s confused when it doesn’t stop the German soldiers from loading the bombs onto the plane. Steve arrives to find a confused Diana struggling to deal with the idea that people are continuing to fight after Ares’ death. Steve tries to get Diana to process the idea that some people might just be bad and runs off to try to stop the plan. As he does, Sir Patrick appears to Diana in Ludendorff’s office. At this point, Diana realizes that it was Sir Patrick who was actually Ares.
Ares admits that he only provided small, secret influences to people like Maru and Ludendorff. It’s their own evil that led to this war. Diana attack Ares with the God Killer, but he quickly destroys it. Ares reveals to Diana that the “God Killer” isn’t a sword, it’s her. Diana is a demigod, the daughter of Hippolyta and Zeus, who was left on Themyscira as a weapon to fight against Ares. At this point, Ares gives Diana the standard pitch to join the dark side so they can rule the world together. Like pretty much every hero before her, Diana declines and the final battle begins. As their battle continues to escalate, Steve and his team discover that there’s no way to safely stop the plane.
Steve runs to the tarmac to, where Diana has had her bell rung by Ares. Steve gives Diana a keepsake watch from his father and tells her that he loves her. He also tells her that he can save the day, but she can save the world. Steve then runs off to hijack the plane. He manages to get it high enough into the sky to safely blow it up; killing himself in the process. Seeing Diana agonizing over Steve’s sacrifice, Ares once again takes the opportunity to tempt her. Taking another page out of the Sith Lord playbook, Ares brings Maru before Diana and offers Diana the chance to take out her grief by killing Maru. Diana considers it but, remembering Steve’s words, drops the tank and tells Ares that she chooses to believe in love. Diana then uses her gauntlets to redirect Ares’ own energy back at him, finally destroying him.
With Ares’ destroyed, the soldiers are actually broken free of their corruption. There is a huge celebration over the end of the war. Diana returns to London with the rest of the team and sees a wall of the fallen, which includes Steve.
In the present day, Diana sends a message thanking Bruce for the photograph before donning her armor and leaping across the sky as Wonder Woman.
- Hippolyta tells Diana a story about the Gods creating man. That seems to mean that, in this universe, people were created by the Greek gods.
- I’m not sure if this was done on purpose or not, but it’s hard not to draw some comparisons between Diana’s band of merry men and Captain America’s Howling Commandos in the MCU.
- I guess that Gal Gadot isn’t capable of doing extensive accent work, or the DCEU chose to simply stick with her accent to allow her to be more natural. I hadn’t thought about it until I realized that all of the Amazons have adopted Gal’s accent.
- Not a big deal, but I don’t believe anyone actually refers to Diana as “Wonder Woman” during the entire movie.
What did I think?
Overall, I thought that Wonder Woman was pretty good. I had a few problems with it, that were probably as much about the hype surrounding the movie as they were about the movie itself. Instead of bogging down this write-up with those issues, I posted them separately.
It’s easy to say that this is the best movie in the DCEU so far, but that’s not a very high bar to hit. In a lot of ways, it feels like this movie learned from a lot of the different mistakes or complaints about its predecessors. The movie is hopeful (almost to a fault), it’s bright and beautiful at moments, and it delivers some levity. Granted, it does still end in the same beam and explosion covered battle that seems to be the standard third act for a superhero movie now. Even so, it manages to deliver a touching moment in the middle of it with Steve’s sacrifice and Diana hearing (or imagining?) his last words.
There’s a lot to like about this movie. I have to start by saying that I loved the Amazons action sequence. We don’t really get enough of them for me to get into them as characters, but they’re cool enough that I thought to myself, “well this could be a whole movie by itself”. The team behind the movie and the ladies playing the Amazons put a lot of work into this aspect of the movie and it really paid off.
We got a little bit more of the band of soldiers that they put together, but only enough for them to be representations of a certain aspect of what it was like to be in the war. We had one with PTSD, one who was dealing with crushed dreams due to racial profiling and one who…well, he was apparently actually the demi-god Napi. They were really only there to present Diana with very clear examples of different aspects of humanity, and they served that role adequately.
I was also a fan of Chris Pine and Gal Gadot’s chemistry in this movie. When I heard the casting, I was kind of just thinking that it made sense because they’re both the kinds of people you cast when you need “beautiful people” on screen. But they’re interactions were a lot more than that. They did a great job at playing the very delicate balance of two people with conflicting world views and different strengths who were still supposed to be equals and romantically involved despite representing a relationship dynamic that we don’t usually see in movies and TV. Their interaction is really what drives the entire movie.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the music. I love the Wonder Woman theme music. I loved it when they played it in Batman v. Superman, I loved it when they played it in the previews, and I loved it in the movie. That music covers over a multitude of sins. It can make almost any action scene give you goose-bumps, no matter how rehashed or silly it seems.
Of course, this isn’t a perfect movie. Most of the problems are relegated to the final act. The reveal of Ares is kind of weak as is his actual physical representation. As I mentioned earlier, the actual fight between Ares and Diana is really just the same uninspired thing we’ve seen before with lots of floating around and talking while occasionally throwing beams or objects at each other. It’s special effects heavy and cut so that the characters don’t actually have to interact very much physically. Then, the fight ends with some very bizarre imagery of Diana looking off into the distance as German soldiers hug behind her suggesting, I believe, that she just ended WWI? It’s not really clear, and if that’s the conclusion we’re supposed to draw, that’s just silly.
Whatever the ending means, it’s ultimately unimportant to the overall story and the rest of the movie is more than strong enough to make up for it. The entire thing is just a flashback for Diana after all. She remembers her inspiration to help humanity as she and the DCEU prepare to move forward into the Justice League movie.
Wonder Woman (2017)
- Gadot and Pine have a great chemistry that shines through
- Diverse casting and an interesting attempt at showing different facets of the period
- I love the depiction of the Amazons and Themyscira
- I love the Wonder Woman theme, and it covers over many sins
- Because the movie is an origin story, we get a hero that's
- The 3rd act falls back onto some too-familiar super battle tropes