[Like the "10 for 10" series but a little longer. It's my endeavor to clean the backlog slate (with some things watched well over a year ago now) this month with 20 reviews written in 20 minutes (each) over 20 days. My backlog is vast and my memory is shit, we'll see how it goes. This is is a bit easier, since I saw it twice. Also, think I'll probably be clearing out all the superhero things from my backlog first, since that's what I enjoy writing about the most.]
Thus far the DC Cinematic Universe has been woefully disappointing. Man of Steel. Batman v Superman. Suicide Squad. The 2011 false start that was Green Lantern. Not a real solid movie amongst them. All troubled and thoroughly flawed with moments - sure - little glimmers of what might have been or what could be, but overall just grimdark brooding overproduced underwhelming disappointments.
Wonder Woman, which you know by now was a resounding smash hit, wasn't just a necessity for the DCEU, it was necessary for fans of the DC characters who wanted to see them treated right on screen. It was a necessity for female superhero characters to show that they could hold a film of their own (as if even long-running series like Underworld or Resident Evil didn't already prove such a thing). It was necessary for a female director to produce a top-tier superhero/action movie. It was necessary because it was a good-if-not-great superhero film about what it means to be a hero and to sacrifice for the greater good. It's not just fighting and not just cool set pieces, though it has those two.
Wonder Woman, above all, is an engaging, charming movie, with an immensely likeable cast, a thoroughly engaging plot, and set in a context that actually has meaning to the audience, and not just the characters. I've often said superheroes are best done in period pieces. It gives the audience a frame of reference within which to put themselves, to detach from the present day and give into the fantasy of the film. I guess that's why it's disappointing that the film opens some time shortly after Batman v Superman as a wholly unnecessary framing sequence. It's the edict of the studio for sure that it needs to somehow tie into the larger DCEU, but it seems utterly forced.
Getting past the framing sequence, we enter into Themyscira, aka Paradise Island... home to the immortal Amazonian warriors, where we encounter Diana as a child, the first and only child of the island. She is precious to Queen Hyppolita, kept safe and sheltered, but Diana sees the fire, fury, nobility, bravery, and strength of her sisters and wants nothing more than to be just like them. After a montage passing through the years of secret training, she is the best of them. Then a plane finds its way through the Islands magical cloak, bringing the first outsider from man's world to their shores. Steve Trevor, he is just a man, but not an ordinary man. He brings with him war, as a ship full of Germans are on his tail and there's a spectacular beach-front battle sequence showcasing just how incredible the Amazon warriors are in battle. The Germans, despite advanced weaponry, had no real hope of winning that battle. But still, the losses are bitter wounds in their victory.
Steve tells them of war in the man's world. Diana is convinced that it's Ares of legend, the God of War returned to wield his influence on man, and it's Diana's sole mission to fight him. Hyppolita knows it to be true, but rejects it for her own selfishness and disdain for the world of man. But she cannot deny her daughter her destiny.
What could have been a groan-inducing fish-out-of-water scenario, Diana's venture into man's world sees her charging head first. Naive, sure, but confident, and assured. She advances quickly, makes her presence known, and doesn't shy away from her opinion. What she's not used to is man, especially the men of the 1910s who don't see women as equals (nevermind superiors) and are unwilling to listen to them. Even Steve Trevor who very quickly learned to respect the capability of women after seeing the battlefront, still has a hard time stowing his chivalry and letting Diana take the lead.
The film does end in a bit of a messy special effects climax, but it's rather a quick one, thankfully. It's that revels in the journey so the destination is more or less an inevitability and not the real highlight. Diana turning the tide of battle, stepping out onto a vicious battlefield, drawing all the fire, is one of the most spectacularly rousing sequences ever put to film. The sheer glory of bravery and confidence, of fearlessness and sacrifice, courage and honor... Gal Gadot powerfully struts and even more powerfully forces her way across the frontline in a hail of machine gun fire. It gave me butterflies and brought a tear to my eye. Finally, she's here, done right. Justice.