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Wonder Woman ••••1/2

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright
Director: Patty Jenkins
Screenplay: Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder
Action/Adventure/Fantasy, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 141 minutes
Release Date: June 2, 2017



(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

No more wondering when we’ll review Wonder Woman. It’s now, Greg.

She’s a wonder, that Wonder Woman. Let’s recap:

In the present day, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) receives a photo of her taken 100 years earlier during World War I. We then flash back to her childhood on the island of Themyscira, where young Diana yearns to become an Amazon warrior but is discouraged by her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). We learn that Ares, the god of war, corrupted all of humanity and killed all the gods including his father Zeus. The Amazons were left with one weapon able to destroy Ares if he ever returned.

Then, one day, a plane flies into the waters off Themyscira. Diana, now grown, jumps into the water and saves American pilot and WWI spy Capt. Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). But he was followed by Germany’s navy. The Germans attack Themyscira and the Amazons defend their turf, but at a high cost. Diana’s Antiope (Robin Wright) was killed along with a score of other fierce Amazon warriors.

Queen Hippolyta interrogates Trevor using the magic golden lasso of truth. He tells her that the war has consumed the world and the Germans are planning an all-out attack that will kill millions and destroy any chance at armistice. Diana is convinced that Ares is behind this world war. She makes a plan to take Trevor back to London and go to the front to destroy Ares and restore the world to peace.

Greg, DC Films has done it. The movie studio with an uneven track record has produced a fabulous Wonder Woman film that succeeds wildly on several different levels. Let’s begin with aesthetics. The fight scenes in Wonder Woman are as good as we’ve ever seen in the movies, a couple of levels beyond The Matrix and countless action films since then. The look and feel of this film really has no precedent, with the dynamic artistry and physicality of Wonder Woman leaving me dazzled and wanting more.

There is much, much more to commend this movie. Gal Gadot delivers a superb performance in a film saturated with strong female heroes along with a wickedly memorable woman villain in Dr. Poison. Going into the film I was concerned that the character of Wonder Woman would be relegated to the role of a hyper-masculinized ass-kicker. Yes, we do see the ass-kicking side of our hero but the filmmakers here wisely endow her with compassion and a gentle wisdom, too. This androgynous balance is often sadly lacking in male heroes and it bestowed Wonder Woman with refreshing depth and appeal.

So very close, Scott. But not quite. Wonder Woman is by far the best of the new DC Extended Universe movies. Like the other films in this series the special effects and acting are superb. However, previous films (Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad) offered flimsy, dare I say, terrible, storylines. Wonder Woman’s script was much better than its predecessors.

But there are still problems with this film. First, let me say that “origin story” films always suffer from front-loading the backstory of the hero and so often give short shrift to the hero-villain story. WW does particularly well here – balancing Diana Prince’s life on Themyscira with her main goal of destroying Ares in “the real world.”

But the story gets a bit muddled and rushed as the end draws near. Wonder Woman kills the “Big Bad” – German General Ludendorf (Danny Huston) – only to find that he is not Ares, but an ordinary man. Ares is, however, British Sir Patrick (David Thewlis) in disguise. This realization is followed by a flashy CGI battle between her and this new Big Bad. It raises a lot of questions about why Sir Patrick sent her and Steve Trevor to the front to begin with. And Wonder Woman’s proclamation that “I don’t believe in war, I believe in love” is not just corny, but was not part of the theme of the entire movie. It was a confusing and anticlimactic ending.

Much of Wonder Woman’s success derives from its effective use of deep archetypes to which we all resonate. For example, Diana Prince has a secret identity known only to the elders of the Amazon society, and it is an identity she must discover on her own. The “search for self” is a classic story theme in literatures throughout the world, and the hidden identity motif is seen in stories from The Ugly Duckling to Cinderella. All heroes, it seems, possess an inner greatness, a royal heritage, and a secret power that beg for discovery. Discovering our divine birthright is the classic basis for all heroic transformation.

A central compelling element of Wonder Woman is the coming-of-age story of Diana Prince. She starts out innocent and naive about the world, and her mother makes a telling comment that Diana’s naivete may in fact protect her from Ares. Yet the simplicity of Diana’s worldview belies a wisdom in her that Chris Pine’s character Trevor underestimates. It is jarring for Diana, who is so empowered by her Amazon upbringing, to witness the oppression of women in the early 20th century, and she recognizes that only love can save women, and the world, from the influence of corrupt gods such as Ares. Diane experiences the epiphany that “there is so much more” to people than the evil she’s seen, recognizing that Ares’ destructive influence can be countered by love. To his credit, Trevor helps her reach this insight.

To me, there is nothing corny about the take-home message of love, especially in light of the incessant acts of terrorism and violence that plague our contemporary world. Diana Prince realizes that one cannot fight evil by performing similar retaliatory acts of evil. The only solution to war is love, and at the end of the film she makes it her life’s mission to save the world through the use of her native sense of empowerment, her newly developed wisdom about human nature, and her compassion for all people. We’ll have to see how her mission plays out in future installments of Wonder Woman.

Very passionately said, Scott. I don’t have a problem with love as a solution to war. Except that nothing in this film drew Diana Prince to this conclusion. It’s a throwaway line that was meant to be dramatic but falls flat for me because Diana never had a problem with love v. war in the whole of this movie. It’s only at the end that she comes to this conclusion. It’s a nice premise that was not proven by the events of the film.

Wonder Woman (the movie) is a skillfully crafted film that incorporates great cinematography, acting, and choreography to deliver a visual feast. I was disappointed in the final act as the conclusion was not a natural result of the preceding events. Gal Gadot is the legitimate heir to the Wonder Woman crest. I give Wonder Woman 4 out of 5 Reels.

Wonder Woman (the character) is a great heroic entity. She embodies all the characteristics of an emerging hero. She’s moral, ethical, honest, and yet naive. She is naturally charismatic without being self-centered or egotistical. She’s confident and bold without being arrogant. I don’t think it’s possible to construct a more solid and powerful hero than this incarnation of Wonder Woman. I give her 5 out of 5 Heroes.

The transformations here are quite good. Diana is presented to us as a child with ambitions to be a warrior. Her mother opposes that goal but relents in the end. She is mentored by Antiope and grows to be the best of the Amazons. Then she leaves the nest of Themyscira where she has been safe and sound for the world of men. There she falls in love and loses her naivete when she loses Steve Trevor. Few stories have so much transformation for a single character. I award Wonder Woman 4 out of 5 Deltas.

Movie: Transformations: Heroes:

Wonder Woman is an artistic tour de force for DC Films and is not only one of the best films of 2017 but also a fabulous triumph for the woman superhero genre in film. In fact, Diana Prince’s heroism transcends gender. She is a hero and role model for both men and women, demonstrating an inspiring pattern of lifespan development that mirrors Joseph Campbell’s stages of the hero’s journey. Wonder Woman is a landmark cinematic achievement that easily deserve the full 5 Reels out of 5.

The character of Wonder Woman possesses a depth and complexity that we haven’t seen in the movies in a long time. She is naively innocent yet also profoundly wise; she shows great strength yet also warm tenderness; she grows as a person without losing the cherished values of her culture of origin. Wonder woman’s journey is arduous, illuminating, surprising, and ultimately inspiring. She no doubt deserves the full 5 Hero points out of 5.

This coming-of-age story of Diana Prince yielded an embarrassment of transformational riches. Our hero undergoes physical transformation from her aunt during training, and while on her mission with Trevor she acquires key insights about humanity and the genesis of evil in the hearts of men. This mental transformation also includes a discovery of her secret powers, her hidden ability to be the slayer of evil gods. It’s a beautifully crafted story of self discovery that merits the full 5 transformational Deltas out of 5.

Movie: Transformations: Heroes:

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