In the on-going competition between Marvel Comics and DC Comics, the latter has struggled keeping pace with their movies this century, but this summer they scored a victory with Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, their first consensus success of the DC Extended Universe and the first from either company to feature a female hero as the lead. Although it sticks to the genre’s formula of concluding with a climatic battle between hero and villain and its obvious outcome, the viewer is invested because the good guys are compelling, thanks to the writing, and charming, thanks to the cast.
Opening in modern-day France, Diana/Wonder Woman receives the original photo that led her to inexplicably appear in Batman v Superman. The story then cuts back to Diana as a young girl and daughter of Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) on Themyscira, the island Zeus created with his dying breath and gave the Amazons to hide from Ares, the God of War, in case of his return. Zeus also gave them a weapon referred to as the Godkiller.
Hippolyta does not want Diana training to fight yet she and her Aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) do so in secret. Years go by and Diana (Gal Gadot) is now a young woman though the other Amazons don’t seem to have aged. A plane crashes off the coast. Diana jumps into the ocean and saves the pilot, American spy Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). He is being pursued by German soldiers close behind, which leads to a battle that the Germans lose. Learning that what the mortals call “World War I” is in full swing, Diana sees it as Ares’ return and wants to find and defeat him.
Returning to London so Steve can report on the chemical weapons the Germans are building, Diana fails to understand the way the society of that era works, such as women not being allowed in certain rooms or generals willing to allow soldiers to die. She is not just a modern women but an ideal person and a hero. An armistice is being negotiated with the Kaiser, so the generals aren’t concerned by Steve’s news and prefer to focus on the negotiations. Steve, Diana, and a trio of mercenaries surreptitiously head to destroy the weapons depot with Diana intending to find and kill Ares, which is the wise choice as General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) intends to veto the peace and win the war in a deadly manner.
The best sequence of the movie is Diana ignoring the dangers of No Man’s Land when she learns of people enslaved behind enemy lines. Although told it’s impossible, she leads an assault and frees a city. It’s an inspirational moment that is slightly undercut when later revealed how powerful she is. Unlike everyone else, she isn’t at risk of dying and not just because the character is already slated for Justice League. This undercuts her heroism unlike her human partners whose lives are constantly at risk.
Setting aside some minor quibbles about the story and actions scenes that are Synderesque, Wonder Woman is entertaining, uplifting, and empowering. Diana follows her head and her heart and isn’t grim like other heroes. Gadot gives a very performance and will be a very good steward of the character. Pine gives the best performance of his career as Steve Rogers, and although the DCEU seems to setting its next films in the modern era, I would be fine if they told more war stories with him and his team. The script is above average for the genre and contains some surprise twists even though the ending is predetermined. It’s also good to have a women kick ass and not need saving.
The video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer set an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The colors shine in vibrant hues. There are lush greens and rich blues on and around Themyscira, and the white cliffs are accurate. Wartime London has teal sheen that skews everything on city streets. The blacks are inky. There is apparent film grain and fine texture seen on objects throughout.
The audio is available in Dolby TrueHD 7.1. Dialogue is clear, except when intentionally obscured. Rupert Gregson-Williams’ score fill the surrounds and the effects makes great use of the soundfield in terms of placement and movement across channels. The bass is strong but too often distorts and rattles the speakers, such as when Diana trains and when bombs go off during No Man’s Land. Otherwise, a pleasing track.
The Special Features, all in HD, include:
- Epilogue: Etta’s Mission (3 min) – Etta gets Steve’s team back together in a little snippet that seems like it should have been a post-credits scene with a little tease thrown in for the hardcore fans.
- Crafting the Wonder (16 min) – An overview of bringing the character to the big screen by those involved.
- A Director’s Vision (25 min) – Jenkins takes viewers through her approach to five components: Themyscira: The Hidden Island; Beach Battle; A Photograph Through Time; Diana in the Modern World; and Wonder Woman at War. It could have used a Play-All option.
- Warriors of Wonder Woman (10 min) – The training the actresses underwent.
- The Trinity (16 min) – An overview of DC’s Big Three heroes with lots of comic panels.
- The Wonder Behind the Camera (16 min) – Talk about the unusual amount of women who worked on the crew and a group of young women who visited the set.
- Finding the Wonder Woman Within (23 min) – Talk about empowerment and being better people.
- Five Extended Scenes (9 min) – They add so little it’s easy to see why they were cut.
- Alternate Scene: Walk to No Man’s Land (1 min) – It’s so short, not sure why they bothered including it.
- Blooper Reel (HD, 6 min) – Mostly people laughing, nothing memorable.
Wonder Woman is a wonderful addition to one’s superhero/action movie library as it delivers on almost all fronts. It’s comforting to see DC/Warner Brothers right the ship and offers hope for future installments of the DCEU franchise. The Blu-ray is delivers a quality high-def presentation, aside from the overabundant bass. Recommended.