Ever since the fantastic Christopher Nolan-directed Batman trilogy, DC Comics seems to be struggling to get a quality representation of their characters on the big screen. While I enjoyed 2013's Man Of Steel, even the biggest defenders of the film would admit it had its flaws. And with the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the following Suicide Squad, DC and Warner Bros. have done anything but win over the faith (and trust) of their fans with increasingly more disappointing films. Still, despite many missteps along the way, there have been glimmers of hope. And the surprise casting of Israeli born actress Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was proved to indeed be a wise choice when she stole the scenes she appeared in in Batman v Superman. With the announcement that Monster director Patty Jenkins would helm a standalone Wonder Woman film, fan interest was piqued.
It seems like the perfect social climate today to see the release of a Wonder Woman film. In a time where people are calling for strong female role models, and women are leading marches in the name of womens' rights, Wonder Woman seems like the right superhero for the job. But, like with many extraordinary supheroes, she's a tough character to ground in a real world setting. The Marvel franchise has done a pretty good job of accomplishing this, while the DC films haven't really up until this point. It doesn't help Wonder Woman right out the gate either when it decidedly takes us back to Diana's origin on a paradise island hid from the rest of mankind by Greek god Zeus. But after a lengthy intro that soon shows the outside world infiltrating their secluded culture, Diana is whisked away to war-torn England to join the fight against the Germans in WWI. But serving as her anchor to the story is Chris Pine's excellent performance as a spy named Steve Trevor. Not only does he provide some extra charm and comic relief, but he helps usher Wonder Woman into our world. And while the finale is a bit gutsy in how Wonder Woman's involvement in the Great War is portrayed, she proves to be an admirable hero that you can easily fall in love with and want to have fighting by your side.
Marvel's Captain America: The First Avenger quickly won me over as a fan of the character (and even actor Chris Evans). I loved Steve Rogers' ideals and his dedication to justice and fighting against the bullies of the world. He also had a naivety and sense of innocence that was especially endearing. Wonder Woman is easily DC's Captain America. Not only is she a pure-of-heart hero thrust into the thick of battle, but here we have Wonder Woman fighting in World War I, while Cap fought in World War II. And while Cap had Peggy--also a soldier--Diana has Steve, and both serve as a romantic drive and inspiration for their ideals and pursuit of justice. Finally, while Cap had a ragtag team of soldiers fighting by his side--dubbed the Howling Commandos--Diana also has a similar team of misfit soldiers. The similarities do kind of end there (well, except for maybe a spoiler, which I won't touch on), but it is rather uncanny how similar the two stories are.
As good as Wonder Woman is as a superhero film, it's not entirely without some problems. At almost 2 and a half hours in length, it does feel a little long at times. The beginning especially feels slow-going, but once Steve enters her life, the story starts to pick up speed. I love a good, well-paced origin story, so Jenkins serves the story and the character well by taking her time telling it, but some may start to feel the running time before the film's end. I do have to give props to Jenkins for not dumbing down the male characters in the film in an effort to make Diana all that more powerful of a woman. She proves to be just as powerful of a force with strong male characters around her (Even Peggy in Captain America was a strong female character). However, the story has her coming into the male-dominated society and rightfully questioning how some things are done, but then she ends up being the quick-and-easy solution to some of these problems (thanks to her bravery and superpowers). It's a little awkward when we're dealing with real-life scenarios where real men fought for our country at great cost, and then a superhero comes in and somewhat undermines the situation and sacrifice by fixing the problem almost effortlessly. I honestly don't believe Jenkins or any of the filmmakers were trying to be disrespectful of the soldiers in WWI, but there's something about how it all plays out that makes me feel a little uneasy. I'm curious how repeat viewings might change my feeling on it, though.
The content for the film is surprisingly rough at times. Where no superhero movie these days is all that much for the faint of heart (or a young audience), there are some surprisingly intense moments in Wonder Woman. There isn't much by way of language - 3 uses of "hell" and 2 of "my G-d" - but the WWI violence can be a bit intense. One scene even shows a solder screaming with part of his leg shown missing (we see the bloody stump). We see other wounded soldiers, as well as lots of battle action on the frontlines. It's all in order to show the atrocities of war through Diana's eyes, but it's pretty weighty. Jenkins lets the emotion of these moments linger, too. There's also some sensuality brought about from the interactions between Diana and Steve. A lot of it is them stumbling over themselves conversationally, but one scene shows Steve getting out of a bath naked and the camera even pans back so we see him fully nude except for his hands cupping his crotch. There's also a scene where he goes to her room at night (and closes her door behind him) and they kiss passionately before the scene ends, leaving it up to the imagination if they went any further than that (but it's kind of implied that they did). In addition to those moments, there's an awkward conversation about sleeping together (to which Steve does say it's improper outside of marriage), and some other flirting between the two.
With Jenkins' feature-length take on Wonder Woman, we almost have a great revitalization of one of the most iconic superheroes of our time. As a role model for young women, it's almost there, but considering that the story has Diana falling in love with literally the first man she's ever seen and implies that they sleep together soon after meeting, Wonder Woman still falls short. As a superhero movie, it's otherwise a solid film and hopefully a sign that the tides are turning for DC's cinematic universe.
- John DiBiase (reviewed: 6/3/17)
Blu-Ray Special Features Review
Wonder Woman is available in a 3D Blu-Ray/2-Disc 2D Blu-Ray/Digtial combo pack, a Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital combo pack, 2-disc DVD, and a 4K Ultra HD release with a Blu-Ray disc and digital copy, as well as separately through the usual digital movie providers. We're reviewing the 3D combo pack, which includes the 3D movie on one disc and a 2D Blu-Ray disc with the following features:
Wonder Woman 3D - I've found that 3D can be rather hit and miss, with some movies having great 3D presentations and others not being all that memorable at all in this format. Wonder Woman certainly isn't bad in three dimensions, but I'd probably say the 3D for this film isn't among the best. Still, I do find the added depth in 3D to be pretty good, so I would still recommend this title in 3D; it's just probably not going to "wow" you.
Epilogue: Etta's Mission (2:41) - This is a bonus scene that ultimately could have played as a post-credits scene, where Steve's secretary Etta meets with the boys (from their mission with Diana) at the bar to recruit them. It takes place soon after the events of the film, and gives Etta a chance to fight a guy in the bar. It's not a necessary sequence, but it's a fun little bonus.
Crafting the Wonder (16:26) - Gal Gadot talks about the role of Diana and Wonder Woman, and getting to play the character. Director Patty Jenkins talks about the film's design, honoring the character, and having been a fan of the character since childhood. This segment also covers armor and costume design, sets, props, and Patty's take on Wonder Woman.
A Director's Vision:
Themyscira: The Hidden Island (4:56) - "A Director's Vision" is separated into five parts, starting with a featurette about the mystical island that the Amazons originate from. It addresses the comics being used for reference, how they designed it with a Greek styling, and how some of it was shot on location in Italy.
Beach Battle (4:56) talks about how the pivotal action sequence set in Themyscira, and how it's shown through Diana's point of view. Patty also reveals how much went into filming the elaborate sequence, utilizing a second unit director for much of the action and slow motion moments.
A Photograph Through Time (5:07) - Because Wonder Woman debuts in 1917, it makes her the first superhero in history. For the crucial photo of Diana with her team set in 1917, they actually took the photo using old technology from that time. We learn here that they took the photo before production on Wonder Woman had begun and while Zack Snyder was working on Batman v Superman (which also featured Wonder Woman). They then restaged that scene for this film. It's fun to also learn that they snuck in crew and Zack into the background of the photo.
Diana in the Modern World (4:39) is about when the character visits London for the first time, and addresses some of the locations used in the movie. (1 "h*ll")
Wonder Woman at War (5:03) is all about the incredible scene at No Man's Land where Diana attacks the enemy's trenches. We see some really cool footage of multiple takes of Gal acting in the war scenes. It was surprising to learn that she had to film her scenes in winter... in her skimpy Wonder Woman outfit, but she was a real trooper through the grueling process!
Warriors of Wonder Woman (9:53) is dedicated to the women who played the other Amazons and the rigorous training they had to endure. We learn here that some of them are athletes in real life -- and one of them is even a police officer in South Wales!
The Trinity (16:05) - Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman make up the "trinity" in the DC Comics world (not in a spiritual sense). They talk here about how Wonder Woman relates to Batman and Superman and who she is as a character. (2 "bad *ss")
The Wonder Behind the Camera (15:34) is focused more on Patty Jenkins as a person and director and a fan of Wonder Woman. This segment also takes a closer look at what it's like to be a woman working in Hollywood. Some female aspiring filmmakers visited the Wonder Woman set during production and they talk about that a bit here, too.
Finding the Wonder Woman within (23:03) - This featurette celebrates the "wonder," "grace," "courage," and "wisdom" themes of Wonder Woman and how it relates to women in real life. This is all about equality and women, and women empowerment. It's kind of odd, though, featuring interludes with some awkward spoken word moments.
Extended Scenes - There are five extended scenes with no Play All option. The first, "Boat Conversation" (3:37), is an alternate/extended scene with Steve and Diana talking more about the war and includes some dialog that was used later in the scene in a different take. (1 "oh my G-d") In "Selfridges Shopping" (2:07), Diana is shown a coat with a dead fox head and then we see more of her accidentally breaking and ripping things she tries on. "Parliament Steps" (1:13) is just a little bit longer, showing Steve and Diana as they leave Parliament. "Morning at the Train Station" (1:13) shows Charlie stealing a drink from someone, while Diana watches some children as they leave on the train. Oddly enough, it cuts out the dialog where she tells the ice cream vendor that he should be "very proud." "Charlie Never Sleeps" (0:54) shows him volunteering to take first watch at night... and then falling asleep.
Alternate Scene: Walk to No Man's Land (1:04) shows Diana, Steve and their team walking on a street where The Chief tells her to stay behind them because of landmines in the road.
Blooper Reel (5:37) - This is a funny and enjoyable collection of mess-ups and mistakes on set, as well as the actors just goofing off. There are several instances of bleeped-out language, as well as one uncensored "J-sus Chr-st."
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 9/13/17)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: As Diana is told about her history, we see renaissance paintings of people fighting, with some of them having bare butts and other minor nudity; We see Steve sitting in a natural spring type bath. When he stands up to get out, Diana walks in and it's obvious he's naked from us seeing both of their reactions. He acts a bit embarrassed and she asks if he's an average example of a man and he says he's above average. She then asks him, "What is that?!" to which he looks down at his privates (off screen) before he looks over and realizes she means a watch he has laying off to the side. The camera then pans back as he steps out of the pool and we see him completely naked except for his hands covering his privates. He then dresses in front of her; Once they set sail for civilization on a boat, Diana questions why Steve is making a place for her to sleep by herself. Steve then stumbles over his words as he tries to explain he doesn't want to sleep with her (and then stammers about sleeping with women in a sexual manner), and he eventually joins her to just innocently lie next to her. They then talk about her studies of pleasure and she mentions that in her studies, it was decided that men aren't needed for it; Steve walks Diana to her room and he looks romantically at her. He motions to leave but then closes the door behind him and kisses her. The scene ends there, so it's not clear if they slept together or not (but it's kind of implied that they do); After seeing Diana fight in a bar, a man says he's "really frightened but also kind of aroused."
Vulgarity/Language: 3 "h*ll," 1 "My G-d," 1 "Oh my G-d"
Alcohol/Drugs: Steve drinks with his buddies in a bar; People drink in celebration after a fight, some of the soldiers drink beer around a campfire; The villain inhales a drug that makes him stronger.
Blood/Gore: We see some soldiers tending to a wounded man whose leg is missing below the knee, revealing a bloody stump; We see a bloody cut on Diana's arm, which later has healed when her bandage is removed; A woman has a mask over part of her face throughout the film, hiding a wound. Later, we see it blow away, revealing a deep, black scar and scarred flesh.
Violence: Lots of action violence and some war violence; We see several scenes of Diana training with the Amazons on their island. At one point, Diana crosses her wrists in defense of a training blow and it sends her trainer a great distance backwards; We see a plane crash in the ocean with a man trapped inside as it sinks. Diana dives in to rescue him; Soldiers attack the island and a great battle breaks out where the soldiers shoot the Amazons with guns and the Amazons return fire with arrows and attack with swords, slashing and stabbing the soldiers in defense. There's quite a bit of killing in this sequence; We see an evil doctor fill a room full of gas with a man wearing a gas mask. They then struggle and appear to die; We see a box with a gas mask being tested with another gas and it eats away at the mask; A gas bomb is thrown into a room of victims who all die off screen; Diana fights some thugs in a back alley. They shoot at her and she blocks the bullets with her wrist guards; We see a lot of injured soldiers on a battlefield, including one missing the lower half of his leg. We also see women and children crying - all of which inspire Diana to act; After Steve explains "No Man's Land" to Diana and how anyone who tries to cross it die, she decides to act, walking right across the field with just a sword and shield. They concentrate their fire on her, which she largely deflects with her shield, and the good guys rush across the field, shooting and killing Germans in their trenches; Ludendorff shoots one of his men in the face just off screen; Diana fights some men in a bar; Diana leaps through the air and into a room full of soldiers, beating up and defeating all of them; Diana fights a man with super strength, but she ends up besting him and running her sword through him (we see it sticking through the floor in a room under where she kills him); There's a big battle between Diana and a man with superpowers, with flames, lightning and lots of destruction; A character flies a plane full of bombs into the air and shoots the gas inside the plane, blowing it all up, including himself. Diana reacts in anguish at seeing this and goes into a fit of rage, fighting the super villain; And lots of other action violence.
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.