No one can compare to Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman stands perfectly well on her own, and her leaping into the horizon is an image that will stick out in everyone’s minds for quite a while. (Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in the 2017 movie.)

No one can compare to Wonder Woman
Mirava M. Yuson (The Philippine Star) - June 10, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines - Since day one of production, Hollywood’s Wonder Woman has had a heavy cross to bear. She’s been reduced to a pawn in the long-running DC vs. Marvel feud, with many swearing she only had a sliver of a chance at success due to the mixed reception for the two predecessors in her universe (Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad). She’s been lumped in with the other summer blockbusters as yet another addition to a sea of comic book movies — of which six are coming out this year alone — amidst growing sentiments of genre saturation. Furthermore, she has been bestowed the not-so-accurate title of “First Female-led Superhero movie” (Elektra and Catwoman, anyone?), and the fate of future female-led movies seemed to hinge on her movie’s success. She’s been burdened with endless competition and comparison. Wonder Woman can only be better than or worse than; it is not allowed to simply be. While the hype was there, many preconceived notions regarding the movie may have already been colored by one’s viewpoints regarding the following: her shared universe, our universe, the Warner Brothers studio, your political viewpoint, your stand on certain social issues.

Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. The very foundation of the character has been built on representing certain values. After all, her creator, William Moulton Marston — a Harvard psychologist who invented the polygraph machine — intended her as a feminist symbol from the beginning. She was meant to embody the traditionally female qualities of love and empathy, while retaining Superman’s strength and fierceness in battle, showing that one did not have to act like a male in order to be considered as powerful as one.

But even without history or context — what is the verdict on Wonder Woman the film, regardless of genre, box office projections, Rotten Tomatoes score, political climate, or the state of its cinematic universe? Basically, Wonder Woman is a genuinely great movie.

A thrilling coming-of-age story that seamlessly shifts from a fantasy epic to a grounded war story and concludes as a respectable action flick, the film opens with a shot of the Louvre. After getting a few references to her previous movie (Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice) out of the way, present-day Diana (Gal Gadot) reminisces — a black and white photograph gives way to the vivid and colorful Themyscira, where her story begins. This island houses the Amazonians, of which Diana is the youngest and least experienced. Women wearing gold ride around on horses and train endlessly, but it’s a breath of fresh air that the gratuitous slow-mo shots are not of their busty armor but of their roundhouse kicks.

But the story can’t just be about another day in paradise, even though the intricacies of Amazonian culture and politics are compelling enough to deserve their own movie. A spy for the British forces, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), stumbles onto their perfect island and Diana, spurred onward by the desire to end conflict and suffering, decides to accompany him as he rejoins the fray of World War I. Funny bits are sprinkled in as they embark on their journey together, mostly concerning Diana’s earnestness and naivete about the real world. Charmingly enough, the humor works because Diana/Wonder Woman gets to display a full spectrum of emotions and comes across as well rounded. Indeed, when the movie gets loud amid ricochets and punches, it gets loud. But it’s not afraid to be quiet, and the quieter scenes are just as powerful for Diana as the ones where she kicks ass.

One particular scene that emphasizes the character-driven nature of the film shows Diana about to leave Themyscira after an argument with her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), who catches her in the act. Diana watches her approach, but rather than trying to take off as fast as possible, she stands and waits. They have one final talk as mother and daughter, and it’s civil, almost business-like. But both have tears in their eyes as their previous conflict is silently resolved.

Act Two is a war film. And it manages to leave your suspension of disbelief intact, because yes, Diana spends the majority of the movie deflecting bullets off her bracelets. But the carnage of fighting on the WWI front lines is not underplayed. As if uttering the word “war” a hundred times throughout the movie wasn’t enough, the visuals hammer home that bleakness. There are a lot of dying and bleeding people (well, as much as the PG rating allows), and Diana learns she can’t help everyone who is suffering. But her helplessness gives way to anger, and serves as a wonderful lead-up to a jaw-dropping fight scene set in a “no man’s land” battlefield. Her arsenal of weapons makes for imaginative action scenes that have her shifting easily between her sword and shield, lasso and bracelets.

From that point on, the movie goes entirely action-flick and seems less polished. This is partly due to the cartoonish nature of villains General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya). The final battle is a no-holds-barred beatdown that is marred by some questionable CGI choices. But what remains consistent throughout is Gal Gadot adroitly walking the line between endearing and intimidating. She shows that Wonder Woman, still at the primordial stage of her superhero career, is far from perfect. She is inconsolable when upset, and prone to making poor spur-of-the-moment decisions. But she can give speeches about the power of love with a straight face and not have it compromise the movie’s unforgiving tone. She can charge into a war zone without fear, an act that triggers hordes of soldiers to do the same, and rather than become ridiculous, it’s an awesome, genuinely inspiring scene.

So whether you like the Lasso of Truth because it’s cooler than Thor’s hammer, or because it would be a godsend in the fight against fake news, Wonder Woman stands perfectly well on her own, and her leaping into the horizon is an image that will stick out in everyone’s minds for quite a while.

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