Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, this film was originally supposed to be released in the summer of 2020, which would have occurred a month before the Tokyo Olympics and probably would have still been playing in theaters when the Tokyo Olympics were happening. I mention this because the opening scene of this film features what could feel like an Olympic games event, such as a triathlon competition. I’m not sure if director and co-writer Patty Jenkins had that in mind when she crafted this sequence, but culturally speaking, it would have been a great connection. Otherwise, I’m not convinced that the opening sequence was all together necessary. It felt like an excuse to get Robin Wright back. It’s also an excuse to see women being amazing athletes and warriors, but that opening sequence barely connects with anything else in the film.
Three years ago, I dubbed Wonder Woman (2017) one of the best films of that year and it became for me one of the best comic book or superhero films of all time, ranking in the Top 5. Of all the scheduled films for 2020, this one was probably my most anticipated, which is why I went to a theater to see it. I wanted to know if Jenkins and company could capture that same magic, that same lightning-in-a-bottle that they captured before, and ostensibly I think they did. This film is a thrilling, engaging, funny, smart and compassionate blockbuster. There are some issues that have been raised. None of those issues took me out of the film. One in particular though gave me pause after watching the film, which I’ll address, but, in general I enjoyed this film.
Gal Gadot (Justice League and Fast & Furious) reprises her role of Diana Prince, an Amazonian warrior with god-like powers who has dedicated her life to trying to help mankind. She was born almost 100 years ago and decided to help mankind after World War I broke out. She doesn’t age, so she’s probably had to move around and not have a lot of personal relationships because she mostly wants to hide her super-powered identity. Currently though, she lives in Washington, D.C., and works at the Smithsonian Institute. She studies historical artifacts and her lonely and isolated life changes when she discovers a Roman artifact that can grant wishes.
Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids and Despicable Me) stars as Barbara Minerva, a scientist that works along side Diana at the Smithsonian. She too is living a lonely and isolated life, though not by choice. She’s the stereotypical nerdy or geeky girl who most people ignore. She’s socially awkward, but she can be quite personable and funny. She also has a caring heart. She helps the homeless, for example. However, she is able to connect with Diana as they recognize they have a kinship in their common experiences.
I liked the friendship between Diana and Barbara. It was actually a surprise. It was nice to see the two women relate to each other and laugh together. It was also interesting to see the two of them envy each other or find things in each other that each wish they had. Diana wishes she could have Barbara’s humor and openness. Barbara wishes that she could have Diana’s strength and beauty. Yet, it doesn’t make them stay away from each other. It brings them together and makes them bond. However, when magic grants their wishes and make real or literal what they wished, that forces them to reckon with these feelings they had. It then becomes a monkey’s paw situation where they and others have to determine if these wishes are exactly what they want. It forces them and us to examine if our desires are really what are good for us or if they come at a price, is that price worth it?
Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian and Narcos) co-stars as Maxwell Lord, a man who runs an oil company that has gotten a lot of investors to give him money to start digging on land all over the country and world, searching for lucrative fossil fuel. He has become a bit of a TV personality with a popular commercial. He is super charming and knows how to be seductive whether to women or men. He’s on the opposite spectrum of believing that people should get what they wish. He believes in giving in to those desires, no matter the price or consequence. Yet, for him, it’s all just a con. He’s in effect a con man where he just wants his wishes to be granted, as he gains power and influence. He’s basically playing Jafar from Aladdin (1992), but if Jafar was a single father desperate to win his son’s pride.
Chris Pine (Hell or High Water and Star Trek) also reprises his role of Steve Trevor, a pilot who flew in World War I. He became Diana’s love interest after she rescued him following his plane crash. His character is basically transported nearly 70 years into the future, almost Quantum Leap style. Other than being the loving and sexy guy for Diana to have as her partner, he brings the comic relief. He’s amazed and confused by the future whether it’s the technology or the fashion, and it’s funny to see him be amazed or confused, which Pine performs very well. There’s a problematic aspect to his character’s return that isn’t addressed. I will address it down below, but I ultimately liked having Pine’s character back.
He’s also still fairly useful in the action sequences. Steve is a pilot, a man who loves to fly. I feel like if nothing else, his presence is to pass along that love to Diana. When it comes to the depiction of Wonder Woman in the comics or cartoons or even the TV series with Lynda Carter, the question of her being able to fly has been a question. Can she fly on her own or does she use some kind of technology, such as the iconic invisible jet? This film incorporates and bridges those ideas to answer the question in a fun and exhilarating way. In the previous film, Wonder Woman’s key instrument was her shield. As such, some compared her to Captain America. Here, her key instrument is her lasso and with the way she uses it, some might compare her to Spider-Man.
What’s great is that when you have a god-like character like Diana, how do you make action sequences have any stakes? The first film had the privilege of being an origin story where Diana was still discovering her abilities and not sure of the breadth of her powers. She wasn’t fully formed. Here, she is, so she shouldn’t have too many problems, given the villains here. Yet, the film comes up with a clever way to make her not god-like and make her more vulnerable and more human. I was shocked in a scene where she’s badly injured and even bleeding. It also sets up the fact that despite needing her super-powers, it’s not her super-powers that’s needed to win the ultimate conflict. It’s her compassion, her love and her dedication to the truth. Given that Pascal’s character could be seen as a Donald Trump-like character, that could in itself be a pointed theme for 2020.
Spoiler alert! Spoiler alert! Spoiler alert!
Diana wishes for Steve Trevor to come back to life and he does, but the way he does so is by inhabiting the body of a man who already exists in the 80’s. This man is portrayed by Kristoffer Polaha who is simply credited as “Handsome Man.” The reason this is problematic is because this man’s body is inhabited by Steve and his life is therefore disrupted, which is a wrinkle that isn’t ever addressed in the film. The time frame of this film is only a couple of days, so this man’s body is essentially kidnapped for not a long period of time, but still. What makes it even more problematic is that it’s implied that Diana and “Steve” had sex, which makes it arguable that Diana basically raped this man because his body was used to have sex without his consent or maybe Steve is the rapist too in this scenario. This film obviously doesn’t want to think about those issues, but it’s inexplicable as to why this choice to have Steve inhabit this guy’s body was even made. Yet, given the comparison I made to Quantum Leap, does that mean that the protagonist in that series was a rapist? Logically, if I think that about this situation, then the answer would have to be yes. I have to say that I didn’t think about these things as I watched the film. I was instead engaged by other aspects that made me enjoy the film overall. Yet, it’s a bit of an icky thing.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 31 mins.
Available in theaters and HBO Max.