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Laramie Movie Scope: Wonder Woman

The best D.C. Comics superhero movie in decades

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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June 15, 2017 -- Marvel Studios have ruled the movies in terms of superhero movie popularity and quality ever since “Iron Man” in 2008, while Hollywood's recent attempts to recreate that success with D.C. Comic heroes have been inconsistent, at best (with the notable exception of Christopher Nolan's highly regarded Batman trilogy). There was a time when D.C. Comics' “Superman” (1978) ruled Hollywood way back in the 20th Century.

It's a new century, a new millenium, and D.C. superheroes have suddenly made a stunning comeback with “Wonder Woman.” It is not only a comeback for D.C. Comics, but an unprecedented triumph for women in the movies. When was the last time you heard of a blockbuster superhero movie starring a woman and directed by a woman? I'm thinking you never heard of such a thing because it simply did not exist until now. Strong, ambitious, powerful women tend not to be popular. There is a glass ceiling, and not just in politics.

However it came to pass, this film blasted right through the glass ceiling. Released on June 2, this film has already crossed the half billion dollar mark in box office sales worldwide. It is not only popular, this is a very well made movie, and a lot of other critics agree with me on this. I want to make a distinction between this film and a couple of other recent financially successful D.C. Comics-based films that were popular last year despite their less than stellar quality, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad.”

A lot of the success of this movie is because of the efforts of Gal Gadot (she played the character Gisele in three recent “Fast and Furious” movies) who plays the title character. She is basically a very skinny little supermodel type who did a lot of training and put on some muscle for this role. It helps that her character has magical strength and speed. That makes it easier to suspend one's disbelief, but she totally pulls off this role, giving her character strength, as well as naiveté and vulnerability.

Although this character was first introduced in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” this is the official “origin” story, which takes place years earlier, around 1918, during World War I. It appears that Wonder Woman does not age like ordinary humans do, since she is unchanged over decades of time. There is the usual grasshopper style combat training on Themyscira, island home to the Amazon warrior women. There we learn that Wonder Woman, whose name is Diana, has a mysterious genesis, and a unique destiny to become a protector of people against evil.

Against her mother's wishes, she trains to become a warrior, and then leaves Themyscira with a downed aviator spy, Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine of “Star Trek Beyond”) to join in fighting “The War to End All Wars.” Diana believes that the Greek God of War, Ares, is the one behind this war, but Trevor thinks the war is due to the evil nature of men. It turns out they are both right in their own way.

Diana and Trevor recruit a rag tag unit very similar to Captain America's “Howling Commandos” to go behind enemy lines to destroy a cache of poison gas. Diana learns a lot by observing this diverse band of men. There are an escalating series of battle scenes, concluding with an apocalyptic supernatural battle at the end. These are very well staged action sequences.

What really makes the film, however is Diana's spiritual journey. Coming from an isolated, simplistic society into the greater world, she discovers for herself the complex, diverse nature of people. The simple rules of good and evil she learned growing up in isolation are not applicable to World War I. She discovers that people have a huge capacity for evil, but also a huge capacity for courage, self-sacrifice, mercy, kindness and love. She discovers that people are capable of the most craven, power-hungry, murderous behavior, but are also capable of courageous nobility. This spiritual journey is one worth taking.

The acting, by Gadot, Pine and others in the film is very strong, as is Patty Jenkins' (“Monster”) direction, and the screenplay by Zac Snyder (“300”) Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs. To me, this film seems like an anomaly, and one not likely to be repeated in the near future, except by Marvel Studios, which has proven skill in exploiting the superhero genre. I think the filmmakers, against the odds, just happened to catch lightning in a bottle this time, but I hope I am wrong. I hope we will see more movies like this in the near future. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2017 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)