The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is the best female-driven superhero movie ever. Granted that's a low bar to clear, given that Catwoman and Elektra are pretty much the only other ones, but that in no way diminishes what the film accomplishes. It's a total treat -- exciting, fun, and stylish. The previous movies in the DC Extended Universe, the terrible Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the flawed Suicide Squad, were hurt by weak attempts to replicate what Marvel has done so well with its successful Cinematic Universe. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, wisely strives only to be a good Wonder Woman movie. It succeeds magnificently on that count.

The story takes place during the first World War. Gal Godot plays Diana, an Amazon princess who lives on a hidden island with other strong female warriors. She sees a man for the first time when an American spy, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), crash lands a plane right off that island. He informs Diana that a German officer named Ludendorff (Danny Huston) is working with a deranged chemist to develop a new poison gas that will be used to harm a lot of people. She believes that Ludendorff may be the personification of Ares, the God of War, who is also an old enemy of her people, so she grabs her sword, shield, and golden lasso and heads off with Steve to stop him.

Generally, superhero movies have male protagonists who develop special powers through one means or another, then are forced to use them to take on some enemy in a display of might. This film is a little different, in that the hero's motivation isn't I have these amazing abilities and now I get to assert my strength through battle. Diana acts out of a sense of moral responsibility. She sees the potential for death and destruction to innocent people, and realizes that her unique powers put her in a position to be able to prevent that. She feels the weight of knowing lives can be saved through the application of skills she has spent her whole life developing. The beautiful message of Wonder Woman is that attributes commonly associated with women – compassion, empathy, and protectiveness – are the most awesome superpowers of all.

That distinction makes the action scenes even more thrilling. One of the best finds Diana traversing a battlefield so that American troops can advance upon the Germans who keep holding them back with gunfire. Director Patty Jenkins (Monster) creatively stages big chunks of the movie's action in close-up. There are tight shots of Diana's face, registering her expressions of bravery and determination as she uses her bracelets to deflect bullets or prepares to aim her golden lasso. This helps to separate Wonder Woman from other films of its kind, which often look and feel similar, even when done well.

Of course, any great superhero movie needs a great lead. It was hard to tell how good Gal Godot would be as Wonder Woman from her supporting role in Batman v Superman. The film was such a mess that it didn't give her much room to shine. As it turns out, the actress is phenomenal, exuding charisma and kick-ass heroism, while also conveying the character's innate concern for others. She makes Diana a terrific role model for young female audience members. Chris Pine is excellent, too, creating warm chemistry with Godot and playing Steve as a stand-up guy who accepts (and is fine with) the fact that he's not Diana's equal.

The story could have used a more interesting villain, but beyond that, this is grade-A superhero entertainment. We're now at the point where we get at least three or four comic book-based movies every single year. It's nice to know one can still come along that feels fresh and surprising.

Wonder Woman is 141 minutes of pure joy.

( 1/2 out of four)

Blu-ray Features:

Wonder Woman will be released on 3D Blu-ray combo pack, Blu-ray combo pack, and DVD on Sept. 19. A complimentary copy of the Blu-ray was provided by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment for the purposes of this review.

The disc is chock full of bonus goodies that provide an extensive – and highly impressive – look at how much effort went into making this blockbuster hit. Undoubtedly, one of the most enticing extras for fans will be the inclusion of an additional scene. The epilogue, entitled “Etta's Mission,” finds Etta (played by Lucy Davis) gathering the boys together again to discuss a secret mission they will need to embark upon. Could this give us a clue about the plot of Wonder Woman 2? Perhaps. Revealing the scene's contents here seems unfair, so you'll just have to watch it for yourself.

From there, the disc moves on to a wide array of behind-the-scenes featurettes:

Crafting the Wonder - This is a 15-minute examination of the physical design of the movie. Among many intriguing tidbits is that director Patty Jenkins used the works of artist John Singer Sargent as an inspiration for the look she hoped to achieve. In particular, the lighting scheme was influenced by his paintings.

A Director's Vision - Five five-minute segments comprise this section. Jenkins talks about using the coast of Italy for Themysciera, emphasizing Diana's point of view during the beach battle, taking the old-school photograph that connects Wonder Woman to Batman vs. Superman, playing up the contrasts when Diana first encounters the modern world, and accomplishing the battlefield sequence.

Warriors of Wonder Woman - Surprisingly, this is one of the most fascinating extras. It doesn't focus on the stars or the production, but rather on the preparation a group of female supporting actors and background extras went through to play the Amazon women of Themysciera. We get to see the rigorous physical and fight training they participated in and how, in true Wonder Woman fashion, they supported each other in the process. This really makes you pay attention to something that it's easy to take for granted when watching the movie.

The Trinity - This segment features the filmmakers and various DC staffers/comic artists discussing Wonder Woman's legacy on the page, as well as her adaptation for the big screen.

The Wonder Behind the Camera - This one documents a set visit from a group of girls. Patty Jenkins was eager to inspire young women, and felt that inviting some of them to check out a day of shooting would be a great means of doing this.

Finding the Wonder Woman - A diverse group of poets and public figures testify to their love of Wonder Woman and the things this character represents. Among the interviewees are former White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers, actress/stuntwoman Zoe Bell, and race car driver Danica Patrick.

A group of extended scenes and a funny gag reel – featuring lots of takes where Chris Pine makes Gal Godot crack up – round out the disc.

The supplementary material presented here is excellent. Watching Wonder Woman is so much fun that it's easy to overlook how much detail and TLC went into even the smallest elements. These features make you take notice, and it's enthralling.

The Blu-ray cannot be recommended highly enough.

Wonder Woman is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content. The running time is 2 hours and 21 minutes.

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