Editor’s Notes: Wonder Woman is out on its home video formats September 19th.
Summer has become the Season of Super Heroes, with assorted saviors in spandex making their way to movie theaters during this lucrative period. Wonder Woman (Warner Home Video) is the latest of the bunch, but this one is different.
First, it has a compelling script about how Amazonian Princess Diana of the isolated, timeless, idyllic island of Themyscira came to enter the world at large to battle evil, in this case World War I and, specifically, a German officer named Ludendorff (Danny Huston). We see Diana, briefly, as a child and as a teen being trained in combat by her aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright). The general warns Diana’s mother, Queen Hippolyte (Connie Nielsen), that the princess must be prepared to vanquish Ares, the god of war, if he returns.
The adult Diana, played by newcomer Gal Gadot, encounters the outside world when a plane piloted by Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), a British spy pursued by the Germans, crashes into the sea just off the island and she rescues him from drowning. Steve has stolen from a German lab a book containing a deadly gas formula and the Germans are determined to get it back. The gas, if used, could be a deciding factor for the Germans in winning the war. German soldiers land on the island and a battle ensues between them and the Amazons. Steve fights alongside Diana and her Amazon sisters, finally defeating the attackers.
When Steve tells Diana about the Great War raging, she perceives this as the return of Ares. Believing that it is her duty to combat Ares, she leaves the island with Steve for London. There, her transformation into Wonder Woman, dedicated to vanquishing evil, begins.
The character of Wonder Woman first appeared in “All Star Comics” Issue 8 in 1941 and her exploits have been published by DC Comics nearly continuously since then. Her origin story relates that she was sculpted from clay by her mother, Queen Hippolyte, and given life by Aphrodite and superhuman powers by other Greek gods. She can deflect bullets with supersonic speed using wrist armor, wield a golden lasso to elicit truth from those she traps in its coils, and leap incredible distances. Clad in mini-skirted armor, shield in hand, she is a formidable nemesis for the bad guys of the world.
But this super heroine is as intelligent as she is powerful. She has studied and read extensively, and acclimates herself to the modern world pretty quickly, which avoids the dramatic rut of having her misstep as she misinterprets customs or fails to understand how people in her new surroundings think.
Ms. Gadot is an effective Wonder Woman. With her slight Israeli accent, she is just “foreign” enough for us to accept her as a product of an isolated all-female society. She is very attractive and carries herself with the royal bearing befitting Diana’s privileged lineage. She handles the humor of the role well, and the action sequences with assurance and authority. The chemistry between her and Pine works nicely as their characters become partners in winning the war.
There are two very elaborate sequences in which Wonder Woman gets to show her many powers. The first, set on a trench-filled battlefield, is the best. Diana makes herself a target for machine-gun fire, using her magical shield to protect herself, to hold the Germans’ attention long enough for British troops to storm the German defenses. Production design, computer-generated imagery, and acting join forces to create a terrific highlight.
A second sequence, toward the end of the picture, is less successful, relying on the Super Hero Playbook for a drawn-out, pyrotechnic extravaganza of huge objects tossed like ping pong balls, explosions, and body slamming. This final confrontation is important but goes on too long, slowing the movie’s pace. We shouldn’t be looking at our watches during this scene; we should be totally involved, but we’re impatient rather than engrossed.
Overall, Wonder Woman, rated PG-13, is an entertaining movie, perfect for summer. In Gal Gadot, we have a new star who successfully carries the production. Director Patty Jenkins, who has worked mostly in television, nicely balances individual performances with spectacle, and the script by Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder and Jason Fuchs avoids many of the superhero movie cliches and provides a story that all viewers — not just comic book aficionados — can appreciate.
There are over two hours of bonus materials on the 2-disc 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray edition, which include extended scenes; blooper reel; featurette about the origin of the Wonder Woman character; several “Director’s Vision” shorts about various aspects of the making of the film; footage of young filmmakers visiting the Wonder Woman set; a look at the staging of the warrior sequences; and noted public figures explain the impact and importance of Wonder Woman. A digital copy is enclosed. Other editions include the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack and the 2-disc Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray Combo Pack.