I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Connor Bynum // Film Critic
Rated PG-13, 141 minutes.
Director: Patty Jenkins
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock and Robin Wright
While it’s certainly understandable one shouldn’t compare previous installments when deciding whether or not the newest entry in an franchise is worth their time, doing so in this case is just inevitable.
Let’s get this out of the way now, 2016’s drecks BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE and SUICIDE SQUAD were not only bad, they were embarrassing. With so much damage already done to the DC Cinematic Universe, it easy to see why some are on the fence about seeing WONDER WOMAN. Fortunately for them, I can say WONDER WOMAN is, without a doubt, one of the best films of the year.
Taking place in the height of World War I, our story begins with Diana (Gal Gadot), a young princess who wants nothing more than to learn how to be strong and fight alongside the other Amazon soldiers. Yet her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), urges restraint and would rather her daughter be shielded from the horrors of war. Defiant in nature, Diana learns to fight anyway and quickly becomes the most skilled warrior on her island home. Not long after, the first man Diana meets is an American spy named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), who literally falls from the sky as his stolen plane is shot down by the German army. After a thrilling battle sequence, Diana decides to set off with Steve in hopes of bringing an end to “The War to End All Wars.”
In a bold move, Warner Bros. gives us the first woman lead superhero film directed by a female director, Patty Jenkins. In spite of a relatively short resume, Jenkins (MONSTER, select TV projects) proves herself more than capable of directing a big budget blockbuster, showcasing expertly crafted fight scenes along with excellent character developing scenes of dialogue.
Believe it or not, the greatest strength to this film is its ability to know when to take its time. The first half-hour is spent entirely in one location establishing Diana’s character, her backstory, her family, and most importantly, her flaws. This theme of imperfection is carried throughout the film. Diana is strong, empowered, and fearless. Yet in spite of all her strengths, she is naive, and therefore quite capable of making mistakes. Jenkins wisely uses time spent away from the battlefield to explore Diana’s weaknesses as well as her strengths to give us a more relatable character. There are two excellent scenes in particular where she and Steve have conversations about what it means to be human and why the conflict of good vs. evil can’t necessarily be solved by blaming just one person.
However, one negative aspect in the film can be found in its supporting characters. Aside from Diana and Steve, most of the secondary roles are given frankly very little to do. After establishing a merry band of mercenaries with seemingly unique contributions to the team, most of their screen time is spent on the sidelines watching Diana be extraordinary in battle. This is fine on paper, as it establishes Diana as a strong female warrior, but is frustrating in execution as these characters end up feeling wasted or unnecessary.
In spite of a predictable climactic battle sequence and some moments of poor CGI work, WONDER WOMAN is the breath of fresh air audiences need. If the upcoming JUSTICE LEAGE can take a hint from this truly outstanding film, there may be hope for a brighter DC movie future.
WONDER WOMAN opens nationwide on Friday (6/2).