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Category:    Home > Reviews > Superhero > Action > Adventure > Drama > Comedy > WWI > Origins > Wonder Woman (2017/DC Comics/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

Wonder Woman (2017/DC Comics/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: B Sound: B+ Extras: B- Film: B

Wonder Woman, one of the most successful fictional characters of all time, the top female superhero ever (one of the first too, and not without competition over the years) and an American icon arriving in time for WWII when she first appeared in the rightly named Sensation Comics 75 years ago. She is also one of the most successful heroes anywhere, the subject of several books, endless analysis, tons of comic books and part of a progressive liberal tradition that faced the Axis Powers and The Depression upon arrival, then resurged rightly in the 1960s and 1970s, though she never went away.

Bringing her to life in live action has been another matter. After a failed short pilot in the 1960s that led nowhere, he was a hit on the huge hits animated TV series Superfriends! (1973) for over a decade, when at the same time, a TV movie was made in 1974 that did not sell a series, but DC Comics and Warner tried again, landing Lynda Carter perfectly in the role for three seasons (on two networks) and Carter was such a perfect fit for the role, it took four decades before another woman (and it was not without trying all those years) before a few years ago, Gal Gadot became a tougher, more warrior-oriented (much like the current animated cycle of DC Superhero animation) version in the mixed Zack Snyder Batman Vs. Superman film.

The big surprise of that film was how good Gadot was and fans responded. At the same time, after delaying a few revivals (including a WWII-set script by Joss Whedon), a new stand-along Snyder produced film was under way. The underrated (no more!) Patty Jenkins was hired and the result has been the stunning across-the-board critical and box office success of Wonder Woman 2017!

So, is it that good. Often, yes. Since Christopher Nolan completed his Batman Trilogy, DC Comic movies have fallen behind Marvel Comics, a situation that would have been unthinkable before 1997, but the original Blade with Wesley Snipes slowly changed all that and eventually bloomed into an independent Marvel Studios (run by people who actually love and know the characters) producing so many critically acclaimed blockbusters with the characters, Disney could not resist buying the whole company. DC's films have suffered post-Nolan since, but despite being based on a story co-written by producer Snyder (and a film co-produced by the usually misguided RatPac productions unit), this is the film that finally delivered the impact all DC comics films should have.

Going all out, the film begins with a pre-teen Diana on Paradise Island and what it is like to live there, be there and be at peace there. Even at a young age, she wants to learn how to fight and be a warrior like her older sisters. Followed by a brief teen period, Gadot shows up as the fully-grown Diana, little changed and ready for anything. Just when al seems steady, she spots an airplane in fire in a dive, heading through the Island's protective cover, hitting the ocean at high speed. Without thinking, she jumps in and intercepts what turns out to be a German plane, though she has zero idea what it is. In it is not a German, but a spy from the U.S., Steve Trevor (Chris Pine in yet another great turn) whom she saves and brings back to the island.

Needless to say the populace is shocked to have a man there, let alone one who is older and mature, one they suspect of being there to hurt them. Fortunately, they have the Golden Lasso that compels all who are captured by it to tell the truth, then the ladies get far worse bad news when Trevor explains that The Great War is going on, millions will be killed, they are all in grave jeopardy and he has to stop them. This includes an attack on the island when several German ships accidentally breach the security mirage surrounding it. Now helping him, he is going to soon leave, but the Queen refuses to let Diana join him, but Diana (fortunately) has other plans.

Soon, after Steve and Diana get to know each other, they are in WWI London, England and after a brief, fun set of culture clash moments, they are joined by three tough fighting confidantes and are off to the entrenched battle lines. Now armed with her Godkiller sword, shield, magic lasso, magic bracelets and advanced fighting skills, she cannot stand the murder and genocide of innocent lives, stops listening to Trevor's advice (who she's trusted to this point) and single-handedly charges the German trenches, thus competing the smart screenplay's kick into high gear.

Whether DC feature films can keep their momentum, it is fair to say this may be the most significant DC movie since Superman: The Movie in 1978 because it proves that if you get the right script, excellent casting, dead-on casting of an unknown in the lead role and have the best talent backed by serious money that is put on the screen (the way Hollywood used to do it) and not thrown around mindlessly like most blockbusters these days, you get a film that delivers and the result is a classic of the Superhero genre that exceeds it. Gadot's debut in the previous film was not just a fluke or brief luck, but a classic moment of brilliant casting that shows Hollywood has been playing it way too safe before and the non Nolan DC live action movies have been coasting badly since Superman Returns in the 1990s. There is zero excuse for that!

The script starts from scratch in some ways, despite following much of the original comic books (Diana does not have to win an Amazon olympics in disguise to leave the island, in one interesting change) and like the little moments in the original Star Wars (1977) that really worked, there are smart, fun, charming and unexpected moments (so well handled by Jenkins) that make a big difference in the film like nothing we've seen in any DC or Marvel movie. Jenkins gets what she has in Gadot and runs with it, even if some elements of the film were inherited from Snyder's work, anything of that that could possibly weight the film down, Jenkins steamrolls over like Tina turner on Private Dancer with unlimited energy (without overdoing it, yet) that won't let any limits stop her, her great lead, her cast or her crew. This is excellent commercial blockbuster filmmaking at its very best and save for the final act maybe going a little over the top, Wonder Woman is not just an instant classic DC Comics movies and even Marvel Comics movies, are going to have to match or try to top, but that all action films (including the Bond films) are going to have to reckon with. Like Bond, Batman, Spider-Man and Superman, Wonder Woman is an evergreen classic character for a reason, there's no one else like her and this film is very, very long overdue, though it is yet another example of how hard such excellence is to achieve in any large-scale filmmaking.

Joining Gadot and Pine are the great Danny Huston as the main villain Ludendorff, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, David Thewlis, Elena Anaya (downtrading her beauty as the deformed scientific genius Dr. Maru), Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Lucy Davis as a great new Etta Candy, who could never be on screen enough and one of the most impressive and strong supporting casts we've seen in any film in a while. True, the film might play a little loose with history as Raiders Of The Lost Ark did, but its fantasy and not a documentary. Be sure to catch one of the best films of the year in this new, original Wonder Woman!

Before I get to the tech section, I wanted to briefly address a recent debate that sadly stopped before it could get the proper exposition we all deserve. The great James Cameron, without enough detail to stop a backlash, went on social media and stated roughly that the film was progressive, yet still got stuck in iconic, limited ideas of female heroes. Of course, he has had several great, progressive women in his hits, including advancing Sigourney Weaver's Ripley from Ridley Scott's Alien (1979) in his own Aliens (1986), among others. The backlash was quick like mob rule that we often see in misguided social media, but that does not help us uncover his point, it just drowns it out.

The argument I can gather is that it is about two kinds of female heroes that I've touched on in the past, including in my interview with Bionic Woman creator Kenneth Johnson (who also created 'V' and the 1970s Incredible Hulk TV series for Marvel) of a heroine already arriving with her powers or one just discovering them. Johnson rightly argues the latter makes for more interesting storytelling, especially since the latter (Lindsay Wagner on the original Bionic Woman, Jodie Foster in Silence Of The Lambs, Diana Rigg's Emma Peel in the earliest episodes she appears in of the British TV spy classic The Avengers) asking us all how a woman without any powers in advance suddenly deals with them when she suddenly finds she has them. We certainly were only getting the fully-formed Wonder Woman from Zack Snyder, though with the current, contemporary period his films happen in, an origins story does not apply, fit and would be a sidetrack in films that are already too long.

James Cameron even produced an action film with strong women directed by a woman, now Oscar-winner (and his one-time wife) Katherine Bigelow's Strange Days (1995, a commercial dud and mixed-up film I did not think worked despite all the talent involved) that at least challenged some conventions of male-dominated action films. If Cameron is criticizing the film for its make Wonder Woman to powerful without depth, that would/could be from issues in the final act of the film, yet, the film does one more very clever thing here that is a great move that shows how smart this film can be.

Unlike any other heroine in superhero history or action film history, Diana comes from a a place that is all about strong women and not just because she is from working classic (Ripley, Sarah Connor in the Terminator films) or places of wealth (Mrs. Peel is a millionairess in high U.K. society) or socio-economic success (Jaime Sommers is a highly educated school teacher and an internationally successful tennis star dating a famous astronaut (Lee Majors' Steve Austin, who has unknowingly become The Six Million Dollar Man to her) before she becomes anything bionic) and the others are already powerful and empowered to begin with. Diana is at least partly powerful and empowered not just by birth, but by environment, so she cannot be in total shock of having great powers from none, yet having her show up all powerful does not tell us her story. The script splits the difference by asking us about her faith, about the existence of Ares, the God of War. This is not to make her look stupid, nor is it a lame plot device, but asking the fan in us all (especially consequential for young females) how sick is the world, which world, how sick can each get and how do they affect each other. Wonder Woman is the only character and hero that could possibly deal with this.

It is through that we see who she is, understand her roots, what she wants to be, why she stands for justice and can afford the luxuries of compassion, caring and even (don't say it?) love. Not a right-wing, phony or illicit appeal to pity stereotype of love, but the real thing, which itself takes all kinds of honest thinking against the real politik of angry, early 21st Century living. Yet, the truth is, no lasso required, it is always what she stood for since day one and ultimately, that is why this Wonder Woman works because it is about who we all are as human. Great thing it has found such a huge audience. I hope the sequels and connected films can hold onto this, which is why Jenkins and Gadot need to be on board for the foreseeable future as long as possible.

The 2160p HEVC/H.265, HDR (10-Bit color; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced 2.35 X 1 Ultra High Definition image on the 4K Blu-ray is the the best performer here, resolving detail and especially the darkness in many scenes better than the still-decent, regular 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the Blu-ray. Because there is still more extensive digital visual work than expected, despite most of the film being shot on Kodak's remarkable Vision 3 color negative 35mm film stocks, the decent-enough CGI work remains just that.

Fortunately, locations, production design, costumes and the actors are so on the money here, Director of Photography Matthew Jensen. A.S.C., (Killer Diller, Filth, several impressive TV shows and two previous superhero films that didn't work out) really brings all of his skills and talent together here, going dar visually often, but not to the point where it ever becomes a joke or cliche. That's actually not easy, though it plays against a natural look a bit more than one might like, partly due to Zack Snyder's dark look in previous films.

As for sound, both discs offer lossless Dolby Atmos 11.1 mixes (core Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for older systems) and it is pretty good for the most part (also available in IMAX 11.1 and Sonix DDP for IMAX presentations, including 70mm) and the mix has some fine breakout moments, but other moments are more subtle and that holds it back slightly at the expense of narrative integrity. I'd prefer the integrity over sound mix overkill.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices, while the Blu-ray adds clips and featurettes (extrapolating from the press release) including...

Epilogue: Etta's Mission - Etta Candy gets the boys back together for a secret mission that could impact humanity's future.

Crafting the Wonder - Wonder Woman finally comes to life in her first, breathtaking solo film. Explore the journey to create an adventure worthy of DC's greatest warrior.

A Director's Vision: Themyscira: The Hidden Island

A Director's Vision: Beach Battle

A Director's Vision: A Photograph Through Time

A Director's Vision: Diana in the Modern World

A Director's Vision: Wonder Woman at War - Join director Patty Jenkins as she takes you on an exclusive journey through Wonder Woman's most pivotal and exciting moments.

Warriors of Wonder Woman - Witness the creation of the Amazon army as the women of Wonder Woman transform emotionally and physically into the world's most powerful and heroic warriors.

The Trinity - Filmmakers and comic book creators explore the legend of Wonder Woman and how she stands shoulder to shoulder with Superman and Batman to create the pillars of the DC Universe.

The Wonder Behind the Camera - Meet the women behind the wonder as they welcome a group of aspiring filmmakers on set for an exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Finding the Wonder Woman Within - Feel the power of Wonder Woman as award-winning poets and inspiring public figures reveal the impact and importance of DC's greatest heroine.

Extended Scenes (including some parts that should or could have stayed in the film) and a fun Blooper Reel.

This is all good, but I still wanted a bit more, yet you won't be disappointed otherwise.

For more Wonder Woman, try these earlier, underrated feature length releases, staring with the 1974 Cathy Lee Crosby telefilm...


and the 2009 animated feature film...


- Nicholas Sheffo


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