Release Date(s)2017 (September 19, 2017)
Studio(s)RatPac-Dune/DC Films/Warner Bros. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: B-
Based on the D.C. Comics character created by William Moulton Marston, Patty Jenkins’ big screen Wonder Woman tells the origin story of Diana, the Princess of Themyscira and the “Spirit of Truth.” Sculpted of clay by her mother and brought to life by Zeus, Diana is raised on a hidden island paradise of Amazonian women warriors, who are dedicated to protecting the world from the fated return of Ares, the God of War. But the peace of the paradise is interrupted one day when the American spy, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), crashes his plane in the waters offshore. Diana (Gal Godot) pulls him from the wreckage, thus saving his life, and soon learns that the outside human world is consumed by conflict, the so-called “war to end all wars.” This, she feels, is surely a sign that Ares has returned. So Diana chooses to leave with Trevor and soon finds herself navigating the confusing perils of World War I-era Europe in the hope of stopping Ares and thus fulfilling her destiny.
Wonder Woman succeeds for a number of reasons, beginning with nearly perfect casting. Like Christopher Reeve in Superman, Gal Gadot is a relatively unknown actress here in the States, but she’s a genuine revelation. Having now seen her in this role, I simply can’t imagine anyone else playing the character. If someone had told me that Chris Pine’s debut in a comic book cinematic universe would be as a sidekick, I wouldn’t have believed them, but he fits the bill wonderfully. Then there’s Lucy Davis as Etta, who steals almost every scene she’s in. Trevor’s motley crew of mercenaries is perfect too, including Saïd Taghmaoui, Eugene Brave Rock, and Ewen Bremner. I actually wish they broken this story into two films, because I’d love to see more of them all on screen together. From a story standpoint, contrasting the purity and idealism of Diana’s world against the gloomy compromises and ugly trench warfare of World War I is inspired, both thematically and visually. The production design and costuming here are outstanding too. And with Patty Jenkins in the director’s chair, the film manages to offer a welcome new perspective on a heretofore male-dominated genre.
Given that last, I must say: It’s been fascinating to watch the reaction to Wonder Woman, both in the traditional entertainment media and within the online fan community. It’s been largely positive, I’ve been pleased to see, but sadly not all of it. Much is being made of the fact that, while the film did well domestically, its international box office has been disappointing. Though I respect James Cameron, he’s knocked this character for being a glamour icon in skimpy armor, but few people these days level that same criticism against Superman, a muscle-bound Adonis who wears his underwear on the outside. Cameron’s complaint is misdirected – it’s not the depiction of Wonder Women that’s the problem here, but rather the way in which the entire superhero genre, and more likely our culture at large, fetishizes physical perfection. This is simple ignorance of Cameron – a classic case of foot-in-mouth syndrome – but at least it’s well meaning. Then, of course, there are the trolls. This is a particularly vile group of unsavories that seems to be feeling its oats at the moment. Misogynists, bigots, racists, and homophobes, I find that their hostile reactions stem from one of two things: insecurity or cowardice. For only someone who is deeply insecure with themselves would be so uncomfortable with others who are different. And only a coward lives in constant fear of The Other (be that Women, Gays, Blacks, Mexicans, Muslims, what have you – insert your convenient boogey-person here) taking what’s theirs, taking their place, etc. How sad it must be to be consumed by such a reductive, simplistic, and overwhelming self-defeating view of the world. To my fellow white males feeling unsettled by the changing times, I would simply say this: “Boys, pull yourselves together.” Matters are compounded by the fact that far too many people these days seem to be looking for reasons to be offended by everything around them. It’s a tough life to live if your skin is that thin. But have faith, my friends. This too shall pass.
It’s also been more than a little bit encouraging to see the culture at large embrace Wonder Woman for what it is, a much-needed breath of fresh air and… perhaps… the key to rejuvenating the modern cinematic superhero genre. I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown weary of watching movie after movie about mostly male characters in tights blasting, pounding, eye-lasering, skewering, and telekinetically bludgeoning each other into submission. I get it: Absolute power corrupts absolutely, with great power comes great responsibility. But whatever happened to “They can be a great people, Kal-El; they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way”? Let’s have a little more light in these proceedings, shall we?
Wonder Woman was shot mostly on 35 mm film, with some digital footage incorporated here and there. It was finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate, upsampled, and given an HDR10 color grade. It’s presented on the Ultra HD format in the original 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The resulting image offers very good fine detail, apparent almost immediately in the textured cliffs and caverns of Themyscira, not to mention the dirty European battlefields later in the film. Moderate grain is apparent throughout, but it’s tightly controlled. As is so often the case on this format, it’s the High Dynamic Range that really dazzles, especially given that the film has an intentionally high-contrast look. Blacks are deep and detailed, while highlights gleam brightly. There are a couple of moments, particularly when Trevor is telling the Amazonians his tale of espionage, that the film takes on a stylistically sepia-toned and hot look. Meanwhile, the waters around Themyscira reveal a dozen different shades of blue, while the streets of London offer a broad range of deep grays and browns. HDR makes all of these subtle shadings richer and more nuanced. Yet the film doesn’t lack for bold colors either; Wonder Woman’s iconic armor, for example, gleams off the screen in vibrant golds, reds, and blues, especially striking in the scene where she charges the German line in No-Man’s Land. This is a very nice image, as near to reference quality as a 2K-upsampled source can get.
From a sonic standpoint, the Ultra HD disc offers primary audio in an English Dolby Atmos mix (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible) that’s as good as they come. Clarity is exquisite, with precise imaging and a tremendously broad soundstage. Sound effects both subtle and intense fill in from seemingly every direction, creating a wonderful sense of immersion. The mix has a buttery smooth quality, rich with warm tones, and it’s firmly supported by LFE. When Diana first manages to defend an attack with her powers during training, there’s a burst of bass you almost feel in your chest. Better still, the percussion-laden score makes constant use of the height channels. You’re surrounded by sonic imagery at all times with this mix, creating a perfect match to the visual experience. Additional sound options include English Descriptive Audio, as well as French, Latin Spanish, and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, and there are subtitles in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, Latin Spanish, and Portuguese for those who need them.
Warner’s 4K disc is movie-only, but the package includes the film in 1080p on Blu-ray, that adds a Justice League teaser trailer and the following extras, all in HD:
- Epilogue: Etta’s Mission (2:41)
- Crafting the Wonder (16:26)
- A Director’s Vision (Themyscira: The Hidden Island – 4:56, Beach Battle – 4:56, A Photograph Through Time – 5:07, Diana in the Modern World – 4:39, and Wonder Woman at War – 5:03)
- Warriors of Wonder Woman (9:53)
- The Trinity (16:05)
- The Wonder Behind the Camera (15:34)
- Finding the Wonder Woman Within (23:08)
- Extended Scenes (5 in all, including Boat Conversation – 3:37, Selfridges Shopping – 2:07, Parliament Steps – 1:13, Morning at the Train Station – 1:13, and Charlie Never Sleeps – :54)
- Alternate Scene: Walk to No Man’s Land (1:04)
- Blooper Reel (5:37)
The extras are decent, on the whole. This material is not exactly comprehensive, but it’s still interesting in a glossy, DC-promotional way. The highlights include the Crafting the Wonder, Warriors of Wonder Woman, and The Trinity clips, along with Etta’s Mission, and the Blooper Reel. I’d really have liked to hear a feature-length audio commentary with Jenkins and Gadot, maybe joined by Pine. A gallery of production art would have been interesting too. And it would have been nice for Warner to have included the Blu-ray 3D version of the film in the 4K package, but such is not to be. You do, however, get a Digital Copy code on a paper insert.
As is always the case, there are legitimate criticisms of any film. Here, mine would be that Wonder Woman’s conclusion still ultimately boils down to two characters beating the hell out of each other. A little more often, I’d like to see super-powered wisdom, morality, and/or cleverness find a way to avoid such carnage. But the proceedings have been so enjoyable up to that point that I can forgive this film a bit of excess.
There is much that’s good here. Gal Gadot is for real. Chris Pine should unleash himself by taking more supporting roles. And Patty Jenkins really needs to make a Star Wars movie at some point. In the meantime, Wonder Woman is well worth your time. It’s definitely recommended, especially in 4K Ultra HD.
- Bill Hunt