Wonder Woman flies past Batman vs Superman to become highest grossing DC film

Ever since William Moulton Marston created her in 1941, Wonder Woman has always been at her best when her stories lean into the feminist ethos at her core. When artists treat her compassion as the key to understanding her—rather than her brutality in battle—audiences are privy to a superhero who offers what no other can: a power fantasy that privileges the interiority and desires of women. But film rarely has made room for the fantasies of women on such a grand scale. And in comic adaptations, women can be tough, funny, and self-assured. But rarely are they the architects of their own destiny.

As a longtime Wonder Woman fan, I worried her distinctive edges would be sanded off when it came time for her standalone film. It’s arguably easier to sell Wonder Woman as a vengeful heroine in the vein of countless others, but less distinctive. But early in the film I noticed the terrain that director Patty Jenkins turned to most often in order to create the emotional through-line. It wasn’t the glimmer of a blade or even the picturesque shores of Themyscira, the utopian paradise Wonder Woman calls home. Through moments of quiet verisimilitude and blistering action sequences, Jenkins’ gaze often wisely returns to the face of her lead heroine, Diana (Gal Gadot). At times, her face is inquisitive, morose, and marked by fury. But more often than not she wears a bright, open smile that carries the optimism and hope that is true to the character’s long history as well as a much-needed salve from what other blockbusters offer. In turn, “Wonder Woman” isn’t just a good superhero film. It is a sincerely good film in which no qualifiers are needed. It’s inspiring, evocative, and, unfortunately, a bit infuriating for the chances it doesn’t take.

Written by Allan Heinberg, with a story also by Zack Snyder and Jason Fuchs, the story uses a variety of inspiration culled from Wonder Woman’s 76-year history. As a young girl, Diana enjoys the loving protection of the Amazons of Themyscira, a secluded island paradise created by the gods of Olympus. No Amazon is fiercer or more protective than her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). But Diana longs to be trained in the art of war by her aunt, Antiope (a stellar Robin Wright). She grows from a kind, young girl into an inquisitive, brave, young woman who never hesitates to helps those in need. Even a man like Captain Steve Trevor (an endlessly charming Chris Pine), who brings news of World War I when he crash-lands on the island disrupting this all-female sanctuary, gets saved by her. Diana leaves behind the only life she’s ever known, heading to late 1910s London to stop the war she believes is influenced by the god Ares.

Cinematographer Matthew Jensen, production designer Aline Bonetto, and costume designer Lindy Hemming form Themyscira into a gorgeous utopia that utilizes a variety of cultural touchstones. It’s free of the Hellenic influence you’d expect from a story that takes such inspiration from Greek myth with the Amazons creating their home in a way that respects the lush nature around them rather than destroying it. It isn’t sterile either. The scenes set in Themyscira have a dazzling array of colors including the gold of armor, the cerulean blue of the sea that surrounds them, warm creams, and deep browns. Jenkins films many of these scenes in wide shot, reveling in the majestic nature of this culture. Similarly, the history of the Amazons, told in a dense but beautifully rendered backstory by Hippolyta, evokes a painterly quality reminiscent of Caravaggio. Having said that, while “Wonder Woman” has a lot to offer visually, what makes this film so captivating is Gal Gadot and Chris Pine

In Theaters This Weekend: Reviews of ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming,’ ‘A Ghost Story’ and More

Also: What THR’s critics are saying about the eye-opening documentaries ‘City of Ghosts’ and ‘Swim Team.’

Superheroes and ghosts are among what’s headed to theaters this weekend in Spider-Man: Homecoming and A Ghost Story. Also opening this weekend are documentaries City of Ghosts and Swim Team. Read on to find out what The Hollywood Reporter’s critics are saying about the weekend’s new offerings.

Spider-Man Homecoming

Tom Holland stars as a young Spidey, still in high school, in John Watt’s reboot of the franchise. Zendaya, Donald Glover, Jon Favreau and Marisa Tomei round out the first Spider-Man film that’s a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with appearances by Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man and Michael Keaton as the villain Vulture. Critic John DeFore called the film “occasionally exciting but often frustrating,” and writes that it “represents a creative misstep for the studio.” A sequel is already set for 2019. Read the full review here.

A Ghost Story

Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara explore love, loss and existence in David Lowery’s feature where Affleck is a bed sheet-covered ghost who haunts the home he once shared with his wife (Mara). The A24 drama premiered at Sundance and features a surprise cameo from pop singer Kesha. Chief film critic Todd McCarthy calls the film “strange and beguiling” and notes that it’s a “poetic meditation on time, memory and spiritual connection that is utterly true to its title.” Read the full review here.

City of Ghosts

The documentary goes into dangerous territory, following citizen journalists in Syria, determined to bring awareness to the human rights violations caused by ISIS in their hometown of Raqqua. Helmed by ‘Cartel Land’ filmmaker Matthew Heineman, the doc gives viewers access to a heartbreaking destruction of a Syrian town, and the lives risked by the undercover journalists that wasn’t reported internationally at the time in 2014. McCarthy writes in his review that the film “effectively serves the dual purpose of exhibiting the rape of a city in a way not seen before and conveying the feeling of helplessness experienced by those who have managed to flee to the West.”

Swim Team

The triumphs and challenges of an autistic swim team competing in the Special Olympics is documented in Lara Stolman’s emotional film. Critic Sheri Linden calls the film “instructive and inspiring.” Read the full review here.

Undercover Grandpa

A young man’s Grandpa and his war buddies help him save the girl of his dreams after she is kidnapped. Dylan Everett, James Caan, Arrested Development’s Jessica Walter, Louis Gossett Jr. and Paul Sorvino complete the cast.

 

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