Wonder Woman

wonder_woman_ver5STARS4The story of Wonder Woman is less about the dawn of another superhero and more about a sheltered individual living in a bubble who comes to understand what is happening in the outside world around her. Princess Diana (Gal Godot) was a child sculpted from clay by her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and given life by Zeus. As such, she does indeed possess special powers, superhuman strength to name but one.  Although her mother forbids it, Diana is trained to be a warrior by her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright).

The production is set during the era of World War I and this conflict forms the basis of the narrative. What really impresses is how much the tale could exist without the value added depiction of an origin story.  It’s telling you’ll never hear the words “Wonder Woman” in the entire movie. The crime fighting uniform she ultimately adopts consists of battle armor and a tiara.  Like other recent DC comic adaptations, they look rather subdued from the traditional red, white and blue tights we’ve seen in previous iterations. Long time fans rest assured, they didn’t try to totally reinvent the character.  This is still the defender you know and love, just recontextualized for a 2017 audience.  She still gets her cuff bracelets and the Lasso of Truth.  Her invisible jet is sadly missing though.

Gal Gadot is such a joy as the titular heroine. She is sexy and beautiful of course, but also wholesome and virtuous as well. She’s a refreshingly stable personality. In that respect, she’s reminiscent of Marvel’s Captain America. That mental stability has been lacking in the DC Extended Universe as of late. It began with Man of Steel in 2013.  DC has completely bungled the new version of Superman. Where is the decent champion of truth we love from the 1978 feature?  This pessimism continued on through Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, both in 2016.  Most agreed, Gadot’s presence was the best thing about the former film.  Where the characters in those pictures have been conflicted and plagued with self-doubt, Wonder Woman is distinctly well-adjusted.

Events are set in motion when she meets Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American spy working for the Allied powers.  He crash lands his plane in the waters off of Themyscira, her island of Amazons. Wonder Woman was taught at a young age that Ares, the God of war corrupted mankind. She’s convinced that he is behind all this. Steve is skeptical of her beliefs but charmed by her presence.  Her adopted persona is Diana Prince when she leaves the island and the excursion becomes a learning experience. He explains what a watch is and she responds with “You let this tiny thing run your life?” Gadot’s chemistry with Chris Pine is so palpable it really enhances the drama. Of course, I expected Gal Gadot to be the major part of the production and she is. What I didn’t expect what how important Chris Pine would be. He really rises to the task. Their charisma together strikes the perfect balance. Their interactions run the gamut from romantic and sensuous to funny and lighthearted. The screenplay is by Allan Heinberg, co-creator of The Young Avengers, a superhero team published by Marvel Comics. Imagine, a comic book movie written by a comic book writer. What a concept!  Heinberg takes the time to develop well-rounded and likable people we truly care about.  It’s one of the most important requirements in an engaging story and Wonder Woman does it well.

The saga incorporates the terror of World War I but it’s still surprisingly upbeat and hopeful. Director Patty Jenkins (Monster) gets so much right. This is a long movie though – 2 hours and 21 minutes to be exact. I think brevity and simplicity are qualities to celebrate in a superhero fable. For the majority of the adventure, the action is well photographed and exciting.  The initial battle, an early skirmish on the beach between the Amazons and German soldiers gets things off a rocking good start. It’s arrows and shields vs. guns and torpedoes. There are more clashes later on and they’re visually well depicted too.  However, the finish is kind of mediocre.  Things deteriorate a bit in the video-game aesthetic of the finale with murky action and CGI.  It’s not enough to sink the whole picture, mind you. The rest of the film is absolutely sensational.  Nevertheless, it is a misstep that’s impossible to ignore in an otherwise spectacular production.

Wonder Woman is smashing success.  Gal Gadot is an absolute delight.  She is an innocent, a babe in the woods.  She enjoys ice cream for the very first time and she tells the vendor, “You should be very proud!” You want to embrace this good-hearted soul. She is someone to cherish. It’s no secret that the comic book business is a male-dominated genre. The pressure to deliver the first female-led superhero box office smash was pretty intense. There are so many instances in which this could have gone wrong, but instead, there are so many ways in which this was done right.  Expectations were so cautious.  The mere fact that the character is such a breath of fresh air makes one give the success perhaps, even more credit than it truly deserves. There has never been a successful female-led superhero blockbuster. That is until now. DC has finally given us something Marvel hasn’t.  I’m ready to see it again.

06-01-17

Advertisements

14 Responses to “Wonder Woman”

  1. Great film, they nailed the tone for once!

    • I enjoy the tone of lots of superhero films, but by “they” I assume you mean films in the DC Extended Universe. If so, I agree. Best one yet.

  2. smilingldsgirl Says:

    That’s so interesting about the writer being a comic book writer and it makes sense. You can see why it has a cohesive narrative as opposed to other DC films that feel like a million stories all crammed into one. Anyway, I loved it. It really spoke to me emotionally to see Diana grapple with the reality of war.

    • Glad you loved it. Your praise has been extremely effusive on social media – more than any other film this year. Where would you rank this among 2017 movies?

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        This and STEP are my 2 favorites of the year (if you count Your Name that would be my 3 favorites). I’m going to try to tone it down after this weekend because I dont want to annoy people but it really did move me

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        My top 5 so far:
        1. STEP 2. Wonder Woman 3. Personal Shopper 4. Get Out 5. My Entire High School Sinking in the Sea

  3. Great review Mark, glad to see another fan of this film – Gal Gadot totally embodies the character and her performance I found was often moving. This is a strong contender (along with Logan) for my film of the year thus far.

  4. Loved it!!!! Didn’t think anyone could replace Lynda Carter as WW, but Gal Gadot has done her justice. Beautiful, classy, smart and strong. Wow! I saw this twice and loved it just as much the 2nd time. Very good movie. Chris Pine was also great. He provided the right amount of comic relief and charm. 41/2 stars.

  5. I was flat-out mesmerized. I was really buying into Gadot’s naiveté and her compassion and her sincerity before the ice cream scene, but then after that I was just in love. Lol. What a great performance and this character is just amazing.

    • A superhero hero that actually cares about saving human beings. What a concept! Hopefully, the Zack Snyder-directed Justice League will incorporate some of that good will.

  6. I agree that Gal Gadot is a joy as Wonder Woman. She’s all of the best qualities you mention. Like you, I appreciate that she’s well-adjusted. I agree that Pine and her work well together and that he rises to the occasion. Although something that bothered me was how his character was so inconsistent in whether he trusted/believed in her. The whole portion where he ran around London trying to shush her or hold her by the arm annoyed the heck out of me, as did the part where after he saw her skill in battle and he still tried to keep her from going into the palace with him. I agree that the movie is too long and that things deteriorate in the finale into a murky mess. I also thought her motivation for saving the day (i.e. love for a man) was incredibly trite, and kind of disappointing. That said, I still think this is a massive improvement over other recent DC movies and well-worth a watch.

    • Interesting. I thought her motivation was inspired by her love for the entire human race. She felt people were worth saving – men as well as women.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: