Synopsis: Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. Raised on a sheltered island paradise, when an American pilot crashes on their shores and tells of a massive conflict raging in the outside world, Diana leaves her home, convinced she can stop the threat. Fighting alongside man in a war to end all wars, Diana will discover her full powers…and her true destiny.
Wonder Woman 7.75
eyelights: its solid origin story. Gal Gadot’s fighting moves.
eyesores: Gal Gadot’s acting chops. its garish CGI. its clichés. its cheesy one-liners.
“Be careful in the world of men, Diana. They do not deserve you.”
Honestly, I was never too deeply attached to Wonder Woman – even when, as a young teen, I collected every comic under the sun. It’s nothing against the character, per se; I just wasn’t as into DC Comics as Marvel or even the indies.
I still bought and read them, though.
And when DC decided to try to bring the character to the screen, I was curious: rumours swirled around the casting choices. One intriguing possibility was Christina Hendricks. Nice. A friend of mine really wanted Katy Perry to get it.
That would have been interesting; she looked the part then.
Ultimately, though, relative unknown Gal Gadot landed the role and co-starred in ‘Batman V: Superman, Dawn of Justice’. Truth be told, I was a bit skeptical from the get-go, given that she was pretty but hardly had an Amazonian build.
Personally, I would have picked a Lucy Lawless type.
Or… ahem… Linda Carter.
In any event, Gadot won people over in ‘BvS’, and was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise highly-criticized picture – enough so, in fact, that she (and her alter ego) soon landed her own feature-length motion picture adventure.
‘Wonder Woman’ came out in 2017 and it was a worldwide smash hit. It was also the first universally-acclaimed entry in the new DCEU, following the severe critical drubbings that ‘Man of Steel’, ‘BvS’ and ‘Suicide Squad’ suffered.
The picture takes us back to early 20th century, during the first World War, and finds the Amazons’ peaceful existence on Paradise Island disturbed by the accidental intrusion of U.S. pilot Steve Trevor and dozens of German pursuers.
After a bloody battle and many Amazon casualties, Wonder Woman concludes that Ares is the cause of the war and decides to go to the front to find the God of War and destroy him. She sets off on her journey with Steve Trevor in tow.
You can imagine the rest.
‘Wonder Woman’ is nothing if not a bit predictable – it’s a super hero origin story and maiden adventure, after all. But it’s a well-constructed one, along the lines of ‘Captain America: The First Avenger‘ (though I preferred the latter).
But it’s hardly a perfect film.
Firstly, there’s the cast:
- I know I’ll be the lone dissenter here, but I’m not too keen on Gal Gadot. Sure, she’s pretty, but she’s no Amazon; she doesn’t have the build and has little/no muscle tone. I simply don’t buy her as Wonder Woman. She’s also a weak actress. Sure, she goes through the motions, but nothing comes through; she’s emotionally flat.
(And don’t get me started on Lilly Aspel the cute non-actress who plays Diana as a child…)
- Meanwhile, as Steve Trevor, Chris Pine did an excellent William Shatner. In fact, he does a better Shatner here than when he’s Kirk, ironically enough. It’s really weird. The guy’s a good actor, don’t get me wrong, but he felt a bit too cartoony for my taste here.
- It didn’t help that they were frequently accompanied by Trevor’s personal assistant, Etta Candy, the comic relief. Lucy Davis is always fun, but I found the character a bit grating. Perhaps this is in keeping with the comics, but it was too much for me.
So our main trio left me wanting.
The rest of the cast was excellent, but they were secondary figures in the piece. By far my favourite was Robin Wright as Antiope: she has a great moment leaping in the air and shooting three arrows at once at three different targets. Niiiice.
She’s awesome. Heck, she even looked leathery.
Beyond the cast, there’s the visuals. Though I recognize that it’s impossible to make a movie of this scale without CGI, I really wish that the damned thing didn’t look like one big video game. I long for the days of real sets – even when they weren’t credible.
At least they looked tangible.
But all of this is somewhat trivial when you consider all of the little details that leave one wanting, such as (but not limited to):
- The logic of not training Diana as a child wasn’t initially explained – other than “she doesn’t know who she is”. Um… okay. Whatever. But, when we do find out who she is, in no way does it support the argument for not training her. So what gives?
- Why is everyone (including Diane herself) surprised by her armbands when she trains and powers Antiope to the ground? No one had any idea that she had them on and what power they wielded? Really?
- The German Seebataillone’s attack on Paradise Island seems a bit silly: the Germans don’t balk at all at being attacked by Amazons and the Amazons don’t seem to have a strategy other than “Charge!” (Um… and get mowed down).
- Let me get this straight: the Germans disembark from their vessel, arrive on the beach, and then get beat. But what about their vessel? Where did it disappear to? It clearly arrived with them (we see it break through Paradise Island’s mirage), but it was then forgotten.
- Oh, of course Antiope gets grievously wounded (and possibly dies – that’s left noticeably ambiguous). Of course she does. Why couldn’t she just block the bullet with a shield or weapon? Why did she have to use her body? What kind of strategists are these Amazons?
- What’s with that silly nude scene when Steve Trevor’s bathing when Diana goes to visit him? Haha. I mean, fair’s fair: women have been subjected to the opposite forever. But it was corny then and it remains corny now. I’m not sure if two wrongs make a right, here.
- Diana and Steve make it to a CGI-infused London overnight with their little sailboat. Steve claims that he hitched them a ride while she was sleeping, but, geez… how close is Paradise Island to England? I don’t know… seems to me this would take days, if not weeks.
- Um… so, why is Steve Trevor working with the Brits, not the Americans? I mean, the countries were allies and all that, but… doesn’t that seems a bit weird?
- Why would Diana allow herself to be stripped of her armour and weapons, just to pass as a commoner? At least they show her choosing an outfit that isn’t too feminine, but you’d think that she’d keep her gear nearby. And yet, later she hides it under her other clothing, which she just whisks off at will. I guess we needed a clichéd shopping spree for the ladies in the room? You know, because women are stereotypes who all like shoes and clothes. !@#$
- Wonder Woman’s lasso comes out of hiding any old time. Um… where does she hide it? In her magic pocket? (If you haven’t seen the movie, she doesn’t have one – I’m being facetious)
- The villain’s identity was telegraphed to us; it was yet another cliché.
- Speaking of which, why would the villain fund Steve and Diana’s mission, exactly? Maybe that was explained, but it wasn’t clear to me. You’d think the villain would want to sabotage them, not aid them…
- The first combat against the Germans, in No Man’s Land, was pretty cool; it was the first (and only) time that I was woken out of my general indifference. Back-handed compliment: I recognize that Gadot was really only posing during her combat scenes, but it was well-staged.
- When they free the Belgian town, Wonder Woman explodes a Church tower to stop a sniper and everyone cheers her. Really? After destroying your Church, wouldn’t you have something to say about it? I mean, couldn’t she stop a mere sniper without destroying everything?
- Diana and Steve have a love scene. Le sigh… what a cliché. Can’t they just be partners in arms instead? Of course not! She’s a woman and he’s a man, after all! Doh.
- The ending was your generic epic scale battle, though I’ve seen worse. But, really, it could have been more subdued.
- Um… why did Steve have to die? He was alone on the plane… so he could have safely landed it and then blown it up. Or used a parachute. Or anything else. He didn’t have to die (though I suspect he could be brought back – since it’s a tad ambiguous). It’s just silly.
- Diana ends the picture with a speech in which she establishes her vision, saying “I believe in love!”. Really? That’s your motivation for fighting? Ick. Look, hope is fine, and the sentiment she espouses is commendable, but the language is tacky. I mean, I like that she’s hopeful and wants to do better, that she’s not cynical, but, man…
- Finally, I was amused by the fact the villainous Dr. Maru doesn’t drink. Everyone else, including Diana, does (though she is never actually seen sipping; she nurses her drink). You just can’t trust a non-drinker; they’re not normal. Ha!
I mean, it’s quite possible that some of these “issues” could be explained away, but it wasn’t self-evident to me, and I couldn’t shake it off afterwards. Still, given the scope of the piece, and the fact that it’s a superhero film, it comes together well.
‘Wonder Woman’ is what the DCEU probably needed from the onset instead of its cynical, “doom and gloom” approach thus far. In fact, with this victory at the box office, its future is a bit brighter: even the naysayers are giving it a second chance.
But is ‘WW’ Oscar-worthy (at this time, there are rumours of an Academy Award campaign bubbling below the surface)? Not at all. But it’s a fine entry in a now-bloated genre that is filled with misfires. ‘Wonder Woman’ has defeated the odds.
I will be there for the next one.
Date of viewing: July 25, 2017