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Friday, June 2, 2017

Wonder Woman (2017) - Review

Wonder Woman has been around since 1941, where she first battled the Nazi war machine in the pages of her comic book, later becoming a feminist icon in the 70s as well as the star of a hit television series, but unlike Superman and Batman she has never managed to make the crossover onto the big screen, until now. Well technically this entry would be her second appearance because Zack Snyder introduced her first in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice but as this movie is her origin story, and realistically should have been released before that abomination, we will consider this her first movie.


Director Patty Jenkins and screenwriter Allan Heinberg tackle one of the trickier origin stories in the DC Universe, no doomed planet or murdered parents here, and though quite a few tweaks are made it still feels like a genuine Wonder Woman story, one that fans of the character can get behind.  We learn that centuries ago the Greek god Ares had corrupted mankind and killed all the other gods except Zeus, who with his last ounce of strength created an ultimate weapon, a God Killer, and bestowed it on the Amazons who were tasked with the job of watching for the return of Ares. On their hidden island of Themyscira we meet young Diana (lilly Aspell), daughter of Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielen), who is told by her mother that she was sculpted out of clay and given life by the god Zeus (it's amazing what little kids will believe), and she is secretly trained to become an Amazon warrior by her aunt General Antiope (Robin Wright) because her mother wishes to keep her out of harm’s way.


 The only child on a hidden island of warrior women seems pretty safe to me.

Eventually when Diana (Gal Gadot) is older she is finally allowed to train to be the "best of the best" but during a routine training fight it is suddenly revealed that she has incredible power beyond that of even her fellow Amazons, yet before the ramifications of this can fully kick in a pilot by the name of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands on Paradise Island and her entire life is soon in a state of upheaval. This is when the film kicks into high gear and we really start to have fun, something the previous DC installments have tended to forget, as we get Diana of Themyscira teamed-up with charismatic and sardonic Steve Trevor who is on a mission to stop the evil machinations of the villainous General Ludendorff (Danny Huston), who wants to prevent the Armistice talks that could end the Great War. Alongside Trevor we have his quirky secretary Etta Candy (Lucy Davis), whose main job is getting Diana to dress so she will fit in, and a small group of mercenaries who will help Steve and Diana infiltrate enemy territory and stop this new diabolically gas that was invented by Ludendorff’s partner Dr. Maru aka as Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya), which when deployed can kill anyone even if they are wearing a gas mask.

 

Of course planning genocide should not interrupt a good party.

My favorite aspect of this movie is not the awesome action sequences of Wonder Woman deflecting machine gun fire with her magic bracelets or tossing armored cars around as if they were toys, and don't get me wrong those scenes were pretty damn awesome, but it was the wonderful moments with her and Steve Trevor that sold this film for me; whether it be the deliciously funny fish-out-of-water sequences of her getting use to "civilization" or the tender moments such as when Steve teachers her to dance, it was all just perfect. The chemistry between Gadot and Pine cannot be overstated as it’s what really holds this film together, and I seriously don’t see this Diana Prince getting along with the tonally deaf Bruce Wayne or the boring ass Clark Kent from the DC Extended Universe.

 

Though she does rock the Clark Kent wearing glasses as a disguise thing.

The film even manages to have a proper three act structure, hero’s journey included, opposed to the incessant noise that has cluttered up DC’s previous installments.  In this film the main character is allowed to grow and learn; Diana starts off with the straightforward mission of finding and defeating Ares, believing that once he’s dead mankind will put down their weapons and sing Kumbaya together, but unfortunately the world is not so black and white and throughout the journey both she and Trevor will learn from each other, and not always good things.

Speaking of black and white I’m happy to say that this film is not the dingy one colour palette that we’ve been getting from this studio lately; there is the vibrant and colourful world of Themyscira, the sepia tinged war torn London, and the cold blue of the Front Lines. Overall the cinematography for this film is great and the action set-pieces are shot and edited in such a fashion that we can actually tell what is going on. That at this point in time one can consider this a novel technique truly saddens.

 

"Look, someone found the green filter?"

This Wonder Woman movie is the first of the DC Extended Universe that I truly enjoyed from start to finish, and most of that stems from just how perfect Gal Gadot is as Wonder Woman, not since Linda Carter donned the stars and stripes has someone nailed the role so well, but sadly not everything is perfect and this film does fall victim to something that has plagued even the successful Marvel movies, and that of course being the inclusion of a boring as fuck villain(s). Danny Huston is basically playing a Teutonic version of his villainous character from X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and his brief super powered encounter with Wonder Woman is pretty forgettable, but the biggest let down is when we finally get the big confrontation with Ares it kind of becomes a bit of a CGI showstopper and briefly breaks my investment in the characters.  Now that is just a minor quibble here and it did not stop me from enjoying the hell out of the movie.

Note: I did quite like Elena Anaya’s Dr. Poison in both design and characterization, if they had ditched General Ludendorff and gave her more screen time the film would have been the better for it.

It’s almost a shame that we are going to have to suffer through a Justice League movie, an Aquaman movie, a Flash movie, and a dozen other DC properties before the thought of another solo Wonder Woman film is even possible. It’s taken over 75 years for Wonder Woman to finally star in her own theatrical movie, while Batman and Superman have had numerous forays to the big screen, and so it’s a crime that we may have to wait quite some time before getting another one, especially when you consider her film here is the best DC has managed to offer us so far.

 

Fingers crossed that she is allowed to shine in this movie.

Final Notes:
• I’m not sure why certain Amazons have different foreign accents when they all live on the same island.
• Diana in the comics was granted life by the goddess Athena.
• Exactly how did the German’s follow Trevor’s plane to Themyscira?
• It’s nice that the film’s only nudity is of Chris Pine.
• One of Trevor’s happy band of mercs is your clich├ęd broken soldier.
• The change from World War II to the First World War did not bother my comic nerd brain.
• Just what has Diana been doing during all those years between this movie and her showing up to help fight Doomsday?

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