"Wonder Woman" (2017) - Rated PG-13 / Runtime: 141 minutes
Directed by Patty Jenkins
Written by Allan Heinberg
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Danny Huston
Review by JJ Mortimer
While by no means a perfect movie (some shoddy visual effects, a few small missed plot points and character intricacies, and one really bad editing moment in the final act aside), Wonder Woman was, shall I say, wonderful? *cue Austin Powers 'pun intended' expression*
All joking aside, Wonder Woman is finally the good comic book movie DC has been straining to make since the introduction of the dark, depressing Man of Steel, and last year's duo of hugely reviled films Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. It's amazing what can be done when a quality director with good storytelling capabilities takes over the helm on a franchise film that has a story that is more about character and emotion than gritty atmosphere and shit blowing up.
I will argue that Wonder Woman has a more realistic and emotional payoff toward its conclusion than half of the Marvel Studios movies that have been released. That's not to say it's a better film than what Marvel has produced - there's still a hint of that Zack Snyder atmospheric touch that some unforgiving audience members may potentially be unable to wipe the previous bad taste in their mouths from - but in all fairness, there were more entertaining scenes and character moments in Wonder Woman that overpower and trump much of anything I remembered from Age of Ultron or Captain America: Civil War.
Given Gal Gadot's somewhat wooden and dry performance we were spoon-fed in Batman v Superman, I rolled my eyes at the concept of a stand-alone film about Wonder Woman. Thankfully, what we were treated with in this year's Wonder Woman is a surprisingly sincere and charming performance from it star, teaching us that sometimes the difference isn't in the source material but in the director leading the project. Gadot's naivety in her fish-out-of-water scenario lent the right amount of wit and relateable material to the earlier portions of the film to help draw the audience in to the character; a move that made the film's more muddled later action set pieces more satisfying, and not as empty as many other CGI action-driven motion pictures.
Director Patty Jenkins was a very good fit in the director's chair, a creatively decisive choice from the DC production team that mirrored the near-perfect hiring abilities from Marvel. The choices that were made by the director showed both a willingness to unleash the bombastic blockbuster mayhem, along with an intelligence to give real personality, heart, and interest with which the audiences could attach themselves to the characters. In fact, I'd argue that Wonder Woman is an action film that is at its finest when its at its most quiet. That's not to say the action was subpar, but in many cases when things were blowing up, nothing was really moving forward emotionally until the rubble had settled and the two lead stars could further develop their performances.
There are really only a few other things I can say about the film without further pushing my positive feelings, but I will say these final three things:
One, what puts Wonder Woman on par (or better) with most of the Marvel Studios films is the "human element" that it brings to its superhero table. Two, the film doesn't require any prior knowledge of characters or situations involving previous films to be enjoyed. The film makers' interesting choice of a World War I setting assures us of that. Finally, and most importantly, the film gives us a hero that can be relateable to both women AND men, and to top that off makes Gadot's co-star Chris Pine equally and inevitably as heroic on the battlefield and in the context of the films screenplay. The two lead stars have a surprisingly effective chemistry that, through quieter scenes and with the aloof nature of its superhero titular character, made me feel a little something inside that wanted them to succeed with their mission.
Like Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, DC's Wonder Woman brings us genuine emotion and character traits that give the audience a little something more than what is being blown up in our faces. While not as humorous as Guardians, Wonder Woman still had quite a bit of wit and charisma from its stars that made the film breeze by and not feel at all its over two-hour length.
As said before, while Wonder Woman is by no means a perfect movie. There a few plot holes involving spoken languages and where the hell an Amazonian princess/god would have learned them, a slightly cheesy introduction in the overly-CGI Amazonian setting, a few side characters with forgotten payoffs to their stories, and one laughably bad edit before the film's final showdown that really stood out for me but weren't enough to be completely distracting from the overall experience. The film still manages to rise above and beyond expectations, and in turn ends up being a relatively decent World War I film to boot. It also deserved a more memorable and rich lead musical score, one that wasn't so inspired by the Hans Zimmer-ish "School of Clanking Metal, Bass Drums, and Violin Strings Together Erratically to Make Music out of Noise."
Finally, I must acknowledge the unfounded "feminist" angle that attached itself to this film weeks before its release. While the character of Wonder Woman herself was a product of the early 20th Century women's movement, there was not a single place in this film that would establish any kind of foothold on the neo-feminist movement seen in contemporary times. I felt that a lot of what was said about the film being "feminist" as a negative (or a positive) were completely unfounded, and were very likely a product of an outside media source rather than that of the filmmakers themselves. Nothing in this film tells me that it was produced with "feminism" on mind as many people would define it politically as a negative. Patty Jenkins made a film that works more than just that level of shallowness, and instead gave us a film rich with care and emotion that had a lot more going on in it than people would find viewing it while looking for one specific angle. If you go into Wonder Woman looking for a feminist angle as a negative you will probably find it in a couple lines of dialogue only - but only because THAT was what you were looking for. But, if you go into the film looking at it in a positive light about feminism, you'll probably find it as well - but NO MUCH MORE than any other film starring a woman. Aliens was a better film for women to be inspired by its lead character than Wonder Woman.
Basically, don't listen to the media and any bullshit about feminism as a hindrance or as some sort of driving theme of this film. Wonder Woman is a wonderfully-fun and charismatic film for anyone other than simple-minded people to see.