Wonder Woman (2017) Movie Review by John Walsh

Director: Patty Jenkins
Writers: Allan Heinberg (screenplay), Zack Snyder (story by)
Stars: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright

Warner Bros and DC have had a tough time in recent years trying to emulate the success of comic rivals Marvel in their continued attempts at growing a successful, cinematic universe. Man of Steel was a very decent film, but the subsequent releases of Suicide Squad and Batman vs Superman had failed to hit the heights, leading to an onslaught of criticism for both DC and the studio. This certainly hasn’t been helped by the amateurish indecision and confusion often displayed by the latter.

But I digress, this isn’t yet another DC bash fest. It’s easy to do that and it’s certainly the ‘in’ thing at the moment. Personally, I love DC and the plethora of fantastic characters and stories they have at their disposal. I want to see them get to grips and build momentum with their cinematic universe and they’ve certainly got some fairly promising releases coming up. The first of these new batch of films is Patty Jenkins Wonder Woman. Now, I’m going to admit that I wasn’t overly excited for this film (for the same reasons I’m not that excited for the Han Solo standalone) and watched it with some slight trepidation. I’m happy to say that it proved me wrong. Admittedly, it’s story wasn’t the strongest I’ve seen and there was some minor niggles in there, but I thought it was a well cast, taut and pacy affair.

It begins in Themyscira, the Amazon island home to Diana (Gal Gadot) and her female dominated group of fierce warriors, magically hidden from the outside world. It’s 1918 or at least it is when the film finally kicks into action following an enjoyable, short and intriguing training montage come backstory. Incidentally, I’ve seen quite a few people bash this segment of the film, but I thought they got it just right. It tells of Diana’s rise to demi-god warrior status, whilst also highlighting the plight of the Amazonian’s in their previous battle with Ares. That last part coming in the form of a neat moving, little painting montage of sorts. Yeah ok, it was maybe slightly rushed, there was some inconsistencies like the defiance of Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and then her sudden change of heart on the training issue. In short, they could’ve delved more deeply into it, but this film is quick paced and they did what was necessary.

Diana’s idyllic existence on Themyscira comes to an end almost immediately after a final training battle with her Aunt, General Antione (Robin Wright), when a mysterious plane manages to break through the magical barrier before crashing into the water right in front of her. It’s almost like fate is calling her forth. This leads to a sudden intense battle between pursuing German soldiers and the Amazonian’s. The result of which (there’s a spoiler in there that I won’t give away) gives Diana the encouragement needed to step into her ‘Wonder Woman’ persona. The identity of the pilot is revealed afterwards as Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American spy working for British intelligence who possesses a diary that could potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives. His harrowing insight into the horrors of WW1 and the deaths of innocents all but makes Diana’s mind up. She and Trevor make their way off the island with the reluctant blessing of the Queen and seek to save humanity.

The two make their way to London (very quickly, too quickly) where they meet stony resistance from the British intelligence services and military, even after warning of a new hydrogen based gas being developed by Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya) and General Ludendorff (Danny Huston), which could swing the war back in Germany’s favour and kill thousands before peace can be brokered. There’s some real good comedy moments in this part of the film that deserve a mention and I had a good chuckle at. Afterwards, Diana chastises said military leaders and Steve for their meek impetus on the matter, and the latter flustered, volunteers to take her to the front with a small group of others to bring the fight to both Poison and Ludendorff. This ragtag group, completed by a drunken (how original) Scotsman called Charlie (Ewen Bremner) and Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui), a Moroccan secret agent, set out for German occupied Belgium together. They’re joined over there by Chief Napi (Eugene Brave Rock), a Native American (Lord knows why he’s there?) trader that’s in it for profit.

One of the areas where this film excels for me is in its development of Diana’s character into Wonder Woman. She leaves the insular society of Themyscira completely oblivious to the customs or norms of wider humanity and all the little naiveties and perplexed questioning which stem from this are perfectly portrayed by Gal Gadot. By the end of the film, she’s learnt a great deal, embraced love and empathy fully and is very much transformed into Wonder Woman. She’s not the greatest actress, but she does a great job and despite concerns she looked perfect for the role. Alongside her in this origin journey is Trevor played by a fantastic Chris Pine. This guy is on fire at the minute and he’s one of my favourite things about this film. There’s an argument to be made for him perhaps overshadowing Wonder Woman at certain points and stealing her glory, but I don’t really buy into this. I thought the two played off each other beautifully and had great chemistry together.

It wasn’t all positive though, I did have some niggles. Firstly, the fractured nature of the films villains. They could’ve picked one and stuck with it, but instead we get three and none of them are particularly memorable. Ludendorff seems to be the main villain for three quarters of the film whilst never actually doing anything. Doctor Poison hangs onto his coat tails, relying on a face prosthetic and social awkwardness to look ominous. Then there’s a twist at the very end which reveals the true Ares. This seemed unnecessary and a hastily added way for them to have a final show off for Wonder Woman against an opponent that would provide an actual challenge. The second niggle is a pet hate of mine and that’s actors speaking with corny accents in English dialogue. This film is littered with this especially in German scenes. What made this all the more grating was that they had Diana speak in proper foreign language. Why? Thirdly, the overuse of slow-mo in fight scenes. It was better than King Arthur’s terrible attempts, but still way overused.

Visually, I thought the movie was stunning. There were some dodgy points, especially in the finale, but it was mostly superb. The early parts in Themyscira were beautiful, as were the trenches/no mans land and the early 20th century London looked authentic. I also loved the period costumes, especially Pine’s gear. That coat deserved a mention in the credits it was that good. I wasn’t too impressed with the soundtrack however. It just didn’t strike a chord with me for whatever reason and for the most part it was unmemorable.

Overall, I loved this film. A Wonder Woman film has been a long time in the making and, whilst it’s not my favourite character of all time, I can understand the importance of getting a strong female superhero out there. Was it perfect? Hell no. It didn’t need to be though. To quote the haggard gimp of a prime minister we have, it just had to be ‘strong and stable’. It was that and some. Patty Jenkins did a great job marrying comedy and action together to produce a highly enjoyable film. Special mentions to David Thewlis and Etta Candy too, both of whom I failed to mention. The latter in particular provided lots of good comedy relief and was excellent. I just pray now that Justice League, the Flash and Aqua Man can continue in the same vain and that DC can start genuinely rivalling Marvel. Any road, this is well worth a watch for anybody into this genre.

Rating: 3.5/5

 

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