Wonder Woman (2017)

Alright, I know I’m late to the party on this one, but this movie legitimately only came out 2 weeks ago in Japan and I had a few thoughts about it. Plus, I can’t sleep.

The initial critical reaction to Wonder Woman from the outside looking in surprised and intrigued me. Two distinct camps had formed in the reviews I’d read. The larger camp seemed to be of the opinion that DC had finally made a great film that actually felt like DC comics and didn’t have Zack Snyder’s gloomy, monochrome fingerprints all over it. The other, much more outspoken camp, held that sure, Wonder Woman was a decent movie, miles better than anything with DC’s name on it since the Nolan Batman trilogy, but that everyone was looking through rose-tinted glasses and just really, really wanted to see a passable movie as a great movie for whatever reason.

Needless to say I was curious to watch for myself and come to my own conclusions. Below are my thoughts on the film…

If I had to compare Wonder Woman to a Marvel movie (and I don’t, but I will anyway) it would have to be Thor. Both are lofty, classical superhero stories mired in mythology wherein the god/godlike hero is plunged into the human world for an adventure. Fish-out-of-water comedy ensues, and romance, and a climactic battle. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the formula, other than there was a definite blueprint for it and Wonder Woman’s plot by itself is not worthy of the praise the film received. So you would think there is more to the film than just your boilerplate superhero story. You’d be right.

Wonder Woman is a marked improvement on Thor, and even on most other Superhero movies. Like Thor began at Asgard, the entire first act of Wonder Woman is set on the mythical island of the Amazon warriors, but by contrast the film does well to recognise that it shouldn’t stay overlong there and even uses the island to good visual effect, utilising the island’s rich colour pallete to contrast it with the grey, dim horrors of 20th century wartime featured later in the story. The film moves on from its fantastical opening quickly, before we get bored at all the Shakespearean posturing that plagued the first two Thor movies.

The film’s middle is by far the most entertaining part as we can see the comedic chops of both Gal Gadot and the ever-impressive Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, who could have been a very boring character with the wrong actor. Gadot herself is excellent as Diana, and can almost do no wrong walking the fine line of playing a strong, yet vulnerable version of Wonder Woman. The film also has an interesting take on World War 1, a rarely seen setting for such relatively lighthearted fare. We all think of World War 1 as men sitting in trenches with dysentery getting shelled by artillery, but Wonder Woman’s presence on the battlefield facilitates an exciting way to change that dynamic which was pleasantly surprising. The storytelling is creative and engaging, especially considering it’s confined to such a conventional formula. The action in particular in the first half of the movie is well paced and eye-catching. The impact of the blows Wonder Woman deals out to her enemies is palpable, compared with the almost pristine action style of Marvel.

(MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW)

IMG_0365Unfortunately the film doesn’t follow through on this promising set-up in its final act. Intent on finding the Greek God of War Aires masquerading as a human somewhere on earth, Diana/Wonder Woman kills the German officer she assumes is Aires in disguise in order to end his corruption of the human race.  After killing the German officer to no obvious effect on the people around who are still fighting each other, Diana appears to realize that war continues without gods, and each person has potential for good and evil, and maybe Aires was never a real person, but an idea that lives in all of us. But not a minute later Diana finds out that, no, wait, Aires is a real person and was actually a different, completely unrelated side character all along! Forget about all that “people are responsible for their actions” crap! Let’s have a god-battle with fire and swords and stuff!

This is where the film is disappointing, in my opinion. It’s lazy, and it’s unnecessary, and it only serves to create the seemingly requisite high budget CGI fight scene at the end of all comic book movies. It also undercuts the moralist message that the film is trying to convey, and almost contradicts it. The movie even ends on a line something along the lines of “each person has to choose between good and evil”, as if there wasn’t just a battle with an evil god who was literally influencing people to kill each other, robbing them of this choice. They do their due diligence and patch up the flawed logic in the script, but it still feels very off. If it’s not the result of studio-ordered rewrites, then I don’t know what is, because without this one stupid scene the movie is objectively better, but of course less profitable. To add insult to injury, the final fight scene itself is watchable but bland and lacking in truly interesting choreography or special effects, in stark contrast with the great fight scenes from earlier in the film. But I know, we’ve gotta sell those tickets.

And I get it. I do. The movie is still a cut above your standard superhero fare, and a refreshingly balanced take on a female superhero movie. Despite the lackluster special effects and the disappointing storytelling in the third act Wonder Woman is a good movie that never feels overlong or lacking in pace or chemistry. I would watch it again happily.

It feels like I was hard on the movie, but it’s because to me it was a missed opportunity to create a truly unique superhero film, if it had only kept that great anti-climax. I know that’s an oxymoron but whatever. I went into the film with no real expectations, got my expectations raised by the great start, and had my hopes let down a little by the third act. That’s all.

3 stars.

Bits and Pieces

-I mentioned it briefly, but the two leads in this movie are both great. Gal Gadot absolutely nails it and Chris Pine continues his streak of apparently being unable to put in a bad performance in any film of his I’ve seen.

-I was running off like three hours sleep when I watched this movie, and I half expected to doze off in the middle like an old man, but it kept me interested, to its credit.

-I enjoyed the comedy in the second act a lot, and while some of the social commentary was a little on the nose, Wonder Woman secretly gets away with telling a wonderful little side story about post-traumatic stress affecting one of Diana’s companions.

Alternative Plot: A harrowing drama about a woman struggling with dementia, constantly “wondering” about her forgotten life. Too dark?

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