Reviews: Wonder Woman 2017
DC\'s Best Film In Years
You may have heard some of the criticism of the DCEU- that it's too dark, overly complex and reliant on context from prior installments, and has unlikable characters, among many other things. Wonder Woman succeeds where many other DCEU movies failed, and thus serves well as a stand-alone film. The film, despite being part of the DCEU, doesn't require the viewer to have watched any of the previous films. Instead, it focuses on Wonder Woman's origins, from growing up as a child on the island of the Amazons, to setting out to kill Ares and stop World War I. Despite the setting, the film isn't as dark or gritty as one would fear, as while War Is Hell is in full effect, the overall tone is relatively optimistic, and the film is leavened with humor. Diana herself is quite well-written, and serves well as a strong, if realistically flawed, female protagonist, thus effectively giving the film a feminist element without being too Anvilicious about it. Her overall character arc, in which she is forcibly stripped of her naivete and forced to recognize humanity's flaws, without completely giving up on her desire to do the right thing, is quite compelling. Steve Trevor, a British Intelligence agent who also wants to end the war but has fewer illusions about how to do it, works well as a foil and Love Interest. The supporting cast is less important to the story, but most characters who are around for more than a few scenes show a surprising amount of depth. While Ares only reveals himself near the climax, he's an excellent villain with some disturbingly accurate points about humanity. The action scenes are well-choreographed and exciting, enhanced by good camera work and special effects and complemented by a fitting soundtrack. Diana's skilled with her sword, shield, lasso and bracers, and is thus quite enjoyable to watch as she vanquishes foes armed with rifles, machine guns and other modern weapons. All in all, there are many reasons to view Wonder Woman- exciting action scenes, a strong female protagonist, a compellingstory and many more- so I highly recommend that you do so.
A good film for DC
Most DC films tend to go for grittiness and downplay the fantastical elements and try to avoid relying on suspension of disbelief. This film does not, and it does so in a way that is better for it. The scene where Diana charges across no-man's land, deflecting the gunfire and helping clear the trench, then going on to liberate the town is uplifting and amazing in a way not seen since Superman's emergence in the first Superman movie back in the 1980's. There is a feminist element to the film but here it was... (gasp) not the focus of the story, subtle and not anti-male. I'm not saying where I stand on feminism, I am saying the feminist aspect in this was well-handled, unlike how overt it was in the otherwise good film "Mad Max: Fury Road", and how all-round horrible it was in what I call a dumpster fire of a film - "Ghostbusters 2016". In closing I highly recommend this. It's not DC's best, but it is good, enjoyable, unique and definitely worth watching.
Decent But Disappointing
Let's get this out of the way; Wonder Woman is definitely the best live-action DC film in a very long time, albeit this is a bit like being the most sympathetic child-murderer, or the most intelligent Brexit voter. It's not like there was fierce competition. The opening of the film is bad. It's nothing but exposition about Diana, as a child, living in Themyscira, and it doesn't stop being exposition until she grows up and leaves the island, which luckily doesn't take too long. But it's really bad while it lasts; like someone read the Wikipedia page for Wonder Woman's background and decided to make that, and only that. There's nothing except the vital elements of the Wonder Woman backstory. No childhood friends. No personality or development or conversations that weren't written in stone by the Gods thousands of years ago. I hate to compare it to Marvel straight off the bat, but James Gunn introduced us to a talking raccoon and a tree by just having them be in a scene and talk to each other. And the tree couldn't even talk! And it was better than this stilted 'Diana, backstory, weapons, male co-lead, now piss off' shtick. But then the positives start to appear. Wonder Woman joins Steve Trevor and his Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, including a Scottish man with an appallingly accurate accent, and they venture off into World War I, which is... hit and miss. It doesn't really work as a combination of Superhero Origin Story and Tragic 'War Is Hell' Story, but it's admirable that they tried, and it doesn't entirely fail. It's interesting watching Wonder Woman go after one guy with the understanding that he must be Ares and therefore responsible for the whole war, but when she finally kills him, it turns out that he was just some dickhead, and the war will continue... and then that shocking development goes absolutely nowhere because Ares does show up a minute and a half later and the idea that you can't solve every conflict by killing one particularly high-ranking bad guy is promptly discarded. Actual positives; the action scenes were quite good, especially the alleyway scene. Supporting cast are nice, with Steve's secretary and the Scottish sniper getting some small but genuine character moments. Gal Gadot makes a good Wonder Woman. And while DC still haven't figured out that it's okay to put genuinely funny parts into your movie, instead of the occasional sarcastic one-liner followed by another 15 minutes of broody angst, there are a few giggles. Also, lots of British characters, so I felt well-represented, although you're not really appealing to a British audience until you relentlessly take the piss out of Croydon. I don't want to be too harsh though; this is a good-ish film. And it's fantastic that DC have finally found the key to making films that are decent. It's just a shame that at their best, DC are still producing films that just manage to reach the same quality as Ant-Man and the second Thor movie.
Another Origin Story...yet not stale
So, after two divisive films (which I liked, actually) and one abysmal abomination of a film, comes Wonder Woman, film which nigh-unanimously regarded as a good movie at least. I liked it too. Good:
- Great acting: Gal Gadot and Chris Pine did an excellent job as Diana and Steve. Others did well too.
- Still visually-great: This movie is beautiful, as standard with DCEU (except Suicide Squad). I especially like how colorful and lush Themyscira contrasts with grey and dull London. Even No Man's Land looks beautiful, in its own twisted way.
- Action: If there is something DCEU gets right along with visuals, it's action. Except for one instance.
- Story and message: It can't be denied. This film sounds like just another Origin Story. Yet, it's different. First of all, the movie says that superheroes can't solve the root of a problem just by punching and slashing. Second, she actually becomes disillusioned with heroics for many reasons, unlike other Origin Stories, where heroes embrace their hero life.
- War is Hell: This movie shows this really well, especially No Man's Land sequence (before heroics, anyways). Also, both sides are considered as grey, instead of black and white (Germans can be reasonable and worry about their population, while Allies generals can be hypocritical). Also, the fact we humanity alone are responsible for our mistakes, not some otherwordly beings.
- OST: Pretty good, I must say (though not Man of Steel level good), so it's closer to meh.
- Not overt feminism: Well, it was obvious the movie about the most prominent superheroine to have some feminist themes. But this movie treats men and women as equals rather than having "women are better than men, period" mindset.
- Villains: They're not horrible, but they could have been better. Still, all of them are pretty interesting, especially Ares (since he is not actually responsible for the mess)
- 3rd act: Final battle, to be precise. Ares's mustache, as well as not showing off his supposed rad fighting skills is quite disappointing.
- Chosen One (or Ares's death): I just wish they didn't kill off Ares.
An overall good film, though not without its problems
Wonder Woman is an overall good film that succeeds in making a compelling origin story about Diana. Overall, this film is a success; Gal Gadot and Chris Pine were excellent, and the film does a good job exploring some of the flaws about humanity. Sustain:
- Despite what's commonly reported, this film is still quite dark through and through, and its depiction of war in particular is quite serious, as it should. In many ways, this is quite a war movie, which is something I greatly appreciate.
- An even handed approach towards gender issue. Obviously being set in 1918 sexism will be prevalent. Yet this film chose to not dwell on the issue of gender, and don't present males as evil. Rather than demonizing men, the film suggests that people of all races and genders should be treated as equal and can make a difference.
- Diana. Love her in this movie, she's compelling, awesomely powerful, yet not completely flawless (looking at you, Force Awakens). Her developments and emotions are quite touching, and you really empathize with her.
- Steve Trevor. Excellent supporting character. The moment when he tries to explain humanity's imperfection to Diana is very moving.
- NO MAN'S LAND SCENE. What a great scene that establishes her character. As much as I love it I think it could've been better if they made a few tweaks (see below).
- Dialogue is at times clunky, almost too expository and feels somewhat unnatural.
- Pacing feels off at times. Also results in some rather peculiar storytelling oddities. I mean really, all it took was one little pep talk for Antiope to convince Hippolyta to train Diana, and even 10 times as hard? Way too abrupt change of heart.
- Some of the camera work. Action scenes were overall good but some of the close up shots at Diana's face just seems odd. They linger too long and the fact that she maintains a robotic composure throughout that shot just looks unnatural. Some of it honestly reminded me of shampoo ads and took me out of the moment, especially with the slow-mo.
- After refusing to crush Dr Poison with the tank, the way she dispatched Ares just felt to quick and easy. Almost looked like she wasn't using any effort, which to me kind of detracted from her struggles and took a bit away from the catharsis.
- Villains seemed underdeveloped. Not much to be said here, just my personal opinion.
- More can be done to build up no man's land scene. For example, after Steve Trevor tells her that they can't save everyone in this war, give her a few more seconds before showing her resolve. That way it wouldn't seem so unnaturally abrupt IMO.
A good, fun film but the ending stumbles over itself (Spoilers!)
Wonder Woman is the movie the DC Cinematic Universe should have started with. With 3 failures under its belt, this film is a breath of fresh air. While nothing exceptional, the Wonder Woman is quite enjoyable and the action scenes are top-notch. The sidekick character is likable, the humor is fitting and well-timed, and the characters... well, they're in-character and their motives are understandable. It's a testament to how bad the other DC movies have been so far that this is considered exceptional, but let's stop talking about the other movies. Considering Wonder Woman as a standalone movie: Strong themes are carried through the movie. While the feminist theme is obvious, it's also nothing radical. In that era, men are the cause of most evil, because women just couldn't do anything back then. But it's not as if all women are good and all men are bad - nothing is clear-cut here. This is especially true with Diana's ideals. Everything she's learned is tested against a world she's never seen before with horrors she literally could not imagine. She was born from the gods and was raised on (possibly factual) fairy tales; and so she believes her quest is very traditional and fairy-tale-like. She'll defeat the Big Bad and everything will be okay again. And this is a really important message and a strong theme of the movie I liked. Diana may have super strength and speed, but she can't fight human nature. She can't take on an entire World War by herself. While other characters know they have to leave innocents behind to suffer while they complete their mission, she considers it evil, but mostly because she can't fully comprehend the scope of the entire war. So the big reveal, the not-really-a-twist comes when she slays the Big Bad... and nothing happens. The war continues. As the audience expected. This should be a big profound moment of realization for Diana when she understands how the world really works. But wait! There's another twist! It turns out she killed the wrong Big Bad. The true Big Bad shows up. They fight. Our sidekick does what he can do to complete the mission. The real Big Bad is killed... and then the war ends the very next day. What did we learn here, folks? Something about human nature and how greed will naturally drive men to war, and you can't stop it without changing the very nature of humanity itself? Oh wait, no, the lesson was that if you kill one guy and the war doesn't stop, he was a decoy. So kill the other guy and everything will be OK. That's... uh... very deep. Honestly, this film could have done much better without Ares in the movie at all. Just... leave him out completely. She should have had to learn the hard way that there just isn't always one bad guy who's the source of all evil, and she has to learn to deal with that.
The Dark and Gritty Film that Works
What with every other DC movie this decade going foul, a tremendous amount is riding on Wonder Woman to be good. Thank goodness then it turned out to not only be good, but also a movie that reminds us how a superhero movie should be done. Wonder Woman's origins cover a lot of the same ground as Captain America - another star spangled hero famous for punching Nazis in propaganda comics. That's probably what led the decision to set WW in World War I, a more cynical, morally ambiguous conflict. Whilst WW ends in a similar way to Captain America: The First Avenger, (with a plot about stopping super-villain general launch a super weapon via giant aeroplane), it has a much more satisfying payoff because the rest of the movie has done the leg work to make you care about the heroes, the conflict, and the broader concept of war itself. The single best scene in the movie is when Wonder Woman first arrives on the front line. She takes one look at No Man's Land, decides to make it her own, and singlehandedly charges into a wall of machinegunfire and mortar shells. You'd think a model in a garish red and blue metal miniskirt would look quite silly in this sort of setting, but it is surprisingly compelling. I've seen Zack Snider screw up a very similar looking trench scene in Sucker Punch, and seeing his name in the writing credits made me concerned at first, but this movie actually takes the best of his work (the appropriately Grecian themed, slow mo combat from 300) and avoided all the other bullshit that's come with his terrible other superhero movies. This movie has a lot of heart. It takes the time to do what a lot of other superhero movies don't do anymore, and actually illustrate how much the hero cares about saving people's lives. Wonder woman's face cracks into a huge smile when she sees a human baby for the first time, and it is that same Amazonian warrior who is then confronted ten minutes later by suffering, downtrodden soldiers marching back from the front line. Whilst we are often told that a superhero is doing something to save the world, we are never actually shown how much they care about people - nor are we made to think that in a superhero movie, its not only humanity itself that are the villains, but also the ones who are going to save the day. If I had any criticism of the movie, its that the special effects sometimes let it down. This is more obvious in the beginning, with some unconvincing looking moments in the Amazon's home world, and at the end, where a final showdown with the super super villain is full of cheesy fire and lightning. Other than that, it is a good movie that knows how to explore a gritty setting the proper way, how to provide big action, and how to explore the bigger themes without sounding too preachy. Watch it. Watch it again, and then buy the DVD.
A fun time with a movie that does a lot of things right
In this age of self-serious, grimdark superhero movies, this is... not a huge exception. But it does one thing differently there: it has a lot of understated humor mixed in with all the serious. Wonder Woman - Diana Prince - is a Fish out of Water when she leaves her homeland behind and lives in the world everyone else lives in. And that's played up as a source of humor many times, but also more seriously at other times. Seeing her adapt to "normal" life is fun, and I won't spoil any of the jokes, including the ones I heard many people laughing at. The humor is not a constant, though, and fades away as the overall mood changes later on. This movie has character. I actually liked the characters and found them interesting, likeable, and fun to watch. Wonder Woman's changing reactions as her idealism is questioned, as she learns things that were hidden from her, and as she sees how people react to the horrors of war, and the way all these revelations affect her, brings her very much to life and makes her a fun, dynamic character who does more than simply kick ass and take names. Speaking of kicking ass, the action scenes are great. Slow-mo is used to emphasize a move before we see its impact, and the fights and action are very well choreographed. I loved watching the action scenes, and I can say that about few movies. The movie does use the annoying Hollywood "gray and blue" muted color filter, but at least it uses it for a reason - to separate the colorful world of Wonder Woman's island with the horrors of World War I. I still don't care for that choice, but I can respect the movie's choice to use it to represent the difference between the two "worlds". Speaking of the WWI setting, there is a cast of other people who play a major role in the movie - the fighter pilot Wonder Woman rescues, who serves as a constant companion with much character development of his own, and the crew he assembles for a mission in the war. That crew is fun to watch, and it's fun to see the difference between their espionage and standard combat, and Wonder Woman's acrobatics and kickass combat. Usually in movies like this, it's men who have the super combat skills and women who do the espionage and sneakiness, but here it's the other way around. Some people have remarked that you can subtly tell the movie was directed by a woman, since the camera doesn't linger on the Amazon-esque outfits Wonder Woman and the other ladies from her island wear, and it's funny, because it never occurred to me that the outfits were sexualized. Maybe because the camera doesn't linger on them! :P Anyway, I had a fun time. It's a nice mix of comedy, darkness, action, adventure, espionage, drama, and some very well choreographed fight scenes. I hope this movie does really well.
So let\'s talk about Wonder Woman
... Well, it's easily the best DCEU superhero film, even though it still falls short of Marvel. But hey, baby steps. Crawl before you walk before you run. Personally, Gal Godot still just does not work for me as WW. Her emoting isn't that great, her action scenes look weirdly edited with too many slow-mo shots, and the stuff on Paradise Island felt very by the numbers. But then Chris Pine showed up, and his greatest superpower is doing his damndest to make sure this is a fun, enjoyable film. Once Diana's off with him and experiencing the world at large we finally get a lot of things the DC films have desperately needed: heart, characters with actual character and personality, and some genuine hero-ing. Some of the characters still fall short, like the sniper guy who has some vaguely explained problems and yet never really has a resolution to his character arc, but for what we see of these people though, they carry more spirit and depth than damn near everyone in the last three films combined. The problem is though that the film just didn't know how to end itself. Setting the film during World War 1 was a fun idea, and it provides an excellent dichotomy between Trevor's worldiness and Diana's idealism with a war where true villains were few and far between (though still present) and yet atrocities were still aplenty due to the sheer inertia of civilization. Trevor wants to do good but his limits are clear, as are his specific duties, whereas Diana wants to do good everywhere but naively thinks that all conflict can be solved just by finding the designated Big Bad and killing them. There was a lot of potential here to subvert and play with the tropes of a superhero story, possibly more than any other hero film made before it, but unfortunately it gives up on itself. Or maybe it didn't realize just what it had the potential of creating. Thus we end up getting a very stock and boring final battle where the villain is supposedly killed with the power of LOVE (even though it looked more like Wonder Woman was doing her best Specium Ray impersonation a-la Ultraman) and a film that just sorta... tells itself things are resolved and that they've come full circle even when they don't really feel like they have. I can't say the film is a must-see, but it also isn't offensively bad or mediocre. I had plenty of laughs and liked some of the action sequences, which is more than I can say about any other DC film. If you want to give it a shot you definitely won't regret watching it, but I don't think it'll really stick with you unless you're a die-hard fan of Wonder Woman.