Wonder Woman (2017) Review

director: Patty Jenkins

writer: Allan Heinberg

starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine and Robin Wright

genre: Action | Comics | Fantasy

released: 1 June 2017 (Australia), 2 June 2017 (USA), 8 June 2017 (Greece), 15 June 2017 (Germany)

No one wanted this film to fail, but no one expected it honestly to be good either. Most will be surprised with the end product in similar fashion to 'Captain America: the First Avenger' and also be amazed with how they managed to not only make the character of 'Wonder Woman' look commanding in that costume, but also be cool.

story:

The Amazonian warrior women live secluded from the world on the hidden island of Themyscira. There, they protect the ultimate God weapon against their evil foe, the God of War Ares. Whose whereabouts are unknown for thousand of years, but thought to be still pulling the strings of humanity towards his evil ways. The only one adept to take the God weapon and protect the world from him is Diana, otherwise known as 'Wonder Woman'. 

Once, the humans of the outside world enter into the hidden island location and make aware to them the growing war outside. Diana will accompany the American spy Steve on his journey to stop the building of weapons of mass destruction that could hinder the peace efforts, but also because Diana's fears that humanity is not behind this new development, but Ares instead.

thoughts:

Off the bat it's really stupid that a few people thought seeing a woman kick ass was a difficult film to get made. As its not about the main character being a man or woman that drives people to the movie theater. It's all about the story, the character itself and the genre they are set in (while also other elements such as the director, writers, budget, ext.). Here it is an action comic book story that people wanted to see, but not get tarnished as many properties before it. And while it did take a long time to get it off the ground, they did do a marvelous (no pun intended) job when it came to making the film. Nailing many of the most important elements of a superhero film, which is having something meaningful for the hero to fight for (civilians, humanity), with something on the line (either the people of earth, the characters around them or even the character's pride and sanity) and to a fair degree be realistic with imagery on screen and have cool effects that provide eye candy and entertain the masses. This and more was accomplished by the 'Wonder Woman' team and shows maybe DC is finally waking up.

In general, smart decisions were made with the story in its placement in time and place, but also in terms of its combination of fantasy and war elements that mix together seamlessly. With Wonder Woman having a few good fish out of water moments that lighten the mood, but also because she is a beacon of hope to what was a dreadful and endless war. The image of her leading the charge with her skimpy outfit brought a true heroic moment to a time that hopelessness had prevailed. Moreover, the film wisely included scenes of wounded soldiers from the battlefield and civilians in need of dire assistance. All of this fueling Diana even further into being the hero she always envisioned herself to be. While also confronting generals and politicians about their lack of true devotion for peace and the lives of their men, but also never afraid herself of using the sword to get that peace.

Additionally, what I most loved about Wonder Woman in the film was her fearless attitude and drive. She was a woman on a mission and nothing was going to stop her. She was bred to fight and took the prophecy of her people to heart and never backed down from it. Also, even though I thought the choice of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman at first was an aesthetic choice more than a choice of substance. She proves to handle herself in the later action scenes and commands the stage when she has to emote. What I mean by that is that she isn't a classically trained actress and is without much experience. I believe when the scenes demand her to be ferocious and combative you see her true self come out. She's at her worst when she is standing like a stick and has no lines. This is noticeable in the beginning of the film and her performance in the 'Furious' films where she was just there for eye candy.

Furthermore, knowing she isn't a fully trained or an experienced actress the production made some interesting choices in the film for the worse in my opinion. One, in regards to her Israeli accent. Most likely because of this they decided to make the Amazonians all have ethnic sounding accents, but quite oddly they decided to go with them all sounding as if they came from Eastern European for no apparent reason. Another weird little creative choice is with the beginning voice over. This is where she has to command the importance of her story to the audience and instead of the director leaving her words to be poignant and somber, they allowed a moment of fake laughter in it that removed the emotion and importance immediately out of it. Not to mention in the first act and her warrior training where stunt women are used instead of her in obvious fashion and at times you could swear they super imposed her face as well. Now, I'm personally aware re-shoots happened and she was pregnant in certain scenes, but that is no excuse for a production of this magnitude to make these silly mistakes. It looks not only bad on DC/Warner, but also on her sadly.

Which leads us to some of the film's biggest issues, such as the lack of quality time being spent with Diana on the island of Themiscyra. This seems to be the biggest issue that plagues superhero films, and how they orchestrate their origin story to push through the character to enter the main plot. As there is a tendency to rush things and not let story and character dictate tempo. For example 'Wonder Woman' has the same length time as 'Batman Begins', but that film focused a large part of the film building the character first to become Bruce Wayne and then Batman. Here the film speeds along from who Diana is all the way to her being Wonder Woman. Leading to a mishandled and uneven first act from the sub par action of too many flips, stunts and CGI shots on the hidden island, to the minimal Diana character building (don't count young Diana as that ain't Gal Gadot) and the phony accents of the Amazonian women as mentioned before. The only great part of the first act is the Queen telling the origin to young Diana through some creative animation and the fact you had two great actresses playing leaders of the Amazonian women, but in the end turn out to be placeholders and play a very small part in her evolution as a character.

Thankfully, after the first act and the introduction of Steve played by Chris Pine to the story, the film starts building momentum and gets interesting. With moments of great humor with Diana being a fish out of water and Chris Pine trying to inform and educate her of the ways of the outside world. Also, their is a complexity to their relationship that many superhero romances most characteristically lack. With Diana and Steve's relationship having moments of humor, doubt (of each other's true intentions and beliefs with one being a spy and the other a Goddess), while also the comradery that leads the duo to a natural intimacy. Which is actually quite outstanding and should be recognized as one of the best achievements of the film.

SPOILERS ahead:

I won't mention much, but I will say that the ending was a surprise. Personally, I haven't read any 'Wonder Woman' solo comics in my life and didn't think DC had the guts to do anything in terms of big dramatic events. Maybe it's because I was lazy to even bother thinking of the many possible and most logical sequence of events for it, but also because I didn't think they would be crafty enough in doing so. Naturally, I should have known better as seeing who the film's screenwriter was during the end credits made it clearly apparent. If anyone has ever read the Marvel comics 'Young Avengers' you would know a little of the screenwriter Allan Heinberg's work and how great of a writer he is.

In specific, the big twist at the end and the dramatic significance of it played out in phenomenal fashion. The way 'Wonder Woman' was built to believe one truth, but at the same time came to learn the ultimate truth the Amazonians where hiding from her was well played. While also the actual interest on the part of DC to explore the themes of the Gods of Olympus and not shy away from their Deism, unlike Marvel and their alien scientific route (Thor). It also should be mentioned that the death of the main character in the film was a good touch. Not that I was happy that the person died, but the way it was done was artsy and highly significant to Wonder Woman's character arc. Nonetheless, I will nitpick and say they kind of ruined the 'Lost in Translation' moment they had going for it by revealing the dialogue soon after.

verdict:

Gal Gadot managed to own the character as the film progressed and there is room for her to develop into a greater actress and for the character of 'Wonder Woman' to be even further developed into pop culture icon. A lot of choices though will have to be made by DC if we are going to see a 'Wonder Woman 2' anytime soon and the potential direction it will take. Hopefully, they make the right decisions and early success doesn't get to their head.

Personal Rating:

review by Paul Katsaros

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