Monday, June 5, 2017

Wonder Woman (2017)


Directed by Patty Jenkins.
2017. Rated PG-13, 141 minutes.
Cast:
Gal Gadot
Chris Pine
Robin Wright
Danny Huston
David Thewlis
Connie Nielsen
Elena Anaya
Lucy Davis
Saïd Taghmaoui
Ewen Bremner
Eugene Brave Rock

In 2016's Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman AKA Diana Prince (Gadot) stole the show by lending a helping hand to the two titular lunkheads in that two-and-a-half hour mopefest. As a reward, after more than seventy years of existence and over thirty other movies based on DC characters, she is finally given her own big screen, solo adventure. It starts with Diana in the present day, receiving a package from none other than Bruce Wayne. She opens it to reveal the photo of her from more than seventy years ago that made several appearances in BvS with a note from him saying that one day she must tell him her story. Rather than going all the way to Gotham, she just tells us in the audience through the massive flashback that makes up the bulk of the film.

Diana's story begins on the island of Themyscira, one inhabited by only women. We're told she was molded from clay by her mother Hippolyta (Nielsen). We meet her as a child with a longing to be a warrior just like the rest of the Amazons. Hippolyta forbids this. Being a determined young girl, Diana convinces her aunt, General Antiope (Wright) to train her anyway. We also learn that the Amazons were relegated to Themyscira after a long battle with Ares, the god of war. Ares managed to kill all of the gods including Zeus. Luckily, and with his dying breath, Zeus left behind a weapon to be used against Ares should he ever return. They call it The God Killer. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is mired in the turmoil of World War I. This is a fact lost on the Amazons until pilot Steve Trevor (Pine) crashes his plane in Themysciran waters. Diana witnesses this, dives in, and pulls Steve from the sinking wreckage. Soon enough, the Germans who were chasing Steve show up on the coast of the island and a massive battle ensues. Steve fights on the side of the Amazons, and thus, is the only man left alive at the end of this skirmish. Understandably, the Amazons want to kill him, but Diana convinces them Steve is 'not like the others.' When Diana learns that this war encompassing the globe, she puts two and two together and surmises that Ares is responsible. She then arms herself with The God Killer, earns the reluctant blessing of her mother, which comes with a spiffy superhero outfit, and leaves Themyscira with Steve in tow in hopes of finding and killing Ares.

Like the 2009 animated version, this film quickly gets to work on showcasing the difference between women who have only known a patriarchal society and one to whom the idea is foreign. The idea that a woman cannot do anything simply on the basis of gender is preposterous to her and she has no qualms about voicing this. It's a clever way of introducing twenty-first century ideals without beating its audience over the head with what might be perceived as angry feminism. A point is made, does not become the point. The disparity between Diana and "normal" women combines with her naivete about the world in general to provide Wonder Woman something missing Superman's two outings in the current DC Extended Universe (DCEU), fun. Even though there are heavy themes being explored such as the subjugation of women and a war raging all around her, there is time devoted to levity. It's a much welcome change to the thus far intensely dour outings Man of Steel and BvS. That said, Wonder Woman is no chuckle fest. It's about a serious-minded woman focused on a serious objective. It just refuses to sink into the emotionally oppressive morass of those other movies.


The main hunk of the story, however, is Diana's mission of killing Ares. Given all the talk of gods, ancient warriors, and children molded from clay, it has a decidedly mythological slant. The film strikes a delicate balance between this and the very real world problem of WWI. It approaches this by having Diana and Steve work together, but with seemingly conflicting goals. We can clearly see the war happening as our heroine has dropped into the middle of it. However, we can't see Ares, only hear Diana speak of him. This gives us a reason to doubt her. We certainly believe she is doing what she thinks is right. We're just not sure what she's doing is practical. The movie is very effective perpetuating the idea that Diana might be chasing ghosts. It also uses this as a way to afford Diana the level of righteousness needed to confront those she deems to be falling short on their responsibility to do good. The trick to making this work is she doesn't come off as arrogant, but wholly committed to eradicating evil.

Any Wonder Woman adventure would be incomplete without exploring the relationship between her and Steve Trevor. The sexual tension they share is cranked up early and hangs over the proceedings in a most welcome manner. We watch their feelings for one another develop from their most awkward stages to becoming a full-blown romance. The chemistry between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine is tangible making it easy to understand why these two characters are falling for each other. Best of all, despite a fair amount of time devoted to it, their relationship never detracts from what our heroine is trying to accomplish. Instead, it enhances the story and creates more empathy within the viewer.

The epicenter of all our goodwill is, of course, Wonder Woman herself. It's the responsibility of Gal Gadot to make her a character worthy of our investment. Initially, when Gadot was granted the role a few years ago, I wasn't too sure she would be able to pull it off. From a physical standpoint, I thought she was too slight and doubted she had the athletic ability to be Wonder Woman. Admittedly, I had no idea she was once a combat instructor in the Israeli Defense Forces. My other issue was with her acting ability. I didn't know if she had any. I had seen her in a couple of Fast and Furious movies, but wasn't necessarily thrilled with her performances. The most memorable thing she did was rip off her sarong to give the cameraman a close up of her bikini bottom. My fears were eased with her appearance in BvS. Here, she exceeded my expectations with a commanding portrayal of Diana. She dominates the screen throughout, even exuding an overpowering presence when sharing the screen with the charismatic Pine, as she often does. Credit must be given to screenplay writer, Allan Heinberg, for giving Gadot the tools to create the type of persona we expect from Wonder Woman, but Gadot has to be recognized for breathing life into the words.


Any superhero flick worth its costume has to deliver in the action department. Wonder Woman provides a masterclass in patient storytelling punctuated by amazing action. Early on, there are long stretches between action scenes. The tale being told easily holds our attention so we don't mind. These intervals get shorter in the second half of the film, starting with the spectacular "No Man's Land" battle. This is the showcase piece of the movie as we see our heroine perform the type of incredible feats her name conjures up in our minds. It's easily the best scene in any of Wonder Woman's live-action outings. There are several more outstanding action sequences, as well. The one sequence that was less than satisfactory, however, is the final one. The action part of it is great. Unfortunately, it's stretched out far too long as characters on both sides indulge in speechifying between blows causing long breaks for the sake of exposition. I get that this is done in almost every superhero movie, but here it feels excessive.

All the talking going on during that final battle highlights another issue with the film. We have a villain we don't really care enough about to hate. The problem is the bad guys are all kind of doing their thing alongside the story, but not being examined by it even though the opportunity seems to be there to develop a truly three-dimensional baddie. Instead, we get someone who shows up, has all sorts of power, but would rather talk our heads off.

Luckily, DC has taken a page from Marvel. They make our protagonist and her overall quest compelling enough that a less than memorable villain is not a deal breaker. Indeed, we are all about Wonder Woman's mission even if her actual target is not all that important to us. She's a character we root for and fully understand why she does what she does. As the film goes on her character deepens as the world she finds herself in continuously reveals itself to her. It does all this in a fun manner, but doesn't go overboard trying to inject shenanigans into the film. In other words, it strikes the perfect tone to tell it's story and keep us engaged with it. To this point, Wonder Woman is by far the best film in the DCEU.

Potential Dellies Considerations: Best Actress (Gal Gadot), Best Supporting Actor (Chris Pine), Best Action Hero (Gal Gadot),  Best Action Sequence (No Man's Land), Best Overall Technical Achievement.


I've spent all weekend with Wonder Woman. Click below to see what else I watched.


I've also reviewed all of the films in the DCEU.

18 comments:

  1. I want to see this movie and glad you liked it overall. She is one kick ass lady who can hold her own with men, is intelligent and confident...rare actually

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    1. I really liked it. Hope you get to see it soon.

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  2. I'm glad this film is a success. All of those men complaining about these women-only screenings are just a bunch of whiny little bitches w/ sand in their vaginas. The screening I went to was nearly 50% women as I saw a mother and her daughter both wearing different Wonder Woman t-shirts as it showed how much of a big deal it was and they definitely were happy about what they saw.

    I also like the fact Chris Pine was willing to be the one to show skin in a comical manner as he seemed cool to be the supporting character as I was impressed with his performance. The whole cast was awesome as I'm on board for another Wonder Woman film. I also hope we can get an Oscar campaign for Gal Gadot for Best Actress. She really gave the performance of a lifetime as I'm just happy to see little girls finally have a role model that actually means something rather than be shown wearing a thong.

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    1. I totally agree about guys whining about women-only screenings. There really was nothing to protest.

      Pine was excellent, as was the movie on the whole. I am absolutely on board for a sequel. While I would love to see an Oscar campaign for Gadot, because she is outstanding, I don't think it will happen. This isn't Oscars' type of thing. Hopefully, I'm wrong.

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  3. I was all right with the final battle because they put so many moving moments in there and Gadot's portrayal was so compelling throughout the film including the action scenes. I really hope this is the start of great things for DCEU because the fans have suffered enough and I hope the studio does WW2 faster than Man of Steel 2 because they managed to make Superman so dull and Cavill's limited abilities are only making it worse.

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    1. Oh please do a WW sequel, soon. I'm all in for that one.

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  4. I haven't been to a theater since last January. I think I need to go see this, though, if only to support movies like this in the future. The more it brings in, the less I have to constantly worry about the sort of images my daughters have confront them.

    Oh, and to piss of MRAs. That's a perk.

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    1. Please support this movie. You'll be doing yourself a favor, too.

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  5. I had a problem with the No Man’s Land battle and the film setting as a whole. The fact that a superhero is the impetus for going over the top completely negates the bravery of actual people who had to endure such a battle. Also the depiction of war as a good vs evil is at best a missed opportunity to examine the ambiguity and at worst revisionist and misguided (the Germans were not the only ones to use gas attacks).

    That said, I enjoyed the film greatly. A far superior effort to the recent DC film

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    1. Completely fair points and you are right. However, when watching it I was struck by what this moment meant to what was going on within the film. A narrow point of view, I know, but in the moment it worked really well for me

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  6. I'm glad someone else had an issue with the end battle like I did. I wtf'd hard while watching it after how good the rest of the movie was.

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  7. I agree with you pretty much on everything. I did like the final battle but I do agree on the villains, they were terrible and I didn't even bother hating them, I just didn't care. But I'm happy DC finally made a great film. And it's lead by a woman and directed by a woman which makes it even a bigger success.

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  8. Excellent review.

    I forgot that GG has been a part of the F&F franchise, but I certainly remember that ass shot. That's awesome that she was a combat instructor. Awesome....on so many levels.

    Agree with the crummy villain aspect, but I think that's simply more forgivable in an origin story. We're too wrapped up in our protagonist to really care about the baddie. And besides, I wouldn't have wanted to spend too much time away from Diana. But maybe that's just me...

    Talking during the big battle is RIDICULOUS, but as you've said, it's kind of par for the course. I assume everyone does it because the combatants have also seen fight scenes and it feels like it what you're supposed to do. Like if you and me got down, we'd talk it out. And when you busted my lip? I'm wipe the blood with the back of my thumb, look at it, then wave you to me Morpheus style.

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    1. Crummy villains are more forgivable in an origin. And point well taken about not wanting to spend too much time away from Diana.

      Ahhh...Morpheus.

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  9. Great review mate. I agree, the villains are probably the weakest element of the whole film, but the Gadot/Pine teaming is splendiferous enough to overcome minor faults such as this. Heck, the Marvel films have been cruising on average villains for several years now. Poor Thewlis, though. I feel for him.

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    1. Yeah, too bad for Thewlis. At least Danny Huston got to ham it up for a good chunk of film.

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