Quick Critique: Wonder Woman

Princess Diana (Gal Gadot) is an Amazonian from an island called Themyscira. Raised on stories of how Zeus brought them to their home to prepare for the re-emergence of his tyrannical son Ares by her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nelson), she trains in secret with her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) and grows up to be the fierce warrior Wonder Woman. After a World War One soldier Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) arrives, he tells them about the war and Diana believes this is the work of a returned Ares. She travels with Steve to the outside world and begins her quest to hunt down the god, slay him with the weapon said to do so and stop the warring urges of humanity.

There is a long sequence in Wonder Woman that extends for a few scenes right in the middle, and that is probably one of the most perfect depictions of heroism I’ve seen on the big screen in a long time. It matches Spider-Man stopping the train in terms of pure heroics. How they managed to make Diana noble and yet compelling with a fatal flaw certainly helps this; you honestly feel like you’re on a journey with her. That sequence in Wonder Woman I would say is nearly perfect. The rest, however…

The opening is very much weighed down in plodding, boring exposition and a pretty bad pacing issue. While I understand this is part and parcel of this superhero subgenre, I would be lying if I said it made the movie feel a bit too slow. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t notice some annoyances in the CG and action, outside of one notable exception. Patty Jenkins is a wonderful director when it comes to acting, tone and subtlelty, and Wonder Woman gets those right with one glaring exception, but her inexperience as an action director may have hurt the flow of these moments. Like I said, there is some good stuff there, but if I ever see another fucking slow-mo scene, I will actually break the nearest thing around me. Possibly my arm.

And again, let me stress that there’s a lot in this movie I really love. I love the dynamics with not only the massive female cast near the beginning but the diverse soldiers that never feel tokenised and all get sufficient development. I love that the relationship between Diana and Steve is both well built up and they feel like they’re on a level playing field. While I rolled my eyes at the cliched dressing sequence, for the most part the ‘fish out of water’ stuff and especially the gender politics of the time period are pretty underplayed. I liked the villains, though Danny Huston’s character is kind of dull. He’s also based on a real war general for the German side in WWI, and died 19 years after the war ended, so make of that what you wish.

The ending is kind of a hot mess, and by that I mean there’s a lot about it I really, really liked, and then we’d get hit by about 2 or 3 things I didn’t. I get the feeling this was mostly designed to be a big ass action sequence that was demanded by the studio, as it really goes against the tonality of the rest of the film, but I will not speak for Patty Jenkins nor her vision. I will also use this time to say that there are a lot of weird plot moments and contrivances to get to certain places, and some of those do affect the ending.

As it stands, its’ fun! A lot of fun. Some great subtle character work, well directed acting with each actor giving it their A-game and it’s a wonderfully thought out and well-designed world even with some dodgy CG. Setting it in the morally complex World War I instead of the much more ‘here is the enemy’ World War II (where the character’s origins in the book actually took place) was a stroke of genius, and there’s a lot of well-constructed themes that pay off in a really satisfying way, which is more than what I can say for any Zack Snyder film I’ve ever watched.

I didn’t love it like others did, but I can absolutely see why they did. Wonder Woman is fun, smartly conceived and finally displays that potential the DCEU has. Less brooding self-indulgence, more heroic adventuring please.

7/10

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