The beleaguered DC movie universe has been having a hard time of it especially with Suicide Squad and Batman vs. Superman. Neither film was warmly received and so there were lowered expectations going into their latest effort Wonder Woman. The equally surprising and welcome news is that Wonder Woman is great.
Wonder Woman is not unique amongst super hero films in the sense that it tells an origin story. Who is Diana? Where Does she come from? What are her reasons for why she wants to be a hero? Yet despite being an origin story it helps when that is presented with a level of enthusiasm that is usually missing from these kinds of things. It might help that as an audience, especially a modern one is generally less familiar with Wonder Woman’s story. I personally didn’t know a whole lot and it helped things move along quickly.
At its core Wonder Woman is a little bit like Superman in that she stands for idyllic and idealistic values. Yet in recent times Superman has been turned into a villain. His way of seeing the world too black and white. One can’t help but speculate that this that the creators feel he needed to be more interesting, more realistic, grittier. This vision hasn’t exactly thrilled movie going audiences.
Wonder Woman does the opposite. You see those same values of a belief in right and above all love are still present here. A compassion for people is what drives her into the world. She is not the villain nor is she presented as one. In fact, she is the truest of heroes I’ve seen in recent comic book movies because she inspires people.
There is a scene from the trailer where she can’t understand the insanity of the trench warfare of World War One. She has this moment of realisation as she stands on the battlefront of that conflict. Watching scared and huddling civilians, injured soldiers and Diana is unable to do nothing. She does what she does and goes over the trenches facing snipers, machine guns and the veritable traps of no man’s land. When her team sees, they won’t let her alone out there, but it’s also the other soldiers that rally around her too. They push the Germans back. It’s the type of scene in our age of super hero deconstruction and cynicism seems out of place. In the hands of a less competent film maker than Patty Jenkins it could have been disastrous and yet here it is feeling uplifting and inspired.
It helps that the cast for Wonder Woman is solid. Gal Gadot is unsurprisingly great and while some of her have criticised her woodenness at times I think there is the fish out of water curiosity that makes me think she is playing it that way. The real winner here is Chris Pine as jaded war spy and love interest. He’s a humbler and funnier version of his Captain Kirk here and not being the most important person in the room. Special mentions should go the hilarious Lucy Davis and the dignified Robin Wright.
There is a wonderful humour to the proceedings to from the revelation of woman having no need of man to the various outfits that Diana tries on to blend in. It all feels the opposite of its often dour setting.
There is a certain visual flair to Wonder Woman that works well too. I particularly like the wonderful beginning at the island was something special. The training of the Amazonian women against the back drop of this picturesque backdrop. It all wonderful contrast with the grime of London and the horror of the Western Front. There are some special effects that feel a bit cheap at times but nothing that stands out for long.
It’s almost like you could copy and paste this point from any superhero movie but they sure don’t know how to end these movies do they. In Wonder Woman, there is a potentially great finish after the first fight in the finale. You will know it when you see it, it feels like true realisation for Diana of what the world is like. Yet it becomes a finale of some giant ridiculous computer-generated monster. It looks dumb and makes the film’s momentum die. It’s not the worst example of this, especially given a strong moment with Diana’s human compatriots but it sure is a disappointment in such a strong film.
Wonder Woman Review Cheat Sheet
It seems Wonder Woman in the end has fewer missteps than its DC counterparts. It is exciting, moving and inspiring. Casting, visuals and an exciting origin story help make up for a wonky ending. It is a wonderful film that is as important as it is fun. Great stuff.
+ tonally inspring and fresh feeling
+ visually exciting.
+ great casting that enhances both the humour and dignity of the film
-visual effects problems…
-that cumulate in a third act computer generated monster…sigh!