Directed by: Patty Jenkins
Produced by: Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder, Richard Suckle
Screenplay by: Allan Heinberg
Story by: Zack Snyder, Allan Heinberg, Jason Fuchs
Based on Wonder Woman by: William Moulton Marston
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya
Music by: Rupert Gregson-Williams
Cinematography: Matthew Jensen
Edited by: Martin Walsh
Production company: DC Films, Atlas Entertainment, Cruel and Unusual Films, Tencent Pictures, Wanda Pictures
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Running time: 141 minutes
The beloved feminist icon of Wonder Woman has been with us for 75 years and finally we get her own film. With 75 years of history, revision, creative takes and narratives how does it stack up? Given the rather poorly received critical perception of the DC Expanded Universe does it do well? Does it hold up as a general comic book movie?
Wonder Woman tells the story of a young, idealistic and naiveté Diana who lives in isolation due to her mother – Queen Hippolyta of Themisycra, Paradise Island – home of the Amazons. Yet, Diana wants more than to live in idleness here. Captain Steve Trevor from man’s world comes with The Great War in tow. Now Diana goes to man’s world with Steve Trevor in hopes to end the war and fight Ares – Greek god of war. All in the entire story is pretty simple to follow; the first half hour is more or less the origin of Wonder Woman and from then on picks up rather well in dealing with man’s world and the war. There are no continuous flash-backs told in a non-linear narrative style like David S. Goyer scripts. The movie follows different themes like gender roles, being realistic versus idealistic and love. The movie is not really a feminist plea as some may argue or as some may have hoped. The discussion of gender roles is handled quite nicely as Diana questions them, Steve provides the answer but never in a straight forward manner. Steve represents a modern, patriarchal setting yet he is in question of it. Therefore he does represent the typical male figure, he is flawed nonetheless but he knows it. The greatest theme explored in this film is the realism versus idealism aspect. Diana represents idealism in a realistic or dare I say cynical world. Her beliefs, love and passion for people is a warm welcome in today’s world, not just 1918. More and more today we hear yes we should do this, we should help these people but it is pie in the sky, it cannot be done or at least not done well. This film says hell with all of that! When you see people in trouble you help them, plain and simple, which I personally feel is lost in today’s world, when instead we would rather debate and politic over it. In addition to this Diana represents a sort of ideological honesty which is also greatly lost. The Amazons speak of helping to save and protect the world, but they do not practice it whatsoever. I have heard this before from segments in society who want to engage in conflicts to help around the world, but only in theory. When the time comes they cower. Hence, Diana represents truth just as she was created for.
The story and overall vibe of the film does feel akin to Richard Donner’s Superman, which Patty Jenkins did cite as influence and inspiration. Personally, not a huge Donner fan but Wonder Woman captures it well without feeling like a blatant rip-off of similar beats and plot points. Patty Jenkins proved on this film she can do action very well. Note, the film does carry the kind of slow-motion Zack Snyder style, however in some shots there is more grace to it, like a ballet. Furthermore, Snyder used little to none of this in his last films unlike Watchmen, Sucker Punch & 300. Patty has a great visual eye for color and scenery. The film is shot throughout Europe such as Britain, Italy & France. Paradise Island creates a great contrast of color and vibrancy to man’s world. All of Paradise Island feels so real, natural and elegant that it does not feel as over-burdensome CGI. Going back to the state of the world today it is almost hard to believe such a place exists but she makes it real and better yet, she makes you want to visit this place. The DCEU has been known for muted color pallets under Zack Snyder, granted that is just his style. I am sorry to inform some it still exists here but not in Paradise Island or in Wonder Woman herself, these two are lively, vibrant canvasses of color. Patty did well with using color and lighting as actual tools in crafting her picture and not just making things dark or bright because she can.
Jenkins has delivered us a great cast with Gal Gadot as our Wonder Woman (casted by Zack Snyder), Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta, Chris Pine as Steve Trevor and Robin Wright as Antiope. There has been lots of criticism and concern for Gadot since last year. In all honesty it is hard to say completely how she holds up, holds up to what. We cannot compare her to the performance of 70’s television show. Plus, this is her first silver-screen portrayal. We cannot argue here, unlike people who may still argue over Bale & Affleck. Is it possible there’s a better actress out there? Sure, but we do not know. Gadot does fine though, she comes off as very believable in her naiveté and passion without coming off as some drama queen or babe in the woods as some would try to paint. You believe all of her generosity, care and inquisitiveness. Chris Pine helps along too playing a Steve Trevor who is not the bucking, strapped, brave and bold war hero. He is just an average guy who does not always have the right answer but tries to. Luckily Chris Pine does not steal the film, if anything the film is well balanced between the two stars. Neither one is carrying all of the weight. Our couple plays off each other a lot, with numerous bits of humor throughout the film. Without these two, regardless of the lines written or the director it is fair to say the jokes would fall flat. Speaking of which, the humor helps lighten the film up compared to its predecessors in the DCEU. What is best is the amount of humor but it is not on the shoulders of one character you have Diana, Steve, Etta Candy as well as Diana & Steve together, along with other supporting characters. None of the jokes are ice-breakers in the middle of dramatic scenes or corny one-liners.
Pacing of the film is great as the film holds the audience captive until we get Wonder Woman in all her glory and it pays off well. It reminds me of Batman Begins in this sense. Granted, the pacing feels somewhat disjointed in the final act with a little too much going on and various cuts. This also plays in with the rather weak villain the film gives us. I would argue Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice offered better villains. There is certainly build-up and something of a twist to our villain Ares but nothing too mind-blowing. Plus, the choice for Ares’ portrayal seems somewhat cliché’ but I fear had this picture happened in the 90’s we would have gotten some muscle-headed action star instead. With that said, it could be worse. Danny Huston who is a fine actor does General Ludendorff, but it constantly bothered me in how he did not have his mustache and could have afforded to put on some more weight. Dr. Poison on the other hand was a nice addition for die-hard comic book fans, has a great design and offers an intriguing parallel with working with Ludendorff while Diana & Steve work together. Yet, she feels a bit wasted and is given little background. Looking back, the film is much more centered on Wonder Woman our hero, not our villains like a Tim Burton Batman film. As I said before about Snyder’s films offer great villains, with good balance. Jenkins decided to tape the scales in favor of our hero, and for the first Wonder Woman film maybe that was the right choice to make.
Continuing with some flaws in the film is that there is some over-reliance on exposition rather it is from Hippolyta or Ares. This is film – show, do not tell. Countering this to some degree is Hippolyta’s exposition scene though to some degree. Yet, with Ares it does stall the final act a bit. On a separate note I felt the movie could have benefitted from more background on The Great War and Wonder Woman’s powers, as well as the lasso for general audiences but given the exposition of previously mentioned then maybe the absence was for the best. Rupert Gregson-Williams is no Hans Zimmer but he provides a worthy, bold and heroic score to film and we still get ques from cellist Tina Guo from the previous film. For all and any action scenes with Wonder Woman, Williams gets you pumped!
As objective as I try to be I will admit my bias and be openly honest in that I prefer the previous DCEU films to Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman feels a tad bit safe, standard, with a rather simple three-point plot structure. Nonetheless, some points moved me to tears like the first sight of a young Diana or a grand view of Paradise Island, but these were the tears of a fan-boy, not an audience member engaging with the film on its own. I do believe this film will ring well for people skeptical of the DCEU so far and who cater more to the Marvel films due to its lighter nature. The film still takes itself seriously nonetheless and is not here to just tell jokes and sell toys. I most certainly fell in love with our hero and would love to have more people like her in our current cynical, ignorant climate of political and world affairs. The film has a message, it has themes but the delivery could have benefited from a less standard approach.
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