Wonder Woman Review
Or How I Regret Not Carrying The Kryptonite Spear
Still struggling to really knock one out of the park, Warner's DC superhero model at least manages a solid entry with Wonder Woman.It's not an easy ride for audiences when just about every blockbuster that comes out needs some kind of 'health warning'. "Too long", "Bad CG", "Too much CG". In some respects we shouldn't have expected anything more from some of these more outlandish characters - generally DC origins (beyond Batman) are a lot more problematic than Marvel's equivalents, and where Marvel could poke fun at Thor's fish-out-of-water Nordic manners, with DC it's not the exception to the rule. All of the characters have otherworldly origins. Take Wonder Woman. Her origin story requires you to believe in Zeus having created man; Zeus's son Ares having corrupted man; and Zeus having burnt himself out stopping Ares. Meanwhile, Zeus also created an invisible island of warrior women and gave them a secret weapon they could use if Ares ever reared his ugly mug.When Diana, daughter of the Queen of the Amazons, grows into a fine warrior woman, she gets drawn back into the real world beyond the invisible island, where World War I is in its full swing, and evil scientists are planning a fatal chemical attack to finish the war for good. It's a massive, ambitious narrative to take on, and - with that in mind - Wonder Woman is a hell of an achievement. It's coherent, with well-staged and well-executed action setpieces. It has a couple of strong leads, and a few nice supporting turns. It manages to blend pure Greek fantasy with the horrors of World War I, and, all the while, tell a strong origin story about a powerful woman striking out on her own, discovering herself, and evolving into the person who would go on to stand alongside the likes of Superman and Batman at the top of the Justice League.
Despite all of these achievements, however, it's still not a great movie. It still struggles to avoid all the criticisms that have plagued DC's superhero blockbuster franchise ever since its inauspicious origins with Batman vs. Superman. Sure, this is no Suicide Squad and, sure, it isn't the incoherent bloated mess that was the theatrical cut of Batman vs. Superman, but it is nevertheless another big blockbuster which is largely damned by faint praise.
Another big blockbuster largely damned by faint praise
Sure, it's got a big story to tell, but that doesn't excuse the fact that it is way too long - at least half an hour too long - clocking in at a heavyweight 141 minutes but failing to maintain any kind of decent pacing across that duration. Aside from the fact that some scenes and ideas appear largely pointless (not to mention the entire spy 'squad') there's a lot of wasted footage, with scenes taking much longer than needed to get to their conclusion, and these precious unnecessary seconds adding up to a feeling of overall bloatedness.
The action sequences are impressive, not least from Gadot's titular character, however there are a couple of inexplicably dodgy CG choices (including a really jarring bit of bad CG-face-on-a-character-mid-fight during the Amazon beach battle) which are really unforgivable in a movie which aspires to be in this league. And the finale does run into trademark DC CG fisticuffs a la Man of Steel.
All that said, the movie is a decent watch. It's - as aforementioned - much more coherent than anything else DC have come up with thus far. It handles an extremely convoluted fantasy / period history narrative with aplomb, juggling multiple flashbacks-within-flashbacks with ease, and throwing in just enough self-aware comedy ("I was made from clay") to avoid you rolling your eyes. It may be long, but at least it doesn't make the mistake that the theatrical cut of Batman vs. Superman did, and cut out all the necessary material.
An enjoyable original tale for that very rare animal - a female superhero
The protracted introduction to the Amazons still gets us a decent salvo of nice cameo turns (House of Cards' Robin Wright is fabulous), and Chris Pine's arrival gives some much-needed direction, particularly when we're expected to tolerate Gal Gadot's rather (intentionally) naive portrayal of Diana. Pine distances himself just enough from Kirk to make his character interesting, and keeps the movie on course almost throughout and, although it's sometimes hard to see just how much of the lifting he has to do in the acting department when opposite Gadot's one-expression warrior, there's no denying that Gadot utterly nails the physicality of the character, which is arguably a far more important aspect.
There are a slew of wasted comedy supporting characters who appear to serve no purpose beyond allowing this to have the humour that everybody complained was missing from Batman vs. Superman, but some of them stretch credulity (the sniper who doesn't shoot; the native american who uses smoke signals; the guy who wanted to be an actor - did any of them actually do anything??) and the villains needed more time (although Danny Huston is fun), but still the double team of Gadot, largely reined in by Pine, manages to keep the story going.
We're still waiting for a DC gem. It probably won't be Aquaman (another problematic origin story to realise in live-action terms), or The Flash (already done so well in the TV show), or Cyborg (really? when they could have had Martian Manhunter, or Green Lantern instead?), and so it falls to Ben Affleck's on-off The Batman to stand apart from the crowd. And given that somebody has put them in the wrong order (we don't need Justice League this year - it's going to be another false start), by the time we get to The Batman, the damage may have already been done.
Wonder Woman isn't an utter failure. It's actually an enjoyable origin tale for that very rare animal - a female superhero. It does a hell of a lot right. But, for as much as it seldom drops into bad, it's also seldom better than just good. And DC really need to be aspiring for greatness right about now.
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