By Scott Daniels
What is there to say about a movie that isn’t awful? In almost all cases, not a whole lot. In fact, many a review has fallen by the wayside simply because this reviewer can’t find enough to praise or (much more likely) complain about. However, in this instance we add a variable to the equation, and boy is it a doozy; we have a DC film on our hands. Not not just any film, but the long-overdue solo appearance of the world’s most famous female superhero, Wonder Woman.
How does it stand up? Considering how DC’s track record is of late, pretty damn well. The creative passion behind the film is far more evident on the screen than Man of Steel or Batman vs. Superman — the colours are vivid, the script is full of humour, and the action is fantastically and joyously over-the-top. Basically, someone finally sat Zach Snyder down at the children’s play table and let the big boys (well, girls actually) do the hard work.
Very self-aware that accusations of sexism are bound to be flung around (most likely from the more-easily offended who probably haven’t even seen the film yet), and WW definitely dances on the line in some moments, then comes back swinging defiantly, and gleefully at that. Michael Bay could definitely take notes on how to present and celebrate the female form outside of overt PG-13 perversion. Oh, and also how to prevent an action scene that can be frenetic and not need to fill the screen with pointless, excessive shit, which also means someone kept George Lucas well away from the production as well. Thankfully.
Special mention to the cast’s two leads: Gal Gadot definitely eliminates any naysayers and proves that her rather underwhelming appearance in Batman vs. Superman was a one-off. Impressive physicality aside, Gadot impressively conveys all of WW/Diana’s heroism, naivety, and increasing confusion and weariness with the complicated, ferocious, and dark reality of wartime Europe and the world of men within it. Christopher Pine is also excellent as the dashing wartime spy/charming rogue Captain Steve Trevor (I too, know the pain of having a first name for a last name), and perfectly balances embodying a more classic and square-jawed all-American hero and, as the story unfolds, learns what true heroism and sacrifice embodies without surprisingly ever coming across as forced or insincere. Keeping consistent with other DC films, the weakness lies in the villains of the film — they never feel like any real threat even when the filmmakers throw everything into trying to make them so. The reveal of the ultimate villain does somewhat register, although feels a little too heavily influenced by 2016’s atrocity X-Men Apolocypse.
It’s not all a win though, and by far the most glaring issues are present (and thankfully mostly contained to) the first act. It is clear that the decision was made to base every Amazonian accent off Gal Gadot’s, and even established, credible actors such as Connie Neilson and Robin Wright aren’t able to inject some credibility and believability to it and comes off quite cartoony and cheap, ultimately crossing into Xena territory. The script and story come off extra hammy as well, playing out exactly the way you would expect every origin story to, including the classic “prophecy” and of course, a MacGuffin. I’ll be frank in that I am not familiar at all with the source material, and am aware this is most likely paying tribute to an older, more classic style of storytelling, however, objectively watching an action-adventure film in 2017, one would hope for a slightly more inventive way of telling the story, especially with such a passion project that this supposedly is.
However, with the introduction of Chris Pine’s WW1 spy, return to England, commencement of the second act, and (thankfully) a very welcome injection of humour, the rest of the film improves exponentially. Whilst story points play out in a fairly predictable way as the (actually quite blatantly stereotyped) mis-matched team of misfits (each with their special attribute and sob story background) accompanying Wonder Woman trek from London into German territory in the final days of WW1 (which very easily could be mistaken for WW2 in terms of presentation), the surprising emphasis placed on the comradery and teamwork really lifts the film out of being “not shit” into “yeah actually, this is pretty good”. Scenes like the storming of No-Man’s Land is a perfect demonstration of the best elements of the film working in synchronicity, and definitely resounds much longer than the hilarious and slightly baffling misstep into Interstellar territory to add unneeded emotional weight to the film’s climax. It’s unfortunate and feels like an afterthought unworthy and inconsistent with the sincerity of everything that has proceeded it.
The most important aspect to take away from Wonder Woman is yes, it is very good, and clearly was made with more love and care than any of the new batch of DC films. However, in there lies the criticism — just because it’s a DC film that isn’t absolutely terrible, does not make it the instant modern classic that already too many fanboys are lauding it to be. It’s simply that DC’s handicap is just way too heavily skewed towards the negative.