Wonder Woman (2017) Review

WONDER WOMAN SHINES IN THE DCEU


 

The DCEU (DC’s Extended Universe has had a bit of a rocky road. Much like its comic book counterpart rival Marvel, DC has established its own shared cinematic universe, showcasing their popular and iconic superheroes for the big screen. Unfortunately, while Marvel, for the most part, has succeed in this endeavor with its ever-growing MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), DC has faltered in this challenge. Beginning with 2013’s Man of Steel (a rebooted Superman origin story), the DCEU showed the grandeur and blockbuster thrills that can be achieved with their shared universe. However, Man of Steel, despite make money at the box office, was met with mixed reviews from both critics and fans. In 2016, DC, desperately trying to compete with the highly successful MCU, released two more movies underneath the DCEU, with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. Much like Man of Steel, both films did produce at very hefty dollar amount at the worldwide box office, but were once again faced with mixed reviews (ranging from mediocre to negative criticism from moviegoers and critics). Now, in their fourth attempt, DC Comics, Warner Bros. Studios and director Patty Jenkins present the newest film in the DCEU with the movie Wonder Woman. Does this latest comic book feature finally deliver critical win for DC’s shared cinematic universe or is it another “swing and a miss” for their superhero endeavors?

THE STORY


Growing up a sheltered life upon the mystical island of Themyscira, Diana (Gal Gadot), under the tutelage of General Antiope (Robin Wright), has been raised to become an Amazon warrior, which draws concern from her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), who seeks to protect her daughter from the evils of the outside world of man. Crashing through Themyscira’s magical barrier is British spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), who’s rescued from drowning by Diana, who, in turn, is immediately curious to lay eyes upon a man for the first time. Sharing the horrors of World War i and the potential dangers it poses for those nations that are affected by them, Diana, under the belief that Ares (the God of War) is behind all the nefarious deeds of the “Great War”, elects to leave Themyscira and journey to the human world to put an end to Ares’s evil plans. Joining Steve on his mission to return to England, Diana quickly finds herself in a strange realm, learning the various “dos and don’ts” of the world of man, eventually unleashing her lethal Amazon warrior prowess against the German forces with her skilled training and specialized weapons. However, while negotiating talks of armistice are being dealt with, opposition stands in her and Steve’s way, with General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston), an ambitious member of the German Army, and his partner, Doctor Isabel Maru aka “Doctor Poison” (Elena Anaya) are planning to disrupt the peaceful talks by unleashing a major gas attack, with the potential of killing millions (both soldiers and innocent civilians alike).

THE GOOD / THE BAD


As many of you now know (I’ve stated it in several movie reviews) that I’m more of a Marvel fan than a DC fan in both its comic book lore / fan-base and (by extension) its cinematic universe. That’s not to say that I would bash any DC’s characters and comic book material (nor its fans), but I just prefer Marvel’s superheroes and their comic book source material content more. Thus, my love for Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is well-placed, finding each entry intriguing with its ever-growing popularity. The DCEU, however, has stumbled more than taking a stride of success. I did like Man of Steel, despite its overstuff narrative, but Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was way too overstuffed (serving too many narrative plot threads) and Suicide Squad was too thin on its plot and trying to find a similar tone and groove to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. As I stated above, all three of these DCEU movies were faced with harsh criticism from both critics and moviegoers and could not reach the same acclaim that Marvel has done with their MCU.

One of the positives that can out of Dawn of Justice was the inclusion (and introduction) of the character of Diana Prince (aka Wonder Woman). Seeing the iconic character on the big screen was great and actress Gal Gadot play the character well (within her placement of Dawn of Justice’s narrative). This, of course, fueled many to be highly interested in seeing Wonder Woman, the DCEU’s fourth entry in this shared cinematic universe. I, for one, was one of those individuals. After seeing many of the trailers and promo marketing for the film, I was greatly interested to see this movie (more so than Justice League). This was reconfirmed just recently with all the praise and positive reviews that the movie was getting via its pre-release buzz. So, what is good or did it suck? Well, I can tell you that it’s definitely good, finding Wonder Woman to be the best entry (so far) in the DCEU. It may not be the “be-all-end-all” superhero movie, but its positive definitely outweigh the negatives.

Directing Wonder Woman is director Patty Jenkins, whose previous work includes the film Monster as well as directing several TV show episodes including Entourage, The Killing, and Arrested Development. So, despite not having a very powerhouse catalogue of directing films (which is not a particular bad thing), Jenkins makes Wonder Woman her “big blockbuster” debut and does wonders with the material given to her and the film’s overall presentation and entertainment value. In a nutshell, Wonder Woman, while a superhero origin story, is a mixture of both Thor (a fantasy mythology / “fish out of water” tale) and Captain America: The First Avenger (a wartime historical backdrop). However, instead of rifting on those two Marvel films (much like Suicide Squad did with Guardians of the Galaxy), Jenkins just takes those ideas and makes them her own, crafting a familiar hero journey, which stands on its own merits. With the film’s script, which was penned by Allan Heinberg, the movie follows the classic heroes journey with a narrative structure that finds Diana trying to grow accustom to her new world around her.

The action also never gets dull in the movie as Jenkins uses the WWI battlefield as a backdrop setting to display Diana’s Amazonian training and fighting skills. It’s a perfect setting for the film, seeing the carnage of war up close and more between men vs. men before the evolution of technology made the styles of warfare more mechanical. This all makes Diana’s “Wonder Woman” skills useful and very stylish, with her using weaponry of sword, shield, and her famous “Lasso of Truth”. Also, Jenkins keeps the feature primarily on Diana’s journey from naive warrior to heroic Amazon “Wonder Woman” and not on the world building of the DCEU. With the exception of the opening and ending scene (the film is presented as a flashback following the events after Dawn of Justice), the film’s narrative stays the course and doesn’t get sidetracked, which was something that Dawn of Justice was trying to do heavily with its various plotlines. Basically, the movie all about Wonder Woman’s origin story and nothing more, which, in the case of the other DCEU movies, is a good thing.

On a visual and technical aspect, Wonder Woman, as a film, looks beautiful, creating gorgeous imagery on-screen by Jenkins direction, production designer Aline Bonetto, costume designer Lindy Hemming, and cinematographer Matthew Jensen. All the film’s environments feel distinct and have their own cinematic appeal from the lush and picturesque fantasy setting of Themyscria to the industrial grimy streets of London to the war-torn battlefields. As stated above, the film definitely utilizes the WWI setting for the film’s backdrop, showcasing the horrors of war, which is a stark contrast to the heroic efforts that Diana does throughout the course of the film. The visual effects are mostly good, especially towards the film’s finale, while the overall cinematography helps display some pretty awe-inspiring sequences of superhero frivolities here and there. Lastly, the movie’s score, which is composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams, is actually quite good, with plenty of heroic and rousing melodies and suites being played throughout the film. In addition, that neat that Gregson-Williams incorporated the “Wonder Woman” theme from Hans Zimmer’s score of Dawn of Justice.

Wonder Woman does struggle at certain points and, while it may not be completely derail the feature (as the other DCEU movies did), they are still worth taking note of. For starters, the feels really long. With a runtime of two hours and twenty-one minutes (the third longest out of the four DCEU features), the film feels excessive in certain areas and could’ve been trimmed down here and there to make the final cut of the movie tighter in its presentation. Speaking of presentation, there are a couple of iffy CGI shots and effects. As stated above, while the most of the visual effects are nice and smooth, there are several CG shots that are clearly noticeable (blatantly obvious green-screen backgrounds or CG generated character movements).

In addition, there are a couple of problems with the villains of the film (more on that below), especially with the character of Ares. From the get-go, the character is setup to be the main antagonist of the movie, with Diana leaving Themiscyra to defeat him, but he seems like a final boss of a video game (i.e. always mentioned, but only gets revealed towards the end). Because of this, while his overall villainy is nefariously dastardly, Ares (as a character) is underdeveloped; a problem that usually does occur within superhero movies as the movie is focuses on the origin story of the hero (and not so much on its villain). However, when he does appear, it works for both the film and for the character arc of Diana. Plus, in truth, Diana’s fight with Ares is a just more enjoyable fight to see rather her fighting against Doomsday in Dawn of Justice.

One of the main reasons why I wanted to see Wonder Woman was because of the cast that was selected to play all the various characters in the movie. The good news is that most do great work in their role. Of course, leading the charge is actress Gal Gadot as the movie’s main protagonist hero Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman. Gadot, known for her roles in Keeping Up with the Joneses, Triple 9 and several appearances in the Fast and the Furious franchise, does excellent work as Diana. First off, she looks super beautiful and definitely fits the part of Wonder Woman. In addition, Gadot showcases the right amount of youthful naivety, curiosity, and ignorance towards the beginning of the movie, which then evolves throughout the course of the narrative and sharing new insight as she uncovers the various aspects of humanity. In addition, making her side appearance in Dawn of Justice, Gadot can now fully realized her portrayal of Diana within her own movie and she does it fantastically. Personally, one of the best aspect of this movie is Gal Gadot as Diana Prince and I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the role quite like her. Acting as the other lead character of the film is actor Chris Pine, who plays the role of British spy Steve Trevor. Pine, known for his roles in Hell or High Water, Into the Woods, and the new Star Trek movies, does a good job in this particular, displaying the right amount of a dashing heroics and leading man for the character. Also, while he plays a central role in the movie, Steve has his own journey to follow, attempting to complete his mission help stop mass destruction, while trying to educate Diana on how the world of man works. Plus, both Pine and Gadot do look good together and, while it may not be a passionate chemistry with them, but its enough for me to buy into the love between Diana and Steve.

In the villain category, actor Danny Huston, known for his roles in Children of Men, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and the TV show Magic City, plays the villainous German high command officer General Ludendorff and, while Huston’s acting is good and definitely can play the bad guy role (see his performance as the character of Ben Diamond in Magic City), his character just seems a bit of the stereotypical German baddie, with not much substance or insight into his evil ways. Similarly, actress Elena Anaya, known for her roles in Room in Rome, Talk to Her, and The Skin I Live In, plays Doctor Isabel Maru aka “Doctor Poison” does a good job in her acting, but her character has only little impact on the story, acting more as James Bond’s villain henchmen (i.e. Oddjob, Jaws, Hinx, etc.) rather than a fully realized villain.

Of the more supporting side characters are Steve Trevor’s comrades, including Saïd Taghmaoui (Three Kings and Vantage Point) as the silver tongued Sammer, Ewen Bremmer (Trainspotting and Snatch) as the heavy-drinking Scottish sharpshooter Charlie, and Eugene Brave Rock (The Revenant and Hell on Wheels) as the trader enforcer called The Chief. Other noteworthy supporting characters include Robin Wright (Forest Gump and House of Cards) as Diana’s skilled aunt General Antiope, Connie Nielsen (Gladiator and Basic) as the Diana’s mother Queen Hippolyta, David Thewlis (Kingdom of Heaven, The Theory of Everything, and the Harry Potter films) as a member of the British Imperial War Cabinet Sir Patrick Morgan, and Lucy Davis (The Office and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) as Steve Trevor’s faithfully and comical secretary Etta Candy.

FINAL THOUGHTS


Get ready for battle and discover the origin story of Diana Prince in the film Wonder Woman. Director Patty Jenkins latest film bring superhero origins of Wonder Woman, following the classic heroes’ journey in spectacular cinematic fashion and entertainment style. As I said, the positives outweigh the negatives as the movie, despite some minor flaws here and there, is solid, thanks to Jenkins directorial works, Gadot’s portrayal of Diana Prince, and several members of the supporting cast. Personally, I liked this movie. It wasn’t exactly the quintessential superhero movie out there, but it was a really great origin story (it definitely entertained me) and is an absolute win for DC’s cinematic universe. As you can imagine, I do give my stamp of approval for this movie, giving it a “highly recommended” mark. With the Justice League coming out later in 2017, it will be interesting to see where the DCEU goes next with that particular entry. For now, Wonder Woman stands as a crowning achievement for this shared comic book universe. Let’s hope that DC learns from what made Wonder Woman great and utilizes that knowledge in their future installments.

4.2 Out of 5 (Highly Recommended)

 

Release On: June 2nd, 2017
Reviewed On: June 3rd, 2017

Wonder Woman  is 141 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content

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