Film review: “Wonder Woman” (2017)

“Wonder Woman” (2017)

Thriller/Action

3-stars

Running Time: 141 minutes

Written by: Allan Heinberg

Directed by: Patty Jenkins,

Featuring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen and Elena Anaya

Diana Prince: “The gods made the Amazons to restore peace to the world, and it’s what I’m going to do.”

Possibly one of the most anticipated super hero movies in recent history has arrived in the form of the Patty Jenkins directed, Gal Gadot starring “Wonder Woman” (2017), about an Amazonian warrior who after years of training as well as shunning the world of ‘man’ is drawn into World War I by her sometime beau Steve Trevor. If you have been following Wonder Woman’s journey to the big screen you will know that she first appeared in the terrible Zack Snyder directed “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016) where she stole the show with her kick ass attitude as well as the fact she didn’t defer or wait for the boys – she got on with showing off almost all of her tools, the shield, the sword, the lasso, those bracelet’s and of course her battle hardiness. Now as every good super hero as well as possible new franchise needs is an origin story, not just any story but a great one – something Warner Bros./DC has finally learnt from Marvel. As with any good origin story this one is built around a solid character, with some moral unrest as well as a few friends to help out where needed. What also helps is a director that can handle a huge budget as well as the expectations from the studio and audience alike. What we get is a very mixed bag with a film that starts strong then plot contrivances combined a with a very weak as well as confusing third act lets this film down but is still a great ride.

Before she was Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. Raised on a sheltered island paradise, Diana meets an American pilot (Chris Pine) who tells her about the massive conflict that’s raging in the outside world. Convinced that she can stop the threat, Diana leaves her home for the first time. Fighting alongside men in a war to end all wars, she finally discovers her full powers and true destiny.

For me the first question that had to be answered was all to do with the director, that is, the hiring of a relative newcomer to direct what is potentially the blockbuster of the year as well the re-launching after a much publicized failure (thanks Zack Snyder) in 2016. I am happy to say that Patty Jenkins has done an outstanding job given all the inherent limitations as well as having a huge studio hovering in the background. It has been pretty obvious in the press as well as the marketing that Jenkins and star Gal Gadot have been on the same page right from the jump. Seeing a hero that is based in Greek mythology brought to life in three dimensions as well as it being done so competently is a real gift for audiences, one I hope they embrace with open arms. This film was always going to be directed by a woman, Warner Bros. had to beat Marvel at something and if they are unable to do so with the product or success, they at least could be first at something – having the first female led superhero movie as well as having a woman direct what is probably one of the largest budgeted superhero movie’s is a start. I think it is unfortunate that we do live in an age where this is seen as a step forward but women have been systemically cut out of this process.

The next step to get right was the casting and when Gal Gadot was cast as Wonder Woman for her debut many people had no clue who she was. However with a super strong marketing campaign as well as a few “Fast and Furious” films under her belt the public quickly became aware who was playing the Amazonian Princess – in fact this is a role if handled correctly could be the answer for Warner Bros. to have a face for the DC Universe that is 100% unique as well as being one of the three pillars of the DC Universe – giving those tired old warhorses Batman and Superman a well deserved break – is it me or are those two so last century. Gadot has embraced this character so well that she shines onscreen and even though the story may seem a little rehearsed, overblown and at times just like any other superhero origin, particularly a DC one – how can they still not get their endings right? Have you seen “Guardian’s of the Galaxy: Volume 2” (2017)? She seems above it all and able to handle anything.

The other two standouts for me are Chris Pine (Steve Trevor) and Lucy Davis (Etta Candy) – I was not sure how I would feel about seeing these two characters brought to life but like all great actors Pine and Davis are fully invested. I was invigorated to see Chris Pine take this role, as was it a sidekick role that has the job of showing Diana the ropes, so to speak. But Pine with his own franchise and after his own turn in last years excellent “Hell or High Water” (2016) it is obvious that this role required something special and real, so Pine is your man. After years of playing characters such as Dawn in the original “The Office” (2001 – 2003), Dianne in “Shaun of the Dead” (2004) and Emily in “Maron” (2015 – 2016) it is deserving she play Wonder Woman’s number 2 in the amazing Etta Candy – straight from the comics, she plays her wonderfully and threatens to steal the movie.

It was with some relief when I found the story shifting from Paradise Island to the ‘modern’ world that this was going to be set during World War I. The relief came from the fact that we were not going to be subjected to World War II and all the tropes that go along with it. In my mind it always seems to be a lazy way to move the plot as well as establishing a narrative as almost any fantasy or comic book film will use the Nazis as the ‘bad guys’ thereby negating the need to build three dimensional antagonists. With “Wonder Woman” however there was a need to establish a villain, the standout being Elena Anaya as Dr. Poison who I found to be extremely compelling and original, for a comic book villain that is. Unfortuabltey the same cannot be said of Danny Hustons whose idea of seeming evil is ywllng, a lot, as well as having no clue about what his motivations are, expet he is bad and just has to kill everyone else – really? That’s a villain in 2017, all he was missing was a moustache to twirl. However and no spoilers give it was about to get worse.

Once again we see with these high priced and still overblown superhero movies a massive reliance on CGI, which of course is the case with “Wonder Woman”, the difference with the better films is that this use of special effects is combined with great characters as well as interesting action moments that serve as one scene or moment. It could be with Jenkins background in independent movies, she directed Charlize Theron to a best actress Oscar for her only previous movie the serial killer biography “Monster” (2003), that she is able to take character first building around that to give a complete moment. Of course there are still third act issues with the big showdown that we have come to expect, but it is saved by the Gadot doing what she does best in with the character that is to stand up and not look back.

Unfortunately it has to be said the entire movie is ultimately let down by the ending as well as a final battle which I thought had ended with something akin to previous Marvel film. I also thought it was going to be a smarter ending which was hinted at in regard to the war, our place as humans in conflict and the fact that there is no easy answer. Boy was I ever wrong, it the film took a left turn, and suddenly I felt I was back at the end of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” – what a nightmare, please get me out. It was such a shame to see a film let me down this much.

I will not go into any real plot details as this movie is better left as a surprise even though the trailers have given away a few of the key points which is par for the course these days but this is a movie definitely worth seeing on the big screen and for my mind without a second watch is still in the top 15 comic book films produced to date. It is a true relasation of a property (again with a painful third act) that has gone through some turmoil over the past ten years with issues from medium, to directors, to writers to who would play the main part. But “Wonder Woman” is a fantastic watch for all ages and both genders, you should go and see. We should be thankful to have a Wonder Woman finally come to life.

“Wonder Woman” is out now only in cinemas.

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