Wonder Woman (2017) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Wonder Woman (2017) Directed by Patty Jenkins. With Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Danny Huston and David Thewlis.

The era of superhero films has been the dominant cinematic force of the past 10-years, yet while Marvel Studios appeared to find their rhythm from the very start with Iron Man and co, the DC playground had failed to affirm its stamp of quality. Until now.

As is now a familiar structure of these films, Patty Jenkins gets straight into the origins of Diana Prince (Gadot), which is given a fresh feel by the fact that all the characters are women. Though its roots story stuff, it doesn’t feel quite as laboured or drawn out as so many of these chapters in superhero storytelling can fall victim to. If that sounds like I’m damning it with faint praise, well…

Towards the end of the first act, Diana’s mother exclaims – “The world of men do not deserve you“. There’s also a feeling that Gadot deserves a better film constructed around her – not that Wonder Woman is a bad film – the contrary, it has fine moments and Gadot shines brightly. But the framework of the storytelling isn’t anything out of the ordinary for these movies. Of course, it’s a mountainous step up in quality from recent DCU offerings, most of which front-load an edgy collage of dampened drama that achieve nothing to elevate the soul. There is one dramatic shot when Gadot looks like an oil painting from Zack Snyder’s 300, however, under the eye of Patty Jenkins she’s a framed as a heroic Goddess to be worshipped, as opposed to a woman to be ogled.

Gal Gadot is stunning in that ridiculously beautiful kind of way, yet she’s portrayed in such a positive light, that it’s impossible to not fall in love with her. But we aren’t just falling in love with her physical appearance, we’re falling in love with her ideological insistence on putting others before herself. She has an extraterrestrial aura that modern superheroes can’t find. She isn’t suffering with the internal angst of Superman, Iron Man or Batman – she’s just plain good. And what’s wrong with that!? It seems that the trend for a superhero is to be brooding and complex, with a multitude of internal issues to decipher. Why can’t heroes just be straight up good like Christopher Reeve’s Superman, and have dilemmas and choices presented to them by the world. Gadot’s character is an emblem of hope.

Snyder co-wrote the story and is onboard as a producer, meaning his visual style is fully present, though his tendency to fetishise isn’t carried forward by Jenkins who aims to make Wonder Woman far more than a simple object of desire. Her ethos of ‘love wins’ might seem like jumping on the bandwagon of a hashtag, but it’s an important message for our world and Allan Heinberg’s screenplay aims to make a firm point of it.

One centrepiece action sequence is given a visceral kick-start, before branching off into spectacular slow motion mayhem, accompanied by Rupert Gregson-Williams’s excellent banshee wailing score. Seeing Wonder Woman in close combat makes for some remarkable visual imagery, though some air comes out of the tyres in less convincing CGI shots of her.

Chris Pine takes what would traditionally be the female sidekick role. It’s a switch that works for him as an actor. Pine isn’t always credited for the strength of his performances, possibly due to his ‘Ken doll’ good looks, but his character doesn’t get in the way of who Diana is, rather adding to her through his own arc. Touches of humour let in some light, which is found in various responses to Diana’s naivety.

Though filled with undercurrents of darkness and a few stock baddies, where Jenkins triumphs is that she attempts to embrace the soul of who a hero is, rather than shying away from it with embarrassment. The final act ‘boss level’ almost squanders much of what comes before it, and it’s a real shame the character has to be wasted as part of the overall DC extended universe. On this evidence, she should leave them all behind and forge her own path.

3.5/5

 

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About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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15 Responses to Wonder Woman (2017) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. T. Martin says:

    “There’s also a feeling that Gadot deserves a better film constructed around her…”

    That’s pretty much how I feel about the movie. I think Wonder Woman as depicted here is a great character, and Gadot and Pine pull off their emotional moments powerfully. But the Germans are too out-of-place campy, and the CGI is is always so obvious and the use of slow-motion so in-your-face that it takes me out of the movie.

    • garethrhodes says:

      I liked some of the slow motion bits, particularly as she slides across the room taking out the baddies. That bit kind of mesmerised me. But yes, there are many areas where the movie could improve. The CGI animation of her fighting looked weightless, the same issues that dogged Spider-Man Homecoming and well, all Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films. It does move in the right direction, maybe not on quite the right path. Thank you for commenting – pleased to hear from you.

  2. Jay says:

    I loved this, and my favourite bits were of her and her people on their private island – I hope we’ll see much more of that in movies to come.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Jay, I liked the island too, though the framework of the plotting was too familiar. I’d spread that across the whole film as one of my biggest bugbears…but I did like it and I loved Gadot. I remember John Campea from Collider roasting Gadot for being a terrible actress. She’s made him look like a terrible commentator.

  3. Mike says:

    One of DC’s better efforts as of late. Nice review

    • garethrhodes says:

      I think their best of the DCU. And it’s still a long way from perfect. DC used to be the home of all the best superhero films. Donner’s’ Superman remains a high watermark.

  4. I’m with you on the final act, particularly the CGI-fest that held no tension for me whatsoever. Overall, I think the movie is just all right. It’s absolutely overhyped by the female empowerment wave that’s going on right now (which I don’t mean to sound like I’m belittling in any way). I quite liked the romance between Gadot and Pine.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Yes, the romance was OK – and I liked the Lost in Translation tinnitus moment, though maybe they should’ve stuck to their guns and not reveal what Pine says. That would’ve been more powerful. I think we saw this one through the same eyes. Always great to hear from you. Thank you.

  5. Jason says:

    Nice review and interesting points you make. To me, i loved this movie. Definitely the best movie in the DCEU. Maybe its because I love Gadot or the story itself wasn’t bogged down by continuity issues much like the rest of the DCEU films. Still, Wonder Woman was an awesome movie.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you, Jason. Always a pleasure to hear from you. I wanted to, but I couldn’t graduate to from ‘like’ to ‘love’, mostly because the structure of it was so similar to almost every comic book film I’ve seen. There were times when I felt it should’ve been titled ‘Just Another Superhero Movie’. But, and there is a bit, I did love the character. With a little more divorce from the Justice League, I could easily love a Wonder Woman movie.

  6. David Hughes says:

    I haven’t seen this one yet but your excellent review brilliantly picks up on my main bone of contention with what I have seen of the DCU. Man of Steel tried to make Superman into another Batman, which doesn’t work. The moment where Jonathan Kent essentially told him to let people die rather than reveal himself is where the film really lost me. I do want to see this and have heard varying things from rave reviews to more conservative opinions that suggest it got a bit of a bump by just not being as terrible as the Snyder and Ayer movies.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you, David. 1978 seems like forever ago now, when Christopher Reeve captured the hearts and imaginations the world over. Gal Gadot made me think about Reeve, and how superheroes had somehow lost their licence to be super. She bought a little of that back. What you say is true about it getting that ‘bump’ for not being terrible like many of the DCU entries. It’s the framework and form of the storytelling. The familiarity turns sections of it into a chore. You crave more imagination and risk taking in the narrative, but it sticks to its guns. I’m hopeful of better to come, though. Gadot is a perfect fit.

  7. Wonder Woman was a true delight and I’d rate it a close second with Man of Steel. I generally prefer the broodier more complex takes on superheroes as I genuinely think there’s some value in the depth that can offer – but the take on Wonder Woman here is totally right.

    • garethrhodes says:

      I wanted to be more delighted by it, but I totally hear what you say. My preference is seated in the likes of Christopher Reeve and Adam West. The brooding heroes are wearing a little thin on me, which is why I liked Gadot as Wonder Woman so much more than what’s going on in the current flock of DC movies.

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