Release: June 2, 2017
Screenplay by: Allan Heinberg
Story by: Zack Snyder, Allan Heinberg, and Jason Fuchs
Starring: Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Danny Huston as Erich Ludendorff, David Thewlis as Sir Patrick Morgan/Ares, and Elena Anaya as Isabel Maru/Doctor Poison
Spoiler Warning: It has a few (tried to keep it as light as possible)
As a comic book reader, some of my favourite characters of all time come from the DC stable. I’ve amassed quite a collection of DC graphic novels and trades, and I even had my fair share of proper comics from DC before a natural disaster carried them all away. That being said, DC have never had the most consistent record of quality on the silver screen. Yes, they gave us Batman, Batman Returns, Superman, Superman Returns, Batman Begins, and The Dark Knight. However, DC has also given us the middling, Snyderized take on Superman, Man of Steel. The Nolan bat trilogy ended with an entry that was overwrought and full of more holes than the Titanic. There was the full on train wreck of Batman Forever and the travesty of Batman and Robin. Batman v. Superman was a poorly edited mess, and do we even need to mention Suicide Squad or Green Lantern? This inconsistent track record at the cinema, coupled with the fact that I am not exactly a fan of the source material in this case, meant that I went into my viewing of Wonder Woman with not just measured expectations, but incredibly low expectations. The presence of Zack Snyder’s name as both a writer and a producer for this picture caused me some additional trepidation, as I have been mostly incredibly let down by Snyder’s work. All of that aside, after some foot dragging, I have finally gotten around to seeing the film that has been hyperbolically described as “the greatest superhero film ever” and that has allegedly driven many a male feminist to tears.
Being the first movie in a solo superhero franchise, Wonder Woman is predictably an origin story. It starts off with an opening narration from the main character, reminiscing about her past as the no nonsense costumed vigilante she is in the present day before cutting back to Themyscira sometime in the early 20th century. We see some scenes of young Diana as the sheltered, yet battle obsessed daughter of Queen Hippolyta, some scenes that show her progression as a warrior. Pretty standard stuff, really. When the action moves forward to 1918 and the plane crash scene happens is when the real meat of the movie begins. Themyscira gets attacked by a detachment of German soldiers pursuing Steve Trevor, who has stolen their chief scientist’s notes. After the gun toting soldiers are dispatched by a cadre of women with swords (far fetched, sure, but it’s a comic book movie), they interrogate Captain Trevor about his mission. Upon learning of the war going on outside of Themyscira’s borders, Diana feels compelled to set off to the world of men in search of Ares. It’s a simple story, it’s a little cheesy, and it mostly works.
The performances are decent, certainly better than anything I’ve seen in a DCEU film up to this point. Gal Gadot seems to still have some work to do with regards to her acting chops, but she carries the film competently. The on screen chemistry between Gadot and Chris Pine is also good, though the fawning praise heaped on it by some critics seems undeserved. Lucy Davis was entertaining as Etta Candy, portrayed here as Steve’s outgoing secretary. Danny Huston turned in a sufficiently maniacal performance as Erich Ludendorff who, let’s face facts here, should have been Ares. The revelation of David Thewlis’ Sir Patrick Morgan just felt sort of shoehorned in to have some type of contrived twist. Visually, the film is a cut above its immediate predecessor BVS: Dawn of Justice. The colour palette, while limited, is still crisp and vibrant. As it should be for a superhero film centered around a character not called Batman. The action sequences look good and are refreshingly light on nausea cam. All in all I think Patty Jenkins, who I was not familiar with before this film (never saw Monster, but at least she’s not Zack Snyder), did a fine job. My biggest problem with it though, and this is the case with all of the DCEU films that I’ve seen, is the CGI. While better than its immediate predecessor, it does still have a tendency to lapse into the realm of the god awful. Maybe I’m being a bit unfair, but I think for $149 million, they should be able to pull off consistently good effects.
I will vociferously state that Wonder Woman is not the best superhero film ever made, as some have asserted. Personally, I would probably bestow that title on the 1989 Batman. It did not make me have a bout of “wokeness” and break down crying. What it did do, was give DC a legitimately entertaining movie that was refreshingly free of Snyderisms. Now, here’s hoping that Snyder and Whedon don’t turn the upcoming Justice League film into a grimdark pun filled mess.