“I used to want to save the world…”
I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I’m always weary when a film is either critically acclaimed or critically mauled. I do try to avoid reviews where possible. But in this day and age, it’s almost impossible. The word on the street was that ‘Wonder Woman’ was a great film. One review even called it the best comic book film since ‘The Dark Knight.’ High acclaim indeed. Fortunately, I had no expectations for ‘Wonder Woman’ whatsoever. Of course, I was piqued a little by the almost universal critical acclaim. What I saw was a good film, but certainly not a great one.
First of all, let’s see if you can guess the comic book film (spoilers in this paragraph!). A morally good superhero enters a World War to stop a supervillain developing a secret, potentially war-winning, weapon. The superhero has a shield, the ability to jump high, and is a dab hand at martial arts. Also, there’s a sacrifice involving a plane in the third act to stop said secret weapon. Is it Wonder Woman, or Captain America: The First Avenger? Okay, let’s guess again. A superhero, modelled on a mythical god, lands on earth to fight a sibling (who is also a god). The superhero’s fish out of water antics cause hilarity during the story. Said superhero also falls in love with a mortal. Is it Wonder Woman, or is it Thor?
“You know nothing of the gods”
Those expecting something unique are going to be disappointed with ‘Wonder Woman.’ It may be a comic book film headlined by a female superhero, but it follows the template of every male superhero origin story you’ve seen before. The parallels with two Marvel films are too apparent to take lightly. Wonder Woman takes place during the First World War, probably to differentiate itself from the Second World War setting of Captain America: The First Avenger. It’s based on Greek mythology, rather than the Norse mythology of Thor. But I couldn’t help but thinking “I’ve seen this before!” more than a few times during ‘Wonder Woman.’
Familiarity is not necessarily a bad thing, but for the first major female superhero film for a long time, I expected much more. However, that’s not to say that ‘Wonder Woman’ is not a good film. It undoubtedly is a good film and better than the rest of the previous DCU films put together (disregarding my fondness of Batman v Superman). It makes you wonder why it took this long for Warner Bros to craft a good film for it’s DC Universe. Firstly, they took Superman and changed his character completely. Then they immediately brought Batman to fight Superman, without any history between them.
I don’t know much about Wonder Woman, but for starters, Gal Gadot’s Diana is immediately likeable. That’s important for a superhero, isn’t it?!?! She’s inherently and morally ‘good,’ much like a certain Steve Rogers (and I was convinced her human partner, played by Chris Pine, was called Steve Rogers and not Steve Trevor…). Sometimes the film does show and tell with some on the nose dialogue, but more often than not Gadot’s facial expressions show us what she’s feeling. It seems like a perfect match of character to actor. If nothing else, Gadot’s performance makes the film worthwhile.
“Maybe people aren’t always good”
Like I mentioned before, the story is simple and easily predictable. But the presence of Gadot and Pine elevate it. They have an easy, appreciable chemistry. Although the final act is yet another CGI-filled, murky mess, the relationship between Diana and Steve gives it emotional heft. Yes, Diana’s fish out of water nature may be funny, but it’s even funnier complemented by Steve. I’d say it’s the most convincing on-screen romance we’ve seen in a comic book film for some time. However, like most Marvel films, the focus on the hero and/or love interest equal less time devoted to the villain. Quite frankly, the villain is dull, an obligatory hurdle for Diana to overcome to realise her true potential as a hero.
There’s enough action here to please those hungry for comic book action, although all too often I found it hard to follow due to quick cuts. Why can’t directors just focus on the action, rather than change camera angles every two seconds? It’s also marred by some Zack Snyder-esque slow-motion, which feels unnecessary more often than not. However, there’s one action scene that takes its place as one of my favourite scenes of the year: the No Man’s Land scene. It’s heart-stopping, spine-tingling and powerful. I always find anything about the two World Wars emotionally affecting, and the No Man’s Land scene hit me unexpectedly.
Unchained by the needs of a comic book origin story and a CGI filled third act, I believe ‘Wonder Woman’ could have been a great film. What hurts it is its predictability and lack of an effective villain. The First World War setting is unique and well-utilised. I can’t praise the No Man’s Land scene enough, in terms of action and emotional heft. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is well cast and likeable, as is her human partner Steve Trevor. I found myself entertained throughout, if picking out small flaws and predicting where the story would take Diana (correctly, it turned out). But a good film is something of a triumph for the DC Universe. Like I mentioned before, I thought Batman v Superman was alright. It wasn’t a disaster like Man of Steel or Suicide Squad. But ‘Wonder Woman’ can comfortably sit alongside the majority of Marvel films as good, escapist entertainment.
VERDICT: 7/10. ‘Wonder Woman’ is easily the best DC Universe film yet. It isn’t great by any means, restrained by a textbook comic book origin story and a dull villain. But Gadot is excellent as Wonder Woman…and who didn’t want a female superhero to look up to?
What did you think of Wonder Woman (2017)? Leave your thoughts below!
(Click here for my review of Man of Steel)
(Click here for my review of Batman v Superman)
(Click here for my review of Suicide Squad)